Mean Girls: The First Mean Girl In My Life Was My Mother
As told to Veronica Wells of NoSugarNoCreamMag
I noticed that the relationship I had with my mom was different from other people’s when I was like in fourth and fifth grade or middle school time. The talks most young ladies have with their mothers I didn’t really have. Even my period conversation, I had to bring it up to her, like ‘Ma, what is this?’
There was even a difference in the way she treated me versus the way she treated my siblings. Maybe it was because she learned different things in between raising me and them. I don’t know.
Growing up, I was really close to my father and when they were separating, we all made the decision that I would live with my dad. And my siblings stayed with her. She would always say very snarky type things like, ‘Since you want to be with your father, go be with him.’ My dad was paying child support for all of us, but her thing was, ‘Oh you live with your dad, let him do it.’ I’d watch her take my sisters to get their hair and nails done and leave me.
I preferred my dad’s parenting style–and not that he was even easy to deal with or an easygoing person. But with him, it wasn’t always hollering, hollering, beating, beating.
My mom was very do as I say. No conversation.
Because she had this spite for my father, sometimes, she would turn it on to me. I wasn’t the child who was like ‘Because Mommy said it, it’s right.’ I’d tell her, ‘Ma, I know that’s wrong. Dad does things wrong but you also do things wrong.’
My father would never badmouth or downplay her. But my mother did. And I’d think, ‘Why do we have to have these conversations?’ It’s not important.
In the short time when I was living with her after my parents separated, I was the oldest so I was taking care of children all the time or getting fussed out. I already didn’t have a normal teenage-hood to a degree because I was a church kid. We didn’t have a level of freedom. Then on top of that, I was watching kids all the time.
There were days when I’d watch my mom get ready to go out with a closet full of stuff and sometimes me and my siblings didn’t have.
I’d watch her take my sisters to get their hair and nails done and leave me.
My mom actually passed earlier this year and looking back I feel like I can say, maybe she didn’t parent a particular way because I see how my grandmother was. She wasn’t very affectionate or loving. She was very sharp, straight to the point.
After my mother passed away, we went through her stuff. I have one of her prayer journals with me now. Looking through some of her notebooks, we can see what she was really going through, how she really felt and moments of depression for her. Seeing stuff like that makes you have a level of hindsight.
She didn’t know how to express herself or she felt like she had to bury things in and just be a mom, she felt like she couldn’t be–she wasn’t a horrible mom. We weren’t starved or abused. And my mom was a young mom. She had five kids, got married early. She didn’t get to grow up and live her life as a young adult.
When we did get a little bit older, we realized she was trying to live her life, get over her divorce. But when we were children, it didn’t come off like that.
I’m a young mom too. I had my daughter when I was 15. So I know how I feel when my kid says certain things. Me and my daughter are at odds right now.
So I can see why my mother moved like this. She didn’t know better. Resources weren’t as available. I can understand.
She felt like she had to bury things in and just be a mom.
I was able to get a place of healing in the relationship I had with my mom, to a degree. When she was alive, I was at peace. We didn’t really speak so much but if my mom was sick, I would be there for her. But I knew that we were best not in close proximity. So I had a level of peace to just say, ‘This is my mom. I love her. But I don’t have to be always around her.’
With the relationship I have with my daughter, I see certain patterns in me that I want to change.
I don’t remember much physical affection from my mom growing up. But as I got older, she’d tell me, “I love you and I’m proud of you.” She would promote me and the things that I’m doing to other people. I wouldn’t say that we were a lovey, huggy, touchy family. And I’m not really a touchy person either.
My grandmother passed this week but when I would see her with my daughter, I would see her being soft. And I’d say, ‘Y’all wasn’t like that on us!’
Sometimes I even have to catch myself with my daughter. I’m like “Get away…” and she’ll act like she’s joking and say, “Fine, you don’t want to touch me.” But I’m starting to realize, maybe physical affection is her love language. She wants to be touched or she wants to be under me.
I feel like I’m at a rough patch with my daughter because she’s a teenager already. Some of the things I’ve seen, I feel like I’ve already repeated the cycle with my mom. Some days I feel hopeless or helpless, like it’s almost too late to even retract it. I have tried to have open conversations but I realize my daughter is also very much like me. She shuts down, she won’t speak much. So now, I’m trying to find a healthy balance.
