The Chip On My Shoulder Is A Boulder

Stories of Love and Pain and the Complex Bond Between Mother and Daughter

In an ideal world it would be just like the movies.

Mother would be loving and wise. Daughter would be adored and proud. But that would be a perfect world. A Donna Reed-by-the-way of Claire Huxtable world where mother knows best and there’s always fresh bake cookies at the end. It the real world we have pain and we are flawed and we make mistakes. Some hearts mend, others are broken beyond repair.

These relationships are complex and demanding, but you only get one mother.

On May 28 I wrote a post on writer Rebecca Walker, daughter of “The Color Purple” author, Alice Walker. Rebecca recently penned a column on how she felt abandoned by a mother who used her belief in an extremist view of feminism as an excuse to neglect her. Some thought it smacked of opportunism and betrayal. Others thought it was shedding a light on something most never talk about — loving the imperfect vessel that ushered you into the world.

When we are hurt by those we love we are told to keep quiet. That there is bravery in our silence. That it is a noble thing to lock away all the bad and focus on solely on the new even if the pain is still raw and destroying us from the inside. Loyalty above all, even our own well being. No one is celebrated for outing their own mother as neglectful or judgmental, but I encouraged my readers to bare their souls about the good and the bad and ten women responded.

All the stories sent will run over the next two weeks. They will run in full with some minor editing. I hope that in reading them other women in pain will realize that they are not alone. That countless other women share their burden and too want to be freed from it.

Some of these tales were not easy to read. Others were uplifting. But they all came layered in the same truth — sometimes families fail. Even when they mean well. Even when everyone tries hard. Sometimes things fall apart. And it is left to the children to put them back together again.


My mother and I have an odd story.

She was unable to have children, so she adopted me as an infant. I have had an amazing life and am truly blessed, but our relationship has been tumultuous. Often times, I am my mother’s only friend, which is a difficult thing for a child to be. She is brash, offensive, and loves too hard, and occasionally, she drives people away, and I am all she has left.

When she was high on drugs and rambling about life, she talked to me, when her and my father were having serious problems, she talked to me, when her health began to rapidly deteriorate and she feared death, she talked to me. Often times it was more than I could bear. On top of all that, we fought fiercely for attention. My mother has always been attention starved, and I stole her sunshine on more than one occasion. She was quick to remind me that I was not wanted by my real mother, and that my father did not even want to adopt me, that only she wanted me, only she loved me.

In 2006, during winter break of law school, she kicked me out of the house. I have never returned to live there. With all of this though, I love her.

She is fiercely protective and she loves so hard. I know she loves me more than anything, and I have personally seen her put my needs before her own. She raised me to the best of her ability and I have to learn to love her for what she is and is not.

I know what it feels like to intensely hate and love someone at the same time. She has stopped drinking (for over a year now) and stopped doing drugs, and her personality has calmed down severely. I think, as I look back over it, our problem is that we wanted to have a best friend relationship as well as a mother-child relationship. I’ve seen this with many people, and ultimately, you have to find a balance.

I think with all the fighting we did when I was a teenager, she wanted to be my friend again, and confess and gossip to me like she did when I was young, only I no longer would listen. When she tried to flip on me and become a mother again and put me out of the house, I didn’t understand why. We still work at it everyday, and I love her, and I think I understand her more than anyone. I have no idea how to wrap this up so I’ll end by saying that I love my mother, some of the shit she did was unnecessary and has left permanent scars, but she did the best she could.

And I think at the end that’s all you can ask from anyone.

8 thoughts on “The Chip On My Shoulder Is A Boulder

  1. Whomever submitted this must be applauded for such foreright heroism to convey honesty and courage. Hooray!I know we can do it. I know we can dig deeper and stop signifying to ceremonialize and ritualize the advertising campaigns of myths about Black Women all being nurturing and perfect. That is what gave my mother the de facto license to not have to feel she was required any development in being a mother. She thought it was automatic because she, at the time, said she wanted to be one. I remember when I bought my first car, I could not keep it clean. I wanted a car…and that car but I did not take care of it. I was not taught how to. When things failed on the car, I was reprimanded…eventhough I was paying for it myself. But out of all, I had no experience in having the maturity of being a car owner without disposable income to waste on being such a irresponsible car owner. Yeah…I kept the economy going like so many that thinks that after you get sick of it, after you have not taken care of it, you just get another one. And you start the cycle all over again. Well, it was not until I started teaching that I did learn that much budgeting was getting tighter and that I had to start taking care of my newer vehicle that was reaching 3 years in ownership. I had no money for a new one and reality hit me that just because my credit could afford more debt in buying a new car, I had to learn how to be a good car owner. And I did. Then my car was totaled when a truck rear-ended me. I learned from the entire lesson coming full circle about so much.I learned that just being an adult and being able to do adult things did not make me mature. And eventhough I was far more impressive in intelligence than a lot I could measure myself against, I had to learn that that did not exempt me from experiencing HOW TO LEARN…HOW TO BE…A GOOD CAR OWNER. I started picking up that most things we think that comes natural is not really natural. It is all learned behavior. We, as humans, need models to follow to be good at what we want to be good at. And it is arrogant, ignorant inefficiency to just think because we are good people and we mean well, we will perform as ideal.

