Mother’s Day: Raised Too Alone (by John Shore)

If

your mother

was caustic,

toxic,

abusive,

vindictive,

twisted,

dangerous:

If she was irresistibly drawn

to making much too clear

that her unhappiness—

her pain,

her dysfunction,

her drama—

was more precious to her

than you could ever be,

so that as a child

you

had to live your life

frightfully and desperately

scrounging

for whatever

fundamentally unacceptable

version of love

you could squeeze from her,

then this Mother’s Day,

while others

(as you imagine; as we all imagine)

are basking in the warmth

of their exemplary mothers,

you close your eyes,

and say a prayer

for two mothers:

the one you never had,

and the one she never had.

And then say a loving prayer

for yourself,

for the child

raised too alone.

And then open your eyes—

and there is the world,

beautiful again.

And

fuck ‘em.

Fuck ‘em all.

Because you are still here,

and you are not done yet.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Courtney

    Perfect. You said it all.

  • Barbara Rice

    Thank you for this.

    My mother died in 1998 and to this day people tell me how wonderful, smart, funny, intelligent, clever (ad nauseum) my mother was. And I smile and thank them, and think to myself, you didn’t live with her.

    • Annie

      Barbara – thank you! You said what I was thinking!

      And John, thank you so much for this. We have a different Mothers Day (called Mothering Sunday) in the UK, in March, which means I have to go through this twice a year! I’ve started calling both days Voldemort Day.

      My mother was very loving. Very very loving. In a smothering, ‘you-must-love-me-back-or-I’ll-die-and-it-will-be-your-fault’ kind of way. She tried to live through her children, me in particular as I was the youngest, and treated me as an extension of her, not as a real person in my own right. To the point where, when I was 22 and had left home, one day she pulled my top up (without permission), looked at my bra and said accusingly ‘you didn’t tell me you had new underwear!’ And she saw NO PROBLEM with that! Just one example … *sigh*

      She died two years ago. She mellowed in her last two years, and I am very glad that I was able to spend time with her and look after her at the end, so a lot of the hurts were healed. But I have been unable to become a mother myself, and part of me wonders if that is because I reacted so strongly against her way of (s)mothering me …

      • Barbara Rice

        “treated me as an extension of her… she tried to live through her children”

        Yes. Though I am grateful for much that my mother did for me, I look back now and see that I was pushed to do the things she thought I should do, and things that she could lord over other people who were less fortunate (“My daughter went to Paris! My daughter graduated from college! My daughter blah blah blah…”). I know she was unhappy most of her life, but she rejected all the things she could have done to fix that.

        I took care of her the last few months of her life, and I don’t regret that. But I know the sides of her that others didn’t know existed. Fortunately, I was ready and able to work through those things and come out on the other side with a happier life than she had.

  • Leslie Marbach

    John, this hits home for me. Thank you.

  • Lois Markiewicz

    Thanks for this. My husband’s mother was not QUITE this bad, but almost. And it did go back to HER mother. Happy to say, my husband turned out fine. :-)

  • EN

    Um, well.

    I’m a faithful and (you might recognize me as) occasionally caustic-while-agreeing reader, and that label effectively describes my comment here.

    By the time I came along, as a DIRE SHOCK babe, my mom had borne babes and had (ILLEGAL) abortions across a 25-plus year period. She was sick, tired, worn out and must assuredly have been stunned half to death by my zygote appearance. My Much Older Male Siblings assure me that she was “delighted” to be pregnant with me and “adored” me from day one. According to them, this was so because she never beat me. They all love to tell how she wore out a beaded belt on their hides before they were, oh, waist high or so. They also love to tell how the youngest of the three of them figured out, at age 5 or so, how to “lose ” the razor strap my Dad (their stepdad) preferred for beating them bruised and bloody in a major move. Oh, but they LOOOOOOOOVED us and were SOOOOOOOO moral.

    I came along 15 years later, when they were fucked up older farts, and mom was well aware of her physical and mental frailties. I’m supposed to give thanks that she didn’t illegally abort me like she did at least one would-have-been sibling. Um, well, yeah, I’m glad to be alive, but that doesn’t change what she did to me. Even with ostensibly good intentions, she crushed me from day one to the day she died, four days after I turned 14 and wanted to kill myself for being thankful she was gone.

    Yeah. That’s what I think of on Mother’s Day Eve. Don’t try to tell me there’s a goddamned bit of good ANYTHING about having a fucked up crazy mother, and don’t try to get me to focus elsewhere on this eve. Yes, I have a lovely MIL and many good motherly women in my life. NONE of them are Mom. Indeed, although I chose never to be a parent, there are many people who would identify me as a Mom Type or mother hen. It’s not the same. Don’t try to feed me that shit. “Mother” equals crazy scary fucked up MESS. Leave me to that on this goddamned miserable weekend. And that goes triple to the people who regularly google my initials and email.

    • rebecca

      I’m so sorry EN. I will pray for your and for peace for you tomorrow

    • http://abnthree.blogspot.com BarbN

      I hear you, EN. Some things can’t be forgiven. The best revenge is living well, though, so dig deep and live extravagantly. Don’t let her win by sinking into bitterness. (although you get a pass on mother’s day weekend) :-)

    • DR

      No one here would ask you to consider being anything that you as well as your decisions you make that help you survive your past. This post certainly isn’t suggesting that you do so (though I’m sure that’s not what you are saying here). I hope you get through this weekend quickly, what a horror story you and your siblings survived. Much love to you.

  • Alex

    Oh … the circle I see.

  • Me.

    Thank you. So much.

  • Bethulia

    Thank you.

  • Susan in NY

    John,

    I’ll be thinking of you and Cat tomorrow. I hope you two have a good day celebrating the love and healing you have found together.

    Susan in NY

  • http://abnthree.blogspot.com BarbN

    beautifully said. My mom wasn’t awful, just ineffective (if you substitute “father” for “mother,” it would apply more to me). But I know several people who will appreciate this, will pass it on.

