Our mothers are superheroes. They were our teachers long before we were old enough to learn; our doctors whenever we fell ill; and our friends when we needed someone to lend an ear with no judgment. Our mothers put up with us through our rebellious phases and remained patient during the trials we put them through, time and again, during our childhood. They put on a brave face when we gave them attitude, only to retreat to their rooms at night and shed tears of hurt and disappointment — all the while making dua for us to change.
Our mothers know us best. Their intuition, combined with years’ worth of experience of raising us to adulthood, makes them remarkable judges of character. As children, we were baffled (and often a little terrified) whenever Mom seemed to sense that we’d done something wrong, even when she wasn’t there to witness the act. Our mothers have seen a lot and, more often than not, their insight works in their favor. But, while effective, perhaps it’s this exact superpower that occasionally tends to make mothers believe that they can do no wrong. Their “Mom radar” feeds their ego, and so, when they intentionally or unintentionally hurt their daughters – whether it’s through verbal, physical, emotional, or other means – mothers can choose to hide behind their authority.
In her weakest moments, a mother can resort to harsh criticism that can come off as excessively judgmental and, at times, demeaning. She might make a callous remark about her daughter’s weight, or discourage her from pursuing a major because she isn’t smart enough. She might call her daughter ugly in a passing remark meant to be a joke, only to favor her other children openly. A mother might raise her hand against her little girl only because she knows she can, without taking the time to explain her actions. She will do and say these things because she believes she is right in doing so, unaware of the lasting effects this will have on her child.
A lot of times, our mothers don’t understand where we’re coming from, and see our actions and behaviors as a deliberate form of deviating from their rules and beliefs. They might not give us a chance to explain ourselves, and instead immediately assume the worst of us. Yet, despite all this, they still expect us to come to them when we need someone to talk to. They insist that they are our friends and that we can tell them anything, failing to realize that their cruel language and, at times, abusive behavior make them the furthest possible thing from a friend in our eyes.
It’s difficult to forgive those who hurt us, especially when it’s the people who are closest to us and know us best. Your mother is the only person who will ever know you better than you know yourself, so naturally you will take everything she says and does to heart, even if she’s wrong. Especially if she’s wrong. Her words will stay with you for a long time. You’ll think about what you might have done to deserve them, and if you’ll ever be good enough in her eyes.
When our mothers hurt us, the pain — and the lasting trauma — is so much worse. Because they are our heroes, we never expect them to let us down. We expect them to be our saviors when others disappoint us, our shields when the world is too much to handle. Every girl wants to remember her mother as she knew her in childhood, but that’s difficult to do when you’ve been hurt one too many times. There is nothing more jarring than finding out your hero is flawed.
It’s difficult, but we should forgive our mothers. In recognizing that they are heroes, we must also remember that they are human, and therefore not immune from human error. For all the words they should have held back, there are a hundred things they did for us, things they sacrificed for us without our knowledge. While this doesn’t absolve them from their mistakes, it should serve as a reminder and a lesson to us.
We should learn from our mothers’ mistakes and vow never to repeat them. For those of us who are mothers, we should make ourselves a promise that we will do our best to be gentle and kind to our own children. And when we can’t, when we catch ourselves slipping and uttering harsh words, maybe that will be a sign from Allah (SWT). Maybe He wants you to remember your mother and pray for her in that instant, even as you criticize your own daughter. Maybe Allah (SWT) wants you to understand how difficult it is raising a girl.
Forgive your mother. Ask Allah (SWT) to guide her and to forgive her mistakes. And if children are written for you in this life, pray that you do right by them, pray that you don’t have your mother’s faults. Pray for guidance. Pray that your daughter treats you better than you treated your mother, so that your love for her will never be tested.
Seven women wrote letters to their mothers, addressing the issues they had, and may still have, with them. Their words are real, and raw, and heartbreaking. I hope that one day they will have the courage to sit down with their mothers and have a conversation. I hope that one day their mothers are willing to listen.