On social media, and throughout society, we’ve been discussing mental health. Throughout this conversation, various topics have come up. Specifically, a topic that comes up all too often in our therapy sessions is our relationship with our Mother.
Mother’s day will be arriving soon and it is seen as a time for celebrating all that they do and all that they have done for us. While it would be nice to see this holiday and our Mother as just warm, happy, and loving, we all know about the ugly and even terrifying truth lying beneath the surface. Underneath all the love, warmth and happiness lies the truth, the pain, the trauma, the imperfection, and most importantly their inner child.
Their inner child, who stomps, screams, hits and rips the hair out of the “Cynthia” Barbie doll, lies in the pit of our Mother’s stomach. We can’t see her, because our Mother would stand tall and show us how big and strong she was, to make us big and strong, of course. But sometimes she would go too far. Out of fear, while teaching us, when we showed moments of weakness or ignorance, that triggered her inner child to pop out.
Those times when the school system failed us, and we had no idea how to do that math problem, and we asked our Mother after she just worked a 10-hour shift, how to complete it, there her inner child was. She banged on the table, screamed to the top of her lungs, and you looked up with such fear but never knew that your eyes were met with a child’s. Even more, the eyes you met had seen this scene before, but the roles were switched and it wasn’t your Grandma who did it, it was hers. The Great-Grandma you knew who was sick, kind and on her death bed, yelled, screamed, and gnashed her teeth at her, even more viciously than your Mother did in that moment with you.
Your Mother’s inner child didn’t only show anger though; she showed happiness, freedom, and fun, so much fun. You remember the many wrestling matches where she held you down and dangled one of her famous gross loogies over your head, slurped it back up, and let it dangle again, while you laughed until it felt like your stomach would burst and your cheeks would rip. You remember the late-nights, Häagen-Dazs ice cream running down your chin, her body filling the space of the Queen-sized bed she passed down to you, as the movie began. And you remember the rarely-given cold soda you used to wash down the salad you had to hold your nose to swallow because it was so healthy. All this, while watching what seemed to be the most interesting documentary you’ve ever seen, sitting next to the person who created you.
Your Mother went through pain, your Mother experienced heartache, and in some cases, your Mother experienced neglect, so sometimes you wonder, what do you expect? Then the next question is, what do you accept? You’re an adult now. Yes, she wiped your butt, but there are boundaries. There needs to be mutual respect, so you can both reflect and project where each of you has been and where each of you wants to go.
As you love her, she loves you but you do wonder if the pain of the past is too much of a burden to bear. On this Mother’s Day, I encourage the children of Mothers, older now, 90’s babies, millennials, and Gen Z-ers, to try to look to your Mother’s inner child. Continue to work through the pain and understand that side of her. The sides of her that exist as one, in moments, separately, and in some moments, all together.
As you hurt, she hurt, and you both still do.
And in that sameness, try to find a place within yourself of understanding, love, and forgiveness.
Happy Mother’s Day.