This I Believe

Tamiko - Allendale, Michigan
Entered on February 6, 2007

I believe that parents have it tough.

If you would have asked me fifteen, ten, or even two years ago, I would have never believed this. I don’t want to assert that I had a horrible childhood. In fact, my parents always made sure that we never went without and my sister and I never questioned whether or not we were loved. The problem was that the only way my mother could express her love for us was through yelling.

My sister and I would never know what it would be about. When my mom entered a room, she would find something to be upset about. Generally, it was arbitrary, and we never knew when it was coming. Anything from injury to forgetfulness to stains on our clothing led her to say unnecessarily cruel remarks, often taking a dig at our weight, our social skills, or our inability to act within the parameters of our gender. Even our valiant attempts to please her were met with screaming and scolding that ended in my sister, myself, or both of us fleeing the scene in tears.

My sister was able to seek refuge through therapy, while I to do so by going away to college. I vowed to never return home, and then the reality of a thing called “financial responsibility” proved that promise to be empty. It was upon my return home between my freshman and sophomore years that my mother’s yelling ceased. Instead, her anger manifested itself in a desire to commit suicide. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and she was sentenced to a life filled with numerous medications to combat these illnesses. I spent most of that summer taking care of her, per the doctor’s request that she not be left alone. During one of our afternoons together, my mother, still in a daze from the amount of medication she had been given, slowly turned in her chair to face me. With tears in her eyes, she asked, “Was I a good mom?”

Suddenly everything made sense. I had spent so much time being angry about how my mother had treated my sister and I that I had never once stopped to consider why she acted the way she did. By society’s standards, perhaps she hadn’t been the best mother, but considering her mental limitations, she did a terrific job. For the nineteen years prior to this moment, I resented her for the way she raised my sister and me. In one utterance, all those years fizzled away.

I wrapped my arms around her and said, “Yes, mom. You were.”

Parents have it tough. They are expected to be selfless, forgo their own needs, and stifle their own cries for help for the sake of being a good parent. And even if they do their best, sometimes that isn’t good enough.