Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Rewind - How Red Shoes Taught me about Love

Thank you once again to the gorgeous Al from Life in a Pink Fibro for giving us the opportunity to dust off our old posts and give them another airing with her ever popular Weekend Rewind post.  This week it is May.  Last May I wrote this post after a major "aha" moment.   
The original post & comments are over at my old, discontinued blog, Living Life as Me.  You can still go there if you want to check out some of the amazing comments.
How Red Shoes Taught me about Love 
(Originally Written 4 May 2010)

I had a mum once. I can’t really remember if she was a good mum or a bad mum. She wasn’t very loving. She only told me once that she loved me. That alone doesn’t make her a bad mum. Not everyone can say “I love you” freely. I am guessing she loved me, at some point, in her own way.
I was adopted.  They also adopted another baby 2 years after me.  We were told we were special because we were “chosen”. They told us they got to walk along a row of newborn babies and were able to choose the one they liked the best. Unlike other mothers, who had to keep the one they got whether they liked them or not. I believed that for a long time. Now I don’t.
I don’t have that mum anymore. She didn’t die. But she’s not my mum. I’m not sure she ever was.
I’m an odd person because I don’t really understand how you love a mother.  I’m a mother myself.  I totally get how a mother loves her child. I don’t get it in reverse.
The man I used to call “dad” is dead. I didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t cry. I felt nothing. I want to say I was glad, but I don’t think I felt that either. He was just a person who died.
He was also a despicable man. He was the type of man who never should have been allowed to adopt a child.  We weren’t special – we were picked for his pleasure.
I was too scared to speak up.  They also had their own daughter after we were adopted. I didn’t want to destroy the only family I knew. I learnt to cope. I would booby trap my bedroom every night so if someone came in things would fall down and wake everyone up. It eventually stopped. The memories didn’t, but the actions did.
When I think back I stopped having any feelings for parents at a very young age – single digits. I never felt safe, protected or loved. I found these things in other families, with friends and with my dog. For a long time I thought it only happened to me.
Sixteen years ago, just before Mother’s Day, my sister admitted she was also a victim of this man we used to call dad. We had never discussed it. She always hated me, thinking he only chose her. I never hated her, but thought he only chose me. He never touched his real daughter.
I was a mum by this stage. I had a 2 year old and a 3 month old baby and constantly worried about protecting them from this man. I never let him hold them and I never left him alone in a room with them. Ever. I did not want these people in my life, even before I found out about my sister. I only kept them there because it was the right thing to do and I didn’t know how to push them away without destroying the life of their real child. No child wants to find out their father is a pedophile.
My sister told our mother on many occasions and she did nothing. She did nothing. I don’t understand that at all.  It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children. My mother failed in that respect.  From that moment she was no longer my mother.
I have purposely told this story in a clinical, unfeeling way, because that is truly how I feel about it now. I’ve dealt with it all and have come out the other end relatively ok.  I haven’t ended up a cold unfeeling person though, nothing could be further from the truth. I am a very warm, loving and giving person. I feel very deeply, have strong relationships with my own children, my partner and my dear friends.
Why am I writing this today? It is coming up to Mother’s Day.  There are two days of the year I don’t enjoy - Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Admittedly Mother’s Day has become a lot better since having my children but Father’s Day – that’s a whole other story, which I’ll save up for September.
To keep this real, you need to know that I have found my birth mother, and I have a relationship with her. It’s also a whole other story which I will write another time.
I didn’t originally intend for this post to be a reveal all. The purpose was to talk about an “aha moment” where something I haven’t understood for most of my life actually crystallized. Without the background though, this post would not have made any sense.
Most people I know love their parents & siblings dearly. Regardless of how they get on with them, at the crux of it all, they love them. I read blog posts about relationships people have with their mums and I just can’t get it. I can’t feel the feelings I’m supposed to.  If I read a story about a sick child or a child passing away, I’m a mess. I can feel those feelings as if it were my own child. Tell me about a parent or a sibling, and as sad/bad as this may seem I feel nothing.
I recently read a post by @CarolDuncan where she talked about her mother’s funeral. For the first time I felt something. I got it. I understood how she felt, how her mum felt. For the first time I understood a relationship between a mother and a daughter.
I finally realized these relationships weren’t a “one size fits all”. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are loving relationships, there are smothering relationships, there are volatile relationships and there can be no relationship – but always at the crux of it is this special love.
I never understood it because I never had it from my mother. I think a mother grows alongside her children – being a mother is part instinct, but also part learning. I also think the love you feel for your mum grows and changes through the different stages. When you are little you love your mummy because she comforts, provides for and protects you. As you grow older you look up to her because she is still so perfect. Then you reach your early teens and your mum is no longer an idol – she has flaws – you possibly don’t like her as much. You blame her for your problems, you find fault in her parenting. You actually realize she is a person who isn’t perfect. That comes as a shock initially and relationships go haywire for a while. As you progress through your teens to your early twenties you watch your mum come to terms with her children growing up and no longer “needing” her as much, you watch your mum go through menopause (which turns her feral at the drop of a hat), you watch your mum and dad drift apart or maybe find each other again and you gain a different respect for her as you realize just what she gave up to be your mum.  With each year, through each phase the love and respect grows stronger and the bond deepens. This happens whether you are best friends or sparring partners. You have both grown together.
I now understand why I don’t feel these feelings. I haven’t “grown” with someone like that. There is nothing wrong with me, I just didn’t have that opportunity. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. I feel free.
I do have the opportunity to be a mum and I am now doing it with my boys. Whilst I am not the most “conventional” mum around, I believe I am a good mum. My boys and I are growing together on this special journey that only we can share. It can’t be recreated. It is what it is and it is our journey.
Did I mention that I finally get it? I am feeling so free about this. I am ok. I know I can’t recreate something that never existed. I know that even though I didn’t have that relationship, I have very loving relationships with many people in my life.
I also have the chance to be friends with the woman who gave me life. It won’t be the relationship I thought I always wanted – but it will still be special.  Even more so now because I understand how it should be.
I hope that when my time is up my boys will wear red shoes to my funeral. You will need to read Carol’s blog post to understand what that means.
Thank you so much Carol Duncan for freeing my mind of something that has haunted me for years.   We've never met, however you and your mum are now part of the tapestry of my life.   Thank you for taking me on the journey of saying goodbye to your mum - it was special.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mums who read my blog. May your journeys be filled with much love, laughs, happy memories and red shoes.



