A Letter To a Mother and Her Young Person

Jan 09, 2024

This may be hard to read as I attempt to walk beside you and meet you both, as equals and beyond all ideas of hierarchy...
As a young person you may be filled with hate, resentment or merely confused by the behaviour of your parent. One thing that is most likely, seeing as you are reading this, is that you are certainly experiencing some disconnection from the person who is ‘supposed’ to support and love you the most.

To feel loved is to feel curiosity from the other at the very least and, at best, understanding. As a teenager and into my twenties I expressed hatred towards my own mother and couldn’t comprehend how far apart we were. As an adult, I went on to curate one opportunity after another, in an attempt to connect with her: Holidays, spa breaks, birthday celebrations etc, forever hopeful for the possibility of a platform, a topic, a vulnerability shared, whereupon we might meet in the middle and get curious about one another. The hurt though was still so real and brought with it an agenda, a need for her to own her part. This meant that any glimpse of a chance would be met with an abrupt shutdown by she, or I, or both. My pain was coupled with her own and there was no room for me.  

So, both Mother and child seek the same. We each need to be seen, heard and understood. What gets in the way is our own suffering and it's importantly argued that, as parents, we hold the responsibility for putting our offspring before ourselves. After all, from approx age 25 our brains are fully formed whereas our young people are still developing, also we have acquired many years more of life experience and worldly wisdom AND... we are still carrying the open wounds of our own needs not being met by our parents, before us.  So, how?

As a youth I sought love elsewhere and relentlessly pursued the attention of all those who were a challenge to me, such was my blueprint established by a father who, without explanation, would ignore me completely and quite deliberately. It was a set up and my mum watched on helplessly while labelling him ‘clinically depressed’. I blamed her and I didn’t even know why. I remember feeling hopeless at the idea of them ever ‘seeing’ me. I wrote my father letters and told my mother, without holding back, exactly what I thought of her at the time. There were no cracks in their armour that might have allowed any light to shine through.  No way in for me.

As an adult and mother to a teenager today, I’ve come to realise that the tiniest of openings is all that is needed to introduce some connection. At times we have all been so defended that we were unable to see or hear one another, so what does it mean to begin to lay down our armour? Nobody can under-estimate how frightening that idea can be and for a young person to do so first is unimaginable, for who are they modelling? Some will certainly argue that “they must bring some sense of responsibility, show up ‘respectfully' and be appreciative of all that we have provided them in their short lives so far!” but, for all of their gifts and capabilities, can we really expect them to do something that we, ourselves, are not demonstrating to them? At what point in time did we decide to stop ‘modelling’ and begin ‘expecting’?

My mother was unable to leave any gaps, in the stories she told herself, that might have offered room for my truths. Her attempts to meet me contained learned platitudes and ideas of spoken affection, that were never specific and rarely relevant. Her love was hidden from me but, I’ve learned, that didn’t make it any less real.  If she had only felt safe enough to hold out her hand to me and offer me a proverbial olive branch, with a few words of unguarded acknowledgment… When I think back to what I might have responded to then, I imagine something like: “Hey Tracy, I don’t know how we got here but it hurts to be so disconnected from you.  I miss you.  I’m sorry for not showing up the way you needed me to. I’d like to know you better. Can we start over? Please tell me what you need from me?” This would be followed by a still quiet, affording me the opportunity to take it all in. I might not even have responded there and then but the subsequent peace and stillness would be just as powerful as the message. She would have sown the seed and I would have had opportunity to absorb and nurture the possibility that I had almost forgotten I longed for.  

The stone wall now would have a door and I would see a light, where before there was none.