  • Maggie Wagner

    Thanks, John. Not everybody has a mother to celebrate.

  • Val Pendergrast

    Thanks, John. I’d love to be able to celebrate my mother, but I still have so many things to work through before I can.

  • Anne Wiggs

    Just as well God’s patience can’t be “tried”

  • Jill Winter Morgan

    Perfect. Thanks, John.

  • Jeffrey Fried

    Some people simply shouldn’t have children and my parents were in that group, but our culture does not send out a message of critical self examination

  • Roy Rikard Brown

    Thank you, John Shore!!! Keep trying God’s patience.

  • Allie

    Love you, babe.

    My difficult mother and I are going through a good patch right now, which is nice. A bit of dark humor: I asked what, if anything, she wanted to do this Mother’s day, and turns out she believed LAST Sunday was Mother’s Day and that I hadn’t called her. Sheesh!

    • Janie

      Awesome, Allie. Glad for your good patch!

      I send kudos for the way you are making meaning to heal and free YOURSELF–even to the point of smiling about the fact that her perceptions are still stuck.

      Thanks to John, too! Your piece is so powerful. It’s just what I needed–especially coming from a place of faith. Peace to all

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

    Beautiful, John. You have surpassed even yourself with this. I had a good mother. She tried but I think she never knew quite what to do with me. I grew up gay, you see, in a conservative Lutheran farm environment. She died from a series of strokes and toward the end I never knew if she knew anyone anymore. Prior to her strokes, when I was in my 40′s and could handle it, she told me I was going to hell for being gay. I will never know if she took that to her grave but I hope she knows better now.

    So I don’t personally relate to your poem, if it can be so categorized, because she was a good mother. But I have a 32yo dear friend currently in jail for alcohol, anger and resentment issues, estranged from his mother and step-father, having never known a real father. My friend was apparently a difficult boy and his mother actually shunted him off to the foster system for a time. I’ve seen him so angry with her, calling her terrible names, hurting her. Something in his past is eating him. I suspect abuse but if that is the case, he hasn’t yet freed himself from it. He’s married, has a 7 yo son who hardly knows him because he has spent most of his son’s life incarcerated. Sins of the father visited upon my friend, unto the next generation. So much conflict and pain in his whole family structure. He’s a good and loving but deeply troubled man. I love him so much and seeing him in his situation wounds me deeply. But it seems he can’t quite say “fuck em all”….yet. I think I’m his only friend. He lived with me for a month after his wife left him with their son and I made him a promise to be his friend no matter what. Now alcohol has put him back in jail. I don’t know how to help him except be his steadfast friend. I promised him and I’m keeping it. Love hurts but we die without it, eh? I wonder how many mothers (and fathers) know how important they really are.

  • Matt

    I am currently struggling with the idea of getting my mother a card for Mother’s Day this year. I’m spending half the day with her already, and there are so many emotions I’m feeling about her right now (the majority of which are not pretty).

    But I know I’ll get an earful of, “But I don’t understand why you’re doing this to me. Is this the part of your 20s where you hate your mother?” if I don’t. Ah, well. She’ll be happy, it won’t kill me, and she is good company sometimes.

    To rub some salt and vinegar in the wound: Nope, I sure am not spending this half-day as Matt. Not even on her radar. Hasn’t said a single word in nearly 3 months. I can tell that she won’t without some pushing. And I need to be mentally well and organized enough to take that on first.

    • Elizabeth

      Yeah. Acceptance can take a long time. That’s the fifth stage of the Kübler-Ross model, and she’s still in stage one. <3

      • Matt

        Thank you so much for your kind words, Elizabeth. You’re right, of course. I’m just feeling worn down lately, which can make anyone cranky and impatient!

        • Elizabeth

          It must be exhausting. In her mind, she’s lost someone she knew and loved. She doesn’t realize (yet) it’s a privilege to know the real you.

          • Matt

            Whew, way to make me almost tear up over here! Yes, it is exhausting. And very isolating. But I think we can make it to Stage 5 eventually.

  • Linda Taylor

    Looking back, I think my mum buried a lot of pain and sadness to make sure that we were not tainted by it. As a child it is hard to see one’s mum as anything other than a mum and not as a person in her own right. This makes me sad – but then again – children are very needy creatures. My mum was and is amazing and I know I am very lucky.

  • mike

    Reading this reminds me I am fortunate. My mother wakes late and lives on the west coast … reading this, I wish I didn’t have to wait 5 hours to call her, as I’d like to hear voice now.

  • Keetcha

    Great post. The healing for me has been in being one, not in having one. Thank you as always for your incredible out reach, understanding and virtual love.

  • Dave

    Thank you John,

    Slowly, slowly, I am working towards forgiveness. A broken person cannot help it that they are not whole. I am working to forgive my mother for being broken and passing that brokenness on to me.

    It is not easy.

  • http://charlesbmaynes@gmail.com charles

    this being my first Mothers day as an adult orphan, I would say that no matter how hard an upbringing might be, the hope of reconciliation and forgiveness is a powerful force. Not for them, but for ourselves.

  • https://www.facebook.com/WorleyDervish Mary Ray Worley

    Totally not fair. Oh how I have loathed Mothers Day. Not much to celebrate. Until I learned about the holiday’s radical, rabble-rousing history. That makes better. Those women–the peacemaking suffragists like Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe–those are my mothers. I celebrate them and hold them close in my heart.

  • http://progressiveredneckpreacher.wordpress.com/ Micah Royal

    Thanks for this. In my own blog I focused on the gifts my mom gave me, but I am one of those who also has alot of pain on this day too… I think for most of us our families are a mixed bag with blessings but also points of deep pain. Thank you for calling us to acknowledge that deep pain.

  • Deborah Price Day

    Minus the F words and I like it! Can’t repost on my work page because of it!

