You can indeed love someone to the point of suffocating or hurting them, even with the best of intentions. It’s also true that it’s possible to re-discover love with someone over and over again. I find love fascinating. The way it feels unique in regards to each relationship. Our perception of it varies on a spectrum of euphoria and unbearable pain. Love is deceptive in such a way that it feels so good it’s easy to imagine it a sense of safety you’ll have forever, and those who vowed to love you endlessly can be the ones to hurt you the most. It’s because they know they can use devotion as a barrier, a trap, or a weapon.
So, when someone you love with all of your being confesses to you that you have hurt them in some way, that it was very difficult to come to you with that revelation for fear of hurting their source of pain, what do you do? You can choose to be human by denying it, defending it, lashing out about the pain you’ve endured in the name of love. Or, you can choose to let your heart examine the painful truth.
The latter is a promise I made when I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn. I vowed to be a listener. I knew I would make mistakes throughout parenthood but assured my kids that we could work things out as a family. Though it all gets blurred and complicated as they’ve grown, listening to my kids has always been my intention. So much so that my kids often take advantage of my first instinct to vouch, protect and comfort them. Especially when it comes to my fuck ups they dangle over my head to get me to allow them extra-large fries instead of a medium. So, when my oldest kid spoke some truth to me, I had to listen.
You all know how I placed rigid boundaries on my parents, sister, and her husband in early 2021. The time without them was what I could describe as the freedom to express myself fully and hone in what I wanted out of my relationships. I had the time to paint a clear picture of what kind of relationship I wanted to have with my Mother. I wondered at times if she found me worthy of such a connection. Could I just be myself with my mom instead of having her question or make fun of me? Rather could she be excited and proud and be my biggest supporter in how she is with my sister? Would she find me worthy of listening to so that I can share what I’ve learned and motivate her to learn with me? Would she step out of her comfort zone to experience a little of my world? Would she hear my stories, offer sound advice, be the one to call when I have tea, or help out if my husband and I needed help because one was injured or sick? These are the questions I asked the moon.
Back in late Fall, my oldest son told me that he had been visiting my parents since we moved. I had no problem with that. I’ve always allowed my kids to decide how to manage their relationships with family members. So, my son told me he enjoyed his visits with my family and could sense a change in them. They seemed less defensive. They were more relaxed and fun and loved hearing about all that was going on in his life. These are things I wanted for my kids all along. If my parents could treat my kids better than me, that would always be okay. My son went to tell me that it was only when my sister and husband weren’t around and, more specifically, my sister’s husband that my parents seemed more… chill.
That made all the sense, and as the days and weeks went by before my husband and kids who are here with us in Washington received a familiar visitor, I caught myself imagining showing my parents around my new house, community, and landscape. And instead of getting mad at myself for slightly missing my parents, I indulged in the fantasy. On top of that, my husband face times his mother daily. Although his relationship with his mom is his own, I refuse to try anymore with that one; I found myself envious. I wanted a mom to share daughter things with.
Those very emotions are why I believe I am so closely connected to my non-binary kid. They won’t admit it now, but I know they can feel it too. But you can’t acknowledge that when you’re twelve years old despite the evidence.
So, I meditated and meditated and finally decided to try and talk to my parents. The first time, we spent four hours on FaceTime. I didn’t expect anything to come of it. But, to my surprise, my parents listened to me. They listened to my pain, my complaints. And then I caught them up on the move and how things have been. They listened.
This was new. They didn’t judge me. They didn’t defend or deny my recounts of how I felt invalidated, ashamed of, and hated. They listened.
We had more talks after that. Some weren’t calm. Some were loud. But, by the time winter came, my Mother and I agreed and set boundaries for each other. We both decided to change our dynamic without her using guilt or the ‘that’s your family card.’ I may very well be on the path of having a relationship that I’ve wanted without my sister’s influence—a relationship where I can be myself with my mother. Narcissists don’t often work on themselves or make sacrifices to their character, even for their loved ones.
When my uncle Luz died, I worried about the well-being of my cousins. But, I also knew they were always good at taking care of each other. When my four cousins recounted their memories of their Papa, each one of them conveyed that he made them feel as though they were only children. He had this way of loving and nurturing his daughters based on their individual personalities and interests. If I could only be such a fantastic parent. If only my Mother could have been like Uncle Luz.
The thing is, when children are birthed, they are only ours for a time. They are specks of cosmic dust having human experiences. They are young, impressionable but not pets to be trained. I love learning from kids and their experiences. I acknowledge that the worry for them gets in the way, and our love can at times hinder their progress and blind parents to their child’s actual needs. We can teach our kids early on that we parents are learning as we go along just as they are.
Since moving, in about three weeks, my family and I will be visiting SoCal for the first time. For sure! And, we are staying with my parents. I am so fucking excited to see them and only slightly afraid. It feels good to feel like I can trust my mom, but I am prepared for tears, uncomfortable conversations, and the possibility of my sister breaking the boundary where my mom agreed to keep out of the space between my sister and me. On that note, allow me to convey that I still have no desire to reconnect with my sister or her husband. I have apologized to them for things I should never have, them taking advantage of me for decades. Not once have they apologized or acknowledged they had done anything to hurt anyone. I gave them my final “fuck you” when I sent them the Jesus-shaped dildo for Gothmas. They can apologize and be better human beings to everyone before I would even consider talking to them. Like that will happen.
I do have to admit that I feel like a teenager being able to divulge all sorts of things to my mom, and she will be shocked, laugh, give me advice, and share stories of her experiences. In my mind, she’ll ask me questions and be eager to hear about things she had no idea about, much in the way she did for my youngest kid recently. My mom did all kinds of homework and went and bought a bunch of clothes to send to my youngest, who came out as non-binary to the family during winter. My mom didn’t question them; she was excited and proud.
And if I can have that starting at 41 years old, I will take it.