To be clear, I don't have a relationship with my mother. Not anymore.
We haven't spoken in many years; in fact, exactly half of my time on this earth now has been sans mom. What's funny -- despite all those years of space -- is how much that relationship still affects what I do today.
A parent's influence on a child is immense. It's not a job to take lightly. It's also a very difficult job, that I know.
Everyone makes mistakes... some perhaps more than others. I would venture to say my mother made many, many errors with me during my formative years. We had so many problems, I found it better to sweep my life clean of her than to try and pick up the millions of shattered pieces we'd left behind.
If we're being honest (and I try to be), I'm not sure she should have been a mother. Fragile and damaged, she often took her own problems out on my brother and me.
She was unable to remain strong for us and apparently found it impossible to do what was right for us at her own expense, as parents are often required to do. All of her issues became my issues. Her insecurities became pressure on us to succeed and prove her to be an amazing mother.
It only got worse when my parents split up. She fell apart and I ended up having to play the adult.
I was having a hard time too, but there I was, holding her when she crawled into my bed at night to sob. Being there for her and my little brother forced me to grow up even quicker -- to become a serious tiny adult at the age of 11. I was already perceptive and precocious; I was well aware my parents were having problems for a long time prior.
My mother leaned on me even harder then. She was quick to display extreme emotion; she was unpredictable and unstable. Our world was completely changing and we, her children, were left unmoored. I realize now how I resented her for that.
My mother is a small woman and has always been concerned with her weight. She was always a trim person who cooked us healthy, organic meals -- but I remember noticing as a child that she never felt thin enough.
I took this as an indication that I, a chubby little girl, must be constantly disappointing her.
I was heavily involved in dance and that, coupled with my mother's scrutiny of what I ate, began to wear on me. I've always had a hearty appetite; I've always loved food -- but that love turned to shame at a young age, when my mother would comment on how much I ate or express worry about my size.
It got worse as I got older. Soon after my parents separated, I went to live with my father. My mother would not forgive me for that supposed betrayal and she refused to speak to me for the next two years. Eventually, when she decided that she wanted visitation, I fought it bitterly.
We battled for nearly three years after. Our fights got dirty, brutal... no holds barred. She fought me as if she were a child herself – screaming, insulting me, even pushing me. She once knocked me down to the floor of the kitchen, then blamed it on me for being “so fat.”
If I were a bit older, maybe I would've understood her insults were petty and childish -- that they didn't deserve recognition -- but this was my mother. She told me over and over again that I was fat, that I was disgusting, that I didn't even look like a child of hers.
She compared me to my father's “fat, stocky sisters” on many occasions. When we fought, she sunk to the level of a preteen girl. That's how weak she was. I scoffed at her immature cruelty on the outside, but I never forgot a single hurtful word she spewed at me.
Unfortunately, it wasn't just my weight that came under fire. I've suffered from Trichotillomania since a very young age, perhaps 4 or 5. It's shaped my entire life, and it's a large part of who I am and what I've done.
When I was a child, no one knew what it was or what was wrong with me. My mother chose to shame me for it then, and once we were at odds, the shaming and the meanness just got worse and worse. The only thing that feels lonelier than dealing with a mysterious disorder on your own is being made to feel small and ugly because of it.
My mother did this to me. The person who was supposed to care for me, support me and love me no matter what tore me apart. I didn't deal with it for years -- and, for years, I've hated my appearance. I obsessed over food, exercised constantly, wore carefully-applied makeup… and never, ever stopped feeling fat and ugly.
I'm now finally dealing with all of this, 16 years later. I'm trying to learn to love myself and unlearn all the hateful messages I've received.
I still don't speak to my mother – I don't feel I'm in the place to do so yet. I do know that eventually I will need to have that conversation in order to grow and face the pain I've been pushing down inside.
Parents have an immeasurable influence on their children. It's a huge job, and a huge responsibility.
If you have children, please remember this. They may remember the words you toss carelessly their way in a moment of frustration forever.
It's changed the way I've seen myself for the past 20 years or more. Children don't ask to be born – you have the responsibility of being a parent.
Be the best you can and, please, be considerate.