  • Laurie Sobolewski

    Thank you for this, John. I needed something just like this-i should have known i would find it here, with you

  • Lorena J Burkett

    I thought it was beautiful. Lol! I am amazed at how much my mom was able to give, despite the crazy, and now I pray for me and my kids my past crazy to my kids. But I know now. I KNOW. And I have stopped the cycle. Happy Effin’ Mother’s Day!!! Sorry Deb.

  • Mechelle Hutchinson

    Yes,there are lots of us who have this kind of mother instead.Unfortunately.But I did vow to never be that kind of mother,and I wasn’t!

    • Pat L-G

      I had this kind of mother, too. I remember as a child knowing beyond all knowledge that if I was ever a mother, I would never, ever be the same……the cycle CAN be broken! :) <3 Kudos, Mechelle, for being another one that had the awareness to do so!

  • Bruce Joffe

    Thanks, John, for sharing a sad reality. I know it was mine.

  • Kathi Luljak

    My mother was too wrapped up in her own despairs and griefs to be that beacon of hope and light that the cards all say mothers are supposed to be. She tried her best, I guess, is the most I can say for her. And I am actually relieved for her as well as for myself that she is no longer here. I have no use for this ‘holiday’.

  • Ken Baird

    It is sad but often true that broken parents make broken children. It is also true that patient love can heal the scars of neglect & pain. That’s grace and it’s a gift we give ourselves.

  • Teddi

    My mother and I have come to be ok with each other but the child that lives within me was brought to tears by this poem which describes our relationship in a way that greeting cards do not. Thank you.

  • Mary G.

    Bless you John. I always feel sort of weird on Mother’s Day about my own Mom who was such a mess. I see all these saccharine posts about Moms in heaven and women missing their Moms and blah blah blah…

    I post a lovely note every year for my Mother-in-Law who was an absolute ANGEL, but until now had nothing to say about my own Mother, who did the best she could, I suppose, but that ain’t sayin’ much. This is perfect.

    Thank you.

  • Barbara Small

    Thank you thank you thank you for this.

  • Melanie Adams

    Wow. Very powerful words. Thanks for sharing!

  • Fran Bradley Snyder

    Why would you post this “oh pity me” poem” on Mother’s day?

    • Edie Brown

      That’s not at all what this is. Many of us who grew up like that know only too well what it can be like, and those who didn’t should be very, very grateful

      • Fran Bradley Snyder

        I am very grateful for my Mom, she was the best. My Mom died 6/21/06 about 17 months after my son Sean died 11/30/04. She lived with us for 22 years and after the death of Sean, they were very good friends and she like me could not deal with his death as a young adult. So sorry you had a different experience.

        • Gloria Dawn Holback

          Edie…hugs to you…

        • DR

          Perhaps you would consider apologizing for how you characterized this poem now that you understand the positive impact that was intended and is being received. I found your observation to be both flippant and deeply insensitive.

    • Barbara Rice

      Because for many people, Mother’s Day is a farce and a very unpleasant one at that.

      Mothers have children they hate, they’re estranged from, they don’t want. Same for children. Mothers have dead children, children have dead parents. The sunshine and roses painted by Hallmark pours salt and lemon juice on those wounds. And church – church is a horrible experience for women who aren’t parents and wish they were, or for people with very painful issues with the parents or children.

      To say this is an “oh pity me” poem is demeaning and condescending to those experiencing real pain on this day.

      • Annie

        Thank you Barbara. Fran, your comment is condescending and shows a real lack of empathy. I’m very pleased for you that you had a good experience of your mother. Please don’t judge those who sadly didn’t.

      • Julie

        Thank you, Barbara.

      • vj

        Well said!

    • vj

      Fran: the last time I checked, this was John’s blog. That means he’s allowed to post WHATever he wants, WHENever he wants…

  • Gloria Graves Gregory

    It didn’t used to be a Hallmark card. For sure. But now I have a child of my own, and have had 16 years’ experience being the mom I should have had. And I am very very grateful for that. I’m also grateful I had about 3 weeks w/my mom – including a week in hospice – before she passed. It made a world of difference to how I feel/felt about her and our relationship. It’s nice to have peace about it now. I wish that for everyone.

  • Ric Booth

    God bless John Shore.

  • Mark McKenzie

    Dear John: Finally, someone who gets how hurtful these days have been for some of us and for bearing witness to overcoming, triumphantly! Thank you for verbalizing an all too common reality that is pushed aside and covered up by the hallmark privacy screen. I prefer to celebrate life as it is now, not spend my time regretting what was only a fantasy. Reality is often much much harsher than people’s “good hearts” want to believe.

    Praying with and for you, always,

    Mark

  • Diana Horel

    Thank you.

    Diana

  • Hannah

    I cannot remember a time when my mother wasn’t threatening me with suicide whenever I was in danger of acting like a normal kid. Being a few minutes late coming home from school would get me a beating, but that was easier to deal with than the agonizing fear that I’d get home and find her dead, and it would be my fault. Every day, as far back as I can remember, I was made to feel that it was my job to keep her alive. And today, the scars are raw because all day I hear about how wonderful mothers are. It feels incredibly lonely. Like I was the only one ever to have a lousy mother. Like the fact I have no desire to call or write makes me fundamentally ungrateful.

    I’m an atheist, so prayers aren’t my thing. But tonight I grieve for the little girl who had no one to turn to, and the mother she should have had. Thank you for this.

    • Julie

      {{hugs}}

    • DR

      Grieving is the collective breath out and in we all have to take at some point, regardless of what we believe. Much love to you and thank you for sharing this, it really moved me.

  • Natalie

    Raise your hand if this makes you feel very lucky.

    • Brenda in La

      Hand raised!

  • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com Erika

    thank you.

  • Michael

    Thank you for this, John.

  • Cullen Carter

    I hope that the number people who feel this way about their own mothers is VERY VERY small.

    My condolences for the experiences that drove such biting Mother’s Day piece to be written.

