As I think back on my childhood with my mom, I must believe that the mom God gave me was the best one for me. At times, it is difficult to believe because of the relationship we have. She was a great cook I can never deny that. She literally could make anything taste wonderful. She made sure that if we wanted to be in a sport, play an instrument, or do anything she found a way so that we were able to do those things. She also was the type of mom our friends loved to be around because she was “cool “. That was great especially as we became teenagers. Although she was, in general, not very nurturing I know she did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time. She was a young mom raising three kids all on her own. She left my alcoholic dad when I was only 15 months old. I was the youngest of three. We lived with my grandparents for about two years before she remarried and moved to California. That marriage lasted about five or six years. We went to the local Catholic Church on Christmas and Easter. We had to do the First Communion and Confirmation classes. But that was the extent of any religion in our lives.
In all my growing up, my biological father did not pay a dime of child support. Instead my grandfather helped us more than I ever knew. And later in life I did find out he was the one financially supporting us. My mom often times would get angry very quickly and our consequences were very unreasonable. She was into watching her soap operas, therefore we only had certain times we are able to talk with her. If you had a bad day at school, that was not the time to talk to her because she was watching one of her shows. Homework was important to her but for us to do. I don’t recall her ever helping us figure it out. We often had to do standards for her if we misbehaved. Doing chores was also a big part of growing up. She was young and she would date. As we got older, she would take off for a weekend and leave three teenagers home alone. It did not take long for us teenagers to find “things to do.“ I am surprised none of us ended up in jail, on drugs, an alcoholic or married multiple times.
I can only recall one time when my mother told us she loved us and that was after a major earthquake in 1971. I knew she did because “she was my mom” but we didn’t hear it. My mother also felt as the mother, and later as a grandmother, she had a right to do or say things because she “had her reasons”. This often resulted in overstepping boundaries, broken trust and only my feelings hurt. For years I tried to communicate to her about how this is not okay, but she was “always right”.
I realized when I talked to my biological father on his deathbed, he was not only a very passive man but a very narcissistic man. My mother was a narcissistic woman in a very different way. Sad to say for the last 10 years the relationship with my mother has been very rocky if nonexistent. I know in my heart I have tried to work things out, I am not perfect, and I have tried to apologize when I know I have been wrong. I am not trying to bash my parents I am just trying to tell you this is how it was. To this day my mother does not have a relationship with three out of four of her children because of the reasons above.
Then there was my grandmother. Known as Mama Lupe to us. She was way too young to be a grandmother when my mom had my brother at 19 years old. Maybe because she got to be the grandmother instead of the mom, she was fun and became my saving grace, my angel and my rock. As I grew older, I spent more time with her. It didn’t matter what we did I just loved to be with her. In fact, I was known as “little mama Lupe“ because I was so much like her. I learned a lot about life and living between her and my grandfather. I was able to help take care of her in her last few years. It wasn’t a whole lot because of the demands of work, raising kids and living out of state. Yet, it was an honor to be there and care for her. She passed away In September 2008. Things were not good when she passed between my mother and the rest of the family. I was not “allowed”, or able if you were to ask my mother, to attend her memorial service because of the decisions my mother made. It was one of the hardest times in my life. Many have said that my mother was jealous of my relationship with her. I was told that I loved her more than anybody else in the family and she loved me as much. That’s hard to believe when she had four kids. I know we had a very special relationship that was different from anybody else’s. There are very few people that have left this earthly life that I miss every day. She is at the top of that list.
Anyway, just giving you some background of my life, I want to share what I have learned from my mother and my grandmother. First, we can’t choose the parents we have but we do have the choice of what we do with the knowledge and experience that we are given and raised with. You and I have a choice… “Are we going to become bitter or better?” I believe I have become better. Many people that know my story and/or walked through some of it with me have told me that as well. I count the Lord’s saving grace and mercy as my number one source of help to not getting bitter, angry, victimized or resentful. As a mother of two boys, now grown and married, I worked hard to have a healthy relationship with them. That means teaching them mutual respect, keeping trust, that their word was their word and to have healthy boundaries. Even while they were young. I was criticized as a young Mom for talking things out with my kids. But I felt it was necessary not only to teach them communication but to let them know that even when they misbehaved, I still loved them. They must’ve heard it four or five times a day that I loved them, I would just say it randomly. I may not have liked them at the moment but my love for them never changed. And I know to this day they still know that. I felt I was teaching respect and boundaries that I did not grow up with. My boys are very family oriented and respectful. It is a blessing to hear others tell me what wonderful men they are. This is my reward as a mother.
One thing I realized is God has been faithful and even when my step dad stepped out of my life, God brought other father figures into my life. One was a teacher in high school that just kept “tabs” on me. And after high school, one from a church I attended that I affectionately call “Poppy” still to his day…and his wife I referred to as mom. I have adopted them – they did not have a choice. I was also blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law. Whom the Lord found fit for me to care for during her last five years. So many people thought she was my mom because of our relationship. When she passed, I had peace. She was my mother in law, not my mom and she was not well. It is hard to see daughters share in a blessed healthy relationship with their mothers and even harder to sympathize with those who have lost their mother. Because I never had that kind of relationship with mine and was robbed of the closest one next to that. I have to look “down” my family tree so to speak. Praying that my boys feel blessed that I am their mom, my daughter in laws that I am their mother in law and my grandchildren that I get to be their grandmother (aka Mumum) and the many other kids I affectionately referred to as “one of my own”.
God has shown me all along he is watching over me and helping me to be not only a better mom and wife but hopefully a better person. Somehow in my story, I pray somebody can be encouraged. I won’t necessarily blame my mom for what wasn’t “right” while growing up because I have learned from the things that I disagreed with and I decided to do the opposite. No matter what life throws at you, you can make lemonade.