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On Mother’s Day: The Would be Superhero who Fears Being an Emotionally Arrested Black Mother

Since I was a little a brown girl, I have always secretly wanted to save the world. Yes, the whole big world. To say the least, I was utterly enthralled with movies like Indian Jones and the last Crusade to the point of obscene dissidence to the 80s generational black-uplift narrative of being a lawyer like Clair Huxtable. Oh no, I wanted to be an archeologist like Indian Jones. Can you see it? Me, chocolate face black girl, dawning the traditional beige musky hat of the archaeologist to uncover some man-made or supernatural plot to destroy the world. I tell you, this desire to save the damaged and brokenness of humanity is something I came into the world with. I see it as part of my soul assignment to help people know who they are and to uncover their soul names. But, somehow all of this—saving the world . . . helping people discover their inner names—got misconfigured by growing up in a violent home.

Daily, watching my father blacken my mother’s eye and then watching my mother cover those eyes and his violence with Fashion Fair concealment and images of her unworthiness, taught me a profound lesson that literally left an indelible mark that to this day I struggle to unlearn. I learned the sacred child-like task of saving my damaged and utterly broken parents from themselves. And, what a savior-like task it was because I had to sacrifice myself (i.e. Self-esteem, Inner calling, Voice, and Safety). In my seven year-old brown girl mind, I was fulfilling my calling. A calling that taught me to deny my pain, my need for rest, my need to take care of myself in order to scurry out into the big world and save very broken and tattered people.

I tell you, I have an insatiable appetite for the tragic, emotionally arrested, and inconsolable people, in particular, black women and girls. If I am honest about the mother figures and girlfriends I have and have had in my life, many of them are or were women who do not “emote” (i.e. emotionally stunted inconsolable women) . . . they are women who do not dream at night, they lack color in their life (i.e. Walls, clothing, etc.), they don’t allow themselves and body parts to breathe (i.e. hair is always pulled back, very prim and proper, etc.), they can say, “I don’t have to talk to you frequently to be in relationship,” . . . they are women who have been cut off from themselves (i.e. Eternal Girls). But, yet, I flock to save them, to show them the power of emoting, to let them know how amazing they are by putting them on a pedestal for me to aspire to be . . . I am addicted to saving their emotional lives. And, as my 70 plus black grandmother would say, “Honey chile, there is cost to all things.” And, the cost of saving those who should not be saved is that for my future daughter, if I am so fortunate to conceive or to adopt, is that she would feel the pressure to save me because my daughter’s story is informed by me. I don’t want to become the type of mother that makes her daughter responsible for her happiness or responsible for her pain.

With earnest, I fear becoming like the victims I seek to save. I fear being an emotionally arrested mother. I know on the Eve of Mother’s Day we should talk about the happiness and joy of being a mother and of mothering, but I think it is also important that we share our fears of mothering. I fear becoming emotionally stifled like my mother and like most of the women I have attracted into my life that are all different versions of my mother. They are women who sought flight, freedom, and tears, but were forced to choose or settled for the unexamined life and for people to save them from themselves. Yep, they love people like me who come into this world with a desire to save humanity, but because of violence cannot differentiate the boundaries of what it means to save the world. And, let me be honest, from these relationships I got many things—a sense of security (fear abandonment), the illusion of being the daughter of a mother who cared, and a place to feed my childhood pathology.

And, so on the Eve of Mother’s Day, my prayer for all mothers, other mothers, mentors, big sisters, etc. is that we spend the day telling hard truths to ourselves about touching our emotional selves so that we do not become emotionally arrested mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day.