  • Emma Crawford

    Thank you!

  • Dana David

    Thank you, John.

  • Gina Cirelli

    Thank you, John!

  • Deb Fullwood

    Thank you!

  • Hannah Almeida

    thanks. sometimes it feels weird that i have no urge to call my mother and gush over all she’s done for me.

  • Diane Roshelle

    O thank you.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much. I wish I could gush about how great and loving and selfless my mother is, but I’d be lying. She did teach me something very valuable, however. I NEVER treat my son the way she treats her children. They say that if you can’t be an example, at least be a warning. She is certainly a warning…

  • Real Granola

    Thank you.

  • Polly Van Fleet

    My mother passed away many years ago, and I was fortunate we were able to repair our relationship to the extent that I can honestly say I miss her on days like today. When I was a kid, she was a raging alcoholic and made a lot of poor relationship choices, resulting in her being a pretty neglectful mother for a lot of years. I can empathize with the emotion expressed in John’s poem. Sometimes mothers can be a curse on their children.

  • Aimee Omans

    I can relate to this as I grew up with narcissistic mother who was emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. I lovemy mother because she is my mom and always will, but that does not mean that I need to like the person she is. I know when my husband and I are finally blessed with children that the cycle of dysfunction will end with me. Despite the emotional baggage I’ve carried through the years I am proud to say that it never broke me down and my future children will never have to experience what I did. Continue to break the cycle and stay strong…

  • S

    I don’t want to take the focus away from anyone’s experience, so I hope that no one minds that, when I read this, I fit “father” into the “mother” slot, and it fits to a tee.

    Pain so great, and the older I get, the worse it gets. I miss him, and I don’t even know what I’m missing. I just know there’s something not there that should be. Like Teddi said: “this poem describes our relationship in a way that greeting cards do not.”

    • Allie

      Yeah, the thing about parents is, if yours suck, they don’t issue you a new set.

  • Don Rappe

    This work of art allows me some insight into an experience other than my own.

  • Karen K Stone

    I’m so sorry there are others for whom this fits perfectly.

  • Carla

    I am the mother you described in this poem. My daughter sent it to me today for mother’s day. Every word is accurate and appropriate. It’s nothing new that I didn’t already know about my total lack of mothering, but I respect the poetic flow, and I’m happy to see that it is helpful to others who have suffered through childhoods with a mother like me.

    • DR

      Thank you for having the courage to cultivate that level of self-awareness, at some point we all realize the respective damage we do and it’s often devastating. What are you doing with that knowledge, if I may ask?

      • Carla

        Not much more than accepting the truth about myself. I can’t undo the past, and I can’t change my relationship with my daughter by myself. I was not meant to be a mother. Hindsight is 20/20.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Carla: Yes, you can change your relationship with your daughter by yourself. The moment I tell someone to whom I’ve never said it before that I love them is the moment I change my relationship with that person. The second I apologize to someone for the wrong I did, I, alone, have changed my relationship with them.

          Punch someone in the head? You just changed your relationship with them.

          Do everything you can to prove to someone that you’re filled with remorse for having hurt them–and PROVE to them, over and over again, for as long as it takes, in as many different ways as it takes, that you actually MEAN it–so that finally they are forced to acknowledge, if even only to themselves, that if there’s ONE thing no one can say about you, it’s that you’re not serious about your remorse and resolve to change?

          Then boom: you, by yourself, changed that relationship.

          Saying you can’t change a relationship that by definition you’re HALF of (and, in this case, the most powerful half of) is like driving a car and claiming it’s not up to you where the car goes.

          • Hannah Grace

            “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18.

            Even the Bible makes a nod to the fact that relationships with people are two way roads. Not a car that only one person is controlling, while the other person is passively driven.

            When I forgave my dad for being abusive, that was my choice. I could also have cut him out of my life – and that would have been my choice too, as an autonomous person. He could try and do everything he could to make up for the past by accepting what he did, and asking forgiveness, and loving me. But in the end, you can’t force the other person to forgive you.

            That’s why forgiveness is so powerful – because the person has the free choice to forgive you and continue the relationship, or cut you off. To connect this with God’s grace, we don’t have the ability to drive the car anywhere. We just do what we can – ask for forgiveness, try to be better. It’s up to God to freely forgive us.

            In more human terms, this is why a marriage where only one person wants a divorce can end in divorce, no matter what kind of ‘driving’ the other person does in the metaphorical car.

            I worried that you might be burdening an already burdened woman with the pain of a relationship past repair. Sometimes, it’s good to know you have done all you can do, and let go of the guilt. Grace means that once you have faced your flaws and the horrors you have committed, you don’t have to live mired in them anymore.

          • Hannah Grace

            Maybe I misunderstood, and you meant that you can _change_ things, but you can’t control the other person’s reactions or what happens to the relationship. You can influence the outcome of the relationship, but you can’t control it.

            I just meant that it sounds like, in this situation, she has been influencing the relationship by admitting she was wrong and telling her daughter she is sorry (if not, then you’re right, she should). But beyond that, whether the relationship gets fixed is beyond her control.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Hannah: She herself readily admitted that she is “not doing much” with the knowledge that she had been a crappy mother–and immediately justified that passivity by pointing to her daughter. Shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Guess I was never meant to be a mother; oh, well, it’s too late now: the relationship is broken!” is the ultimate in self-serving passive-agressiveness.

          • DR

            This is insightful. Thank you for this!

