By Dr Beverly Rodgers

How to Be a Healthy Parent When Yours Weren't

Its Mother’s Day… again. I thought to myself as I stood staring at the large colorful display of cards at the Hallmark store. I was twenty-three years old, newly married and lived thousands of miles away from my mother who had not spoken to me in two years. It seemed she never forgave me for going away to college and “abandoning” her. In fact her mental illness caused her to be bitter and resentful for many things: my father’s exit from our family when I was five years old, my brother’s battle with drugs and alcohol and the final blow was my sister and I leaving for college which she took as a personal betrayal.

People often asked me way I moved so far away from the hills of Tennessee to sunny southern California to go to college. I told them it was because I got a full scholarship, which was partially true. But I was also trying to get as far away from my painful childhood as I could. It took me years to realize that geographic cures never work.

My mother had difficulty controlling her anger and I was often the target of her rage. I remember getting switched until my legs were bleeding because I did not polish her shoe to her liking. But this did not hurt nearly as bad as the spewing if verbal insults as she ranted. “You are stupid, and good for nothing. I should have aborted you when I had the chance,” she would yell and she stomped through our disheveled house, all two hundred and fifty pounds of her.

 So you can see why it was so difficult for me to select a Mother’s day card for this “wire mother” of mine. Standing in the brightly lit Hallmark store, I read cards that gushed about such maternal qualities as undying devotion, sacrificial caring, giving with abandon, and warmth and nurturance. I saw several eager children grab cards like these with a confidence and excitement that they would bring joy to their supportive, worthy moms. How I envied them.

As I read the cards I chocked back tears of the mom that never was and probably would never be and hoped that the Hallmark lady did not see me crying. I sucked back my tears and finally settled on a benign card that sported something like –“For mother because it is your day, have a good one,” and sadly left the store. As I drove home some familiar feeling began to haunt me again.

How could I ever be a healthy mother with such an unhealthy role model? This was a question I had asked myself ever since I became a Christian as a teenager. I never wanted marriage and a family until I accepted Christ. In fact, I did not even believe in them, but accepting Christ and being around Christian families in my sweet country church managed to change my mind. I just could not figure out how to do it.

My struggles were brought even more to the forefront of my mind because several of my married friends from college were getting pregnant and announcing impending motherhood with great anticipation and excitement. I could not help but feel that I could not share their optimism if I were in their shoes. Tom, my young groom, was also crestfallen when he would talk of having a family and I would become paralyzed with fear.

During that time in my life the Lord graciously led me to the book of Isaiah where I stumble onto an interesting passage, Isaiah 49:15, which says “Can a mother forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb.” My honest answer would be either, ”Yes” or “It depends on what mood she is in!” Some of you who have survived difficult childhoods may know exactly what I am talking about.

 But in time the Lord began to teach me the comfort in Isaiah’s word which say, “Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you (ss. 16). At that time in my life, I began to do what I ask my clients to do and that is to— Ask the Lord to Parent You.

Ask the Lord to Parent You

I asked the Lord to be the father and paternal role model that I never had. As I did this, He provided masculine energy in my soul that guided me, protected me, and made me feel safe and affirmed. That’s what daddies do. They “contend with those who contend with you” (Isaiah 52:25). They watch your back!

I also asked the Holy Spirit to mother me and be the maternal role model that I do desperately needed to be a mother. This paraclete embodies God’s feminine energy as it nurtures me, walks beside me, and takes care of me like a mother would.

In those early years of marriage, the Lord parented me. It was His unconditional love that healed my childhood soul wound and gave me the courage to have children of my own. Yes, there were many things that eased my fear; therapy, finding good role models, reading great books from icons like James Dobson and Kevin Lehman, and hearing inspiring sermons from great parents. But the soul healing love of the Lord Jesus Christ was the most potent motivator of all.

Now thirty-two years I have two grown daughter who call me mother. On the desk in my counseling office is a nicely framed Mother’s Day card I received when my oldest was age twenty and my youngest was eighteen. They bought it togerher and presented it to me when they were just got home from college that year. Here is what the card said.

“Dear Mom,

I’m so proud to be your daughter. I don’t know if you realize how much admire you, but I do. You’ve been such a wonderful role model for me,

not just in the way you raised me, but in the way you live every facet of your own life…I’ve learned so much from you –what it means to be truly giving an caring, how important it is to be fair, and understanding of others, how to believe in myself, and be the best that I can be. Your example has shaped the way I thing and feel and believe more that you will ever know and I just wanted to say thank you with all my heart.

With Love on Mothers day and Always, singed Amanda and Nicole.

The PS was in their own handwriting and thank you for teaching us to love Jesus because He love us so much!

            Tears ran down my face when I first received this card and the many times I have reread it over the last few years. Often when I see it, I cannot help but think of those days I spent in the Hallmark stores trying to find a card to suit my difficult situation wondering what kind of mother I would be with such a unhealthy example to follow. But the Lord reminds me that it was He who saved me and healed me and it is His love, compassion, and strength that has enabled me to mother two beautiful women who don’t have to cry in card stores on Mother’s Day and have no fear of being mom’s and bringing Grandma more children to love.

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