It was my mum’s birthday yesterday. I always find it hard but this year I missed her deeply. The day before it was announced that we are tier 4 and that means that my sons are not coming home for Christmas. And I struggled with this more than I thought I would.
I work yesterday, the 21/12/20, tired and worn down. I felt lonely, which is not a feeling I often have.
I have a case in the loft with the last of my mum’s belongings. Things she kept over the years. Birthday and Christmas cards, pictures I drew her. Lots of get well cards I made her. There are also a bunch of letters she wrote. Some she wrote to me from her. Some she wrote to her dad who passed.
I have read them many times, but as I lay in bed yesterday morning, tearful and low, I could only remember the words from the letters she wrote to me. I could not for the life of me remember much of the letters she wrote to her dad. I always skimmed over them to be honest. They were sad letters I know that. And I felt an urge to read them, right there and now. So up in the loft I went and got the case down.
I have not looked in that case for a while. I often go to look in it but when I open it I get a sudden smell of dove soap and I can see all her buts and its often too much for me.
I looked through the pictures like I always do. Looked at the cards. Read my childish writing. Telling my mum, I loved her. That I hope she gets well soon.
And then the letters. I deliberately made sure I was comfy and it was quite. Like I was about told a story.
My mum often wrote to her dad and she often spoke about him to me. He died almost a year before I was born. A very similar situation that I had, where my daughter was born within the same 12 months my mum died.
It’s a very strange feeling. Mourning a piece of you whilst falling in love with a new piece of you. No one will truly know what it feels like to hold your child and cry because you want your parent to see what you did…unless you have been there.
My mum wrote letters to her dad as a source of comfort I guess. Sometimes these letters wee almost like a post card. Telling him the things that had been going on and such as if he would jot back a reply. But yesterday I read these letters properly.
Many of the early letters are faded. SO old now. Mum talks to her dad a lot about me. Says she wishes he could see me. How much she loves me. She often writes that the only reason she gets up is because of me. She speaks a lot about my dad also. That was painful to read. She talks about her love for him over and over. She also talks about the pain he causes her. How she would be better off without him.
It’s clear she is on conflict about many thigs, including her ability as a mum. Often stating I deserve more.
And then the letters start to change. They are not dated but they don’t need to be. I feel them. I know around what time she would have written them.
She writes in the first letter that single change that I am different. She says that “Kendra has changed and I’m not sure why or how”. She says she is worried about me. I would say that letter is when I am about 10.
She then writes again; I would say a year later. She says that I am cold. She writes to her dad and says that I no longer say good night. She writes “You know Dad, in our family we always say good night and God bless, Kendra will not say God Bless anymore, and now she hardly says good night”
I refused to say God bless once I knew he was not listening me even though I begged for his help. And have never said it since. And never will.
She writes again, about 6 months later. She says that “something has happened. Kendra does not say she loves me anymore. She dost say she does not love me, no, it’s just that she no longer tells me she loves me”
She talks about the way I pull away from touch. That she wonders if this is just normal teenage behaviours, as she has nothing to compare it to. No one to guide her. She says I am different.
She writes again, I would have been 12. She talks about the fact that I have been placed in a PRU and that I seem fine about it, however, she is worried about the group of friends I have. She says she ties to talk to me but I am “Grey behind the eyes” she goes on to say that “Kendra has a darkness in her eyes that hunts me. She is cold. I told her today she will end up alone when she is old if she carries on like this”.
She is referring to when I came home and she was crying that we could not afford the rent. That as she sobbed I didn’t do anything. I just stood there. I did try. I watched her cry so hard and I awkwardly tried to put my hand on her shoulder. But I quickly withdrew it. He felt so thin and weak. Her sobs powerful. My brain was in overdrive. Business mode. Get mum the money.
She wrote in the letter that when she was crying “Kendra just went out to play, didn’t care I don’t think”
Out to play
I sat on my sofa yesterday and gave a very hollow laugh out loud. Because I know that’s what she thought, That I just went out with my friends
Because that’s who I had become at this point. A heartless little robot.
She writes maybe a year later. She says that I no longer come home often. That She tries to keep me in but when she wakes up I am gone. She says that I am “just like him”. She is talking about my dad. And she is not far wrong.
