It hits me at the strangest times. This morning, one of my daughter’s teachers held the door for her and put her arm around her as she walked into the school. I know the teacher—she called me last week to ask for help in choosing a Christmas gift for her daughter. So when she put her arm around my little girl, I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a mother who cared enough to think about what I would want for Christmas or to put her arm around my daughter, her granddaughter. And then I sat in my car and cried in the parking lot.
My mom isn’t dead. I’m not an orphan. I don’t live across the country from her. I guess we’re what the world would call estranged.
I’ve learned that sometimes we find ourselves in relationships that are so toxic they begin to change who we are. These relationships can poison our hearts and decimate our lives. Sometimes, these relationships are with our own parents.
I knew when my first daughter was born I had to be different. I had no idea how to be a mother—much less how to be the type of mother I had longed for my whole life. I know what it’s like to be a little girl who looks at the smiling faces of seemingly loving mothers and daughters in a Lands’ End catalog and wishes she could have a mom like that.
I know what it’s like to feel insecure in middle school because your mother tells you you’re not who she wants you to be. I know what it’s like to spend the tough years of high school crying alone in your room so you won’t be mocked by your mother.
I know what it’s like to go through college, childbirth, and even cancer without one single phone call from your mother. I know what it’s like to grow up feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle.
Now, as a mom myself, I know what it’s like to overcompensate—to offer sometimes too much love, attention, and affection because I’m riddled with insecurities about my ability to be a good parent.
When my dad passed, I no longer had a reason to let the toxicity fester.
I don’t know who walked away first, but today, I’m motherless—even though my mother is very much alive.
Try as I might, I’m sure I’ll never shake the feeling that I must be intrinsically flawed if my own mother can’t love me.
I’ve found some beautiful, well-meaning mentors along the way, but they have real children. They don’t have the time to take on a 40-year-old orphan and her three girls for the long-haul, and my heart says surely if my own mother rejected me, they would eventually do the same.
The holidays are the hardest. Facebook photos of big family gatherings. Shared memories of holiday trips and special gifts. Seeing grandparents find joy in their grandchildren’s faces, and then coming home to questions like, “Where does your mom live, Mom?” or, “Do you think she even remembers us?”
I try to shake it. I’m trying to build memories for my little family on my own while I pray with everything in me that someday when my girls are grown, I’ll be the mom they need, and we’ll have the holidays I’ve envisioned my whole life. Until then, though, the loneliness just deepens.
Nothing but the love of Jesus can fill the empty hole an absent parent leaves—whether that parent is alive or not.
In those hard moments—in the lonely times, in the lost memories, in the insecurities—I know I need to lean on Him. Sometimes, though, it sure would be wonderful to have a real mom to put her arm around me and walk me through life.