Happy Mother's Day for Difficult Daughters

I don’t really expect for people to care about my feelings. 

That is the way I grew up. My mother was too busy being. I’ve often felt unnoticed or unloved as a child. My mother said that I rejected her as a baby. That she didn’t feel loved by me and as I grew older she felt very much unloved by me. 

Now as an adult, I have a hard time vocalizing my feelings. Sometimes this gets misconstrued as being too strong, too unattached, or too damaged. Most times, I just don’t know how to say what I want to say. I think it comes from a lack of practice and fear. As a kid, when I did express myself, I felt ignored, or I was scolded at because I wasn't supposed to say or think in that way. Essentially, I wasn’t supposed to feel because it was inappropriate or because God would fix all those feelings or because my mama just ain’t have the time. I remember being told a lot to take it up with God. 

The truth is my mom doesn’t know all the answers. And instead of her telling me that, I felt like I was blamed for things that I had no idea or control over. I was often told that I wasn’t enough in various ways. When I told my mother that I was being sexually abused by her live-in boyfriend, that was a lie. When I wore my hair natural, I couldn’t go anywhere with her because I looked ugly. When I spoke my mind, I was hit or cursed at for being ungrateful. When I was around my mom (which was a lot) we didn’t do anything special or bonding related. We didn’t watch movies together or talk about my teachers at school. We didn’t read together or talk about how to form friendships. My mom didn’t teach me how to cook. She didn’t teach me how to dance. She didn’t teach me how to wash my ass. I learned those things through trial and error, through other women, knowing now, guided through my ancestry. I learned by staring and reading, but never directly through my mama. 

I was not an easy kid. I’m not going to paint that I was a patron saint. I was very defiant as a child. I was very angry. I was very bitter, too. I HATED my life and my mama. I remember wanting to go home with my guidance counselor in Elementary school. My mom tells me all kinds of stories of how I was a mischief. I thought all the other kids were better than me. They listened and were well-disciplined. I remember as a kid wanting to help my mother in the kitchen and she would run me out. I always felt like I was in the way. As a kid, I had recurring nightmares of being chased and killed. I think that was my subconscious. I learned to not trust others, my mama, nor myself. I felt very alone as a child. And often times, I still do. It's difficult for me to ask for what I need or to express my feelings because I am afraid of being shut down.

This is why I don’t like mother’s day. I feel alone in my motherhood, although I have Zi. I feel alone. I feel like my feelings don’t matter because there are more important things that need to be handled. I have to wake up early and make breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have to pay for those things. I have to explain to my daughter when she sees me in my sads, that I don’t feel like doing any of those things because I feel under-appreciated, under-loved, and unvalued. When I get into my sads, I have to come out of that. I tell her because I don't want she to feel like it's her fault.

Today I don’t want to feel forced to call my mother. The woman who brought me into this physical being. The woman who fed me, clothed me, nursed me into this adult version that I'm still learning to love. A disabled woman, who couldn’t always be there for me because she needed to work outside of the home, or because she needed to feed us, to shop for food for us, or because she needed to rest. A woman who was so emotionally unavailable until she became tired and lashed out on the person who was always by her side, me. A woman who has lived with physical pain since she was hit by a car at 19 years of age. A woman who should have stayed in the Dominican Republic because this American world will tear you out of your center, your family, and your mothering. 

There are many things I wish today. I wish that I still didn’t grieve for the loss I have felt in the motherhood department. I grieve because I don’t want to show up, but I have to. I have to for my daughter, for my community, and most importantly for myself. 

I show up because that is the only way to change what comes after me. You have to love yourself. You have to forgive. You have to give thanks. 

I have to love my difficult mother for all of her invisible work. For the fridge, that always had milk and fried cheese. For the mashed, green plantains in the morning. For the laundry being washed. For the floors being swept. For the pressed school uniform. For the rice and beans. For the hustle. For the skill of negotiation. For the love of god. For the love of her people. For her contribution to the lives of others, that has formed my resilience in this struggle.  For carrying me to term on her two wobbling, over 30+ surgeries legs. For the swelling, for the fight, and the pushing and the love. I love her despite and for her trauma. It was passed down to her and to me. And through this passing, I have learned of the work that I need to do, so I don't pass it on to my own child. I have learned that silence is not the best medicine. It is the best poison. 

I will not die here. I will tell the stories to my daughter so that she can learn how to mother herself when I’m not enough. 

In wholeness & in brokenness & love, 

Mama Juju