Brothers, Mothers, Sisters and Fathers

My baby brother buried a pet recently. Now, you are probably assuming, since I said “baby brother” he is, at the very least, young-ish. However, he’s not really; he’s fifteen. A big, strong, wants everyone to see him as a man, fifteen year-old boy, who tried his best not to cry and turned most of his grief into the obstinate, petulant anger that so often is employed by teenagers.

Unfortunately for him, as his older sister, that crap doesn’t really work well on me. Or at all, really.

It works on my mom too well.

She seems to lack any ability to connect with my little brother. She is never satisfied with him and constant belittlement is her favorite conversational course with him.

Her version of comforting him was to start listing all the reasons it was probably his fault that his pet died at all. I wanted to duck-tape her mouth closed.

My beautiful (handsome?), loving, empathetic, brilliant, creative, intuitive, resourceful little brother who I am so incredibly proud of, she somehow finds inadequate. Insufficient. Even as he grieved for a beloved and treasured pet.

It both breaks my heart and makes me want to destroy her.

I love my mother, I respect her (in a certain way and to a certain degree), but there are (many) times I don’t understand her. She is often a bit (or a lot) on the crazy side. She takes offense at stupid things, gets angry about things she shouldn’t. She often expects too much from her children; unrealistic, unreasonable, unattainable expectations that weigh on us like rocks chained to the struggling legs of drowning creatures not deemed worthy of life. She drowns her children, smothers their breath, and it’s either with blissful or willful ignorance.

I love my mother, but she drives me insane. Drives me to try and fix things that are not mine to fix. Drives me into a state of adulthood/motherhood because she so often fails to be that herself. Drives me to vow to be as unlike her as I possibly can be.

Her inability to accept herself as being wrong… Her self-justification of her actions, even when they cause harm and distress to those around her, makes me so angry, but every time I have tried to talk to her about it… well, it just makes things worse.

The guilt that weighs on me for having left my younger siblings to deal with her without any buffer (me) is immense some days. Every time I come home, I can’t wait to leave again, which only increases the feeling of guilt that lingers like an unpleasant stench.

I love my mother.

But I love my brothers and my sisters more.

I would do anything for them.

Cry for them.

Kill for them.

Die for them.

The shit she puts them through infuriates me, because I don’t know how to fix it and I cannot, will not, move back; not now that I have my freedom. God, that sounds horrible.

Mom, if you ever read this (and I hope you never do), please know that I love you; will always love you. But your extremes are destructive for your family. And your unwillingness to listen to reason drives people away.

My mother has a good heart, a bleeding heart, and she feels the need to try to save everyone and everything.

She wanted to save my father, even as he destroyed her children.

She wanted to save the troubled youth, even as they brought inappropriate things around her young children.

She wants to save the stray/unwanted animals (every single god-damned one) in her town at the expense of, you guessed it, her children.

Anyone else see a common thread here?

I’ve already written an article on parenting. Well, let this one be on mothers.

You might think to yourself:

“What could she possibly know about being a mother?”

A lot. You want to know how/why?

Because I have practically been one since the age of twelve.

Twelve.

That’s the year my parents both forgot that when you have kids, their needs and happiness are supposed to come before your own. That’s the year everything began to go hell. That’s the year we moved, again, supposedly for the final time. That’s the year I discovered a person’s word is more often than not meaningless. That’s the year I became a mother, though I would not realize that fact until much later.

Thirteen.

That’s the year I learned how to cook. That’s the year I locked my brother and sister in my bedroom to hide them from my father. That’s the year I learned that adults very rarely could be counted on to act in an adult manner. That’s the year I slapped my brother (the only physical violence I have ever employed. I regret it to this day, for all that he deserved it) for allowing such vitriol to escape from his mouth and pour over my sister. That’s the year I realized I was becoming the mother of my family.

Fourteen. 2008

That’s the year I watched as my mother flirted with every man who sent her any interest. That’s the year I learned what sex really was. That’s the year I discovered my father did not love me, did not love his children, the way he had always professed to. That’s the year I heard my father say the only thing that he really wanted was my mother, and if he couldn’t have her, he didn’t want any of us. That’s the year my older brother almost got sent to juvie. That’s the year I learned that people rarely keep their promises or want to hear the truth.

Fifteen.

That’s the year I lost any sense of stability in my life. That’s the year my mother moved her children 1,600 miles across the country because she married a man she knew for seven months. That’s the year I cut myself intentionally for the first time. That’s the year I discovered what pain really meant. That’s the year I desperately wished for oblivion, but never allowed myself to go because my family needed me. That’s the year I promised myself I would never be the one to leave them alone, wondering why they weren’t worth holding on to. That’s the year I saw my father for the last time. That’s the year I started to realize my mother was less than stable.

Sixteen.

That’s the year I knew that if I didn’t take my schooling into my own hands (I was home-schooled) I was never going to get out of the life I was quickly growing to hate. That’s the year I learned that love is fickle and unfaithful and treacherous. That’s the year I learned how to employ sarcasm as a weapon. That’s the year I discovered that I couldn’t count on my older brother for anything. That’s the year I promised myself that I would never have my own children unless I was one hundred percent positive, without a single doubt in my mind, that I could provide a happy, healthy, balanced home with a steady income, a nice house, a dependable, in-control of his temper, father as well as a sane, caring, mature mother, and a good, clean environment.

