This is the tenth and last entry of “The Chip On My Shoulder Is A Boulder,” a series on the complex relationships between black women and their mothers. Previous entries include “The Adoptee,” “The Rebel,” “The Gypsy,” “She Did Her Best,” “The Reluctant Mother,” “The Narcissist’s Daughter,” “The Survivor,” “The Baby” and “The Rock.”
In this final item from the readers, a daughter contemplates where within whom her real disappointment lies — the father who hurt her, the mother who remained silent or herself.
The Silencer has chosen to focus on avoidance and remaining quiet rather than confronting her true emotions or her mother.
This method might be the path of least resistance, but it’s a psychological burden that’s never easy.
I love my mother, a lot more than she realizes. My friends and I affectionately call her the “Precious Lamb” because she is one of the sweetest, most gentle and well, precious, people you’ll ever meet. For some reason, though, she hardly ever hears from me, her only child, how much I care for her.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that my silence is due to anger and resentment, old wounds that refuse to heal. My mother, like other mothers, didn’t protect me. At least, she wasn’t as vigilant as I wanted her to be. Even though she would do whatever I ask of her, there’s one area where I wanted her to speak up and yet she didn’t.
My father, her husband, was and is emotionally and verbally abusive. He never beat us with his hands, but his words stung regardless. Sometimes the rants and verbal hits were so brutal that I secretly wished to be slammed or pummeled. At least a physical beating would be quicker. A physical beating would leave scars that he could see. Instead, when I was, he’d yell even louder. “What are you crying for? What are you afraid of? I haven’t laid a finger on you!” Maybe if he saw the pain he inflicted, then he’d have a change of heart.
This is the source of anger I have towards my mother. She saw the pain. She saw the devastation in my eyes when my father said I was “stupid” and “ugly” on a regular basis. While she tried to soothe my tears, she never once stood up to him and said “Enough!” Her answer to everything was to be strong and to love my father because the Bible instructs us to love and forgive everyone.
It’s taken time for me to realize that she couldn’t protect me because she didn’t know how to protect herself. Unfortunately, I look at my current relationships with men and see the cycle repeating itself.
Boyfriends and lovers have never hit me, but I’ve had boyfriends degrade me in numerous ways. And like my mother, I stay. I stay silent. I apologize for whatever I did to make them call me “dumb” or “fat.” I continue to humiliate myself by giving to someone who, in hindsight, clearly doesn’t deserve my generosity. My anger rises not at these inadequate men, but at my mother for not setting a better precedent. I wonder if she would’ve stood up to my father, would I be chasing after these men? Would it be easier for me to spot out the future abusers? Would I be courageous enough to leave? Most of all, I’m mad at myself for blaming her and not my father, the real cause of these problems.
Maybe one day I’ll tell me mom exactly what she means to me. I just hope I can work up the courage to do so for it’s too late.