Photo by Zyanna Maynard.

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” -Washington Irving

Mother. For many, that word is synonymous with home, undying love and an unending loyalty. Just hearing it brings a smile, a feeling of comfort, a feeling of belonging and the reassurance that everything will be okay. But while mothers are seen as a given, not everyone is lucky enough to have one.

I had a mother for a total of six years, the first four years of my life as well as the years between twelve and fourteen. Being a child of divorce, the estrangement between a parent and child is not surprising. But sadly, the reason for our distance is not limited to that fact.

While I could go on about the reasoning and actions that led to my decision to no longer maintain contact with her, that is not what this story is about. This story is about the effect being without a mother has on a child.

Growing up, my home lacked the polish of a mother to buff out the rigidity of a house full of boys. The house chores were shared, but a level of mediocrity was always expected. With no motherly figure in place, many things that are traditionally a mother’s job to teach were left to speculation.

“Putting the toilet seat down after” was a joke that was long misunderstood.

Some like to make conclusions about the result of growing up with no mom. My dad likes to think that the reason I’m gay is because I never received love from a woman, so I turn to men for that feeling. Some may see this thought process as homophobic in nature, but it’s really not. I see it as him trying to find the reasoning behind something he doesn’t understand, which for him makes the fact easier to accept.

Being in primary school, my biggest worry was trying to find an excuse for why no one came to “Muffins With Mom,” why my Mother’s Day cards were made out to my dad and why I would get a look of longing when I would see my friend’s mothers give them a kiss on their forehead before sending them into the school gates.

I was worried that my envy and desperation for that type of love would be unbecoming of me.

At the time I was shameful of the fact that I didn’t really have a mom. For some reason I thought it meant I would be judged or seen as less than. I assumed I’d be seen as pathetic or damaged. As a child, I honestly thought that people would think to themselves, “what’s so wrong with this kid that even his mother can’t love him?”

Now, the only hesitation I have with disclosing that information is the inevitable looks from pitiful eyes and the unending proclamations of “I’m sorry.”

Even though I’ve had to deal with having only one parent for most of my life, I never wanted to be seen as that cliché troubled boy with a parent that abandoned them, or as the kid that’s “so brave.” Having one parent is just a fact for me. It is merely one variable in my life that helped shape me into the person I am today.

With people constantly apologizing for the situation, questioning me about it or walking on eggshells around me, all that happens is the prodding of the emotional scar. Old wounds can’t heal properly when they’re constantly being uncovered for examination

I have had to deal with a lot of problems in life stemming from abandonment issues. I’ve been places I shouldn’t have been, doing things I shouldn’t have done, just to get people to like me, because I was desperate for it.

I needed someone to care for me, or at least like me, because I didn’t have any of those feelings for myself. “Why should I?” I always thought, “I’m less than nothing and I don’t deserve to be loved, that’s why she left” was a constant thought played on repeat whenever I started to see myself positively.

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had to get over is being so quick to cut people out and not getting attached. While these are typically separate problems, for me, they compliment each other and go hand in hand.

With someone who is supposed to be your biggest fan coming in then out, then in, then out again – you get guarded. It was a sad lesson of false information to me that everyone leaves, and everyone is only there until I’m no longer convenient for them.

So I developed the idea of ‘why try?’ Why get close to someone if they’re only going to leave me in the dust when I need them. What’s the point? They all leave anyway.

I can’t truthfully say that I’ve fully overcome all of these worries and anguish, but I have made great strides toward a healthy non-withdrawn mindset.

At times, I still have the thoughts in the back of my mind that I need to close off from people to protect myself. But then reality sets into my mind that all people are deserving of love. Just because I was deprived of the necessary amount at one time doesn’t mean I should purposefully start starving myself of it.

The more positive outlook I have now, which pushes down and tramples my anxieties, took years to develop and is, out of the very few things, something I actually pride myself upon to this day. It took me so long to learn that my past circumstances don’t define me nor my future, which I feel is something I can be proud of.

With time, the fact that once debilitated me has become just another aspect of my life. As I’ve gotten older, those issues and worries and most of all the pain have turned into strength. Strength in my character, strength in my identity and strength as a person dealing with the ups and downs of life.  

Just as we all do.

Having to overcome an obstacle like that proved to me that I am a strong enough person to deal with life’s trials and tribulations and that I am worthy of love, which, as some may know, is one of the hardest insecurities that abandonment can produce.

I personally think it’s quite ironic that the thing that taught me to be a man the most was not my father, nor any other male figure who are usually the ones to do so, but the lack of a motherly one.  

While my story is not one of the happiest, it is one with a happy ending: an ending of strength manifesting from inner turmoil.

Rocky Walker (he/him/his)

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