It is my mum’s 70th birthday next week. She is a survivor. Happy birthday mum. She might have been queen but for the fact she had me for a son…
I used to be a mummy’s boy as a child. I felt so much guilt for her sadness. I wanted to do anything to protect her and prayed for her happiness, even if this meant that I shouldn’t have been born. I believed that our family negated her, that our existence ruined what had been a happy childhood and the beginnings of her adult life.
I carried this around for most of my own life but as an adult it turned to resentment. We drifted and our relationship became quite fractious. I found it hard to see her true humanity beyond motherhood. I found it hard to let go of my childhood shame and so employed the same survival techniques I used as a child.
In adulthood this started to look aggressive and bitter. Rather than stepping into my adult relationship with my mother I kept us in the same space we occupied when I was a child. We were unable to presence ourselves to each other, choosing instead to live in the past and play out our history on repeat, each time more painfully and vociferously.
EAT THE CAKE ANNA MAE
My dad was a bully. He bullied my brother, my mother and I. I don't remember him spoiling my mum on her birthday, not even once. There were no cakes, cards or gifts from him to her. Birthdays were not celebrated. We entertained others but we did not celebrate.
Somehow I lost sight of my mother’s humanity and became too involved in our own pain. In my own shame. My ego telling me that I deserved better, pushing me into battling to be heard above everyone and everything else. I couldn't hear her words because I believed she wasn't hearing mine. I could only hear my own words for so long because I was not prepared to see beyond my own experience.
THE INNER CHILD
My shame was so big that even though I couldn't help but repeat myself with my mum there was no way I could share my story elsewhere. That would be weak. And even though I wanted to scream my narrative at my mother I couldn't tell her how I was actually feeling. It was not a story of my emotions but rather a story of fault and blame.
Through a process of detaching myself from my inner child I have been able to free myself of the words of my story. By telling my inner child that he did well and it is because of him that I am here today, but that he is no longer needed, I was able to let go of his shame. What he had to deal with has gone. I have said thank you and goodbye and in doing so have let go of the shame he felt - it is his not mine - and open up to a genuinely adult relationship with my mum.
I AM HER CHILD, BUT I AM NOT A CHILD
I want to hear her story, I want to listen to her from a space of hearing not responding. I want to acknowledge her vulnerability and let her know that she is strong. I want to let her know that she too no longer needs her old modes of survival. Today is a new day.
I love my mum because of who she is and not just because she is my mum. She was a person before she was a mum. She is not just defined by her motherhood, no matter how much I may have wanted that to be true I have had to learn that it just isn’t. Finally, at the age of 39, I am starting to show up as an adult in my relationship with my mother. I am her child, I am her baby, but I am finally no longer a child.
I can see a future emerging for us, a future that is grounded in vulnerability, equality, beauty and love. Above all it is strong, and from each other we can only grow stronger.
THE OPPOSITE OF PATRIARCHY
In this moment I am reminded the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity. Or sorority. The gender of the phrase is unimportant, the idea is that we succeed as a community, as a collective. Not as individuals. When we let go of an ego driven past we genuinely learn to nourish what is here now and from this emerges a possibility of future growth. The details change from story to story but the truth feels universal.
I love you mum. Happy birthday!
OVER TO YOU
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