The mother we never had

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.

 

— John Shore


Originally published on Mother’s Day 2013.

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. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • MsFury

    I had a toxic and very dangerous mother – so I made it my mission to become an exemplary mothers. Today is about my son, who is now 16, and about me being the mother I wish I had. Forgiveness can be extremely difficult but it is a gift you give to yourself. : )

    • Christina Scroggins-Shipley

      I have two sons as well… I at times overdo the protective mother thing because I never wanted them to hurt or be harmed. I try to be there to listen and be supportive always. Kuddos to you on being a great mom to your son, our boys need awesome examples of positive mothering.

      • MsFury

        Yup, I hear ya’ – gotta watch that Mamma Bear thing. : )

  • Christina Scroggins-Shipley

    Thank you for this! My mother was horrid but her mother (my grandma) was awesome… this messsage is so needed!

  • wjtaylor

    Thanks John. It’s a confusing day for me as well.

  • Katie Doyle

    John, I do have to say that though you are mostly correct here, sometimes good mothers raise some pretty awful mothers. You have to factor in mental illness and personality traits that can’t be fixed, even with the best of intentions. On the other hand, some pretty awful mothers brings some great one into the world.

  • usingmyvoice

    :::::hands clapping::::: Thank you for remembering the truly-motherless, John! So many of us, despite the childhood presence of a woman we called “Mom”, never experienced unconditional love, protection, or even nurturing from her. And more applause for those of us who determine that “this stops with me” and go on to become truly loving, caring, nurturing mothers anyway. We all do the best we can with what we have, but some of us are miracles… Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the miracle moms out there!

  • Guest

    Thanks John. I find Mother’s Day very difficult, because neither my mother nor stepmother will acknowledge the harm that they did (and continue to do) to my siblings and I. So, I parrot all the appropriate Mother’s Day language and pretend to celebrate a relationship with my mothers that was, in reality, fairly horrifying. I’m working on it, trying to forgive – but, I can’t help how I feel right now.

  • Liadan

    I had a great mom, but this sure works for my dad. And it works for so many of my friends who had less than perfect moms.

  • John Thompson

    I’m thankful to know I’m not the only one to feel this way about mom.

  • Greg Robertson

    This expresses my own experiences, however, because of the F word, I cannot share it with many others, even though they need to hear the message. I wish it was said without the crude language

    • HLee

      Copy it and replace the F word with “forget”?

  • Pavitrasarala

    Thank you so much for re-posting this today. FAIL isn’t a remotely adequate descriptor for my egg donor… to make things double tough, her birthday falls around the same time as Mother’s Day.

    I cut her out of my life years ago; she’s dead to me. The longer time goes by since I made that decision, the fewer regrets I have – about the only lingering one is that I didn’t do it sooner, and that I didn’t realize MUCH sooner that she not only never truly loved me, she was never capable of it.

  • Michelle Par

    And some of us aren’t allowed the choice to become mothers. And, no, pets, hobbies, and being “in the lives of other people’s kids” are not the same thing. It (and the days leading up to it are/) is a hard day.

  • Gary in FL

    I had a relatively happy childhood and still have a good relationship with my mother. But that is a piece of BRILLIANT writing!

  • Anastasia

    Replace Mother with Father and it pretty much sums it up. I’m going to bookmark and come back on Father’s Day.

  • Patricia Anne Brush

    I once went to a conference that misguidedly started with a guided meditation that dwelt on the comfort, safety, and unconditional love that was to be found in our mother’s arms. So many people ran out in serious distress, that I had a serious thought that the conference would not be able to continue.

  • Andrew of MO

    Wow, John! Thanks! That was my mother.

  • Frank McManus

    When I clicked on the link I certainly never expected to read a perfectly flawless description of my own mother. Yet there it is. But my response wasn’t scrounging for love from her; it was pretending, especially to myself, that I didn’t need love.

    Last week I was at a training seminar dealing with child abuse, and the list of things that constitute “serious mental injury” as a form of child abuse described my own experience. It was a bit sobering to realize that what I grew up with is something that professionals in the field would now formally name “child abuse.” (But my childhood is now far in the past and I’ve gotten over that particular mountain in reasonably good shape.)

    Anyhow, thanks, John.


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