A Post for Mother’s Day

My mother and me as a toddler wearing a birthday hat

This is a post for Mother’s Day.

But, really, it’s a post about intergenerational healing that has been a process for me, and that has brought me peace, for the first time in 25 years on Mother’s Day.

My mother died 25 years, 3 months and 1 week ago. I was 16 years old and a pretty normal second generation Asian American teenager. I say that now, because it has taken me a long time to realize this, because it took a long time to understand that the identity conflicts that I was experiencing internally, and the identity conflicts that my mother and I were experiencing between us, were actually normal.  Because of who I know my mom was and because of who I know I am, I know they would have been resolved eventually.  It was painful before she died.  It was traumatic after she died. But, as I’ve come to know her more through others, and as I’ve come to accept not only myself, but the complexities of my identities, I stand in the truth that we were alright, and we would have been great, and we are both whole.

My first two children found me 16 years ago.  My oldest twin daughters were students at the middle school where I taught.  Just a few months after I married my husband, they approached me, and asked if we would adopt them from foster care.  They had lost both their parents, parents they loved deeply. They had experienced, as children, the pain of structural racism and systemic inequality. They were ready to rest their feet.  When they asked me to become their mother, I remembered the pain of being their age without a mother.  I tried my best to provide a place for them to rest their feet.  I tried and try my best to be a mother who listens, advocates, loves, and empowers. It is complicated, but my love for them is deep and constant.  I know that it will forever be complicated because all mother-daughter relationships are complicated, even ones entered into with hearts that truly desire to love one another, and because trauma caused by structural racism and anti-Blackness can’t be erased by a happy adoption story.  But, as I’ve come to love and accept my daughters for exactly who they are, and I’ve come to accept myself for exactly the mother I am and can be in any given moment, I have come to stand in the truth that we are all doing the best we can and that, as best we can, we love each other in our own, uniquely human ways.

My oldest daughters were born in November.  My mom’s birthday is also in November, near Thanksgiving.

My son was born 14 years and almost 3 months ago, on a cold February day. I had not planned to have a biological child when I found out I was pregnant with my son, partly because we had barely had time to adjust to life as a married couple before our daughters came to us, and I was concerned that a new baby (and a biological child) would be even more complicated for them than for me.  But frankly, I hadn’t planned for my girls either (or my mom’s sudden death, to be honest). When my son was born, things did become infinitely more complicated in my family, and I began to completely lose myself.  I was so sick when my son was young. I wanted to disappear because I felt so unable to heal myself, support my daughters and parent my son.  It was, without a doubt, the hardest time of my entire life.  But my son was born with the wisdom of his mother and a deep love for her, for me.  His love gave me a reason to live when I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, and for years, I worried that he absorbed the trauma of my physical presence and my spiritual absence. But, as I’ve healed, he has too. He will always have an old soul. He and I will always be connected in ways that are perhaps “beyond our years,” but he is also a super goofy kid who knows he is deeply loved, and who tells me when he thinks I’m wrong (sometimes more loudly than I want to hear).  He is resilient. I am resilient. He is my heart, and the heart of my healing.

My mom died in February. My son was born in February, on the day after Valentine’s Day.

My youngest daughter was born 5 years ago yesterday, on the Friday before Mother’s Day. She is my mini-me, without a doubt.  I have often told people that she is who I would have been if I had been raised by me.  She is powerful and assertive with those she loves, yet reserved and unsure with strangers. She is brilliant and bright, but sometimes lives in the shadow of her differently gifted older brother. She has big emotions and isn’t afraid to show them.  She is strong-willed beyond belief. And that girl loves her mama with her whole heart.  All she wants is for her mom to take a break to play with her.  She does not recognize my trauma. She brings me tissues when I cry and then goes to play. She asks questions that I would have been worried or afraid to ask. She asks questions about the grandma and grandpa that she doesn’t know (my parents) while being wholly loved and adored by the Abuela & Abuelo that she does know.  She is light and life.  I know that, because of who she is, and because of who I am, because we are unafraid of one another, and because we love one another fiercely, that we will have conflicts.  But, I will stand in my love for her, and leave many words for her, so that she knows how deeply she has been loved and will always be loved.

It is Mother’s Day.  My daughter’s birthday was yesterday. Her life will always be tied to future Mother’s Days.

This is a post for Mother’s Day.

It is my gift to myself, the gift of recognition and love. The gift of peace in the process of healing. The gift of acknowledging all the complexities and reverberations of trauma across families and generations, and standing in love today and the possibility of beauty.  It is a gift of redemption and a belief that the ties of my children to my mother are not by accident.  We are gifts to heal our ancestors. They are gifts to strengthen who we become, even through moments of pain and loss.

Happy Mother’s Day, with love.


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