Listen to your mother.

A while back, a friend approached me and said I should try out for Listen To Your Mother. I am not a mother, so I was hesitant. She said that I didn't have to be. She thought my relationship with my mom and the path I've walked caring for a special needs sibling qualified me. So I wrote what I knew. Ultimately, my piece wasn't picked, and that's OK. (honestly, I'm not surprised my rage-filled anti-mom piece wasn't chosen to be read on Mother's Day. I mean, COME ON.) Either way, I wrote it and wanted to share it and since this is my available platform, here goes. And, if you find yourself wanting more mom stories, I urge you to buy a ticket for Listen To Your Mother Little Rock; based on the cast list, I know that it will be some amazingly uplifting and powerful stories from local ladies. 

They say there’s a bond between mother and child that can never be broken.

My mother was born with a defect that left her without a belly button, so she was never fully connected to her mother.

I guess that somehow, I inherited that.

Can you inherit a broken bond? Is that even possible? If you can inherit something that is there, it stands to reason that you can inherit something that isn’t there.

Some are called to be mothers. From a young age, tenderly cradling baby dolls, shhhhing and feeding them. Every moment spent attentively caring for another. While others are reluctantly dragged, kicking and screaming into motherhood.
My mother was the latter, uninterested in the process, content to let her children grow haphazardly like the wildflowers that lined our driveway.

And I fear I might be the same.

I have foggy memories- of when I felt like my family was a family. When I knew that my mom would jump in front of a bus for me. But those memories have long-turned brown around the edges. So hazy that I wonder if maybe it was just a movie or a TV show that I watched, and not an actual event that belonged to me.

I was the oldest of three. All girls. All as different as if we’d been plucked from vast corners of the world. The only similarities we have binding us is our shared delivery of sarcasm and the scars we carry from childhood.

As the oldest, I immediately became the caregiver to my sister. Younger by four years, she was the proverbial middle child, wild and beautiful, challenging and stubborn. The youngest came just a short eighteen months later, the “million dollar baby” they called her. Our little family was already overwhelmed, and Kacie’s challenges were simply something we weren’t equipped for. From heart problems to learning disabilities, we would not know the full extent of her troubles for years to come.

I had just turned five when I became a mother. Not like that mind you, but being a person who is responsible for another being. I remember the first time I was asked to put her needs before mine. It was my birthday. And my youngest sister had been born a mere six days prior. Both she and my mother were still in the hospital. My mom recovering from the emergency C-section, while Kacie, was on a respirator. She had already undergone one heart surgery and faced another just a few days away. I remember being upset that this was supposed to be my special day but that it would be spent focused on my sister.

 I had no idea that this was simply the beginning.

My father had wanted a boy with all his heart and this final blow- a third girl and a girl who was saddled with physical and mental disabilities was not what he had bargained for. He became disenchanted quickly.

Eventually, my parents would get a divorce. And it wasn’t one of those amicable ones where they simply agreed that they didn’t love each other any more. No, this was muddy and ugly and scarred. My mom looked to me as a confidante rather than her child. She began unloading the terrible details of her crumbling marriage on my twelve year-old shoulders. I did not know what to do. When she picked up the phone and heard my dad drunkenly tell someone that he was going to ‘blow that bitch’s head off.’ She didn’t move us out of the house, or call the cops. No, instead she hid all the guns they owned into my bedroom. I had a 12 gauge under the bed and a 22 hidden under the dress of one of my dolls.

 Innocence was lost on so many levels.

And on one particular night when she was feeling fearful of what he might do, she had me sleep in the bed between them. My mother’s best instincts were to use me as a human shield. I don’t care how many lifetimes you live, that’s simply not something you get over quickly.

The final nail in the coffin of my childhood relationship with my mom was when she abandoned my sisters and I and left us to fend for ourselves.

Each morning, she woke us on her way out, leaving us to shower, grab breakfast and make lunches then walk the half-mile to the bus stop. She would return around 12 hours later, far after I had made dinner for us, where she would lock herself in her room and we wouldn’t see her again until the next morning started all over.

Of course, she wasn’t out doing nothing, she was attending college and then working a full time job. At least, at first. Then by the time my senior year rolled around, she began dating. We would go a full week without seeing her.

At every step, my mother failed me at the most basic level. I did not feel safe. I did not feel loved. I did not feel cared for.

People often inquire if I want children. As if they have a right to delve into such a personal piece of my life. No. I don’t want kids. My husband and I are fine with our dogs. Typically I get a response, ‘Well, its good that you two agree on that.’ Or brazenly they will say, ‘You’ll change your mind.’ As if this complete stranger has summed me up and knows me better than I know myself.

The truth is, I’ve already been a mother. I’ve already given portions of my life to raising another, and I fear that I did a terrible job at it. And I hate the idea of doing it again. There is a fear in my heart that the broken bond I inherited would be passed down and that years from now I would have a daughter that I don’t know in the same way that my mother doesn’t know me. Would I resent her for changing the course of my life, the way I feel my mother resents me? Would I make selfish decisions at her expense? Would I simply walk away and leave her to fend for herself when all I should be doing is protecting her?

I don’t know, and maybe I’ll never know. Because sometimes the questions we are too afraid to ask are the ones that we already know the answers to.