I AM WHO I AM – BECAUSE OF MY MOTHER
A Mother’s Love
by Michael O. Adesanya
“There are times only when a Mother’s love
Can understand our tears,
Can soothe our disappointments
And calm all our fears.
There are times when only a Mother’s Love
Can share the joy we feel
When something we’ve dreamed about
Quite suddenly is real.
There are times when only a Mother’s faith
Can help on life’s way
And inspire in us the confidence
We need from day to day.
For a Mother’s heart and a Mother’s faith
And a Mother’s steadfast love
Were fashioned by the Angels
And sent from God above…”
Isn’t that a lovely sentiment? I mean, this poem must be gracing the inside page of a greeting card somewhere. I’m sure; however, it’s not one that I’ve purchased for my mom. Simply put – it doesn’t describe her at all.
Well, I suppose I should be fair. I know my mother loves me. I know she has (or at least has had) faith in me, but, all that mush about filling in the gap emotionally just doesn’t ring true for this daughter. I wonder if it rings true for my brother. I highly doubt it. He probably struggles as much, if not more, than I do.
God gave me an epiphany today. As I sat at lunch with my own small daughter and my best friend, “lightning struck my brain.” You see, I’ve been very contemplative since my return from Dallas just before Christmas, where I visited with my brother for a few days and then with my mom for about 36 hours. Those last 36 hours have been weighing on my heart ever since. Today, I think I know why.
I’ve got an identity crisis. Perhaps it’s a priorities crisis, or even a “heart” problem. The bottom line is I’ve been running away from my calling to be a wife and mom for over 3 ½ years now. I try to fill my day and my “professional” side, with anything that masks the painful task of being a stay at home. I’ve worked outside the home, from inside my home and I’ve filled my time with sewing and other people’s projects and problems. But, I’ve yet to put my energy where it is needed most – into my immediate family – my husband and my kids (I have two older “step” kids who live in Vermont. I dislike the “step” part of that phrase as they are my kids, if you catch my drift).
When I really think about my “career” as a mom, it started long before my older kids entered my life 17 years ago. It started back in 1990, at the age of 17, when my father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which eventually he succumbed to in 1998. Little did I know that I’d begun parenting my parents at such a critical stage in my life. Everything changed for me the day I found out my dad was sick, including where I went to college, how I regarded my relationships with my family and how I would live out the next 16 years struggling to find peace in my heart.
My mother did not deal well with challenge. As I look back at the few precious memories I have of my life before my father was ill, I catch a glimpse of a troubled child, one who longed for her mother’s approval, but never received it. Oh, I was Daddy’s girl, and got lots of affirmation from him. Of course, I was most like him. But Mom, well, nothing was good enough for her. I often joke with my friends that my mother gave me a complex about cleaning and that’s why I’m chaos at home. She wouldn’t let me wash dishes – only dry them – because I didn’t do it good enough. I couldn’t dust or vacuum or make my bed without her coming right after me to redo it. My brother had a different experience as he was a latch-key kid and had to figure it all out on his own. He’s the cook in the family since I was never allowed in the kitchen to learn. I had to beg my mom to let me cook for a home economics project and when I reminded her about it a few years ago, she said “yeah, doesn’t surprise me.”
At 17, I had to become a functioning adult in the household – forget enjoying the late teens and early 20’s. By the time I was 23, I had been married and divorced and then the only functioning adult in the family. My brother had become a drug addict and dealer and my mother continued to be in a state of denial. I had learned during those years that my mother had been a long time adulteress, my father (I later found out and to this day still do not recall the facts) was going to leave my mom just prior to his diagnosis and I had to wear the “big girl pants” and take care of them all. I was stunned when my father asked me to be the executrix of his will because he didn’t trust my mom. After all these years since, I understand why! I have also unearthed deep wounds caused by sexual abuse in my early childhood which lead to my abusing my brother and probably the main reason I was so depressed as a young adult. Where was my mom during all this? I cannot recall. I only remember a busy lady who was never really happy about much of anything . Unfortunately, that has not changed and she is a bitter, lonely woman who more often than not has nothing but pain and misery to report.
When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant, I dreamt of having a little girl because I wanted to have a close relationship with her that mirrored the one I had with my own mom. Little did I realize that the relationship I longed for with my own child was a deep longing for what was really missing in my life – a mother who was engaged and emotionally present. That longing has always remained, but I had covered up with an idol of what I believed my relationship was or should be. I’ve always known that I’ve been the mother in the mother-daughter relationship. It’s been clear as day to me for years. But today, the final pieces of that idol came crashing down around me and the Light of Truth has revealed that things have not been – and will not be – as I had hoped.
