On My Own

5 May 2019

Her Banana Republic sweater sets, her penny loafers, long, blond hair, flawless body, her picture-perfect townhouse. Many people strive to be perfect, but she actually accomplished it. Hosting dinner parties, chaperoning field trips – she was an urban soccer mom, the perfect wife. She had everybody fooled.

My parents separated when I was 10. My older sister was 12, and my brother was eight. My mother moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of Central Park. The custody arrangement for us was to alternate homes every week. Shortly after she moved out, she started binge drinking.

What followed was seven years of drunkenness, rehab, disappointment, and embarrassment. For the first couple of years, though frightened, I stayed faithfully by her side. I cheered her on through multiple failed attempts at rehab and sobriety, and spent nights with her, even when she was getting drunk.

Eventually, my loyalty dwindled. I began to consider my father’s house my permanent home. My dad has always done the best he could to protect and raise us. The divorce had thrown him into single parenthood very suddenly. When I was younger, I would sometimes get overlooked, often true for the middle child. As a result, I became independent at an early age.

Occasionally I stayed at my mother’s if she was sober, which ­wasn’t often. At 13, I stopped caring. She was so desperate for attention that she stopped giving her children any. I started to see her as pathetic. With some exceptions, her drunkenness ­didn’t scare me anymore. The only reason I tolerated her was because I never really had a choice. I was still a kid, and she was still my mother.

Weeks away from my fifteenth birthday, I decided to cut my mother out of my life. No more phone calls, no more visits, no more wasting my time. Although my siblings continued their relationships with her, I didn’t want to. For too long my family’s world had revolved around my mother’s drinking problem, and I was tired of pretending to care.

My decision to separate myself from my mother was not easy. The bond between a mom and daughter is invaluable, and that connection was something I yearned for during those rough years. But when I needed her, she needed a drink. Over and over she had proved she would never be the mom I desperately wanted her to be.

Ending our relationship meant more than just giving her the cold shoulder. Giving up on her meant abandoning my hope of ever having
a normal, loving mother-daughter ­relationship.

Having to accept these harsh truths has led me to a greater self-awareness, and has made me stronger. This is not a story of failure. Everything that has happened in my life has contributed to the person I have become, and who I will be. I had to grow up when I was only 10. Thus, my level of maturity has far surpassed that of my peers. Without a mother to care for me and on whom I could depend, I learned to be self-sufficient.

Separating from my mother was the ultimate act of independence, which is a trait I will certainly put to use when I leave home in the fall. Even when I was young, I was able to separate what I wanted from what my family wanted.

Now, I am independent in thought and action. College is a place where kids grow up, where they learn to be responsible, independent, and self-sufficient. These are skills I have been developing for years, and I am more than ready for this next step.

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