I just want to tell you that if you don’t feel in your heart that you want to give anything to any parent, be it gifts, or time, or attention, that’s authentic, and go with it. For many of us, the bullshit of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is just a guilt-inducing day that otherwise ruins a perfectly nice May and June Sunday, something we have to dance around with other people, something we try to forget.
But that’s okay. Not everyone has good parents, and not everyone has parents who are worthy of admiration, and for those of us who feel this way, if we actually spent Mother’s Day and Father’s Day giving back to our parents what they gave to us, we’d be in prison.
“Honor thy Mother and thy Father” is a saying written in stone by a bunch of people wandering around the desert during a time in which being an abusive parent was far more costly to the parent than it is now. Not only would abuse and neglect result in the injury and death of the children, resulting in the end of the family line, but there would be no one to care for and protect the parents in their old age. It would also be costly on the community, since there was little privacy, and unwashed, unfed, and unwell children would inevitably spread disease, and if they survived to adulthood, it would be too risky to marry your children off to them, lest your own children and grandchildren be abused by their in-laws.
Thus, if you survived adulthood, your parents would have had to have treated you in a way that was worthy of honor.
But this is not the case since the dawn of agrarianism. Children stopped being so precious because families could have multiple children who didn’t live to adulthood for various reasons, and if someone beat their children and made them unable to work, then the problem was the family’s, not the community’s. If someone allowed their child to starve to death, what would you do? After all, children were property, mouths to feed, hands to work the field. Despite what you would have learned from the Gospels, your community was not going to force you to consider Mary and Joseph as role models when you parent your own children.
So for those of us who have not experienced parental love, or have experienced some sort of perverted enmeshment or parentification that had to pass as love so we could survive, we survived despite our parents, not because of them, and even if we choose to incarnate where and in what circumstances, the people we are today never asked to be born, and never asked to be abandoned, neglected, or abused.
While we are not the only species capable of indifference or cruelty to our vulnerable offspring, we are the only one that justifies it as good for them, even condoned or encouraged by the magic sky daddy.
What About Us?
I feel like there’s never really anything for us on the Internet on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. There’s only some patronizing that they understand that this is tough, or embarrassing, or triggering, but nothing that really says “hey, we get it, and you owe it to yourself to honor your feelings and your own needs, because even though it wasn’t ideal, you got yourself here, so Happy Mother’s Day to yourself.”
Why I’m Not Celebrating Mother’s Day.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and thus I’m taking myself out to the aquarium for fun. That’s it. I don’t speak to my parents, and my life is much happier, much more serene. I don’t think I will ever speak to them again. My father will be okay with this because he has never liked me for some reason, because he is a very sick man, probably a psychopath, who can screw it up in his head that a baby could be worthy of contempt…for the rest of her life. I have never known what it was like to be loved by my father or really any father-like figure; I don’t even really know what it’s like to have a person like that even like me, though I can recognize how important it is to not be hated by your father or father-like adult and that is really is abnormal to specifically target and hate one of your offspring and then act it’s their fault. But, like I said, my father is probably psychopathic, and probably isn’t really even capable of loving anyone, no matter how insistent my mother is that he’s something everyone else tells her he’s not.
