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A Toast to Those of Us Who Had Lousy Mothers

Here’s to us. Here’s to creating a life around the hollow left by their inability to mother.

Here’s to loving our own children fiercely and well, despite all odds. Here’s to defying the limits our parents and our childhood tried to set. Here’s to life, to love, to hope!

Brava or bravo to every one of us who survived. Who felt the pain of betrayal and loss. Who picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and started all over again.

Many of us lost entire families, whole communities, affiliations with churches, schools and other organizations.

Here’s to every single one of us who endured their reorganization of history to suit themselves.

My mother still creates stories about me 30 years after I let her go. These are told in an effort to sort out how someone as clearly screwed up as I could possibly have been raised by her.

I’ve shared some of these stories in my book, “The Fifth Sister: From Victim to Victor – Overcoming Child Abuse.”

Some of her Laura stories are intricately woven, others as undefined as messy finger paintings. I don’t get these stories from her, but occasionally from one of my sisters.

Whatever her latest tale, I remain intrigued by her ingenuity. The scenery changes, characters come and go, but the central theme, “Laura is crazy,” is reliably consistent.

I’ve taken to writing them down, rather in awe of the creativity with which they’ve evolved.

Early on, I was incensed by her audacity in fabricating history. Then, I began to understand she had no other recourse in view of her decision to sacrifice her daughters on the altar of my father’s perpetrating incest.

It makes me sad that even as her mind fades, she still creates “what if” scenarios about my protecting myself and my children from her and my father.

Still, no daughter is old enough to lose her mother. No son either. None of us is.

Yet, despite the crater left in the landscape of our new selves, we faced forward, one foot in front of the other, to forge a new life. Congratulations on transcending trauma. Well done.

Here comes Mother’s Day. It rolls around every single year. It’s poignant. Bittersweet. I am visited by memories, as you must be.

I loved being loved by my mother, until she chose my father over the protection of me from him. And that hollowed-out place in my soul exists to this very day.

The beautiful tributes across social media make my heart stutter. They bring me up against my loss each time.

I’m happy for those lucky people. Generously happy. I celebrate their joy, the connections they share. I tuck my forever desire, to be loved as I love, away for another year.

I adore being a mom, a nonna. It is the best work I have done or will ever do.

I am well celebrated by my son and family, my daughter and family and my husband.

I am able to celebrate my daughter and daughter-in-law as mothers. I revel in my children’s ability to parent well. We have special family traditions that warm the heart and satisfy this soul.

I am touched, deeply impressed and take courage every day because of you. You didn’t throw yourself away clinging to what you lost.

You chose to survive, to thrive, to love well and to parent your sons and daughters in ways you wished you had been parented.

So, today, I honor you, all of you, with less than adequate mothers. Cheers!

Laura Landgraf

Laura Landgraf, author of "The Fifth Sister," is a social activist, retreat leader and motivational speaker. Her TEDx Talk is "Razed by Lions: A New Way to Think about Healing after Trauma."