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I used to be a toxic mom

Breaking the cycle of brokenness

By Rivoningo Cecilia Maluleke
“Bafanas, it’s not normal for a mother and her son to hate each other like this. I know I have not been a good mom to you. I had just survived a mjolo 1st wave pandemic that left me broken and turned me into a motivational speaker when I got you . I raised you under a lot of anger, bitterness and frustration but you still turned out to be the best son I’m proud of. Some kids your age are giving their parents hard times but I’m only getting praises for the kind you are growing up to be. I absolutely have no reason to feel this way about you my boy. We obviously have a serious problem so, can we talk about this, please?… “
That was my opening statement in a conversation with my 15 years old son who was about 14 at the time. I allowed him to express his thoughts and feelings about me without being defensive this time, although his expressions implied that I was a badly failing mother. I knew he resented me and the feeling was mutual so I was very defensive around him. Every genuine concern about me felt like an attack so I couldn’t be approachable.
I knew him as an aspiring young businessman.
He came up with a lot of business ideas and strategies that were too impressive for his age. What I didn’t know was that the ultimate goal was to raise enough money so he could buy himself a house, go and live far away from me.
Oh wow, am I that toxic bafanas? So I asked. “Yes mom, Very! ” He responded firmly but calmly.
I know bafanas and I’m really sorry. “
So I responded with shame and almost the same level of calmness.
I remember one time I pulled out a knife and went ghetto on him. You would swear I was a colored mom in a fight.  He had missed the school transport the previous day so he probably missed the news about the taxis being on strike that day. He came back just when I was preparing to go to a meeting.
“YOU AGAIN? Your school bunking habits are beginning to annoy me.” So I shouted. He completely ignored me, continued with whatever he was doing in the sink and didn’t even look at me. I’M TALKING TO YOU, ARE YOU DEAF?” So I screamed.
His silence got into me. I expected answers even though I was just shouting and throwing in accusations instead of asking questions like a normal person would. To avoid arguments, he decided to keep quiet and I still took an offense. I was holding a kettle so I hit his back with it. He turned and positioned himself bazalwane. I don’t know whether it was a position for a fight or defense but my blood pressure just skyrocketed. As you can see, the guy is big. If we fought I was most likely going to be moered sterek and I just couldn’t let it get to that.
“Yerr, what a nerve! What the hell are you trying to do?”
I quickly pulled out the knife, positioned myself to make sure he never even thought of fighting me again. He ran away and didn’t come home that day and night. In the state I was in, I didn’t even care where my 13-
year old kid slept.The worst part is I didn’t even see any hope of fixing it.
There was a certain spirit that came like a heavy blanket placed upon me. I could actually feel like there was something entering my body and my whole mood would just change. Every small mistake that any child could make was exaggerated when done by my boy. I remember saying to him: Kahle Kahle wena you have been sent from the pit of hell to frustrate me and you are doing a great job”. I had said the most horrible thing a mother can ever say to her child.
To cut a long story short, my niece paid us a visit one long weekend. She was on leave and planning to spend a week with us but on a second day she packed her bags. “I’d rather go back to my empty place than being here with you guys. Your resentment towards each other is getting out of hand. What is it that you are fighting for? Why don’t you sit down and fix it”? So she asked.
“You don’t understand. This boy hates me. In my own house? Where must I live? He must just futsek!” So I replied in a very defensive tone. She convinced me to talk to him and I was like “what difference is it gonna make? I’m done talking. I’m sending him away. I can’t live with him anymore.”
“So where are you taking him? ” she asked.
I had no idea where I would be taking him. I always said I wanted to be actively involved in the upbringing of my children but I was obviously not coping.
“You are always helping people aunty. You speak to people on their way to committing suicide and they burn their ropes and be filled with hope to live again. Do you remember the time you helped reconcile a nyaope boy who was living on the streets, with his parents? I was here when his parents came to thank you and reported that the boy has just been accepted back at school and was doing his best to stay clean from drugs. I was also here when that old woman traveled from Limpopo to meet you after she saw a remarkable change in her son’s life under your mentorship. I can spend the whole day counting the things I have personally seen you do for other people. It’s such a shame that you can’t fix the relationship with your son. If you don’t feel like talking, at least pray about it”, she concluded.
Have you ever been drained by the situation to a point you don’t even feel like praying about it? I was too tired to even try. I had no energy to do it and I was not even hoping for anything different. I was helping people restore broken relationships but I was hopelessly struggling with my own son.
Why am I sharing this? I saw a thread about toxic mothers a few weeks back and I was like, this was me before I got delivered. I realized that a lot of parents are still struggling. Some kids are not even talking to their parents as I write this. Most children are being raised by broken absent fathers with available bitter and toxic mothers. I could have decided to keep this to myself and let you continue to think I have a perfect life but I’m choosing to share our restoration process with you, with the hope that you will be able to reflect and take a step to fix your relationships as well.
Let us be the generation that confronts those uncomfortable issues we always try to ignore and break the cycle of brokenness for the next generation. I’ll be giving an hour of my time every day from today, to talk to parents and/or children who are struggling to relate. Inbox me so that we can exchange contacts and arrange the most convenient time to speak over the phone.
If I don’t manage to speak to you don’t worry, my son and I will also be hosting a picnic soon. We will have group talks, one – on- one counseling sessions and a lot of fun games and group dances, so you can invite that parent or child you have not spoken to in years. We are trusting God for healing, reconciliation and restoration. Shalom!****
Rivoningo Cecilia Maluleke is a lawyer, author, gospel artist, preacher and relationship counselor. 
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