          • Tami

            totally agree…

          • Debbie

            I have to admit that I was not the best mother to my kids altho I did the best I could. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and was not allowed to celebrate ANYTHING, not even Mothers Day. I was never hugged or rarely heard I love you or never had a birthday party! That’s all I knew. But, I was also the victim of sexual abuse by several people I knew (JW PEDOPHILES) As a result, I became suicidal and spent yrs so wrapped in my own pain after I had kids that I lost many good years as a mom because I was in and out of mental hospitals because of PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, Panic Attacks and severe Anxiety. My daughter was pregnant at the age of 15 and I suddenly realized that now 2 generations were depending on me and I started drifting away from JWs a little at a time. I was physically sick with lupus, spinal stenosis, ruptured discs, diabetes and COPD (I never smoked though) and Fibromyalgia plus the mental problems. But I lost my dad and then 6 years later my mom died on MOTHERS DAY! (how IRONIC!) Since both my parents died, I didn’t want to remain as a JW really. But just 2 months after mom died, I found out that my newest back pain was KIDNEY CANCER! And then 3 months later, I had 2 hemorrhagic strokes! But as soon as I was able to, I moved across the country to be nearer to my daughter and grandkids. Then my son moved here also. After I moved here, I fell and broke both arms, both shoulders and fractured my neck and then had 2 more severe falls and in less than a year and a half I broke 16 bones! This has happened since 2010 (broken bones) but I guess my family felt like I was too focused on myself and selfish but I couldn’t drive and was either in the hospital or a nursing home! I am 52 yrs old and feel WAY older! In the last year, Ive been in ICU 5 times with double pneumonia, sepsis, blood clots in my lungs and heart, heart and kidney failure but my daughter was mad at me and so for over a year I didn’t see her or my grandkids at all and I was in ICU ALL those times with no visitors (my husband was sick in a nursing home til Jan 2013 since Aug 2012) but it was because my daughter told my grandkids and her husband that when they were staying with me that I threw them out in a blizzard with nowhere to go and no money which I SWEAR is NOT TRUE~ but that doesn’t matter – they believe her! So being without them for a year, I decided to try to make up for my failures as a mother when they were kids with a lot of pent up anger towards me and for being a JW when they were kids. I didn’t quit the JWs because I knew that meant my parents wouldn’t have anything to do with me or ever speak to me cos theyd have to follow JW rules of SHUNNING! So I was not unconditionally loved ever! I had to walk a fine line to have ANY kind of love! So my kids went thru that also even though I never turned on my kids or stopped speaking to them when they made a mistake but I still wasn’t there for them 100 % of the time. I worked to support us and their dad never had anything to do with them – so I was always a single parent! But anyway, NOW I have decided that I’d rather have peace and my family than be right and alone! So, I am doing whatever I can to be a real MOM to them. Sometimes they call me by Debbie and I ignore them until they call me Mom (I will not budge on THAT) I have all teens as grandkids now and I moved 1000 miles to see them grow up 5 years ago and had 2 good years when I first relocated but as I got sicker, things got more tense between us. They didn’t understand that I actually couldn’t do much due to broken bones and illness!I was supposed to die a year ago. I was given 24 HOURS to live when I was admitted to ICU and I had to tell them all goodbye and then I LIVED and that was when they got mad at me. They had moved into my house already and I had signed away my car! But it did HURT that they were upset that I had lived! then to just cut me out of their lives! But I have no other family within 1000 miles and as far as JWs are concerned – since I left – they consider me as APOSTATE and DEAD to them, not just to the friends I HAD but my JW family also! That poem said she grieves for the mother she never had as well as for the mother that her mother never had – I FEEL that way also. I was as good a mother as I knew how to be and my mother could’ve been different had she not converted to JWs – but she stayed in the confines of her personal feeling about being too loving and she had her own emotional problems and we cannot blame people for mental illness although my kids do. Now, my own daughter is critically ill and my son had to have half his brain removed and is also very sick. My son just turned 31 and my daughter is 33 and they are suffering and I want to help them as much as is in my power. The state just put in a wheelchair lift in my van to give me my freedom back sorta! I can do more now than before. But every Mothers Day just kills me because I lost my mom along with any hopes of ever feeling a mothers love when I lost her and I lost my identity because our lives were so enmeshed and I didn’t even know who I was without my parents and without JWs! But now I am FREE in other ways, like I CELEBRATE holidays and LOVE IT!! And I decided to just create more family for myself and Ive adopted an entire extended family and have added more kids, grandparents, moms, grandkids and more! My cup runneth over and its about time! And you do not have to have a RELIGION to have a RELATIONSHIP with YOUR GOD! (My son is Atheist and my daughter is PAGAN/WICCAN) (biological kids – but that’s their choice!) Excuse this LONG letter. I just need to be HEARD! Thank you.

          • Matt

            You have been heard, Debbie. I am so sorry for the unspeakable, horrific suffering you have endured in your life. I’m sorry for you not having a mother’s love. I am proud of you for doing your best for your children, even at this late date and in the face of such crippling medical problems.

            I am in awe of the strength it must have taken to remove yourself from the JWs, the only world you ever knew for a life you know is worth living. Not only that, but you have created more family out of nothing.

            I hope you continue to find more and more peace and love in your life. I hope you continue to become the mother you wish you could have been. The mother you definitely deserved.

          • Hannah Grace

            Yeah, maybe you’re right. I was so shocked that she was willing to admit she was a bad mom, that I thought maybe that kind of honesty meant she had talked to her daughter, and it was hopeless and her daughter had rejected her.

            I agree with you and everyone else – reach out and try to make up for what you did. But not everyone gets a second chance, and I just wanted that to be acknowledged, too.

          • Carla

            I have admitted my guilt more times than I can remember. I have told my daughter how much I love her repeatedly. I told her I loved her as a child. I have tried to prove my remorse over the shitty job I did as a parent so often, that she now tells me I’m self-deprecating, and it’s not sincere. Your poem was my mother’s day gift, which she posted on my facebook page. I’m 56 years old and she’s 36. My attitude of “self-serving passive-aggressiveness” is the result of having spent the past 20 years apologizing, helping her through a premature birth, dealing with an absentee drug addict father, and still continuing to be waiting to do anything in the world for her at any moment. I have not always been “not doing much.” I’m worn out.

