I Will Snatch You Bald Headed..
When I was growing up, my mother was a bit of a double agent. To the outside world, she was peppy and outgoing, adorable, smart, artistic and creative with a great sense of style.
She was the cheerleading director at the high school in our small town and she practically, single-handedly, created the youth recreational program in our community.
She taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir, hosted craft bazaars, bake sales and Tupperware parties and I knew all these many pieces of her.
I also knew a raging and mean alcoholic….someone who stumbled home after closing time, long after my brother and I had gone to bed. Someone who was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive with an explosive temper, a short fuse and a vocabulary that would make the raunchiest of characters blush.
Over time, the carefully constructed and beautifully adorned life my mother had been presenting began to chip, then crack, then crumble, exposing us all as frauds.
Eventually, my mother made her way to rehab, though it was a decision that came too late to salvage my parents marriage which had been battered, abused, betrayed and in the end, irrevocably fractured….and too late to salvage most of the life we’d been living publicly as well.
But, she sobered up….worked the steps and threw herself into the AA community with the same fervor and dedication she had devoted to other pursuits in our previous life.
We moved….she changed careers….our hobbies, routines, traditions, social lives, friends and community all changed….we were reinvented….almost anyway….because not everything changed.
My mother wasn’t abusive because she drank….she was abusive because she didn’t know how not to be. She had been a child of divorce with abusive, alcoholic parents and had been unable to break the cycle in her own life…..a cycle she was keenly aware of and would often acknowledge in tearful, self-serving apologies after a particularly bad rampage.
Unlike the work she threw herself into with regards to her sobriety though, she never threw herself into getting the help necessary to be a better mother.
By the time I was 12, I was a slut, a whore and a self-centered, selfish little bitch. I didn’t know exactly what those things were, but I knew I was those things because that’s what my mother called me.
My brother was a fairy, a faggot and a bastard.
We were both mistakes.
We could both take a beating.
Recently, I saw the meme below posted on the Facebook page of someone I know. I’ve seen similar images posted on various social networking platforms in the past and it’s always irked me.
It’s a notion that rings about as true for me as suggesting the problem with politics today, is that women are allowed to cast a vote. We’re supposed to be an evolving species….perhaps we should also revisit the days of the tobacco smoke enema or the lobotomy?
As a child who was spanked….often….I can assure you I learned nothing of right and wrong, boundaries, respect, courtesy or compassion thanks to being on the receiving end of the crack of a belt against my bare skin.
What I learned from my mother, was how to be deceitful. I learned to cover my tracks, to shift blame, to fly under the radar, to never ask for help and I learned that a carefully crafted lie was always, always better than telling the truth if there was even the slightest chance of getting away with it.
Essentially, I learned how to survive in a life I feared, instead of the value that can be found when you are taught to live your life well and I don’t think it’s something that can be taught using fear and pain as your parenting aids.
It took a lot of years for me to unlearn the things my mother taught me and many more to accept and understand the things about myself I can’t unlearn.
Along the way, I ruined relationships with people that were important to me and I ended relationships with people that were toxic.
Sometimes, I feel totally broken.
But most of the time, I feel really proud of the life I’ve carved out for myself and the mother I’m working really hard to be.
I beat the odds….the cycle has stopped with me.
Moral of the Story
I saw the meme I referenced above in the same newsfeed with articles linked to the current “Mom of the Year” hype. The Mom of the Year, being the woman who found her son among the rioters in the streets of Baltimore and commenced giving him a good ass kicking in the middle of the street.
The video, captured by a stranger, went viral and Toya Graham was cheered on by thousands who praised her “tough love” approach and used the video to further promote the need for “old school” parenting.
I know her actions came on the heels of an emotionally charged set of circumstances. Perhaps, what was caught on video was just the worst of both a mother and son caught up in the tragedy of what was happening in their city.
Even so, I don’t see a Mom of the Year. I see a woman assaulting her child….a woman who taught her son a lesson using violence, in the midst of violence, brought on by the alleged abuse of another human being….and it all seems so hypocritical to me.