If you ask me the question, “Does your mother love you?” to give you an honest answer, I would tell you that my mother, at times, didn’t love me at all.
“But how can you say that? Every mother loves her child,” is what I bet some of you reading this are thinking.
Growing up, my father worked in the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. My mother, siblings and I lived in New Jersey. In addition to raising kids alone, my mother did not have a communal support system that would have enabled her to breathe and see her missteps more clearly.
I remember getting the silent treatment from my mother when I was about 5 or 6 years old.
My mother was completely alone. Her parents and family lived miles and miles away in Syria. The fact that her heart still beats, despite being worn down by loneliness and fear, is a miracle.
Though I have always understood what my mother was going through while I was growing up, I still can never bring myself to justify what she did. Pain is not a language of love.
I remember getting the silent treatment from my mother when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Every time I’d try to talk to her she would act as if I didn’t say anything. She’d turn her face and look the other way. As a kid, I’d blame myself for the silent treatments she gave me. But now I can’t believe I had to go through that at such a young age.
When I was in high school, I used to always get into arguments with my mother, mostly about how she made me feel neglected.
One time, the arguments between us got so intense that we didn’t talk to each other for a week. At the end of that week, I got into a loud argument with my brother. As we shouted at each other, my mother rushed out of her room, grabbed me by my hair with one arm and wrapped her other arm, rather gently, around my torso, almost as if she was giving me a half embrace.
I can’t believe I had to go through that at such a young age.
As I screamed out in pain, at that same moment, I felt my mother’s pain and love. Her painful embrace felt like she missed me, but at the same time, she was furious with me.
Now that I’m married to the most wonderful man, with two kids of our own, it boggles my mind.
How did my mother raise six kids all on her own? I’ve come to realize that she was able to do that because she unintentionally sacrificed the most sacred part of a mother’s relationship with her kids: sharing her love with each child equally.
My mother spent her energy making sure we were all fed, clothed, and finished our homework. By the end of the day, she only had enough energy to share her love with some of us – usually the eldest and youngest.
I don’t think she did this intentionally. I now see that my mother allowed herself to be directed by fear. She was afraid of losing her children to bad health or trashy ethics. She instilled in us the fear of disappointing her, accompanied by a whole lot of tough and deeply painful love.
When I was in undergrad, I was always known to be the risk-taker among my siblings. I knew what I wanted in life and I set out to make it happen, no matter the obstacle.
My mother didn’t approve of my attitude towards life.
I revolted against the mental conditioning that I was exposed to at home, which was intended to make me want to become “a good housewife.” Whenever I invested in my own self-development, my mother would punish me. She’d manage to get all my siblings to follow her example and give me the silent treatment.
I can’t see her love through the pain she dealt me over the years.
It was not until many years later that my sister admitted to me why she followed my mother’s lead. Rola explained that my mother made her feel like that if she didn’t hate me, or at least treat me in that way, my mother wouldn’t accept her or show her love.
I know and believe that deep down, my mother loves me. But I just can’t understand how tough love and fear resembled love. I can’t see her love through the pain she dealt me over the years.
I’ll admit that I love my mother, though it’s difficult for me to know how to best love my mother. I still carry the pain she’s dealt me over the years.
I hope to love my mother in the way she deserves and appreciates, without causing more pain for myself.
It’s something that I still carry with me to this day.
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