Mom and Me and Hurt Makes Three

Wounds unwound in the mother and daughter relationship.

Posted May 10, 2019

Mothers and daughters are supposed to have close relationships. Right? That was what I always wished for, yet, it’s not always the case. As the daughter of my mom, I hungered for her to see me, to applaud me, to give me boundaries and to let me be me.

That last part was the hardest for her.  Let me be me. It also created fragments in our relationship that were sharp, emotionally consuming and leaving shrapnel within the soul of my little girl. 

"Alina Demidenko/123rf" " First Haircut, used with permission"
Cutting Hair Off
Source: "Alina Demidenko/123rf" " First Haircut, used with permission"

Have you ever felt this way about your mom? A hunger to love, a need to hate and the anger that you must protect yourself at all costs.  That’s how life with Mom felt.

“Snip, snip, snip” are three words on the back of one of two photos of me when I was 4 years old. They were taken one day apart. Imagine a photo of this young girl, only 4, and her hair is a bit of a mess, and on that day, mom hired a photographer to take pictures. And it was on that day, that this little girl didn’t want to comb her hair. Power struggle abound. What this little girl didn’t realize was how the impact of her fight would lead to a life-changing cost just because she wanted messy hair. Because, “Snip, snip, snip” was about to happen. Taken to a shop, where my hair, this little girl's hair, was turned into a bob so Mom could have the pictures taken and her little girl would look perfect. Perfectly bobbed. Perfectly robbed.  

The wedge between us may not have begun there, yet that memory is emblazoned in my memory. The good news is that the pain and grief of childhood led me to learn self-care, find creative modes of release, and move in the world more like a flexible sycamore tree than like an unmoving oak tree. And I think about this girl, who lives within the adult I am today, and all I want to do for this little girl is to give her her hair back. To tell her, she can have her pictures anyway she wants to have them.

When someone comes into my office or joins a workshop of mine, I know they have a "snip, snip, snip” story.

What happened on that day, may not have been an intentional hit, yet it frames parts of who I became. This type of hit happens to kids who have mothers who do far worse. Yet, when the hit is done, even once, the schism begins.                                                       

" " inesbazdar/123rf." Silouette of angry husband, wife and child, used with permission."
Daughter and Mom: What to do?
Source: " " inesbazdar/123rf." Silouette of angry husband, wife and child, used with permission."

The relationship between a mother and daughter certainly defines the “who” in who am I, the “how” in how am I going to navigate this world and the “me” in do you see me? In these three aspects of knowing the self, the who, the how and the me, each moment that signifies a hit the soul takes shrouds the developing self. To be out in the world, wounded, yet not wound up, wanting the good mother to show up in the mother/ daughter relationship, when snip, snip, snip is part of the story is certainly tough to navigate. Yet, we as daughters find a way to live with the narrative of those stories, soothe ourselves, hide the pain, while pushing to have a reconciliation of the love relationship with Mom.

Stories. We all have them! They define us. Each aspect of some past memory is a story that remains. When does a story shift from being just a story to part of our muscle memory, part of our cellular memory? So much so, that when we time travel back to that experience we know, it was a defining moment, a moment when we knew nothing would ever be the same.

When that core relationship is fraught with struggle, then struggle becomes part of what we expect when we love. It’s actually hard to imagine that love can be rich, filled with devotion, unless accompanied by strife! The core belief system evolves, manifesting into love is not love without cruelty or a power struggle.

As I reminisce about the spats, the verbal and non-verbal, they make me quite sad. What time was wasted arguing about inconsequential things that surely do not matter today? The snip, snip has less significance than ever before.

"Sergii Koval/123RF." SPHINX, used with permission
Source: "Sergii Koval/123RF." SPHINX, used with permission

Perhaps the decreased pain has to do with her death 20 years ago. Losing a parent is never easy, no matter how old you are. Though I have worked in the field of grief for over 20 years, all of my schooling did not prepare me for the potent emotions that arose within me like the Sphinx, feeling like a winged lion, yet docile like a young woman, angry rage plaguing me as I became the lone traveler on a never-ending road hearing the riddles of mourning—with no seemingly right answers to the riddles. In the story of the Sphinx, the wrong answer led to death.

Yes, the mother who cut my hair I still wish to have one more conversation with her.

Yet, what I learned from her as she was dying, was that she was really afraid to be her. My life was more of what she had imagined yet could never get there because of the relationship she had had with her own mother. Ah, the thread of relationships lingers through time as we try to make it happen differently.

My mother taught me more in her last 6 months of life than at any other time. The woman I met in her dying was funny, down to earth and loving, in just the way I wanted and needed her to be. To love her in a non-combative, warm mushy way was a gift. The illness became what we fought against, and then we were one against the devastations of illness.

If I could hear her again and meet the women who showed up in the last months of life —oh just to have some real time with her—now that would be amazing!

Edy Nathan
Mom and Me
Source: Edy Nathan

Curious that after she died, my life was freer from the strife between mother and daughter. The grief, though overwhelming, at times, was the beginning of a birthing in me that could not have begun while the strife-ridden relationship between mother and daughter continued to be nurtured.

My mother taught me to:

Make It Happen! And do it well.

Make It Happen with love.

Make It Happen with compassion.

Make It Happen, even when no one believes that it can.

As long as you believe it, then anything is possible!

The impossible did happen. I met the mother of my dreams as she was letting go of life.

Give birth to yourself as each day dies.

Find life in your new day.

Maya Angelou said it best: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass."


Maya Angelou