My mom took me on a mother daughter weekend the week before I was put in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. I remember sitting in the hotel wondering what this gesture would accomplish. One trip to the beach was not going to rekindle any sort of trust or bond with her. But she tried. I will give her that.
I was sitting here this morning thinking of Christmases past. The one when she got me that record player I wanted so badly, the doll clothes she made by hand for my favorite dolls, the go-cart, and the happy memories. After our Christmas we would drive to Nana’s one mile away and sing happy birthday do Jesus, something my dad always did, and celebrate again with Nana. I remember my mom hauling us to all of the school functions, basketball and football games, cheerleading practices, etc. She was as involved as a mom could be..
I never felt unloved by my mother. I knew she loved me. I knew she tried to give us a good life by making sure we were in theater, dance, and being a part of the ski team we were on. She was always there.
But she missed it. She missed the signs of depression and abuse. And after those came to light,she didn’t know what to do. She knew how to be a basketball mom. She didn’t know how to be a mom of an abused daughter. I don’t think she even tried to be. Maybe, a little, So she took me on a mother-daughter weekend to the beach. I lay in a lawn chair next to her at the pool thinking, ” This doesn’t make things better. This isn’t working. I don’t feel close to you again just because of this beach trip.” I felt alone and uncomfortable with this person, my mother, trying to act like we were bonding when she didn’t have any idea how I even felt.
My mom was involved but she wasn’t connected to me. She was involved but not present, not connected.
A beach trip couldn’t fix that. This woman who made me doll clothes when I was little, and took me to watch my friends play basketball, never asked if I was okay. She didn’t know if I was happy or sad. For all the moms in the world, I’d say she was a very involved one, one that most kids envied and wanted for their own, but she had no idea what was going on with her daughter. Did she ever really look?
As an adult my mom was also very involved. When I could no longer drive she picked my daughter up from school, made sure she brought us dinner a few nights a week, took us out shopping, and was always involved in my daughter’s horse back riding, dance, and art shows. She was involved. But she wasn’t present. Not emotionally.
She didn’t know how I really felt about having a muscle disease, or how I felt about the loss of independence or how I felt about the fact that NO ONE in my family ever acknowledged the abuse I endured.She didn’t ask. When I tried to speak about it, she wasn’t engaged. She didn’t want to hear it.
When I wrote a letter to my father last year, detailing the abuse they never wanted to hear about, explaining the pain of their indifference and inaction over it, I should not have been surprised over their response. Which was rage, followed by abandonment. This was a “how do we look” family but not really a deep down how do you really feel family. It was a lemon squares on the table for friends family but not really a cry on your shoulder one.
What kind of mother are you? Are you a buddy? Are you one of the kids? Are you a carpool mom? Are you a homeschooler, private schooler, public schooler? Do you drop the kids at friends’s houses, sit with the other moms at parks and birthdays?
Are you always there but never really present?
Being present is hard. You have to put aside everything and sit with your child and for that time be solely and 100% engaged and present for them. “Tell me about your friend and how she makes you feel, you seem upset the last few days , do you want to talk about it, is there anything as a mom that you need more from me that you feel you aren’t getting, is there anything you want to tell me that you want me to just listen to but not react to,,” and it can go on and on. We don’t just go to parties. We come home and talk about how the party made us feel. We listen. I hear her, my daughter. I take her emotions seriously. She knows she is heard. I can be involved as much as I want but if my daughter doesn’t feel she can talk to me and that I am one hundred percent present when she needs me, then it is all in vain.
After the mother-daughter bonding weekend with my mother, I went to Grant Center Hospital. It felt like a ,”Let’s go to Disney before I send you away” kind of feeling. But she didn’t know what to do. She never has. She can handle the fun. She can’t handle the sad, abuse, broken, helpless part of me. So I went to Grant center where no one had to worry I’d kill myself. Grant center was supposed to fix me. The problem with that was, when I left Grant center, I went back to the same family that wasn’t connected to me at all. So I came home. I sat on the dock and watched the man who abused me and push me to suicide ski by me. Then I went back up to the house where I ate lemon squares and tried to pretend with the rest of them that their inaction was okay. My family went on with their lives, we just went right back to football games and it was like it never happened.
Lemon squares and puppy dog tails won’t replace a present mom.
My mom ended up leaving me a year or so ago. I bet she is still making lemon squares for my brother, who left too, while they sit around and talk about the latest football game, and pretend that what happened to me doesn’t even exist. But secrets and lies don’t mean I am not here, facing them alone, without my family. Secrets and lies, denial and fabrication, can be there’s if they can live with it. I will be here, living in the truth, working through my past and being ever present for my daughter.