Lemon squares and puppy dog tails

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 Christmas 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 in difference 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. 

10 thoughts on “Lemon squares and puppy dog tails

  1. This is really powerful.

    First let me say, “The cycle ends with you.”
    It’s so good to know that there are parents in the world who are aware and awake to not only what happened to them and how it effected them, but also that’s it’s made you a conscious parent. As a result your daughter will grow into a well adjusted adult.

    As I read my eyes welled up. I can feel that I am still resisting emotion at times though when it comes to this crap. It’s rather synchronistic today for me though, to open up my WordPress account to find your post at the top of my Reader.

    I was hospitalized twice for depression in my twenties. And when you wrote about how once you were released from the hospital you were in, you went right back to the same environment you were trying to escape from in the first place, I could relate so well. It’s sad isn’t it?

    I had felt so helped and nurtured, validated and acknowledged by the staff at that hospital that both times upon my release I bawled like a baby on my way down the elevator.

    I have just started reading “Will I Ever Be Good Enough” (have you read it?) and I was just reading about how narcissistic mothers do exactly what you are describing here. Completely ignore the emotional aspect of their daughters.

    I have generally ignored much of the info and books on narc mothers, thinking all these years that my mom was simply codependent, yet confused by some of her actions and how she doesn’t really fit into a lot of what’s written about narcissism. The household was certainly not dominated by my mother but by my father, who was very narcissistic, so it just wasn’t clicking. And as a result I have had a difficult time making sense of my difficulties in life.

    It is you (and I hope I am not beating a dead horse here) that I have to thank for shining a light on that darkness that is my narcissistic mother. And this post just adds to helping me in my understanding.

    My mother was ‘there’ too in the ways you describe. I was fed, I had fun Christmases, she picked my friends and me up from movies and roller skating. Once she took me to a local museum when I was young and it was just her and me. But as is described in the book I mentioned above, we need so much more than just all that surface and physical stuff.

    Big hugs and I wish you healing both emotional and physical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The reason I reached out to you was because I felt a lot of your situation in mine. It took me a long time to realize my mothers integral part in all of this and I saw it right away with your mom. Especially with the cards because I have received those exact cards. Thank you for writing to me. For understanding. I think by sharing our stories, we connect, and we sometimes see in others what is hard to see in our own situation at first. Then a light bulb goes off and we say oh my gosh that is MY mom and she is an enabler, or narcissist, or manipulative or just unaware all of which are detrimental to a child who is going through abuse and then living life with people who refuse to even acknowledge it. It is so hard. The more I write the more I acknowledge and then the more I can process it and move past it.

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      • I’m glad that you did…reach out to me. Although I had a difficult time with it at first…I was so angry and I think I was in some sort of shock about it too. Not only that this is true, but also that I hadn’t realized it on my own.

        I’m so grateful that I know now and that you pointed it out to me. It has made a huge difference in making sense of things and cleared some of the confusion. Hopefully, because of that, my healing process will be accelerated.

        It took me a long time to begin to share but I’m glad I did now because I agree with what you said about connecting. Also, in sharing I’ve gotten some really good insight from others.

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  2. Wow, can I ever relate to this post! The circumstances were different but many of the outcomes were the same. My mother’s reaction when I was finally diagnosed with clinical depression in my late twenties was “if you ever kill yourself I will never forgive you”. When I confided that my first husband broke the law and was beating me up, she said “well, no-one forced you to marry him.” And yet she called me her best friend. What I really needed was a Mom who could be there for me. There wasn’t a lot of love in our family – it was four people (I have a sister) barely co-existing.

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    • Wow!!! What cruel cruel words to say to someone who has just admitted to being abused by her husband. How about, oh my gosh I am so sorry, now where is he and let me go kill him!!!! Where is the motherly rage, protection, instinct. Buddy buddy is fun but we need our mothers to be mothers. Mine wasn’t. Yours wasn’t. And that leaves a void for sure. I’m sorry you felt it too.

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      • And I you. And I was never a mother myself so I could not break the pattern. However, I have had the good fortune of mentoring some amazing young women. Some (not all) of them have poor motherly role models as well. I hope that I was/am able to show them it doesn’t have to be like that.

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  3. Predators abuse us and on many levels abandon us. But it is often the ones we love the most that then abandon us. This adds so many layers of confusion on our already fragile and broken souls. I think the ability to really connect is missing in our society in circumstances beyond abuse, often in everyday life. And the damage this does has its consequences. I use the word abandonment, because there are more than one way to abandon our children. Not connecting with them on an emotional level is one form of abandonment. When you add abuse into the mix of abandonment and lack of connection, we are utterly alone. And now everyone wonders why we aren’t “doing better.”

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