Oh, where do I go from here? How do I break down this enormous weight that has been crushing me for so long? I believe it started in Dallas, last December (2013). I visited with my brother and his family and got iced in for 4 days. I truly believe it was a God-ordained event as I had the opportunity to observe my brother and his family and finally get to know his wife. What a blessing I have been missing over the last 10 years! My heart is burdened for her as she struggles to help her family cope with all the stressors they have upon them, including my brother’s inability to fully engage his own family. I finally was able to make it to my mom’s and quickly realized that the last 36 hours of my visit were going to be painful for my daughter and me. Precocious and sensitive, my poor 5 ½ year old could not get a break from “Geema” as every time she turned around, my mom snapped at her to stay away from this or don’t touch that. I had to make my mother tell my daughter she loved her because all my little girl received was Geema’s anger. Wow. How eyeopening that was for me. Had my childhood been the same way?
Over the weeks that have followed my return, I have held onto this question. Recently, my mom’s sister had major back surgery and has developed complications that have her in ICU and struggling for life. I have been talking to my cousin, 9 years my senior, to the day, and we have discovered that our lives are not much different in the way of mother-daughter relationships. She was telling me that she finally had it out with her mom and told her that “I am who I am because of you, Mom.” Tearful apologies followed, but Tammie feels they meant nothing. “She may have given birth to me, but she’s never mothered me,” she said. Once again, words that brought deep pondering about my own life.
And today, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I am who I am because of my mother.” Let me be quite clear here – this is not your typical Freudian mother issue. This is far deeper than any psychobabble. I have been rebellious, exasperated, angry, depressed and unloving to my family. I have searched my mind for answers and prayed for clarity. Why do I act this way? I acknowledged about a year ago that I have failed to embrace my role in my home. But, I didn’t know why! I didn’t know (not that I do now) how to fix it. A few days of scurrying to clean and the planning out of activities for my little girl do not override the enormous weight I carry that keeps me disengaged. I bury myself in my sewing, in writing PDFs for a designer, in social media, in volunteering, in. . . in . . . in anything but my family.
Oh, heavy heart! Rejoice! The Lord has deemed fit to reveal Himself in this time, in this place, and is ready to heal my heart. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (emphasis added)
In so many ways, I am like my mom. It turns out I clean like her, when I clean. I certainly look like her and emotionally, I have followed in her footsteps. But, I want to break the cycle. I want to love my family deeply. I want to engage them fully. I want to know them intimately. I don’t want to coast through life as a spectator, choosing when, where and how to interact with my loved ones. I want to be intentional.
As I stand at the starting point in this journey, I know not what lies ahead. Is it a road less traveled? Is it going to be hard and painful? Will I be free on the other side of it all? My heart tells me to take courage for the Lord is good and faithful. The words of a popular movie soundtrack have echoed in my mind for days – but they ring so true. . .
Let it go, let it go.
Can’t hold it back anymore.
Let it go, let it go.
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.
It’s funny how some distance, makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free!
Just as the Snow Queen finds freedom in letting go of her past, of shedding her gloves and letting the full force of wintery powers explode on the mountain top in the form of a beautiful ice castle, my desire is to let go of the my past, of these chains that weigh me down and keep me from being the woman God created me to be. I want to replace the statement “I am who I am because of my mother” with a new and truer mantra – “I am a Daughter of the Most High King, called to be a wife and mother and to serve my Lord as He leads.”
It’s time to let it go – and find freedom and peace.
Oh, Father in Heaven, my prayer tonight, is that these words do not die on the page they have been written upon, but that they bring life to my heavy heart through faith in Your healing power and goodness found only through Your Son, Jesus. I pray for healing, for peace and above all for real change so that I can break the cycle of dysfunction and bring honor and glory to Your Holy Name. Change me, mold me – I am but a clay pot in the Potter’s Hand, broken and frail, but with heart that is willing to be reshaped. Help me to push through when it gets hard, when I get discouraged and when faced with hard truths. Bless my family and gird them with strength as I journey through this process. Bless those that walk with me and pray for me and above all, Lord, reveal Yourself to me in a such a strong and mighty way that there is only one answer for the change in me – I owe it all to my Savior and King.
In hope, in faith, in gratitude,