My daughter Jasper is my miniature best friend. She’s a little lady, currently trapped in the body of a four-year-old. She is a ton of fun and fierce, and we have the sweetest relationship. When I prayed for a daughter, I always imagined the two of us would be inseparable. I envisioned having tea parties together, playing dress-up, teaching her everything I know, ditching daddy and the boys for girls’ day out, and her basically being my mini-me. Well, so far, that’s exactly what I’ve got. I pray that we will always have that close mother-daughter relationship, and I am intentionally doing everything in my power to set a solid foundation so that, throughout her life, she will know that not only does she have a mother in me, but a confidant, counselor, and friend.
I don’t recall having that type of relationship with my mom. In fact, between the ages of six and fifteen, I was raised by my elderly grandmother. Although I know my grandmother loved me, I didn’t really get that motherly feel from her. She wasn’t affectionate and she didn’t intentionally have conversations with me or teach me about life or being a woman. I mean, she took care of me, kept me in church, and took me to Woolworth’s and Picadilly every month when she got her Social Security check – all for which I am grateful- but I didn’t have that woman’s presence that most girls desire and need. I remember resenting my mother for sending me to live with my grandma while she kept my younger sister with her. I already didn’t have a father and to not have the daily presence of my mother felt like a double negative. In my young mind, it didn’t make sense to me that my mom would keep my sister, but send me away.
My grandmother, who was well into her 70s when I went to live with her, didn’t teach me anything about stuff like combing hair, personal hygiene, laundry, cooking, or any of the simple things most girls learn from their mother. I was six years old trying to figure out how to comb my own hair, because I had no one to do it for me. Apparently, I was doing a pretty banged up job, because I remember the mom of the little girl who lived across the street from us giving me a relaxer and basically taking on the job of caring for my hair. In fact, I actually lived with the neighbors for about a year. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
My memory takes me back to when I first got my menstrual cycle. I was 10 years old, almost 11, and I had no clue what was going on. I was terrified! No one had told me anything about menstruation, so I thought I was dying. Not really having that kind of relationship with my 70-something grandmother, and not having a connection with my mom, I did the best I could. I’ll spare you the details, but no one knew I’d gotten my period until the second time around, when my grandma discovered my stained panties. I suppose she called my mom and told her, because I remember my mom brought me some sanitary napkins, and that was basically it. It was another one of those things I had to figure out on my own.
That became the norm for my journey to womanhood, to motherhood, to wifehood – figuring it out on my own. Basic things like cleaning properly, doing laundry, cooking, sewing a button, and such, I am self-taught. Trial and error taught me because, unfortunately, my mother didn’t.
For a very long time, I was salty. I felt slighted by my mom and robbed of that mother-daughter bond I needed. I was so angry at her for making life harder for me, having to be raised by my old grandmother, who was on a fixed income, and did not have the means or the physical or psychological ability to give me the life or the love I wanted. When I was around 15, I went to live with my mom. By that time, though, the relationship was already broken and, though we got along, there was never a deep connection developed. I moved out of her house at 20 years old and went a good year without speaking to her much.
I was already broken by her absence and there really wasn’t anything her presence could do to fix it. I had made up in my mind that there was no excuse she could give me that would make me understand why she sent me away. She was wrong, I was hurt, and that was that.
I held on to that resentment, unknown to her; that is, until I became a mother…a single mother. When I had my oldest son, my now husband and I weren’t married, and we had this on again-off again relationship. He was living 150 miles away in another state and I was basically alone with the bulk of the responsibility to care for my child. It was hard. He was a sick baby, diagnosed with hydrocephalus at three months old, so it was extra hard. And there were times when I gave play to the thought of giving him to his grandparents, because the circumstances of my life were too much to handle on top of raising him. Having that experience is what initially gave me a different perspective of mothers, of my mother. My heart towards my mom began to shift from condemnation and resentment to compassion and repentance.
What I didn’t understand as a child is that my mom honestly did the best she could. When her marriage to my sister’s father failed, she found herself at ground zero. She had two young children, with no job, no money, and no idea what to do or where to start. When she sent me to live with my grandmother, it wasn’t out of rejection; rather, it was in love. She believed that I’d have a better chance at a stable life if I was not with her. She simply couldn’t handle both my little sister and me at the same time, while trying to get herself back on her feet. In actuality, she was looking out for my well-being. When I finally moved past the hurt, I was able to see that although I felt like she wasn’t the best mother I thought she could’ve been, she was the best mother she knew how to be at that time.
I forgave her, and for at least the last 12+ years she’s been like my homegirl, and we have a wonderful relationship. I treasure her and her role in my life.
I shared all of that to say this: Forgive your mother. You may not consider her a good mother, but perhaps she did the very best she could with what she'd been taught through her own experiences. Perhaps, at the time, she did the absolute best she could with what she knew. Perhaps, when she was given the role of motherhood, she was totally clueless and underdeveloped, she had deep-seated and unacknowledged issues that prevented her from being whole enough to mother you, she didn't have the help or mindset she needed to overcome the addictions or bad behaviors that suffocated the good mother in her, or the responsibility of it all was just more than she could handle.
You’re probably reading this thinking, You just don’t know how horrible my mother was/is. You have no idea how much she hurt and damaged me. You’re right, I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that until you release all of that anger, you will never be able to live a peaceful, prosperous life. Regardless, honor your mother (Exodus 20:12), not so much to excuse her actions, but to excavate all of that disappointment and bitterness from your heart. No, forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation; you have the right to choose who gets to be a part of your life. Although, forgiveness does open your heart to make room for the possibility to reconcile.
Whatever the case, her intentions were more than likely not to hurt you or cause you pain. Perhaps she knows she messed up, but is too ashamed and disappointed in herself to actually admit it. You may never understand why, but try to understand her, even if it still makes absolutely no sense to you.
Wherever she lacked in being the mother you needed her to be, it wasn't about you. She was fighting inner issues that robbed her of her ability to be a better mom.