My mother is a very sick, very volatile and self-centered woman who doesn’t really care how her husband treats her kids as long as she gets hers. She has lived entirely in a fantasy world detached from her reality even in the face of people saying “look at reality for a minute – the fantasy you insist we all go along with is not the reality you’re living in. For starters, that husband you think is a fucking hero is a violent alcoholic…” My mother always found my father’s violent and criminal behavior to be amusing so long as he directed it at anyone else but her, which is bizarre, because she has spent/wasted so many years of her life trying to mimic what she thinks is a “good Catholic mom” despite being wholly uninterested in raising children and essentially telling the world this with her behavior. This woman spent most of the 80’s getting deeply involved in church, or the Right to Life movement, or some other distraction to make sure she had to parent as little as possible, and the irony wasn’t lost on people. Sometimes, when other kids were making fun of us, we would be asked why my parents are so busy trying to tell other people to have kids when they weren’t even taking care of their own. Were the kids just repeating what their parents said about my parents? Perhaps, but it was undeniable: we were the poster family for why birth control and abortion should be safe and legal. First, a mentally ill woman who is overwhelmed with caring for any children ever, married to a violent alcoholic who is the sole wage earner in a factory because she can’t handle doing a real job, with six unwanted children who wear cast-off, ill-fitting clothes left on the porch in garbage bags, coming to school unwashed and reeking of cigarettes, with their hair and teeth not brushed properly. This is exactly what most women DO NOT WANT for their lives, and yet the fact that this was her life and yet she was wasting what life she had trying to make sure that other women would end up in the same awful predicament just made people think she was a lunatic. And she is. And maybe you feel bad for her, but before your heart starts to bleed for her, keep in mind that she’s well enough to make her own decisions, but the people she hurt, particularly her children, had no choice in the matter. We’re the ones who had to hide from her daily temper tantrums. We’re the ones who had to go without so she could pretend she’s a martyr. We’re the ones who had to sit and be her therapist instead of having a parent. We’re the ones who had to endure the terror and the beatings so she could pretend that her husband was the most amazing man ever, because unlike her sisters’ husbands, at least her husband didn’t hit her, at least he came home to get drunk every night, at least he held a job for a while.
Because my mother has to thrust herself in as many things as she can and make them about her, I don’t have a relationship with most of my siblings. I can’t have a relationship with them and not one with either of my parents. It’s all enmeshment, all dysfunction, all the time. And because my father was always pretty violent and incapable of actual sympathy, he didn’t have a good relationship with his parents or siblings, so we don’t have any real relationships with our aunts, uncles, or cousins. And I know that unlike the story my mother tells us — that having children is the reason she became like this — they all knew what she was like before she started having kids. They’ve seen her meltdowns. They’re all angry at her for how she treated them when they were all younger, but you can’t reach out to them either, because it’s all enmeshment, all the time.
I have one sister, and that’s it. I don’t have grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. I certainly never really had parents. For me, as far as family goes, this incarnation was like getting on a boat by myself to the New Country to escape the deprivation and hardship of the Old Country, knowing I would be alone, knowing there would be new hardships, knowing that the only people who might be able to speak to me are my peers in the New Country. But the silver lining is a new life, a new legacy, a new narrative. For the past year, I’ve been spending a lot of time on that new narrative, on the character development of the hero of my story as she accepts what is so that there is room for what could be. That’s the way I see my life, and if my ancestors could do this, and if your ancestors could do this for real, on a real boat, to Ellis Island, to Boston, to Philadelphia, to wherever, then I can be the metaphysical immigrant.
And so can you.
There can be all new things. There could be family on your own terms. There could be all sorts of new things just for you, because the silver lining of not belonging is the freedom to ramble on, to find the queen of all your dreams.
Treat Yourself. Here’s Some Bible Quotes, Too.
You made it. You got to adulthood. You may not be perfect, but you’re still here despite.
Sure, you may be dealing with guilt. You may be dealing with inappropriate and harassing emails, texts, or phone calls. You may be dodging the flying monkeys that tend to come out around now.
And even though I’m not Christian, I grew up with that being my mother’s preferred addiction, and I will leave you with a few Bible quotes in case anyone tries to use Christianity or the Ten Commandments against you:
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
And while the first part tells children to respect their parents, this is actually a transactional relationship (Ephesians 6:1-3):
“Children, as Christians, obey your parents. This is the right thing to do. Respect your father and mother. This is the first Law given that had a promise. The promise is this: If you respect your father and mother, you will live a long time and your life will be full of many good things.”
However, the parents must live up to their end of the bargain, too (Ephesians 6:4):
“Fathers, do not be too hard on your children so they will become angry. Teach them in their growing years with Christian teaching.”
Thus, by their own teachings, abused children owe no obedience and no respect, because abused and neglected do not live a time or have lives filled with many good things. It goes on to explicitly tell fathers not to abuse their children but to be Christ-like with them.
And then there’s Luke 17:1-3:
“Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.”