Three Things I Wish My Mother Taught Me8/26/2014
I’ve always been envious of the girls who could tell their mothers personal things about themselves. I always imagined such mother-daughte...
I’ve always been envious of the girls who could tell their mothers personal things about themselves. I always imagined such mother-daughter relationships were just like on television: sharing our feelings while having a girls’ day at home, painting our nails and watching reruns of Law & Order together. However, this wasn’t the case for me and the absence of sharing and the lack of emotional connection made me reach out to other mother figures during my adolescence. Here are three things I wish my mother taught me during my adolescence:
I remember the first boy I liked. I was in seventh grade, awkward, nerdy and shy. The boy I liked had a crush on someone else, and I wanted to ask my mother’s advice on the matter. I contemplated the questions I would ask: “What should I do? Should I say something to him?” When I asked her one day after she picked me up from school, she replied, “Why are you even thinking about boys? All they want to do is get in your pants. You shouldn’t like them anyway. Focus on your classes and go to church. Stop being a slut.” After this understandably traumatic experience, I shut down. I wanted my mother’s advice, not the advice of an institution that had hurt me before. I knew I wasn’t wrong for being interested in boys, but I felt as though bringing up the topic would cause me unnecessary stress and sadness. Clearly this wasn’t the mother-daughter relationship like in the movies, but I felt like I was missing out on what other girls my age could tell their mothers.
I wish my mother would have taught me not to get caught up in romance at such a young age. I wish she would have shared with me stories of her first crush, and the reasons why education is more important than having a boy like me.
How to Love Myself
Like too many young girls, I suffered from low self-esteem. The pretty girls got the boys, popularity, and had all the fun and I sulked from afar. I didn’t believe I was beautiful and outside influences didn’t make me feel any better, either. As a preteen, I just wanted to fit in: I wanted the same clothes, shoes, and other fashionable things the cool kids had. I wallowed in self-pity and preteen angst because I didn’t fit the status quo, but failed to realize that wanting it so badly was what was making me unhappy.
I wish my mother taught me the importance of loving and valuing myself before I wanted someone else to like me. I wish she’d told me I was just fine the way I was, and not to change myself for anyone: that my eclectic choice of clothing and enthusiasm about the Animorphs book series was just a part of my personality. I wish she’d taught me that such things were superficial anyway, and that the only thing that mattered was how I felt about myself: that I was not defined by the things I had.
The Joy of Sisterhood
My older sister and I were very close growing up, but outside of that relationship I never had many girls friends my age growing up. I prided myself on how I thought it was so much easier to befriend boys, and I shared these thoughts with my mom when I noticed one day that she also lacked female friendships with other women. I asked her about it, and she responded that she'd had friends back in her youth but that she was too busy and couldn't be bothered with them now. She agreed that having friendships with males was "much easier" and that befriending young women was just the start of drama. I carried this mentality with me through high school, until I learned through interacting with other women just how powerful sisterhood can be.
I wish my mother taught me the importance and power of friendships with women. I wish she'd shared with me that isolating myself from other women was not something to be proud of, and I wish she'd encouraged me to befriend like-minded young women to reinforce the solidarity of young black women.
For many of these issues, I had to learn from friends or by myself. Having an emotionally distant mother taught me about emotional independence, but it otherwise left me feeling alone and unsure of myself. My self-esteem took forever to build without her to help guide me, and the pain of not being able to share my feelings and emotions has left me emotionally scarred. We need to hold free-flowing conversations with our young black girls so that they, too, do not feel isolated as I was.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time: You can follow her personal Twitter account here.