  2. The other thing: The other day last week I was talking to this prominent Black Female Lawyer. And in conversation she was mentioning some of the people she knew. She mentioned Alice Walker and I told her that I contacted Rebecca to via email to tell her that I had to defend her honor here on your blog. So the woman mentioned that she did think that there was a place and time for extolling grievances and grieving but not in public. I refuted her sentiments.Now she and I are/were strangers. We were exchanging because I wanted to meet her. And she…a giving…an emoting Boomer…she was willing be open up a space for me as a stranger submitting in query to speak with her. That…THAT IS RARE of Black Boomer Women and Boomer Women in general.But she listened.Then the next day she called and she brought up Rebecca and what I said in agreement. She told me she knew Rebecca since she was three and she expressed that she wanted more clarity of why I thought like her. So I told her about my mother and the mothers of several of my friends. Then she posed that I was Gen Y and that must be something connected to it and I told her that no I was Gen Y nor most of my friends with these issues. I gave her the detailed testimonies of my friends’ pains as well as mine. She was quite shocked. I told her that there is a group of us who are no longer wanting to make the myths of Black Women guilded anymore as de facto ennobling the ways Essence handicapped the ideologies of Black Women as ominscient.Well the lawyer then retreated. She did not lambast me or pummel me. She took it in like what I was giving her was new knowledge. She didn’t treat me as an impudent child and yet I still felt like she was my elder. It was the first time I experienced reverse mentoring and it was beautiful. I finally met a Black Boomer Woman that was willing to learn something complex and uncomfortable about her peers, and maybe even her own cemented mindset. Our conversation went all over the place and it was something I longed for. I felt finally that I met an older Black Woman that was not jealous of my intelligence and my wild passion and was not pruning me to bonsai me and my existence — because I am not them (and so are not my peers).This woman gave what my mother refuses to in simply listening and wanting to learn. This lawyer…she wanted to learn. She was/is rare.

  3. andrea: Per the lawyer you met, I think it takes some adjusting for black women, especially older black women, to come around to the notion that it is OK to be vulnerable and to express pain. The pathology to be “strong” even when it is destroying you emotionally and physically to do so is such an oppressive part of black life. But once you free yourself from that mentality, that you don’t have to be all powerful and aggressive, life becomes a little less taxing.Besides, it’s just dumb to deny your pain. Black women are the only women who are asked to carry such a burden alone in America. I feel the myth of the “strong black woman” is a cop-out disguised as a compliment, meant to make up for the fact that black women had no choice but soldier on despite their private pain.Not having a choice does not make you strong. It just gives you no other alternatives. But people repeat the “strong black woman” mantra and it just becomes another excuse to abandon black women and children.After all, if you’re a strong black woman you can handle abandonment and raising a child alone.No one ever asks how many women actually want that versus that situation being what they have.

  4. Right…and when we are exiled to honor the myth, we actually cut off parts of our humanity. We seem unhuman to not have the delicate mortality that other people are afforded in regards to their existence. Even Arab women are considered more tender and human than we are. Sincerity is regarded for them because they don’t always were the mask that they are super. We…we marry the insanity to keep wearing the masks.

  5. I just can’t/don’t/won’t do it. I always thought it was dumb that I was supposed to pretend like I didn’t have feelings. I don’t know how many times I was chastised by other blacks as I was growing up for being “too sensitive.” That my niceness was some sign of weakness and that being “stuck up” and playing mind games were the best ways to get a man.It’s like because we’ve been treated without respect we have to act this out in our personal relationships.

  6. [quote]On May 28 I wrote a post on writer Rebecca Walker, daughter of “The Color Purple” author, Alice Walker. Rebecca recently penned a column on how she felt abandoned by a mother who used her belief in an extremist view of feminism as an excuse to neglect her.[/quote]It is interesting how the reports of the difficulty between Alan Keyes and his lesbian daughter were characterized as a major failing in him…..and his ideology. Fast forward to the photographic negative as seen by the characterizations of Alice Walker who’s daughter believed that in her particular brand of fundamentalism she too allowed her ideology to get in the way of real world human connection with those who should matter the most.Where as once judgment is cast – Alan Keyes is made out to be a loon for his commitment to his views – Ms. Walker has not suffered this same fate and will instead be accepted into the popular circles within the Black community which would not dare host Mr. Keyes.It is interesting that this particular story appears just above Obama’s “Father’s Day Speech” regarding one’s obligation to our children. For some people, however the victimhood of economics will be seen as a justified reason for the dissection between parent and child. Few will consider how ideological channels – particularly with respect to the “good one” which Ms. Walker is beholden to could ever be the source of such a division. It fact it might be said that the daughter is out of touch with modern times.

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