In your defense, you probably don’t even realize what affect you had. I don’t think you were ever (or often) deliberately hateful. Looking back, I don’t think you hated me at all. Maybe you didn’t like me very much, or maybe you just didn’t care. But I’ve met your mother. I vaguely remember her as my grandmother. She didn’t care either. And I know what you went through, raising me. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
Now I have children of my own and each time I hear your voice come through me, I’m ashamed. I want no part of me to be like you. As I age, I see remnants of you all over. In my laugh. In my thoughts. Across my face. I favor Dad but you are there. You always will be. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
But the memory of those moments, when I was tender and wild and didn’t think for myself, remain. They remain because I wish to hold on to them. I hold on to them so I can better understand my daughter, who is my shadow. I hold on to them so I can forgive you because I know now that raising me must have been hard. Raising her is hard. And if I gained nothing from the way you raised me, what kind of person would I be? What kind of mother would I be? Understanding the way you hurt me prevents me from hurting her. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
Still… I can hear your voice. I can hear the lecture you gave me after a social event. I can hear you telling me I was embarrassing and loud and that was why people didn’t like me. I can hear you after my first dance. I can hear you lamenting that I needed to lose weight because fat people’s clothes are ugly. I can hear you when, at just thirteen, I shared my first story with you. An idea I thought was cute and clever and I ran to you, eager for you to read it. You didn’t. You were too busy. So I described it to you, desperate for someone to tell me I was on the right path, and you dismissed it. I can still hear that dismissal. I can still feel it. But you weren’t doing it to be unkind. You just cared more about yourself than me. You didn’t realize what that moment meant. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
Mom, I ate those feelings. I hid in those baggy clothes. And worse, I shoved my stories down deep. I stifled that voice, the voice I now realized was me, and sought connection wherever I could. Any group that wanted me to be a part of it, even peripherally. Any boy that showed interest, even minor. Any job I could be good at, even slightly. I should have grown up. I should have matured more and understood why I was making those choices. That’s not your fault, that’s mine. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
These days, though, all the me I shoved down deep is standing stronger. These days my voice is louder than yours. Not always, but more often, I recognize when I’m joining something just for connection or when I’m joining because I want to. As I pay more attention to my voice, yours gets quieter. As I grow to embrace my light, your shadow becomes dimmer. I’m not a child anymore, so I should stop feeling like one. I’m not small anymore. I’m not desperate anymore. I understand now. So I can’t be mad at you. Not completely.
But I am mad some. What’s more, I’m annoyed that I started to hate pieces of me that reminded me of you. And the complicated truth is that, as I grow to embrace who I am, I’m forced to accept who you are. I can change what I don’t like about me. I can’t ever change you. But I can shield myself, and my children, from your voice. I can keep it to a whisper while my voice remains loud. So know this: you will have limited access to my family and I will monitor it. You will have guarded exposure to my world but it can be taken away. You can continue to make your petty comments, throw your opinions my way and have your voice, but not around my children. Because despite our past, I understand that you loved me the only way you knew how. Despite my upbringing, motherhood has taught me to love you. So I can keep you in my life. But not completely.