Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mirrors & Motherhood

My family has a legacy of mental illness, teen motherhood, addiction and violence going back many generations. I believe I am transforming my family's legacy. Since getting pregnant the first time at age 16, it has been my life's mission to raise children who are happy and whole, rather than broken, when they go out into the world. Instead of continuing to unconsciously perpetuate the cycle of violence with my children, I have worked to heal my wounds, disarm my triggers and change my behaviors. But I still have violent communication to unlearn and I struggle with shame about that. It breaks my heart when I lose control of my emotional reactions and hurt anyone, most especially my children.

I have a 14 year old daughter. She is one of the brightest lights in my life. We have a great relationship with very little conflict. For a teenage girl she is remarkably easy to live with. But she is still a teenager and she has her ways of digging at me now and again.

It is in her sarcasm. She speaks a version of the truth through a veil of dark humor. It is penetrating and sometimes it is quite painful. She has this way of finding the places where I believe I fail as a mother and digging at them when she is in a bad mood. Sometimes I am stunned at her capability to call me out on my shadow. It is tough to hold space for.

The other night she was in a dark mood, and laughed out of the blue as we were preparing dinner. I asked her what was funny. She said she had a mean thought go through her mind and she thought it was funny. We talked about how she can't control how mean thoughts come, only what she does with them. Then she asked if I wanted to know what she thought. I said probably not, as I was tired and experiencing a bit of an emotional crash after a full weekend. She decided to tell me anyway.

"When you talk to me in your annoyed-with-me-voice, I want to go crawl into a cave and die."

Yeah. Not funny. It broke my heart actually. I started crying. It makes me sad that something I do could cause her to feel that way. It's another example of how I communicate through tone in harmful ways, something I have already been looking at in my relationships to both Knight and the Imps.

Some days it is difficult looking at the mirror in my daughter. Like me, she is an empath, which has its light and its shadow. As an empath, she intuitively knows things about people and can use that knowledge to help them, or to manipulate and hurt them. When I am angry and scared, I can be incredibly mean. I can spin some fantastic stories by manipulating the truth about a person's shadow behaviors. I am recognizing and healing the violence that persists in my communication when I am triggered. I don't like seeing my daughter struggle with what she has learned from living with my violence.


To balance this sharing, on the light side of mirrors and motherhood...

Most days I look at the mirrors in my daughter and I love what I see. Like me, but in her unique ways, she is immensely clever, creative, intuitive, and emotionally intelligent. She is a fabulous human being. I like spending time with her.

Sometimes, she lets me know that she really sees me and how I have tried so very hard to be a good mother.

For Mother's Day, she wrote me a thank you letter.

"Thank you.

Thank you for always being there for me whether I'm talking to you about boring everyday things or just sitting with me while I cry.

Thank you for putting up with my snobbiness and sarcasm.

Thank you for always trying. You may not be a perfect mother, but you try and that's good enough for me.

Thank you for putting up with my complaining and ungratefulness.

Thank you for letting me be who I am without question.

Thank you for always supporting me.

Thank you for being who you are.

Thank you for trying to grow and be everything you can possibly be.

Thank you for being so kind and giving to me, your friends and your community.

Thank you for telling me I'm smart and beautiful when I don't believe it.

And most of all thank you for giving me life and letting me be free.

I'm so sorry that you couldn't have had a mother like I do. I'm sorry your mother couldn't always give you what you needed. And didn't always put you first like you put me first. I'm sorry she wasn't all she could be. But I know she loved you, just like you love me. And I think you should always try to remember that. And if she wasn't who she was, then you wouldn't be who you are, right? I know she loved you. And I love you, too. I could not ask for a better mother. Really.

I appreciate you. I appreciate everything you've ever done for me. I appreciate what you are."

Pretty amazing, especially the paragraph about my own mother. Another mirror that I am grateful for.

***Image Credit: Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror

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