          • Carla

            I have admitted my guilt more times than I can remember. I have told my daughter how much I love her repeatedly. I told her I loved her as a child. I have tried to prove my remorse over the shitty job I did as a parent so often, that she now tells me I’m self-deprecating, and it’s not sincere. Your poem was my mother’s day gift, which she posted on my facebook page. I’m 56 years old and she’s 36. My attitude of “self-serving passive-aggressiveness” is the result of having spent the past 20 years apologizing, helping her through a premature birth, dealing with an absentee drug addict father, and still continuing to be waiting to do anything in the world for her at any moment. I have not always been “not doing much.” I’m worn out.

        • DR

          When my mom quietly confirmed to me that she knew I essentially had raised myself and she had failed more than she had succeeded (using specific examples), it was one of the most healing, transformative moments of my life. It was a 30-second exchange that we’ve never talked about again. It was enough. My love for her and reliance upon her expanded with her humility

          Guilt keeps me isolated, in a corner with my back facing the world, hiding from those I’ve hurt. Remorse and offers for repair are what engages me back with the world again.

          Your honesty is remarkably powerful. Thank you.

          • Jill

            This is beautiful, DR. Thank you for sharing it.

          • Christy

            Wow.

        • Jill

          Your honesty is rare at least, if even refreshing. As an adult daughter who survived a mother also not meant to be one, I would welcome such truth if it came to me this way. Without excuses or implied expectation for me to do anything more about it.

          But John is correct– we have more power to do good (or not) than we usually choose to own. If my estranged mother told me she could not change our relationship alone, I would say, “Try”. Show me you want something different, something better, something resembling healing with me. It will always be up to me to meet you there, but how can I unless you try?

          The damage is done, but the attempt at amends… that so often never even gets off the ground. If you care at all, make an effort. If you don’t know where to start, say “I’m sorry for my shit mistakes, and I am getting real help to do better.” And mean it. Do or do not– that’s what adult children of self-absorbed parents have to find out the hard way in order to break the cycle in their own life.

          • Elizabeth

            I think you want this, Jill. There’s no middle ground.

          • Christy

            The wisdom of the elders…and screenwriters.

          • Elizabeth

            George Lucas was really into Joseph Campbell and the monomyth found in many narratives around the world.

          • Jill

            Yoda is a green Buddha to me. :)

          • Tami

            ;)

          • DR

            This shows me how little I still expect. Totally blown away by this. Very grateful for it, thank you.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            It’s just … the truth of the Stockholm Syndrome at work.

          • Soulmentor

            I broke a cycle tho in a different context. I’m 68 now, gay, formerly married with two grown sins. Raised in a farm family with staid lack of affectations, I never heard the word love or knew a hug from my father who surely got that from HIS father. I made a point of breaking that generational cycle by giving my sons the hugs and kisses and words of love I never got.

            Maybe being gay made the difference. I was not afraid of it like so many men. I knew it did not mean gay, just love. I did not try. I did, and to this day, there are still hugs (kinda left the kisses to their younger days) between my two military officer sons and myself.

          • Soulmentor

            Oh arrrggggh. Should read “two grown sons”. They are definitely NOT sins!!!!

            And I did re-read it. Odd how we can even re-read something and still miss typos.

          • Jill

            I knew what you meant, Soul. And I’m glad to know another person who’s broken the cycle. Gives me hope. :)

        • Tami

          The first thing is to really want to change it and be willing to do more than just throw your hands up and say, “oh well, can’t change her mind. can’t change the past. Not my fault.” In my experience, this failure to take responsibility is one of the greatest barrier to any sort of change we want or need in our life. Blaming someone else, or playing the “helpless” card will never get you any closer to the change or relationship you want. You can be anyone you want to be in this very moment. That is what is completely within your control.

    • Jim

      Carla-you are being way too hard on yourself. I have never seen you as the person described in this poem. You have never, as far as I could see, been caustic, toxic, abusive, vindictive, twisted, or dangerous. I know you had a terrible role model and example in your own mother and had to work hard to do things differently with your own children. I know it didn’t help to have a husband who was so self-absorbed as I was and so focused on work and achievement and who dragged you and two kids from coast to coast seeking the brass ring in a job. I know you as a loving, concerned and understanding mother who did the best she could in the circumstances she found herself in and has done her best to make a relationship with both her children. As you said in one of your posts, you have tried to develop a relationship with your daughter but a relationship takes two people working on it to be successful. Sending you this link to this poem seems to me to be a direct slap in the face and shows a meanness of spirit and a desire to hang on to the anger and resentments of the past.

      • ruthdowd43

        It is no meaner than the original post.

  • DR

    Thank you for this.

  • Tami

    Impulse

    There was a time

    when I wanted to tell you

    everything.

    About how the legs danced

    even after the spider was dead,

    and the bee

    that stung me still,

    though I had killed her.

    Now I understand

    how all of this works;

    That the impulse goes on

    even when the chicken

    has no head.

    And so it is

    that the hand I cut off

    still longs to hold yours,

    and even as I drown, I breathe

    a gentle prayer

    for you.

    • DR

      wow. beautiful.

      • Tami

        Thanks :)

        • Jen

          That was truly amazing. You are a very talented writer. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jill

    Thank you John for putting words together that don’t require schmaltzy, overcooked, sentimental reflection. Some–many, I dare say– of us did not, nor will ever, enjoy a motherly relationship worthy of celebration.

    Most years I have been able to casually drift past this day, with barely a second glance. This year it seemed, mother’s day was shoved so far in my face it nearly lodged in my sinus cavity.

    So you know what I did? I held sacred space in my own home, with my furry daughter (cat, Daphne), and honored the mothering of myself for myself by myself. I tidied up, reorganized the kitchen, made tea, watched favorite movies, and cried a little. I honored the child I was and the momma I am now, in my own life. Yes, I even skipped church and its inevitable ode to maternal DNA donors, in order for me to be ok, more than ok. To be well.

