There are days I still feel like the 11-year-old girl whose dreams were shattered by the person who held my fragile heart in her hand—my mother.
My mother was physically and verbally abused by her parents. She was a survivor of horrible circumstances right out of a horror film. She was raped. She was beaten so brutally her bones were broken, multiple times. She tried to run away. She tried to hide her parent’s stash of alcohol and prescription drugs.
While she did the best she could not knowing “how” to mother, she carried a lot of baggage and resentment. She told me how blessed I was compared to her. While I wasn’t abused like she was, she never sought professional help. Her unresolved anger led to an inability to nurture her children, to be proud of them. She always said she didn’t want it to go to our heads.
I wrote a song for her at 11-years-old. It was about how much I loved her and wanted to make her proud. I fumbled my awkward and skinny fingers along the frets of the guitar, trying to pretend I knew how to play that old, brown, cheap guitar. I was so proud of the product I worked up for her. I just knew this was that “I’m so proud of you” moment that would end with a hug.
After a few lines, she laughed—and not in the “that’s so adorable” kind of way.
She mocked it. Every. Single. Line. My insides hurt. I felt so embarrassed. I longed to be enough for her. Make her proud. Then the whole family joined in the mockery. My bright red cheeks choked back the elephant tears that later made their appearance within the lonely walls of my bedroom.
That response cut me to my very core. I just wanted to make her proud but instead was left feeling unfulfilled. I stopped writing songs.
I cleaned the house and did laundry for her almost every day after school. It was never “clean enough” and never right. She always yelled that I was “so selfish” and needed to help out more.
I played sports and worked diligently to improve. I stayed late after practice and practiced at home. I always rode home listening to car lectures of what I needed to work on. I always fell short. Every. Single. Time.
I would try to pick out clothes that suited me as an individual, but I was always sent back upstairs to change because she didn’t think it looked good or appropriate on me.
My makeup always looked awful.
I was told over and over if I talked back or voiced my opinion, I couldn’t see my boyfriend again.
She told me I wasn’t one of the kids who was naturally smart, so I needed to work harder.
I couldn’t go out with friends because we needed to spend more time together as a family.
When wedding planning, marriage, and babies came along, I told myself I needed to move forward and stop looking for her approval.
But I was always taken back to that little 11-year-old girl just waiting for her mom to smile and be genuinely proud.
Here I am, now breaking 30. I’ve come to a place of trying not to harbor those feelings of falling short, but then I remember what she went through. Her pain still fills her heart. Her abusive history continued even if it was a smaller-scaled version. She was so quick to lash out and so quick to slap, she forgot to look in the mirror and refuse to let the bitterness take over. To know she was worth seeking help and so were we.
As a mother, I think about the first time my children will write a song. I refuse to mock them. I refuse to call them dumb or for their actions to never be enough.
We have to break the cycles, mamas.
We have to seek the help we need to overcome.
We have to be a voice for the 11-year-olds crying alone in their rooms because they feel like they won’t amount to anything.
Believe in your children.
Believe in yourself.
Don’t let the cycles of abuse leave your children longing for your approval.
Don’t shatter their dreams mama, get the help you need.
Mamas, you hold little fragile hearts in your hands—treasure and protect them with all you have in you.