by Gladys Diaz
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. For many years, this holiday was very painful for me, because I did not have a good relationship with my mother. For several years, I did not speak to or want to have anything to do with her. However, this weekend, she’ll be spending this weekend surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren.
But getting to this place took a lot of love, forgiveness, and the willingness to let go.
As a young girl, I remember thinking my mom was pretty cool. All the kids in the neighborhood wanted to come over to our house. It wasn’t strange to see our lawn and front porch covered in bikes, roller skates, and jump ropes. While my father died when I was three, and mother’s second marriage was rocky and ultimately ended in divorce, I can honestly say that the first ten years or so of my life were happy ones.
After my mom’s divorce, things in my life took a turn for the worst. She fell in love with a man who, at first, seemed very fun and kind. She seems so happy. It wasn’t until a few months later that we began to realize that he was hitting my mom. The fights were getting louder, and more people were beginning to notice. We ended up being kicked out of the home we had lived in for years, and moved right across the street, to a smaller apartment.
The move didn’t change things very much, except that the fights were getting worse and I began noticing that my mother was changing. Not only because she was constantly afraid of her or me and my sisters doing something “wrong” to upset him, but she began drinking a lot more than I’d ever remembered. With the drinking, she became someone else, and that cool, fun mom I used to know seemed to be disappearing before my eyes – both physically and figuratively.
After another move, things really began to get bad, and it seemed like the police were being called to our house at least two or three times a week. They knew us on a first-name basis and tried on several occasions to convince my mother to leave him.
She tried. I remember staying in hotels, staying at friends’ houses, trying to hide from him. He always found us. She always went back to him. And things always got worse.
Pretty soon my mother was disappearing for days on end. We didn’t know where she was, if she was okay, or even alive. I remember going to our neighbors’ houses asking for food or making my sisters a dinner of corn flakes covered in sugar, because there wasn’t any food in the house. Eventually, we got an eviction notice, and we had to let our extended family know what was happening, because we were afraid of being separated and put into foster care.
Thankfully, we had family who were willing to take us in, even though, painfully, it meant that Michelle and I were separated from our little sister, who went to live with our first stepfather. My mom had moved to another state, followed by her husband, and I could not believe that she had abandoned us.
The fact that we were out of that violent environment was good, but the anger and resentment that lived inside of me grew over the years.
I was angry at my mother for not choosing to leave earlier, for putting us in such an unsafe situation, and for caring more about drinking and going out than she did us. As a 15-year-old, all I could see what was in front of me. I never stopped to consider that he had threatened to kill us if she left him, that she was now an alcoholic and needed help, or that the trauma of what she had been living over those years had been affecting her in ways I would never comprehend.
It took several years for me to be able to forgive my mother. I leaned on my faith and on the fact that I loved her and wanted her in my life, even if it was from a distance. After several years of her being sober, when I found out I was pregnant, I asked my mom if she would consider moving back to Florida so that she could help me with my son. The fact that, not only had I forgiven her, but that I was willing to trust her with my own child was overwhelming to her, and she left all she knew to come help me.
Having her in my life again on a daily basis put a strain on our relationship, because it had been much easier to get along from afar. However, through it all, even the times when I wasn’t kind or respectful, my mother was there for me, there for my son, and, later my second son, and she loved and forgave me through my temper tantrums.
We’ve had some dips in the roller coaster ride of our relationship over the years, and I’ve had to learn how to forgive, let go, trust, and open my heart in order to have my mom back in my life. Sometimes I still slip and let my ego get in the way of loving her the way I want to. Sometimes I hold back, afraid of being hurt again.
But mostly, I’m just grateful.
Grateful that God gave us another chance to be together.
Grateful that my kids get to have their grandmother –who they adore – in their lives.
And grateful that, in a world that says that when you grow up in the type of environment in which I grew up, it’s likely that you’ll repeat the same patterns and that you’ll be “broken” or “traumatized” forever, not only am I able to forgive so that have a relationship with my mom, but I also have become the type of mother I hope my children think is pretty loving, pretty special, and pretty cool!
This weekend, Michelle and I will be running in the “Super Mom 5K Challenge,” and the proceeds go toward Women in Distress, an organization that helps women who are escaping domestic violence. If you’d like make a donation and help us make a difference for these women who are being courageous enough to leave everything behind so that they can protect themselves and their children, please visit our Team Page.
Is there someone in your life who could use your forgiveness?
If so, use this weekend as an opportunity to forgive, let go, and allow more love into your life!
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