    Perhaps it hit harder this year as I see myself more maternal than I ever have before. No matter, I have learned the Big lesson she needed to teach me: never give up loving. I learned at her knee what life looks like when you do.

    • Debbie

      Jill,

      I thought that what you wrote was lovely and it is wonderful that you are able to be a mother to yourself and your furry cat daughter! The furry kids are forever grateful unlike many biological children! Our furry kids are ALWAYS happy to see us even if we only went to the mailbox!! And spending some alone time for yourself isn’t always too bad, but can be quite refreshing to our spirit and loving to our soul! Give yourself a hug – even us Moms need hugs, too! And skipping Church on such a day that tears would have been shed is ok with God also. At least that’s what He told me cos I stayed home that day also. I just couldn’t take seeing all the smiling faces and flower corsages when inside I felt an emptiness. Even my own daughter will not recognize Mother’s Day and she has 3 daughters. But, all she thinks about is that was the day her Grandma died and she said it is just wrong for any of us to even appear to be happy on that day at all. That’s even a little too morbid for me. I’d rather us celebrate her life than mourn her death. Even in the Bible, it says that the day of ones death is better than the day of one ‘s being born. The reason? Because when we are born, we have not yet made a name for ourselves or done anything yet that can benefit ourselves or anyone else or for God. But, usually by the time we die, we have usually done something with our lives to benefit someone even if it means we have just made someone else happy – like our parents or grandparents. We have brightened their lives with our life and that was a blessing for them. All life is precious and losing anyone at any time is difficult to say the least.

      Shalom

      Debbie

  • robert

    Thank You…

    My Mom is now 80 and I am fast approaching 52. When I was a kid, she was consumed by her anxieties, fears, shame and the drama of her life. During the last 20 years, she and I have reforged a relationship… I allowed her to be a person… rather than a mother. As I began to create a safe space… she began to tell me the truth. She began to see me as me… and not as something to be used/discarded at will to suit her inner drama. As, I set boundaries. She began to calm down… we now can talk and I can accept what she has to give… which might be different than I what I want/need from her.

    I think I am one of the lucky ones…. because under all the crazy of my childhood, there was love.

    • InaCat

      - my parents were good people who maybe would have been better suited to other people (or perhaps they spared innocent people lives of torment? ) and my childhood was both bright and dark…

      and yes, I think we are the lucky ones.

  • Amy

    I shared this with all of my friends who were suffering through yesterday with forced smiles. It brought some peace to all of us. Thanks for another insightful piece, John.

  • Natalie

    My father broke the cycle with me (as i was his first born.) He’s a good father and a good man. I’ve got nothing but, admiration for people with the courage to break the cycle. :)

  • Debbie

    This is Debbie that posted earlier about being raised Jehovah’s Witness and being sick. Well, today I had to go to the Dr because my pain is SO SEVERE I can barely move any part of my body. My lupus is so bad now that I have to go on chemotherapy! The level of inflammation in my blood (sed rate) was really high! They also put me back on morphine and raised my prednisone (steroids) four times what I’ve been taking and so the 30 lbs I’ve lost this last year will probably be right back and my blood sugar will go thru the roof! My Dr said that now again – I can DIE at any time! And he asked me if I was possibly thinking of killing myself and I said that will all the meds I have on hand that if I had planned on “checking out” that I wouldn’t be here now!! But as much as I’ve survived til now, no way am I just GIVING UP!! Not just NO, but HELL NO! Why would I come THIS FAR only to QUIT now?? Don’t get me wrong – cuz this much pain can make you feel desperate for sure and EVERYTHING is more difficult. This string is about Moms. Well, I told yall that my mom died on MOTHERS DAY! Well, in 2006, Mothers Day was on May 14th and that’s the date today! Double Whammy cos every year it is like losing her twice! But my DR told me that I have to leave the past in the past because the stress has to go away in my life!! Like HOW is THAT possible with both of my kids so sick and my husband is in heart failure and 14 yrs older than me and HE has to help me even raise up in bed! I also have a helper 5 days a week 5 hours a day just to help me with housework! I miss doing my own laundry!!! It may sound silly but I miss having a job – sittin at home all the time is NOT FUN at all! I love interacting with other people and to me a stranger is simply a friend I have not met yet!! LOL! But I am on AAWA to help other JWs trying to get out of that cult! AAWA stands for Advocates Against Watchtower Abuse! I am all about helping others because listening to other peoples problems helps take my mind off of my problems! You know it’s true that if you want to feel better then do something for someone else! I love to send cards to people for no reason at all just to remind them that I am here and I love them and especially the older people just love it! And I write to women in prison who have requested pen pals through the prison Chaplain and I made some wonderful friends – any person can make a mistake and end up in prison even innocent people are sent to prison all the time! So I judge no one but just am grateful; for the blessings and good things I do have! Remember – things can ALWAYS be worse! Don’t tempt fate! Karma’s a BITCH!! (SMILE!)

    • Elizabeth

      Heard and noted, Deb. Might want to up those meds.

    • Allie

      Another lupus sufferer here. Hoping it eases up for you soon. I usually describe it to people who don’t have lupus as a feeling of being lightly set on fire. :)

      Really wonderful that you are still reaching out to others every way you can. God bless and keep you!