Seventeen.

That’s the year I considered myself more adult than child, and hated it. That’s the year I stopped believing in happily-ever-afters. That’s the year I tried to become everything everyone around me wanted me to be. That’s the year my mother started treating me as her therapist, as her friend and confidant. That’s the year I discovered I wasn’t allowed to be a child anymore, and despaired. That’s the year my mother gave birth to a tiny, beautiful baby girl. That’s the year I realized that her need to make her new marriage work was more important to her than her children. That’s the year I learned how to build high, thick walls to keep people out.

Eighteen.

That’s the year my mother discovered she had cancer. That’s the year I learned how to take care of a baby because my mother could not. That’s the year I got a job. That’s the year I began to hate my mother even as I loved her, took care of her, soothed her, listened to her, took care of her baby, children, and husband. That’s the year I vowed to get out, somehow, someway and to get my siblings out, as well. That’s the year I started college. That’s the year I realized my ability to fully trust someone had disappeared almost completely.

Nineteen.

That’s the year I tried to lose myself in church. That’s the year I went on a mission trip. That’s the year I considered joining a “college” located in the hills of Virginia where there was no tv, no internet, no music besides hymns; where women wore dresses and learned “valuable life skills” like how to be the perfect christian man’s wife. That’s the year I almost lost myself. That’s the year I had to convince my infant sister that I was not her mother.

Twenty.

That’s the year my mother, with almost no forewarning, moved her family (minus her husband) 1,600 miles back to where they lived before; in her mind, that should have fixed everything. That’s the year I impulsively started culinary school and moved out. That’s the year I found myself torn between the need to take care of my children and the need to save myself before it was too late. That’s the year my mother began to “foster” animals from the local shelter. That’s the year my sister started dating because she needed a way out of the house. That’s the year my mother began to act increasingly insane. That’s the year my baby brother buried kittens, and puppies, and dogs, and cats, and chickens, and tortoises because there were too many animals around to take care of them all properly. That’s the year my mother sent my step-sister to live with her grand-mother because she couldn’t handle her anymore. That’s the year I discovered that I crave being intimate, and while possessing the ability to be so without emotional attachment, it still wasn’t fulfilling enough to engage in frequently. That’s the year I began to identify myself as a feminist; the real kind- not the media’s and social-networking world’s idea of feminism (that’s a whole other discussion that we will, at some point, be having).

Twenty-one.

Only four months into the year. Already the “memorable moments” are stock-piling. I wish there were more good then bad, but I fear the bad is growing faster. This is the year my sister leaves for college; both desperate to get out and weighed down by guilt for soon leaving her little brother and baby sister. This is the year I fear what my baby brother will do if he is left to deal with our mother on his own. This is the year I wonder if I am going to have to remove my four year old baby sister from my mother’s and step-father’s “care” at some point in the near future. This is the year I graduate with my degree. This is the year I find myself falling for someone. This is the year I wonder if I am even capable of falling in love. This is the year I wonder if love even exists. This is the year I discover that I am proud to be a woman. This is the year I realize that no matter what life throws at me, I can and will get back up.

This is the year I accept who I am.

This is the year I try to learn to trust again.

This is the year I do my best to forgive my parents.

This is the year I move on and let go.

This is the year I fight to be heard.

This is the year I refuse to remain silent for, inactive in, complacent about.

This is the year I stop merely trying to survive, the year I stop fighting for breath, stop feeling guilty for things I cannot control, stop holding everything inside, stop apologizing for taking up space, stop resenting the paths my life has taken.

This is the year I accept that my mother does not know how to be a mother, most of the time.

This is the year I proclaim myself a mother, even if not in the traditional sense, and tell anyone who bothers to read this that I am proud of my kids. That I did good, in-spite of the insanity and instability that our parents provided.

Sound ridiculous and melodramatic?

I would have to agree.

Welcome to my life.

Are you running away, screaming in terror, yet?

You probably should be.

I would, if I could.

You can call this a rant against mothers (more specifically, my mother).

Or an impromptu, partial mini-biography.

You can call this whatever you like, since you are the one taking the time to read it.

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe not.

But I hope you get something out of it, even if it’s only this:

Life sucks, sometimes. That is just a fact. You, and only you, get to choose how you are going to react; how it is going to affect you and shape you.

Here, my dear readers, is what this year is going to be remembered for, at least by me:

This is the year I discover what being a mother means.

And it has less to do with carrying a child in your body…

And more to do with how you take care of/raise the children placed within your keeping.

It is a title earned by far more than the act of giving birth…

And a job that lasts much longer than just the length of time you want to do it…

It is not easy.

It is not always fun.

And it is not a game.

The choices you make as a mother will affect your children for the rest of their lives; they will have to suffer the consequences far more than you ever will.

I have every respect for motherhood. Every respect for mothers.

But some who are called such, fail to fulfill the role, and thus do not deserve the title given.

I know of few other truths that are quite so heartbreaking.

~A

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