As a teen, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great moms! My friends' mothers were their friends also. Later, I also had the pleasure of working under some amazing boss women. Smart, well-dressed, authoritative, yet kind; enterprising and ever so inspiring women! But I never saw my mother be any of those things.. until now.
My mother says I told her “No More” to breastfeeding. I was under a year old too; it surprised her that a baby would say no and go cold turkey so fast so easy. I detached from her and ha! The irony, this was to be the story of my life.
But first, the backstory ..
We lived in a one bedroom 400sqft house the first 10 years of my life. It must’ve been when I was 5... (because my sister was still my sister - more on this below).
One day, I asked my mother where my sandals were. Without looking up, without straining to even think, she told me the exact location in a blink and I found them!
That moment is so vivid because in that moment I wanted to be like her. I thought she was so clever, so confident of knowing the exact solution to my (then, big) problem! I had never felt that way about her again. Well, until now.
At 9yrs old, my little sister caught Meningitis - there’s vaccines for it now, Praise God! Because it can be fatal for little children; water collecting in the brain and all. I can’t imagine the heartache my parents felt during this time. Staying with her at the hospital, looking at her through the intensive care unit (ICU) glass window, and for months!? I didn't see any of it though. My neighbours cared for me, sent me to school, and they, in essence, became my new family. More about them in another article because they are a big part of my story too.
So, when my sister returned from the hospital, she became Elsa. She wouldn't come out to play with me. Always by herself, quiet and detached and this went on for a very long time too. My relationship with my sister is still healing.
Anyway, my parents were so busy with my sister and my newborn brother that I felt neglected. This was also the time when I was molested by my neighbours. Several! Between 10 houses, three were peadofiles! That statistic is staggering to me.
Do you want to see a puppy? He said.
Don't tell anyone, they said.
It’s our secret, they said.
Who would I tell? I figured, my parents would blame me because I was always out. My neighbours? And what? Risk losing the one loving relationship I had at the time? As the trauma and tension build up I became angrier with my parents. In my head though, they were already angry wit me, blaming me, but that was my truth, in my head.
At 14, I told my father about his friend molesting me. I thought he didn’t believe me because I didn't see any 'fights' like in the movies. Protective fathers get aggressive to those hurting their children in the movies, no? That did not happen in my real life. The truth in my head manifested as reality and I figured they didn't care. In hindsight, he did ask his friend to leave immediately and has never had him over ever since. This little detail failed to register in my pre-teen brain. So typical, no?
By this time, I had stopped speaking to everyone in the family. I mean every single person. Instagram is the only place I can be myself BUT I have the courage only because I am facing a black mirror. I am working on this... anyway.. I digress.
Always with my books or immersed myself in movies or TV reruns. I had no one to speak to in my own mother-tongue language. I had devoured so much English content that I “think” in English now too. This way, language became our second barrier. I didn't see the point in communicating when I couldn't actually express anything without offending anyone in the family.
At 16, they lost me to substance abuse. I was also being groomed by an older gentleman at the time. (More on “grooming” in another post. Lord please help me tell all!) This is the part that pushed me down and down the dark rabbit hole, only to take Jesus’s hand! He pulled me back up! He gave me a BRAND NEW LIFE at 27 yrs old. This is the new me you see today.
In hindsight again, I didn't give my mother a chance to get close to me. She tried. But after years of my rejection, who would keep trying? She did!!! She never stopped trying and that is what I admire her the most now. Always forgiving, always there for me. I SEE IT NOW but I was blind then.
Identifying the source of indifference
With the intention to break the cycle when I became a mother, I wanted to explore the relationship with my mother again. Only to do things I didn't see my mother do so my daughters and I may have better relationships. Naturally, the first thing I did was turn to God because by now, I had come to Christ.
My Life Application Study Bible helped me so much! There were no self-help books. No wait, there was one gifted to me from my best friend at the time. He thought it would be helpful. This book has exercises and deep reflections which I couldn't bear to do. Those exercises were too intense so I only flipped through them so far. While flipping one day, I stopped at one page in the middle. The exercise was an empty page with a question on top that read:
What are the most positive things you remember about your mother?
That question stopped me right in my tracks. All this while for years and years my one-tracked-mind focused only on her negatives. How she wasn't there for me like I wanted her to be. Why never went lingerie shopping. How come she never told me what sex really was, or how to protect myself against predators?
She did not, not do these things because she clearly had a different upbringing than I did. Times were different then. Information was limited. I've never asked but she probably never experienced any attacks from predators as I had.
After she read my testimony the first time, I remember she called me on the phone, sobbing, and said she didn't know any of these nasty things were possible. That's when I realized, at 27yrs old, she didn't know because I never told her!
It takes two to clap!
One by one the missing pieces of the puzzle came together. What a revelation! I was being presumptuous also - yes, I was too young, too naive, but what choices had she also? I should've had some compassion but I didn't. Her upbringing, her story, and experience made her who she was. Without a formal education on psychology or Google or Instagram posts like mine in your face, how could any mother prepare like we can today?
So I focused on the positives and it smacked me in my face. Reminding me that growing up I always had warm home-cooked meals. The best meals! In fact, plopped on the couch with my book or watching TV, a warm plate would was always handed to me. That was my mother! She cooked, she cleaned, I always had fresh laundry folded neatly in my wardrobe. We always slept on fresh bedspreads and pillow covers. My school uniforms always clean and pressed and ready. I did not lift a finger.
For a while I also hated her for giving me an easy life. Because oh the trauma and the struggle of suddenly doing all these things after my marriage was real! I almost went suicidal! No joke! Still learning and teaching myself now to be a proper housekeeper. (more on this later)
This is how she expressed her love for me!
Through acts of service. It was never words, or quality time.
Think about it. Who would be so selfless, so tireless to someone who did not love or care about her? This was Jesus shining through her but I was BLIND to appreciate any of it.. well, until now.
I took her for granted thinking all mothers have to do that. Umm no, no mother has to do anything for ungrateful children but some do it out of love, voluntarily. I say voluntary because here I am today arguing with my husband sometimes. Refusing to do housework because it's not my job... Breathe Liz, breathe.
The books and movies showed me mothers with daughters shopping, in salons, to lunch dates. Mothers who were also friends. Mothers who always kissed on the forehead and tucked you in bed. Mothers who read or told stories. Mothers who hugged and said I love you everyday. LIES!!!
I've spent years thinking why wasn't my mother doing any of that?
Because her love language was different.
Her love language is service!! So when she loves, she shows her love by doing things for them. I learned this from the book '5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman' Please get one, gift one! Books make the perfect gifts! There is another ‘5 Love Languages Of Children' too these books made my life so bright! Praising God for people who write, publish books and show us the way.
With this, I know how she expresses her love now, and how I can express mine to make sure she knows I love her too. Yes I do love her now, finally, at 33. Because she loved me first. I see it now, with my eyes wide open.
Thank you for watching & reading!