She says that I am like a little adult. That no one can tell me anything. That I shake my head at her when she tries to advise me. “She looks at me like I am a stranger” she wrote at one point. “She is so sad. She deserves more than I can give her. She comes home with stuff What do I do…. call the old bill on my own daughter”. She says in the letters that she has failed me and he does not know where or how.
“She is always fighting. Black eyes, marks on her face”
She writes that she thinks I am on something. That my eyes are often wild. That I don’t sleep.
“She paces, up and down the hallway. In the garden. Smoking one fag after the other. She is always planning; I can see the cogs going round.”
Then the final letter.
“She is having a baby. How can my baby be having a baby? She is so young and so scared. How will she cope. She won’t talk about it. I’m scared that I will have to take the baby when its born, because she has no love in her. I can’t let the baby not be loved”
I cried a lot yesterday. For many reasons. That I can’t see my sons. That I miss my mum. That this year just keeps pushing me.
But I mostly cried because I watched my own journey through my mother’s eyes. For the first time. I know she never understood what life was like out there for many reasons. Bit to watch your own child go so cold must have been heart-breaking.
I hope that where ever she is now she understands that I had to switch off. Told my friend yesterday about the letters and said that I had to switch off from my mum so I didn’t miss her when I was gone. Nit just when I was physically gone for a few days. When I had to make my head be gone When I was ghosting.
I conditioned myself to not feel hurt. Can you imagine such a thing? My mum used to get so angry at me that I didn’t cry. She would honestly be so angry that things would happen and I would not react, my aunt died, who my mum was very close to and I remember her telling me slowly, like a little child (I was 14) trying to break it to me gently and me just nodding and saying ok… well… I need to go somewhere. And I got up and left. Not even a flicker crossed my face as she sobbed into the cushion on the sofa.
And I didn’t care.
I didn’t care about much anymore. For lots of reasosn. And I sure as fuck did not cry. Not unless I was alone.
She must have felt very alone. And for that I am truly sorry. I would never want her to feel like that but I was the parent a lot of the time. The husband. The one working out where we would get electric. Gas. I was always planning …just like she said.
And I know how she felt when I feel pregnant. She told me that she would stand by me but that if I didn’t show emotion to the baby that she would chose the baby. She cried when she said that. But said that baby can’t be raised with no love. I just nodded. What the hell did I care. Take the baby if she wanted. I don’t care.
I don’t care.
There was one other note in the pile of letters.
A card from me to my mum.
It has a robin on the front so would be Christmas or her birthday.
And inside it said
Dear mum, thank you for helping me with that baby. Love kendra
I wonder how she felt when I gave birth. When she saw me holding the baby. Knowing that I no longer gave a fuck about anything in this world
I wonder how long it was until she saw the softens. The love. I would say…. hours.
She never once led me. She didn’t go…right…give me that baby and when I can see you love it then you can have it. Which is maybe something other would have done.
She just watched. And guided. The first nappy change, bath, cuddle. All guided. When I said I couldn’t do it…. she said…. you can. And would place him back in my arms. But she never left.
She told me to talk to him. He was days old and I was getting him changed in silence. She said “Tell him you love him”. I stopped mid baby grow and looked at her. “I don’t want to “I replied. I was embarrassed to tell my son I loved him. Can you imagine what has happened to someone that they feel embarrassed to say I love you
“You have to tell him you love him…or he won’t know” she said. And so I did. In a very childish way…the first time but then it became easier. And then I would just tell him I loved him naturally and with ease.
How painful, I realise now, for my mother to have to teach me how to say I love you again, because I had not said it for so long.
Because they, people, had stolen them words from my lips over many years.
I share this very personal insight because I wonder how many other parents feel like my mum did. Confused by the change. Unable to understand why their child is acting like this. It could just be normal teenage actions, moody teen who hates the world.
Or it could be something else.
Either way, just know that your child does love you, they just need to turn it off to survive.
My mum always thought she was not good enough. That she had let me down. But she never did. She showed me unconditional love even when I showed her none. She taught me how to show my love to my children when she must have been desperate for me to show that love to her.
Which I did when I grew older. When I started to heal
My words of advice to parents who children who are going through any kind of abuse or exploition.
Don’t give up on the, Dot stop loving them and don’t ever think they don’t love you. They have just forgot hoe to love themselves.