The harm in being raised by a wallflower


My mother has always wanted for me to be normal, to blend into this world as if there is no me besides the whole of people in this world. I have known that she has been afraid of getting attention her whole life, almost as if she is afraid of being noticed or heard. She adapts herself to be as the people around her, waring the same clothes and copying these people’s believes as if they are her own. I guess she is the most colorless and invisible wallflower I know. Raising me for her, was removing my colors, because I colored her. As long as I was seen she was unable the hide in the invisibility that comforted her. Everything that made other people notice me, made them look at her as well, and yesterday I noticed the severeness of her fear to be seen, I saw her in a shocking state of vulnerability in a way I have not experienced before.

We were having the perfect lunch on the perfectly set dining table in the perfectly decorated house of my parents, and perfect here means: the same as their neighbors. We talked about the things we were supposed to talk about, the whole conversation is scripted by the headlines of my parents’ newspaper, the high number of new Corona cases, the full hospitals, the stupid kids and their illegal parties… We are just the perfect family my mother always wanted to be a part of.

Then my boyfriend notices peanut butter on my mother’s face and tells her about it. We look at her, my father laughs and I see the panic in her eyes. She looks down, her cheeks turn red, she disconnects from us almost as if she had left the table. I can see that she is extremely ashamed of herself, trying to disappear, sinking deep into her chair.

I help her. I start telling my father how my boyfriend finds food on my face after almost every meal I eat. I divert the attention towards my side of the table, making fun of myself, making jokes about my own clumsiness and inability to eat like an adult. In the meantime I see my mother cleaning her face and getting herself together, she did not take even one more bite of her food and we continued with our next big headline, everything returned to perfect.

The whole thing didn’t take more then a minute or so, for me however, it was big enough to create a chaos of thoughts I’m unable to slow down for the past 24 hours. I was so shocked by the amount of shame I saw in my mother, it was something so small and normal, she was amongst people she is so familiar with but her reaction was as if she found herself in front of a huge audience in her underwear. This is when I suddenly realized that if something so small makes her feel this embarrassed, going outside with me as a kid must have been an absolute nightmare to her.

I used to talk to my imaginary friends around other people. I used to put a napkin over my head before every meal I ate. I used to walk around in my parent’s or grandparent’s shoes, wearing my great-grandma’s giant golden clip-on earrings and pearl necklace. I used to play with things that were never supposed to be a game, I used to show my imaginary world to everyone who showed interest and I could never stop asking why to things that don’t have one.

How ashamed must my mother have been off me! She was afraid to be noticed while I did everything my own way making me noticed. Not that I was asking for attention with my behavior, the opposite instead, I was so in my own world, enjoying my own almost magical fascination for the most simple things around me that I often did not even notice if someone was looking at me. But with the joyful way I looked at this world I was being noticed, my laugh could make stranger happy, I could make everyone laugh, everyone except my mother.

I remember how I was throwing buckets of water over my head on a crowded beach to let the sensation of the cold water dripping down my body overwhelm me with the most true giggles. Other people on the beach were observing the simplicity and trueness of the joy I felt and thankfully laughed at me. I spread some happiness on this beach with my smile and some of the other kids joined me with their own buckets. Everyone was laughing, parents joined the game, letting their children throw a bucket on their head or filling a bucket with sand and empty this on their child’s head. It was fun and I enjoyed the happiness that I started but was now all around me, I joined an other family and together with their three kids I was turning their father into a mud man, until I felt my mother’s hand. Come with me and sit down. Behave yourself. Act like a normal kid.

I love the little girl that was me in this memory, a girl full of positivity and brightness, a girl so true to and happy with herself. In my opinion, this girl is the most amazing little creature and I would feel blessed if I would ever have a daughter like her. For my mother however, these incredible parts of me were a nightmare, the things I loved most about myself were the things she was most scared of because if I would be more than just ordinary, she would no longer remain the normal she worked so hard for to become.

Maybe this memory hurts more than the ones in which my mother rejects my tears. It is one thing that she was never able to validate my pain but her even being unable to support the happiness that made me beautiful is a whole other level of rejection. She was afraid of something that was so special just because it wasn’t normal. It didn’t matter to my mother if I was better or worse, it didn’t matter if I was crying or laughing, I didn’t matter at all. My mother wasn’t able to see my positivity because other people did, and that itself was bad enough for her to see me as something negative.

I confronted my mother with her own insecurities by just being my own happy self, and unfortunately it was easier for her to change me than it was to face her own fears. She choose to blame her shame on me instead of admitting that she herself was causing her own embarrassment. She not only projected her own insecurities on me, she also blamed me for even having them in the first place but that shows just how wrong it was for her to have children. I mean, before, she was only ok because she was able to remain invisible, hidden behind her shield of normality she was as non-existing as I was, she was the ghost she turned me into, she was driven by fear, cooping with her own trauma and pain. And then she had me and suddenly she was no longer in control of her normality, and she wouldn’t have been, even if she had a completely different child. Kids cry, kids say weird stuff, kids play, laugh, shout, touch and ask, no child would have shared her insecurities, every other kid would have embarrassed her too because she wasn’t ready to have a child, far from.

My mother was weak and vulnerable behind her shield probably in the same way as I am now scared of the sensitive and emotional girl that is hidden somewhere inside me. I guess the humiliation she felt whenever I made someone notice her was as painful as my memories of her are for me, but where I try to heal from my pain and move on, she choose to keep running from it, she choose to maintain her fear and do whatever it takes to take back control, and doing whatever it takes was unfortunately getting rid of my personality, because being confronted with a child that showed her that life as yourself can be great was too hard and hurting me was easier than feeling her own pain.

I keep wondering what she taught when she looked at me back then. Was she jealous? Was there a moment that she at least noticed how positive I was? Did she try to change herself? Did she at least doubt? According to what I saw yesterday I will never know, it seems that even after all these years she is still not willing to drop her shields, she still tightly holds on to the ghost she wants to pretend do be. It’s sad, she is sad, I really feel for her. I can not imagine myself going on how I used to for thirty years more, but she did this and she must feel so lonely, empty and filled with regrets, at least I know I would, I even do with only half her time. I just hope she sometimes wonders what life could have been for the both of us if she would have had the strength to face her fears, I hope that deep down she knows that I have always been right and I hope that she at least feels ashamed of herself for not accepting the amazing girl I used to be.

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