Flash Fiction Challenge: Bad Parents

Wrote this from the view-point of a mother on her death-bed writing a letter to her daughter.  Enjoy!

A heart monitor beeping rhythmically in the background goes unnoticed by me.  The hustle and bustle of nurses outside my room does not reach my ears.  I am too far away in my own world.  Ever so slowly my life seeps out of me, with nothing but a slow and continuous drip of morphine to keep the pain at bay.  My tired heart aches.  I know she will not come.  Busy with three beautiful children and a loving husband, she has barely a moment to spare.  Why would she ever waste one on me?  It is in between these morphine doses and what is left of my lucid memory that I write this to her…


Dear daughter,

My first cogent memory can be traced back to a sticky summer day.  Mother was cleaning hastily, my father hated an untidy house, and in her rush she knocked over a vase that had been sitting flowerless on the side table.  Hurrying to get a dust pan and broom she left her toddler, me, alone.  I remember crawling over to the shiny pieces and grabbing a handful, immediately resulting in an ear-splitting howl as the tiny razors sliced and dug into my tender flesh.  My mother flew back into the living room to find me bloody handed and bawling my eyes out.  My young mind barely processed the flash of annoyance that crossed her worn face.

“Stupid child” She growled at me.  “If you think I’m wasting my time to pluck every single shard out of your hand you’re wrong, not my fault you have no sense.”

Completely disregarding my inability, at barely three years, to rationalize that grabbing a handful of glass was stupid, she swiftly cleaned up the broken glass surrounding me and left the room without a backwards glance.  Eventually I calmed down enough and somehow managed to pull a few of the larger pieces out of my hand.  That day serves as my first clear memory of knowing I was on my own.


I should start by saying that I grew up as an only child.  I also grew up as an only child that wasn’t allowed to have friends.  School was my only solace, my only getaway.  I should also state that I have learned that not all women should have babies.  Some women just don’t have the “mommy gene”.  My mother was one of those women.  I don’t fault her for that.  She never wanted a child in the first place.  That doesn’t mean I don’t hold her accountable for all the things she did however.


I’ll give my parents one thing, they were never intentionally malicious – just simply inconsiderate assholes.


If you asked me what a vacation was I would most likely say “It’s a period of time that parents go away and leave their kids home to fend for themselves”.  I had, in fact, never been on a vacation, nor did I receive any souvenirs.


Affection?  Hmm…I’m not sure I know what that word is, even to this day.  I can honestly say I have never been hugged, kissed or been told “I love you.” by either of my parents.  You could say we weren’t a warm and fuzzy family.


 Feelings weren’t allowed in my household.  Rather, everyone else was allowed to have feelings except me.  There was no crying, no throwing tantrums, no hormonal outbursts and heaven forbid I laughed too loud.  The rule was: leave it at your bedroom door.


My father believed that hard work was character building.  So naturally all house work and yard work was mine to do.  My mother and father should come home after work and not have to worry about anything.  I wasn’t kidding when I told my friends, the few I had, that giving children chores is the only legal form of slavery.


Every summer since I turned 13 I was to get a job.  I started by babysitting, mowing yards, walking people’s dogs and house sitting.  When I turned 15 I was able to work part-time at the local grocery store bagging people’s groceries and bringing in the shopping carts from the street.  I made quite a bit of money.  A shame I never saw any of it.

My parents opened up a bank account for me and made sure they had full control of it.  Every month they would withdraw money as payment towards my room and board, also towards school clothes and school supply.  Whatever money I made they kept, I never got an allowance either.

“It’s expensive to pay for you.  You want something?  Pay for it yourself.”  They would say.  I learned to go without the things I wanted quickly.


As I grew up and started dating and creating friendships I didn’t understand why all the relationships in my life failed.  I soon figured out it was because I wasn’t capable of love.  I didn’t know what love was.  When I had you, you my golden-haired and green-eyed child, I was alone.  No husband.  No family.  No friends.  I looked at you in your infancy and felt nothing.  I was numb.  You were merely a hindrance to me.  I had turned into the one person I once tried so hard not to be like, my mother.


I don’t want you to think that I’m writing this to have a pity party of one.  I’m writing this to you in hopes that you will understand.  Understand what I went through.  Understand why I was so hard on you.  Understand why I wasn’t the loving mother I now wish I could have been.  I did my best and I know my best wasn’t enough, not even close.  I hope you can one day forgive me as I forgave my parents when they died.  I’m sorry I didn’t…no… couldn’t tell you this sooner.  So I’ll leave you with this.  Be better than me, better than I was.  Be better than my mother.  You are capable of love.  I am a bad mother, of that there is no doubt.  But you, you are a great mother.


Posted on June 27, 2014, in Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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