“Are you sure she’s my baby?”
Yes, these were the first words my mother uttered when the nurse brought me to my mother’s arms to hold for the first time.
How do I know this?
My sweet mother’s own authentic words after I discovered hundreds of my baby announcements neatly stuffed in a drawer. I was ten years old when I stumbled upon the drawer filled with old photos and my baby announcements.
“Mom, why are my birth announcements here in the drawer?”
There was a long pause followed by my mother’s usual blunt words of cold hard honesty.
“You were such a homely baby. I couldn’t bring myself to send them out.”
Another long pause followed as I smiled at my mother, who I knew loved me, yet she was never one to sugar-coat her words. Instead of crying, I laughed. The laughter released the pain as I refused to feel sorry for myself, but when I looked at my newborn baby picture, I couldn’t disagree with her honest assessment.
I thought, What do looks really matter anyway?
As I continued to laugh, my mother continued to speak, but this time words of reassurance and comfort rolled from her tongue.
“Some of the most homely babies have grown up to be beautiful people.”
She meant well and had good intentions, but there were times she chose to avoid constructive criticism, which would have been welcomed in a positive manner.
My teenage years were rough as her insults occasionally cut to the core during my adolescent years but I learned to take my mother “knocks” as her way of trying her best to mold me to be just like her. Thank goodness I had the balance of my father and his undying sense of humor to guide me through how to deal with this unfavorable well-intentioned personality.
It was my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary and we had reserved a banquet room inside a bustling family restaurant. My cousins, aunts, uncles and most of my relatives were there. After we sat down at the table, my mother noticed purplish bags under my eyes and immediately brought it to my attention.
“You look like an owl,” she whispered into my ear.
I looked at my mother and replied, “Whoo Whoo, me?”
When my husband asked me why I was assuming the role of an owl, I whispered my mother’s response and we both had a good laugh.
The point I am trying to make is that I was fortunate to know who I was at an early age. Insults, no matter how lovingly they were delivered, did not deter my inner self. I used humor, as I learned from my father, avoiding the argument and reminding myself who I was.
You have control of your mind and the ability to train your thoughts toward your inner self, reminding yourself what matters and who you are.
It was not always smooth sailing as there were moments of utter frustration but never did I doubt the core of who I was.
While I am in no way suggesting we all react the same way or are offered the same tools to cope with our life struggles, there is something you can do when hurtful words are pointing in your direction. It is vital that you believe in yourself and never doubt who you are.
I could write a book on the insults that I chose to backfire back as humor, but that is not the point. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. Choose to seek counseling when you feel lost or sad and allow the personal attacks to roll off your shoulders. Believe me; it takes practice and I was gifted plenty of situations that now help me to cope with most types of personalities.
Thank you, Mom.
Fast forward to years later, when I have a daughter of my own, witnessing the same ugly pattern begin to form when my mother tried to mold my daughter into being a civilized Barbie doll. After putting my foot down and refusing to allow my mother’s molding, she unexpectedly respected my words and accepted the reality that my daughter may grow into an independent young woman with a mind all of her own.
The irony presents itself when I married a man with the same materialistic traits of my mother. I had not intended to walk this path, but according to my counselor, it is not uncommon for someone to choose a partner that is similar to one of our parents as it is a strange comfort-from-home. Absolutely astonishing.
Then there came a day when my daughter encountered the wrath of her father’s need to impress others. Physical appearance rated high on his scale almost to the point of being comical.
They were en route to the front door when his comments took my daughter by surprise.
“Aren’t you going to put some makeup on?”
Without hesitation, she responded to his petty words.
“No. I’m good.”
Once they arrived at the grocery store, she walked up to a gentleman bagging groceries.
“May I have a paper bag and scissors?”
He seemed surprised by the peculiar question, but handed her a brown paper bag and a pair of scissors; carefully watching as he and her father looked on.
She proceeded to cut two circular holes into the bag for eyes along with a round hole large enough for her to breathe. Then she placed the brown bag over her head, motioning to her father that she was ready to shop with him.
This drew unwanted attention to her father as he nervously questioned her.
“What are you doing?”
Confidence oozed from her veins when she responded to him.
“I don’t want to embarrass you because I am not wearing makeup.”
Underneath that bag, she silently giggled while he was fit to be tied.
“Take that bag off your head. You’re embarrassing me.”
The bag remained over her brilliant head for the quickest shopping trip they both had ever experienced.
Proud would be an understatement.
Sometimes in this life we encounter individuals, often family, that challenge our patience and attempt to hurt our feelings; without meaning to do so.
We can maintain a healthy balance in our minds by understanding those who have good intentions and also removing those from our elevator that are toxic. Know the difference. Life is short and your peace matters.