Growing up, Mother’s Day was a strange day for me.
There are really few words that could ever adequately and concisely capture what life in the small, dank apartment where I grew up was like.
It was filled with cigarette smoke and filth and plagued by dishonesty and abuse; but beyond that and short of telling the individual and discomfiting stories that comprise the history of my childhood, there is not much more to say.
My mother’s mind was terrorized by her own thoughts, her body ravaged by a lifetime of poor choices.
And parenting is one choice, looking back, I wish she hadn’t made. My now-eight-year-old son broached this subject with me one day years ago when he had heard only a heavily euphemized description of the reasons why he had never met my mother. He asked me instinctively if I had wished she made an adoption plan for me; and without hesitation, I said yes.
There were many days I would sit on the wide windowsill of my basement apartment and stare out the window to the outside, not knowing what was out there but instinctively feeling there had to be something—something better, something different, something else. Looking back, I think I was waiting for someone; and it took years for me to realize the person I was waiting for was me.
A child growing up in an abusive environment is, of course, at the mercy of his or her abuser; but, strangely, also on his or her own. At a time in life when you’re learning how to trust and the importance of trust, you learn the true limit of your options.
In the realm of our son’s adoptions, we talk about their birth mothers with reverence—expressing to them the extreme foresight and bravery of these women, their understanding that they were not in a position to parent and wanting for their sons parents who would foster their best at every turn and love them unconditionally. It’s a selfless decision that the selfishness that permeated my own mother’s bearing would never have allowed to happen.
Today Mother’s Day is still strange to me—beautiful and replete with hugs and hand-drawn cards, celebrations and sweet gifts but strange nonetheless. I aspire every day to be the mother my children deserve; but my taller order is to each day be the mother my mother was not.