Why my parents will not be attending my graduation

My parents and I have always had a strained relationship.

My mother met my father, who was considerably older than she was, and began to experiment with drugs. He was her way of rebelling against my grandmother after they emigrated from Mexico.

From a mix of confusion, fear and drugs I was born to my mother, 14-year-old Laura. Because of how I came to be and because of his age, my father was then labelled a sex offender and was not allowed to see me or my family.

Once I turned 18, I attempted to contact my father. He was excited that I had reached out, and he wanted nothing more than to have a relationship with his estranged daughter.

But I realized I would never have a relationship with him.

We were much too different – we clashed on everything, especially politics. I also learned of things he did to my mother toward the end of their torrid love affair that I could never possibly forgive.

From then on I distanced myself  and ceased all communication with my father. I thought, “who needs him anyway? I’ve lived this long without a father, and I have my mother to take care of me and love me, right?”

Except, my mother and I also clashed. As difficult as it is to admit, I never truly saw her as my mother, I saw her more as an older sister that pestered me relentlessly. We never saw eye to eye and the older we got, the worse the fights became.

I would often run away to my grandmother’s where I would vent to her about my mother and stay the night to avoid the confrontation.

[/media-credit] Photo courtesy of Karina Bueno.

In the middle of my freshman year of high school, after months of slowly taking my clothes from my mother’s house to my grandma’s, I moved out.

My mother and grandmother fought for months because my grandma encouraged me to move out. I felt guilty for causing such turmoil in my family, but living with my grandma allowed me to grow and finally feel free.

Eventually the fighting stopped, between both my grandma and my mother as well as between my mother and I. It wasn’t the best system and we still didn’t have the best relationship, but it worked. I was able to have real conversations with her like mothers and daughters should be able to have. I felt comfortable enough to hug her and say ‘I love you’ again.

Later, I decided to leave home and attend a four-year college right out of high school.

I was nervous, excited and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Thanks to my amazing and supportive grandmother, I made it through my first couple of weeks without wanting to crawl back home.

The peace didn’t last long. Two months into my first year away from home, I learned of an ugly truth my family kept from me. My mother became a methamphetamine addict and had recently been caught with it by my siblings and grandmother.

During my freshman year of college, I struggled to focus on my education because all I could think about was the fact that the moment I left Sacramento, my family life and dynamic had imploded.

Because of my mother’s drug problem, which she kept from us for months, my brothers and sisters were removed from the home by Child Protective Services. Luckily, they were able to live with my grandmother and did not have to be separated by the foster care system.

It’s been four years since we all found out about my mother’s drug problem. Since then she has had the kids removed, given back, removed again, checked into mental health facilities and has gone in and out of sobriety. My family has crumbled– we are not what we used to be.

[/media-credit] Photo courtesy of Karina Bueno.

People often encourage me to forgive and forget because family is forever. They think family will always stand by you no matter what and will always be there for you. However, what most people don’t understand is that family can be a difficult source of pain for some, like me.

Maybe I am being immature in saying I cannot and will not forgive my mother for all that she has done. I’m told that I should always forgive my mother because she is my mother. But I also don’t thoroughly understand why I should have to forgive someone who has hurt me consistently for years.

There’s also the guilt that I often feel from people who have lost their mothers early or who lost their mothers to disease, cancer, accidents and so forth. Because I know they would give anything to see their mothers again.

[/media-credit] Photo courtesy of Karina Bueno.

But I’ve never seen her as my mother. She wasn’t there for the plays, the band recitals or the award ceremonies. She didn’t teach me how to do my hair or what makeup I should wear for my age. She wasn’t really there for the boyfriends and the breakups. She wasn’t there for me to cry on her shoulder whenever I lost a friend or when boys picked on me at school.

My parents will not be attending my college graduation. And that may be the case for many of us graduating in just a matter of days.

I understand the feeling of guilt and obligation to invite toxic family members, but know that you shouldn’t have to feel that way. It is your day. It is your time. Understand that although you may have had an amazing support system, you did this all by yourself. You got yourself through school. You worked hard to get to this day. You can choose who gets to witness that.

The friends and family I have knitted together who have supported and loved me through my deepest and darkest times will be witnessing my graduation.

The person I am truly thankful for, the one who has pushed me all these years, is my grandmother.

She is the light in this time of darkness and the true and only mother I needed. My parents will not be attending my graduation but the people who matter will be.

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  • Please know that you do not have to forgive parental mistreatment and neglect. I have found it best to say “thank you for the lessons learned”. Leave it at that and keep moving forward. Congratulations on your strength and vision.