I think my daughter has everything she wants. She has your own room. She doesn’t have to watch a whole bunch of kids.–That’s partially because of religion. I don’t have any more children because I’m not having sex out of wedlock but also a big conscious decision of not having more children is because I didn’t want her to ever feel the burden of being responsible for children she didn’t create or missing out on life or childhood. I’m not running in and out going on dates. She has clothing, I put her in all these programs…
But we got into odds. She’s at my sister’s house. I’m not fussing at her, I’m not beating her. I’ll never say, “I’m not going to do nothing for you.” That was something my mom would say to me, when it came to my dad.
Even though my daughter is really hating me right now, I still put money on her debit card. And not because I’m a sucker or I’m feeding in. But because, at the end of the day, that’s still my child. My sister is there to help me and she’s allowing her to stay there but she’s going to need things. She’s going to want stuff.
As a Christian, we talk about grace all the time. And the least I could do is extend grace to my child. I want my life as a Christian to reflect with my daughter as well.
The least I could do is extend grace to my child.
Not to say my mom wasn’t a Christian, but sometimes the love and the grace that we talk about wasn’t always extended to us. And I really would like to bridge that gap. Even though me and my daughter aren’t the best of friends, like how I would want us to be, I really want to show her that no matter what you do or what happens, I’m always your mom and I’m going to be here regardless.
In an ideal world, I would like for her to come to me for advice and have open and honest conversations with her. One thing she always says to me, ‘Everything is God with you. You think you’re perfect.’ It’s like, ‘I don’t.’ But I think certain things are not for you to tell your children as they’re children. You can tell them when they get older and they’re mature enough to handle the conversation.
I want us to talk about men, money, and life. I try to talk to her about handling her money properly and she’s like, ‘Ma, I’m a teenager. Let me make my mistakes.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, whatever.’
I sometimes think I was pregnant at 15. I was pregnant at her age. So I’m like, ‘Lord, I’m just thankful she’s not pregnant.’ Just thankful for little things.
I want to be able to say to her, even though I don’t want you having premarital sex, if you are going to do it, protect yourself in this way.
She wants to go away to school, I want to drop her off. Let’s pack.
Me and my dad are like best friends, we talk about everything. My daughter doesn’t necessarily have a dad in her life so I would like to be there for her in that way.
I’m always your mom and I’m going to be here regardless.
More than just my daughter, the relationship with my mother affected the way I interact with other women. These days, I have strong African American women in my corner. But I’m very, very, very selective and picky.
One of the people I’m the closest to now, our relationship started off rocky because I’d be like, ‘Why is she in my business?! Why is she calling to check on me?’ Certain times if you’re not used to a certain type of affection, love, or people being hard on you in a good way, or speaking into you in a good way, you don’t know how to accept it.
Me and this person have been together ten years now. And now, it’s second nature for me to call and check on her. She’s taught me how to be a friend to other people, how to show up for other people and how to allow people to show up for you as well.
My mother’s passing gave me a stronger sense of wanting to be there for my family and not letting little things kill us. She passed seven months ago now. Since then, of course me and my siblings have had little tiffs like siblings do but it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re still family at the end of the day.’
I’m the type of person, I can really not speak to people for weeks at a time. Not just my family, people in general. I saw you posted something on social media, so I know you’re alive. You don’t need anything cuz you didn’t call me. I’m bogged down with work, entrepreneurship, school, and my own life. But it’s like, no, make sure you speak to your family. I try to speak to my sisters everyday or every other day.
Why is she in my business?!
When my grandmother came out of the hospice, I was bringing her food, bringing my grandfather food even though I don’t cook that much in my house. But doing those things is important because you don’t want someone to pass and you didn’t speak.
Before my mom passed, we didn’t speak for like a month. Not because we were at odds but because we didn’t have nothing to speak about. You don’t want someone to pass and you never had one last, final conversation.
The day before my grandmother passed, I was in the hospital with her. It gives you some sense of closure.
We never really knew but with coronavirus, the way that things are happening, and just life, there’s more uncertainty now.
Sometimes you have to take ownership of the connection you want with your family.
We have traumas from systematic division but it’s also up to us to say, this is what I’m not going to let happen. We are at a disadvantage but we have to say what I can do, I will do. Because otherwise you leave that trauma for your children.
Can you relate? Have you ever been a mean girl? Was your mom? How are you healing? Share below!
Veronica Wells-Puoane is the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. She is the author of “Bettah Days” and You’ll Be All Write, a question and answer journal for Black women. She is also the culture editor at MadameNoire.com.