  1. The saddest posts are sometimes the least emotional. I remember this from the first time around.

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.

  2. Annie, so beautifully written, so moving, such an amazing insight into what makes a mother. I'm so sorry, though, that you had to go through this. xx

  3. Phenomenal read. And I can relate to so much, Annie. Thanks for digging this up from your old blog xx

  4. Annie, you are so brave for sharing this. Although your story is incredibly sad, I feel warmed to know you've moved on and have your own family, and you have a special mother connection with your boys. All the best.

  5. Oh, this is so raw, so real and so heart wrenching. I suppose we are reading what is now the end result of probably much pain and sadness. But there is always an ending. Happy or sad. Thank you for sharing your honesty with us. I am privileged to be able to read this. xx

  6. I remember being very moved by this post the first time and it has lost none of its impact!! x

  7. It is a very moving post...a terribly sad post about relationships gone wrong. It just makes me think that relationships need constant working at to make them work properly..there is an expectation that our kids will love us..but if we don't love respectfully there will be no respect, no trust and no love eventually.

  8. I love this post, I remember it the first time. It stayed with me. Just beautiful.


  9. Annie, this is a wonderful post and I love the way you have shown your inner workings out in this way. I love the way you've written about the changing relationships too. I understand the "factual" way in which you've written it because it is the place of acceptance I have come to with the relationship I have with my Dad who was an abusive and destructive person to say the least. This to me is the best of blogging. Xxx

  10. Wow what a powerful post. It's lovely to see that despite the past, you've become a loving mother. xx

  11. Annie you are a natural writer. Thanks for sharing your story. You are a wonderful mother, but I am sorry your childhood was so scary. xo

  12. Annie, unlike some of the other commenters, this is my first time reading this post. You're an incredible writer, and so brave and open to share this story. I don't think it is clinical at all - rather, by telling the story so cleanly it only highlights the impact it had. To come out the other side, and feel ok with it, shows such strength. And you have come out the other side to be so compassionate and caring. What this story shows is that no-one can take credit for that, for the amazing person you are, except you. And you should be very proud.

  13. Hi Annie - i didn't read this post the first time around - i didn't have the pleasure of 'knowing' you then.
    I do now and i am blown away by your honesty, courage and beautiful writing.

  14. My mum failed too. My real mum. xxx

  15. Annie, I've not commented before but wanted to say thank you for sharing this. It didn't feel clinical to me, just honest and I'm so sorry you were denied the love of a mother and father who protected you & made you feel like the most important person in the room. Your boys are really luck to have you as their Mum.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me x

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