Family Ties & Maternal Bonds
The lessons learned, shared secrets in life and ways that mothers engage with their daughters, is a dynamic bond that cannot be replicated. In that same regard, the absence or unfulfilled needs in this bond leave scars and when unhealed wounds show up can trigger us in unexpected places and moments in our lives. Many people believe that known and unknown generational traumas and harmful patterns are carried through ancestral lineage. In my moments of pain and reflection these past few months I have been trying to pinpoint what I may be carrying that is unseen but leaves an impact on my psyche, soul and heart. Then one day it all clicked.
As I sat with my mother in a deep dialogue on her own upbringing and she shared my father’s relationship with his parents, I came to the realization that the harm that needs to be healed is the bond and authenticity in relationships between parents and children. Specifically, I need to change the dynamics of maternal love between mothers and daughters in my lineage through my relationship with my daughter. When life has not been kind to the women before me, the resulting harm is felt by their daughters. The cycle of hurt simply repeats itself with the same feelings but a fresh face in yet another generation until it will finally be broken.
I want to preface this by saying that my mother is an amazing matriarch and woman, who selflessly gives to her children, community and everyone in her life. Together my father and her became partners to establish the type of family life neither of them knew but probably always craved. As all things are in life, it was not so simply black and white. She is brilliant, witty, accomplished, generous and also a flawed person, like us all.
I have always known that she made something beautiful and lasting despite complexities around her. This knowledge has influenced our dynamic from my childhood into my adult life and decisions. Regardless though, she stands by my side and supports me even when she doesn’t fully understand what she is supporting because unconditional love is a part of her soul. The challenge has been that the way she offered love never felt like enough for me and always left me wanting for more. So we struggled to develop the bonds that break the generational harm. Our actions are not only about the intentions we have but also the impact they leave on those around us. I felt it then, and at times I feel it now. The impact of missing warmth from someone you know loves you but struggles to show it, has a lasting effect on the choices you make in life.
I am a mother of four and each child has influenced me in different ways through their birth and growth. However, my daughter was the catalyst to my journey to finally discover myself and the path that I was intended to follow in order to heal from the generations of hurt carried through bloodlines, love lost and missed opportunities to understand each other. My boys taught me what it is to be a mother, but she propelled me to discover what it is to truly be a woman.
I was a boy mom for sixteen years. All I knew was how to raise boys. I had mastered the diaper routine to ensure I was never hit by a stray stream of pee. I got very comfortable in open farting, burping and constant movement. I was in pretty good shape for a mother of three because between the 10 years of my first born to my third son gracing the world, I was moving so fast my own life and existence was a blur. I still managed to make sure that these lifelong companions were well rounded and could navigate all the different aspects of the world. So they were my shopping buddies, learned to cook with me, accompanied me to the nail salon and were willing to try all the arts and crafts I threw at them on the days when they would sit still. They were my life and I was at that time their Mama who made each day an adventure of discovery and exploration of life. I had settled into the idea that I would only have boys and was a content "boy mom" for 16 solid years. The way my boys looked at me with love and deep affection was unsurpassed in my life. Until I got the surprise news of becoming pregnant with my fourth child.
My first thought was,” it’s got to be another boy, I am blessed but wow, I am going to be exhausted forever.” Not only was I hitting the restart button at 38, in a precarious marriage dynamic, my other children were 16,14 and 11. The lives of my older children and this new one were going to be parallel more than intersecting. There were a lot of things running through my head, but I made certain not to allow the thought of having a daughter enter my mind at any point to avoid the let down. Until the day I got the phone call from the doctor's office and my whole world shifted to the possibility of something so different than I knew.
