I’ve often shared that my mother presented me with my first blank diary at 11. I don’t know what she knew or saw but I count it as one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. So, it must have been a heart-stopping moment that left her bereft when she happened on a piece of paper that said I hated her.
I don’t remember what precipitated the revelation, but as a teen, I felt oppressed (shocking, I know). My mother had this notion that as I was a girl, I was to act like a girl, at least the girls she wanted me to be. That meant not playing certain (fun) games with the boys and dressing like a girl. I stopped at the color pink, which I’ve never liked as, to me, it’s just a weak shade of red. There was distinct gender normative behavior that I needed to observe and being the same-sex parent, she make sure I observed them from childhood.
The problem was I didn’t want to do that, at least, not all the time.
Something in me rebelled, but not too much (that happened later) and that inability to be myself led to friction within me. When parents try to mold their children too much, it creates a schism that leads to conflict between internal and external that can manifest in some ways have come to define “the teenage years.” It’s like there’s something about that voyeuristic vicarious rearing that some parents fall into. To many teens, it lends itself to that sandpaper-like pressure that needs an outlet.
Me? I wrote.
During & After
I wrote in blank journals, or on loose papers if my diaries were full and I didn’t feel like getting another.
I freely ranted my anger and frustration with my mother and in this particular paper, this loose paper that anyone would’ve picked up, my thoughts were plain.
Before I continue, let me say that my parents never violated my privacy. I could have had my diary open on my bed with a blinking neon sign that said “Read Me” and they wouldn’t have. They took the concept of privacy seriously.
When I got home from school, my dad spoke to me and afterwards, I saw my mother sitting on the cushioned top of the flat chest at the foot of their bed. She was silent.Her head hung low and she barely stirred at my presence, which was unusual.
I tried to explain and told her that I was sorry; that I didn’t mean it. It was a more one-sided conversation than expected. You see, at the time I wrote those words, they felt righteous. But they were under the belief that she’d never lay eyes on them.
As I spoke to her, trying to make her see that I didn’t mean them, she didn’t even look at me too much. I meant what I tried to explain at that moment because I saw the consequences of an unguarded expression of my thoughts.
I loved her and I had hurt her. In hurting her, I also hurt me and I wasn’t expecting that.
She was muted for a while after. I realized later that she took it all in. She’d bear the scar of that incident even though it may have healed.
We never talked about it again, but I always remembered that incident.
My mother’s love for me was never in doubt. It was how she expressed that love that grated me at times. I have a strong personality. I won’t stand for being boxed in or micromanaged because it smacks of control. Sometimes, that’s at odds with certain parenting techniques or, in the grand scheme, all mother-child interactions.
At the time of her passing, my mom and I had long past the threshold of parent/child into adults and friends. We were cool.
After all these years, I don’t just remember this incident, I still feel it. It’s a reminder to me that kindness matters more than niceness.
If we fail at the latter, no big deal because niceness can be a factor of falseness. If we fail at the former, however, that’s a soul thing that scars us too.