You ever swear up and down that you wouldn’t do that annoying thing your parent(s) does, or used to do & then one day, it happens?! When we find ourselves becoming more and more like our parents for better or for worseSong Inspiration: Exactly What You Run From You End Up Chasing x Tyler the Creator
If you ask anyone in my family, they can quote a notorious phrase from the book of my mom. One of my least favorite lines was “Everything that belongs to me…Let’s Go!!” She’d usually say that whenever we were at a family function or a group gathering of some sort. I dreaded hearing that line because it always seemed to happen at the height of my fun, like right in the middle of a game of tag or hide and seek. She timed it so perfectly. I later realized that the call to round up my siblings and I was equivalent to that feeling you get when all the lights in the club turn on while the DJ announces last call for drinks at the bar. In my recent adulthood, I found myself saying that same notorious phrase from my mom one day when I was leading a group of my students on a field trip as we were getting ready to go, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
When talking to my friends and family, we often crudely joke about the scars our parents have left on us from childhood all the way into adulthood. There are definitely isms that we have picked up on from our parents that we’d hate to admit are true. We often categorize them as “mommy or daddy issues.” I mean how many times have you done something in your personal or professional life and thought to yourself, this is something my parental figure would do? Face palm. I will admit, adulthood has humbled me in ways that I could have never imagined. As much as we run from the things we despise the most about our parents, I’ve found that sometimes we tend to turn into our parents by doing those very things. It’s almost inevitable. So how do we take even the most challenging or hurtful situations we’ve faced with our parental figures and turn them into something we can grow from, and finally heal those scars for the benefit of our lives and those around us?
Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever do they forgive them.Oscar Wilde
My mom and I were always extremely close. I am the baby of my sibling group, born six days before my mom’s birthday and I always credit that to why we used to bump heads when I was growing up. I always wanted to be by her side. When she would be in bed minding her business, watching tv, I’d crawl up next to her and just lay on her. I used to hate thunderstorms as a kid so when they’d hit, I would hurry downstairs to my mom’s room and hop in bed with her. I found the most comfort when I was next to my mom. My mom and I have this special telepathic kind of connection. We are often able to communicate things with just a look. I can recall many times when my mom and I would have conversations about things that were on our hearts and minds and then the conversation would come up again when we were sitting in a sermon at church or while listening to the radio. We would look at each other and laugh. I spent the majority of my childhood working to make my mom proud and then one day that theory came crashing down.
Have you ever had a fight with a parental figure that you just knew you couldn’t come back from? That happened to me at the beginning of my senior year of college. My mom and I had gotten into the worst fight I could have ever imagined. It was so bad that I ended up giving my mom the silent treatment for months. During those months of silence, I struggled a lot with who I was. For so many years I had lived my life with the idea that I was living up to my mom’s expectations. I was a safe kid, even all the way through to adulthood (probably too safe when I think about it). I made it my business to keep a 3.0 or above while in school, I didn’t drink until I was 21, I wasn’t a huge party person, and I wasn’t having sex because my plan was to save myself until marriage. I lived my life with tons of caution because I feared disappointing my mom who was the one person I wanted to impress the most. The fight that we had crumbled my entire world. I can’t remember much from that day but I do remember my mom telling me that I was selfish and that she was very disappointed in me. Me, selfish?! How dare she say something like that?!
Up until that moment I had felt like everything I worked so hard for was all a waste. I lived my life on the straight and narrow all for my mom to feel as if I had done the exact opposite! Y’all, I didn’t even jaywalk! (I still choose not to, if I can help it) That’s how much I tried to live life by the rules. My mom’s statements really made me question everything about myself, like would I have been a good student had I not feared disappointing my mom? Or how many more risks would I have taken had I not been afraid? Would I ever feel comfortable jaywalking?!? It made me question how I would’ve turned out if I hadn’t been so hard on myself for the approval of my mom. I was so hurt by my mom. It felt like we would never be able to recover from this big of a blow.
The months that went by without contact with my mom were hard. My mom would text me occasionally, but I wouldn’t respond. She would send messages through my significant other, and I wouldn’t respond. When I needed help, I would reach out to my grandparents or my older sister. Weird flex, but I had actually gotten pretty good at ignoring my mom; I was determined to be able to survive without her. I will never forget the day that my mom brought all of that ideology to an extreme halt. I was working my shift as a cashier at Meijer when all of a sudden my mom popped up at the grocery store! My mom pulled up on me! The audacity!
“You can’t just ignore your mom, London.” Those were the first words that came out of her mouth while I just stood there in shock. First of all, I definitely could, and she was hindering the process by showing up! I had gone so long without speaking to my mom that I honestly thought I wouldn’t have an encounter with her ever again. I brushed her off and told her that I couldn’t talk to her because I needed to get back to work. With a sly grin on her face she said okay and then walked away. I thought that I had gotten rid of her until she popped up in my check-out lane! This woman drove an hour to ambush me and now she’s buying groceries too?! She was not going to give up! I checked my mom out and then asked my supervisor to take my 15 minute break. In those 15 minutes, I learned so much about my myself and my mom and who she had truly raised me to be.
Although I had been known to be extremely hard on myself, I had been an ever harder critic toward my mom. I was stuck in the notion that my mom could never change, that I would always see her as someone who hurt me and nothing else. Contrary to my own popular belief at that time, my mom was a human who wasn’t perfect and made mistakes. As much as I was hurting, I too had hurt my mom in ways that I could not see. We both could have handled our fight differently and I could see that the distance between us was hurting my mom just as much as it was hurting me. I started to break down the places in my mind that wouldn’t allow the idea or thought that my mom could undergo change no matter what her past consisted of.
My mom raised me to be introspective. Although, I understood all too well the pain that she had caused me, I also realized how I had made her feel when I was in a hurt place. She raised me to show grace and display forgiveness. Then with that, empathy began to grow for the both of us. Of course nothing major was resolved in a 15 minute conversation, but my mom’s bold move to break the ice was what was needed for us to develop an entirely new relationship.
I find that I still use the things I learned from that day in so many aspects of my adult life now. My mom was bold enough to pull up on me to finally have some sort of discussion and I use this same method when I advocate for the students I work with. Whenever my students aren’t hearing back from a college rep, or the financial aid office I always suggest that we “pull up” on them by going to the school, on our day off, or find a way to physically connect with someone in person because that has proven to be effective the majority of the time. I am able to empathize better with those around me as well which has helped in both my personal and professional life. I am not completely there yet, but I try to be the one that breaks the ice when at odds with others. I take a step back and try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. I make sure that the other person is able to express what they are feeling and know that they are heard, even if we don’t see eye to eye. I am able to counsel my students when they are struggling with personal relationships because I understand that healing is a lengthy process but I know that it is possible to come back from situations that seem impossible to salvage. So yeah, some days I come across situations that remind me of how similar I am to my mom, and it makes me smile.
Do you have Mommy issues, Daddy issues, or both?! I challenge you to think about the things that make you similar to your parental figure(s). What are some of the things you’ve picked up that have made you a better person? What are some of the things you picked up that you’ve had to change or would like to be different? How have you used some of the worst moments in your relationship with a parental figure(s) to heal or change your own life trajectory? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Yours in Authenticity,