When you become pregnant after 35, you are considered to be of “advanced maternal age”. Every time I heard that term I wanted to kick someone. I had never felt old in my life until that point. This great new nickname also came with a slew of tests including blood tests that could tell you the sex of the baby way before the traditional ultra sound. I will admit, it made me feel like I was winning a tiny bit to have this knowledge so early in my pregnancy. Sort of like a consolation prize for all the invasive poking, prodding and extra sweet liquids I had to endure. So when I got the call of the results and the nurse on the other end said I was having a daughter, I was in absolute disbelief. I asked her to repeat herself three times and then actually asked if she was messing with me. Eventually once the shock subsided the tears started flowing. I was happy crying because after sixteen years of giving up this possibility of having a daughter I finally was going to have one. The life that was uncovered by her birth was nothing I could have ever dreamed of. Despite being the hardest pregnancy and her parasitic tendencies to take or repel any ounce of energy or nutrients I had in my body, her birth saved my soul.
I chose her name just like I did for all my children. Knowing that she has three older brothers, it had to be something powerful and create a path for her to forge. I could never anticipate how accurate her name was to the person she would become just only at the age of five. Kaiya is a Hopi Indian Name that means “wisdom beyond her years”. That nailed exactly who she is. Not only in the wisdom she speaks, but the energy she radiates to heal and bring light to those around her. It took having a daughter for me to realize how to truly be a woman in my life.
It began with a decision that had been brewing in my mind for years but became clearer with her birth. The day I stood with this innocent four month old girl in my arms, while I listened to the condescension and judgment hitting me like another round of target practice and almost allowed myself to slip into familiar patterns of firing back in defense, I realized THIS HAS TO STOP. I could not allow my daughter to watch her mother stay in a life and marriage where she was not treated with dignity and valued for her worth. The future flashed before me in that moment and I could see the patterns she would eventually begin to see as normal for marriage and what she would one day search for as love in her own life. I had already put my boys in that line of vision over those past fifteen years. For once, I finally knew better and could not risk the future of a girl in that landscape and family culture.
I knew that to be the role model of the woman I wanted her to be one day be, I had to stand up for myself and my own happiness. I never wanted her to allow a man to dictate how she felt about herself and the only way I could control that was to walk away from an environment that ate at my soul rather than fed it. She motivated me to stand strong in who I am and show her that a woman knows her worth and will not stand with someone who disregards it.
When we moved onto our new lives in separate homes and she started talking more, her wisdom would become a reflection of the inner wounds and growth I still had to make as a woman. She ignites my passions and warms my soul. Her hugs cure the darkest days and there have been many. Her curiosity keeps me wondering and learning. Her gentleness reminds me to stay grounded. Even her toddler tantrums and emotional outburst have taught me how to parent differently where I honor my daughter as a person who is experiencing life and trying to navigate unfamiliar emotions rather than just behaving badly. She has reminded me of how to calm myself down in the moments that I can’t find my center and grounding. Her comfort with routine helped guide me to be more focused and driven in my roles in life in order to provide the stability she craves and blossoms within. While her willingness to take risks and push herself keep me young and searching for new adventures we can explore together. She makes me laugh, think and reflect more than I ever anticipated I would.
She also is a reflection of myself as a young child, before my light dimmed. She is a kind and charming person, just as I was as a toddler. Her spirit is unique so her connection with others is powerful, she radiates light and love. She embodies a similar soul to me, even though her skin looks nothing like mine and her hair is fine, straight and brown, not the familiar black slightly wavy strands that me, my sisters and mother all have. There is so much I could fixate on that is dissimilar between us, but our minds and hearts are so in sync. She is a beautiful soul and it became my responsibility for her to be a woman who knows her worth and never needs anyone else to validate it, while also being a kind and gentle person in the world she exists within.
She is the gift I was given by the universe to guide me to my healing. When I imagine the hopes I have for her life, I rethink all the missed opportunities I ever had and what beliefs limited me from shining my light the way I do now. She should not have to wait for a lifetime of heartbreak and battling the messages of the world to see herself clearly in the power that she wields. No girl or woman should.
