There is a period in every person’s life when you don’t get along with Mom. It’s a natural part of human development. Who was it that said “I was extremely surprised, at the age of 25, to see how much wisdom my (parent) had acquired in such a short time!”?
If it’s a healthy relationship, you and Mom end up being good friends. Mother’s Day for the two of you is like a birthday. A time to honor, celebrate, gift and praise Mom for all she’s done.
For a whole lot of folks, it’s not so good. It can be a tough day for those with difficult mothers. Let’s explore that.
Hyper critical is a term used for verbally abusive people. Mom always has an opinion. But a critical person always has a negative one. There is no such thing as praise, or appreciation. You are reminded regularly that you have no worth, will never measure up. If you saw the movie “Throw Mama From A Train”, or “Mommy Dearest”, you get the idea. The child is belittled and degraded constantly, in private and in public. It may be done in conversational tones, or screaming rages. The child tends to grow up to be quiet, trying not to attract attention, assuming it will be negative. Positive reactions are dismissed. Relationships are difficult because the child may never have developed good social skills. Worst case scenario – the child’s anger issues manifest themselves in dangerous ways. If you lived with hyper critical, a professional can help you. While you are healing, it may be a good idea to spend as little time with Mom as possible. There’s a good chance you’ll be fine.
Physically abusive parenting can be very confusing. There may be no verbal abuse attached to it. While you hear words that are nice, you’re feeling pain. The classic “I’m doing this for your own good” or “This hurts me more than it hurts you”. There is no discussion on any point, only the belt, or the fist. Can’t sit still while getting homework help? Smack.
One woman tells of going out to dinner as a family. “Total strangers constantly stopped by our table to tell my parents how impressed they were by the five well behaved children. My parents would smile and accept the compliment. Then my mother would glare at us. Before getting out of the car, she would threaten us within an inch of our lives if we misbehaved inside the restaurant. We knew all too well she was good for it. That glare was a reminder.”
People who are abused have a good chance of growing up to be abusers. An abused person can, however, decide not to be that way. It takes a lot of hard work, but breaking the cycle is possible.
Criminally abusive is a whole other ball of wax. The gruesome details will not be recounted here. We’ve all seen them in the news. Recovery is extremely difficult, takes a very long time, and must have professional guidance.
Parents that abuse drugs (prescription or street) or alcohol, or have other mental illness, present special challenges. They can pass the problems on genetically. These children have a high rate of repeating their parents’ behavior. This is also an area that has much research done and many methods of turning the tables. The wise victim takes full advantage of resources available.
And what if Mom was none of the above, but you two just couldn’t get along? Stand back and take a look, or have a counselor look with you. Are you too much alike, or too different from each other? Is there jealousy, resentment, secrets, disrespect? The recommendation here is talk, talk, talk.
So here it is, Mother’s Day. Sending a mushy card and flowers is out of the question, or a lie.
If you are part of a faith community, you may wonder how one reconciles a difficult parent with the directive to honor them.
While it is true that when one loves another, one honors the other. But we also honor without love. We offer our seats to pregnant women or the elderly. We say please and thank you. We respect burial places. We try to keep children safe. We obey traffic laws. We knock before entering. We remove our hats.
The faith Directive is to honor your parents. It doesn’t say you have to love them. Parents have to earn that love.
You can honor a difficult parent by acknowledging them. It my take some time, but you can find a card that simply says “It’s Mother’s Day and I’m sending a card”. Same goes for birthdays.
You honor them by not speaking ill of them.
And you pray for them. Yes, you can. “God bless my mother” is a prayer, and fulfills your obligation.
Wouldn’t hurt to put in a word for your own healing, either.