      • Debbie

        Allie, thank you! It’s so nice to hear an understanding ear from a fellow lupus sufferer although I would not wish this disease on anyone friend or foe! Most people think we are hypochondriacs because they don’t think one person can have so MANY different health problems that change in an hours time or from one day to the next! I was 23 when I was diagnosed but I had been sick many years beforehand and really all my life I had been sick. Going out in the sun made me deathly sick and I was diagnosed with leukemia as a baby and was supposed to die before I was one yr old and when I was 23 and in the hospital, I was diagnosed with leukemia again and my health insurance cancelled while I was in there and after the first week they sent me home to just die. Then I applied for Medicaid and was allowed to go to the Hospital Clinic and go thru a bunch of tests and that’s when they said I had leukopenia not leukemia – altho very similar! I got different treatments but the magical one was steroids!! PREDNISONE – the best/worst medicine ever! Best cos it helps the most painful parts of the disease and the worst, because it destroys your immune system, thins your bones and they snap like twigs, it shuts down your adrenal glands and usually makes you gain weight like crazy!!!!! But I complained every day of my life with my legs hurting and the Dr always said it was growing pains!! No other kid I knew HURT while they were growing but they gave me Paragoric – a liquid narcotic they used way back! (I’m 52) Well, it still not a normal practice to give ANYONE a narcotic unless there’s something really wrong with them. So all those growing pains were really childhood arthritis! And apparently, I’ve always had a connective tissue autoimmune disease – be it lupus or something similar. I didn’t realize that even diabetes is an autoimmune disease. And as we ALL AGE now, more and more of us are getting sicker and sicker. My medicine already costs about $4000 a month and when I start chemo, I cannot imagine what that will cost! I am just waiting to find out that I am too costly to the government to keep alive as are many of us with these chronic diseases and eventually I am afraid we WILL lose our MEDICARE and MEDICAID! Our government IS BROKE after all! And did yall know that when the sequester started that Obama sent $450 million to help a Muslim country where his MUSLIM FAMILY is all the while talking and taking off his shoes with the OTHER Muslims where he was at to do his prayers facing Mecca! Also admitting that he was a Muslim himself and even Mrs. Obama went to see the Boston Bomber while he was in the hospital to reassure him that they would do everything possible to reunite him with his family!!!!! This info blew me away! Guess I need to have my own word press spot and actually I do have a BlogSpot on there and I just may get started with it. I’m trying to write a book called “God Whispers” and that’s what I will call my blog, one of these days!!

        • Pat L-G

          Let me just say, that this does not need to turn into a political arguement. Especially throwing out accusations that are speculation and/or proven to be untrue. This is about healing in any way we can and being able to share that we did not all have wonderful mothers, or weren’t wonderful mothers, and the pain that has brought us. Some of us have been able to work through that pain and loss of having/being the “perfect mom” (whatever that may be).

          Peace

        • Allie

          I hear you on the lupus. It took them ten years after I became ill to diagnose me. It’s especially difficult because much of the time a lupus sufferer appears fine on the outside but is very sick on the inside.

          On the other hand, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about Obama. He is provably not a Muslim, since he has attended a Christian church for years. But even if he were a Muslim, that’s perfectly all right. There is nothing wrong with being a Muslim. Maybe you should think about that.

          • Elizabeth

            If I may be so indiscreet, I love you, Allie.

        • http://shooshee.tumblr.com/ sheeshoo

          For what it’s worth, I also live with chronic illness and chronic pain. I know that it’s frustrating. I know about seeing multiple specialists and being misdiagnosed and not understood. I know that becoming and being your own advocate with medical professionals and other caregivers can be exhausting. I also know that letting go of the anger and blame helped me emotionally AND physically. I know that focusing on what I can do to actively heal and function brings me far more positive results that focusing on what others are not doing for me. I know that looking at what I can do and what my life can be is far healthier than looking at what I can’t do. I hope that you can find more peace in your life and can find a way to live with your chronic illness rather than suffer from it.

    • Elizabeth Parkinson

      I have dealt with the massive issues around my mother via a 12 step fellowship called Codependants Anonymous, it is worth you perhaps looking for a local group. The meetings are full of people just like you, and like me. And many of us have other, serious, health conditions.

  • CastleRockBear

    I so know this!

  • Namaste17

    *sigh* Thank you. A thousand times, thank you. ♥

    • Jill

      I reread this one for my own peace.

  • Katie Miles

    Thank you for sharing this John. As a daughter of a borderline personality and (untreated) bipolar mom, the mother’s day holiday is often a very difficult one. The words you’ve written here are the essence of what I’d whispered to myself for years…fearing the ground would split open and swallow me if I ever said them aloud! I learned later that was Stockholm syndrome, lol! I’ve had years of therapy and healing but the mother wound is still a wound…not a scar. It brings more healing to be reminded that I am not alone.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      No, you’re not alone. At all. Even a little. You’re a good deal less alone than a lot of people are willing to admit, even (and however ultimately tragically) to themselves.

  • Jamie Ramirez

    Thank you. It’s so refreshing to see this. My adoptive father molested and raped me for three years and my mom told me she didn’t believe me. When she walked in on him raping me, she believed and immediately filed for a divorce. Two weeks later, she told me she was in love with a man from our church. He turned her down and she has spent every day since in and out of bad, unhealthy relationships, neglecting her five children. She has had all five of us on meds and I’d say probably two of us needed any at all. She had me on meds for personality disorder (which can’t be diagnosed before 18), bipolar disorder, depression, and all sorts of things. I’d like to point out that I’m not bipolar and I don’t suffer from BPD or from half of the things she had diagnosed. She is verbally abusive and every once in awhile, physically abusive. I know how it feels to beg for love and attention and I do my best to make Mother’s Day nice for her because I believe in my heart if hearts that she tried, even though her best was far from good enough. It’s just so refreshing to have proof right in front of my eyes that I’m not the only one.

  • http://shooshee.tumblr.com/ sheeshoo

    Thank you. My mother is still “irresistibly drawn to making much too clear that her unhappiness — her pain, her dysfunction, her drama— [IS] more precious to her than [I] could ever be.” Choosing to step away from that – to distance myself from her, to break the cycle with my own child – has been one of the harder things I’ve done, but certainly one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done.

  • Norah Johnson Wolthuis

    Thank you for this, although she is finally gone, my psychic world has revolved around viciousness and hatred since the day I was born and I am now 69 years old. So important to see something like this in print. Thank you.

  • ph2072

    As the child of a narcissistic mother (and a disgusting father) with whom there’s no relationship, thank you for this.


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