I am actively undoing my own beliefs every time I discover a flicker of a spark that may lead her to doubt her light and self. The advice I sometimes give her, actually ends up being guidance in my own life I never knew I needed. Without realizing it, I have been healing missing and hurt parts of me through the open and honest conversation I have with my daughter about how she can navigate her own world. This is one of the many missed opportunities in the maternal dynamics that came before me. Authenticity and owning our faults is not always seen or shown. The form of love I was familiar with required an arms length distance of knowing who someone is. The expectations are just that they meet the mold of whom you expected them to be for you to feel you were successful as a mother. Your children then become an extension of you.
I am working to counter that idea. My children are the arrows I am releasing into the world. I can create a foundation that grounds who they are as they grow, but they will do the growing, learning and living in their own lives to be their own people in the paths they choose. They came from me, we are forever tied to one another’s souls and hearts, but they are not an extension of me. I have to let go of that pattern and have my children be who they are meant to be in the world with guidance of how to stand in that way of thinking. I made many mistakes with my boys due to being in a constant survival mode even though I was unaware of it. I now have a fourth opportunity to learn and do better. That is the gift she has given me, while also being my mini-me, partner in crime and the one constant source of light and warmth in my life during moments when I worried the sun would not shine.
She was an illumination of the love and connection I needed. So in turn, I was and have been her rock and constant amid a lot of change around her. The person she shares her fears and worries with. The person that she can admit her faults with knowing there are no consequences for making mistakes but lessons to be taken away. She grows her curiosity and zest for life in an environment that gives her space to explore and discover who she is without judgment and control. I am her home no matter where she resides and she is mine. I am teaching her to love herself, know her worthiness and gifts and help her to realize how to use these powers to build connections with others. She watches me as a woman who is growing, learning and reflective throughout the process.
This year she started school, and as she grows and goes into the world on her own more, I recognize the space for new lessons that both of us may need for me to heal and her to establish a foundation of who she is. Now it has been about setting her boundaries, something I am only recently identifying and implementing into my life and relationships. Like her Mama, she tends to gravitate towards being friends with boys more than girls and often older ones due to her level of emotional maturity at five. Because it’s already clear to her that boys mature slower than girls.
For a five year old this comes through by reminding her that not everyone is deserving of the friendship, conversation and energy that she has to offer. If someone has not earned it, then they do not get to have it, because what she brings is a gift that should be valued and only given to those who are worthy of receiving it. In that same regard, if one of those boys has decided not to talk to her, it is their loss not hers. They are the one missing out on her conversation and hilarious personality, she still has it. Both times I offered these gems to my daughter, I realized that I had failed to know and practice these messages in my own life. To be a woman who knows her worth you must put up boundaries and guard the soul of your beautiful energy with fierce protection, otherwise there will be people who take and never give back to what you put out. We are teaching each other how to be women and holding each other accountable as we navigate the journey on two different life planes.
This is the breaking of the past mistakes, the connection between mother and daughter is one that allows for both to grow, shine and authentically be ourselves while still holding onto our roles and positions. I am not her friend, I am her mother who has a comfortable and honest relationship with her when it comes to approaching life. She does not need to know the details of my mistakes and whom the harm was caused by, but she can learn from how those decisions formed my understanding of self and life. I have to be vulnerable with my fallibility and admit I am flawed, while still striving towards becoming better each day.
She is only with me for 14 days of each month. But regardless of what my life may involve between work and projects, those 14 days are purposefully intentional to create a culture of love and for her to have a foundation she can trust with an adult who looks at her potential to soar and not my needs to be fulfilled. Truthfully, the person she has become has guided me to seek that same freedom in my life. I want her to know her light has the power to help others and extend kindness and grace to those around her.
She has taught me what a strong woman truly embodies and exudes to the world around her and I am guiding her towards knowing she is going to be one of them to one day take the world by storm regardless of what others perceptions, assumptions and beliefs may be of her. Resiliency and grace will hopefully be her superpowers in life. So when I one day let go of the string and the arrow flies from the bow, the path she finds will be where she is meant to be with the strength of the women who came before her and the love of her mother who is the home she will always have.