- Posted September 21, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
My Mother is Different: Being Raised by a Parent with Cognitive Disabilities
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
We all have a mother. You don’t choose your mother, but you can always learn to be the mother you would like to be with your own child. For years, I resented the fact that I had a mother who was inadequate to take care of children and raise them. Now, I no longer dwell on what I missed out in the mother-daughter relationship; but rather accept it and assure myself that she did the best she could, given her capacity. How I was raised shaped me to figure out the mother that I wanted to be for my own children.
My mother was born with a genetic disorder, Tuberous Sclerosis. For my mother, this disease causes benign tumors in her brain, diminishing her cognitive function. She’s 64 years-old, but has a mental age of a young teenager. It’s not a progressive disease. The cognitive challenges she has now have not changed from when she became my mother.
My mother does not have the capacity to nurture or express love. She lives in her own world. She is self-centered. I don’t say this in a bad way. This is her disease.
My twin sister and I were born in 1977 and I believe I was a twin for a reason. My twin sister and I had each other. We only had each other. When I think about my early childhood, I don’t recall my mother interacting with us. She spent her time on the piano. My sister and I entertained ourselves, interacted only with ourselves. My twin sister and I developed our own language, because we really only had each other.
It was my maternal grandmother who took the initiative and felt my twin and I were not developing normally. Despite my father’s opposition, my grandmother’s intuition proved beneficial.
I don’t remember my parents reading to us regularly, if at all? I do know my father did not read regularly. As I grew older, I learned that he could not write a complete sentence and he had great difficulty reading. Looking back, I would consider him a functional illiterate. (My father hasn’t been in my life for a while and he’s currently serving a prison sentence).
In school, my twin and I needed a nurturing, stimulating environment, full time. We were in special education services from age 3 to Kindergarten before being “mainstreamed” into “normal” classes at 1st grade.
I did not have the normal “mother-daughter” relationship. I hated it! I saw my friends with their mothers. I envied their relationships. I don’t remember my parents holding me, loving me, telling me they love me. My parents were in their own world. I never went shopping with my mother. I never confided about my friend conflicts, or my constant bullying with either of my parent. I had no one to go to. If I said anything to my parents, they completely disregarded my thoughts and said everything is fine.
Everything was not fine. I struggled with depression and suicide from an early age. I wanted to be loved. I wanted my parents to care about me, to listen to me, to hold me and comfort me. They did not provide that. Not because they didn’t want to, they just simply had no capacity to do so.
Growing up, I struggled with depression and suicide. I’ve been in treatment for my suicidal thoughts and severe depression. I’ve learned to accept my past and learn from it. I still have moments of jealousy when I see my friends interact with their mothers. I wanted that growing up. I want that now. I do feel I missed out in a lot.
My mother’s family kept a “hands off” approach. I resent that. My sister and I were neglected and unkempt. They chose not to address their concerns about our wellbeing. It hurts that they allowed us to be neglected. I wonder what my life would be like if I was raised by “normal” parents. It hurts a lot.
Now, I am a mother of two daughters. I tell them many times during the day that I love them. I hold them every night. I listen to all their problems. I read to them. I take them shopping. I know what I missed. I’m doing everything possible to make sure they don’t miss out. I’ve said in the past that mother shouldn’t have children. Now, I realize that because of my upbringing, I know how to be a mother that I always wanted for my own children.