Reflecting on my toxic relationship with a mother who never loved me
But I will not let the failed relationship between my mother and I hinder me from becoming one.
by Kya Warnsley
Once upon a time, there seemed to be a widely-shared norm among Black families in America in which children were being forced to abide by the “What goes on in this house, stays in this house” ideology. No matter what was going on behind closed doors, it had to be handled amongst the family behind closed doors. Whether your family could help you or not. Whether your family was the problem or not.
More and more recently, that ideology is finally being challenged consistently and publicly. From where I stand, it seems that we have entered into a new family culture in which more people are able to address family matters publicly and directly. With the advent of social media, it much easier for us to address the toxicity of our childhoods and how it affected us.
My childhood was toxic from birth, but for those on the outside looking in, my mom was looked at as exemplary; the embodiment of a successful single mother. Her children were well-behaved, clean, smart, and appeared to have a good relationship with her.
Every year on Mother’s Day, I find myself addressing and processing that relationship. On the day when the internet is filled with beautiful pictures of twenty-somethings paying tribute to their beloved mothers, passionate think pieces arguing the importance of honoring thy mother, and various department stores promoting their Mother’s Day Doorbuster sales.
Each year, I witness people around me paying tribute to their mothers in the most beautiful ways. Flowers sell out, the brunch spots are full and kids have promised to accompany mom and grandma to church as they do every year on this day. It’s a beautiful time.
Mother’s Day seems to always be a beautiful, sunny day, with blooming flowers and happiness in the air. You can tell it’s Mother Nature’s favorite holiday. She pulls out all the stops to make sure the mothers just like herself can enjoy the weather along with the day.
In recent years, I have begun to experience this feeling of complete dread, anticipating Mother’s Day. This is because I have only just begun to address the trauma caused by my relationship with my own mother.
I have been more willing to address how it has affected me to this day. Reading and hearing the testimonies of other young adults like myself has helped me to understand my current strained relationship with her as another part in my healing process, and I will not completely heal until I have come to terms with the truth about one or the most significant relationships in my life.
I used to write her social media tributes on Mother’s Day, adoring my “Queen” with a flattering photo and a lovely paragraph that could leave one teary-eyed. Not anymore.
At this point, my mother and I don’t speak. The only communication that we have had recently has been a generic “Happy Birthday” text from her and a quick “Thanks” from me.
Sometimes, I feel like we were destined to be this way. In my youth, I would have done anything for my mother, and I unknowingly burdened myself with the responsibility of healing her from the trauma she received from her own mother. Later, I realized that I was also taking on the responsibility of trying to heal generations of trauma that came even before her.
I think each generation unknowingly, but perhaps sometimes willingly, transfers their trauma onto their offspring as a means of ridding themselves of their demons, and with hopes that the generation after them will be able to vanquish those demons completely. When one generation fails, it passes to the next, and so on and so forth.
I am not making an excuse for my mother’s shortcomings, but before I can completely dissect the ways she failed me, I have to look into the past and understand that it is very hard for someone to give you something they never received.
I wasn’t born into a village. I was born on April 8th to an unprepared sixteen year-old girl who was forced to be happy about my presence, and in turn, forced to love me.
The hardest part about facing my trauma was admitting to myself that the people I was conditioned to believe are supposed to love my unconditionally, unapologetically, and unwaveringly will not love me the way I deserve, no matter how much I love them. The. next hardest thing was admitting how much having this realization affected me.
I blame my mother for both the good and the bad in my life. Part of my healing is not feeling guilty for giving her this blame, whether she chooses to carry it or not. It doesn’t matter if it is floating out there in limbo somewhere, it is no longer a burden of mine to carry, but a process to rid myself of it all.
But I will not let the failed relationship between my mother and I hinder me from becoming one. I want to be a mother, desperately, and I want talk about the importance of mother-child relationships with other people.
My dream is to have a house full of kids (7-10, if I am lucky). I hope to be so secure in my healing that I have enough love to go around to each of them, giving them all individually what they need from me while loving them all just the same. I hope to nurture lovers, leaders, and healers in an environment and village that assists me in doing so.
My dream is to gift the world with beautiful souls, and be a mother who fought for them even before they got here. I want my kids to be free of the curse of transgenerational trauma. I can never go back and rid the women before me of theirs, but I can work hard to make sure my children are not carrying any.
Kya Warnsley is from Detroit, MI and is currently living in Amarillo, TX where they attend Amarillo College as an English Major. Kya plans to continue writing and eventually publish a book.