My Mother’s Keeper: When I Couldn’t Defend My Mother from…My Mother

Dear Kids,

If someone insulted me, you’d be pretty upset, right? If someone called me stupid or fat or worthless, you’d probably punch them right in the face…or at least really, really want to (the height restrictions of young children being what they are).

But what if I said that stuff? What if I insulted myself? Would it make you less upset if the person offending your mother was your mother?

No. You’d still be upset. You just wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

When I was your age my mother said some not nice things about herself on a fairly regular basis. She didn’t like her body. She didn’t think she was smart. She didn’t like herself very much. And she certainly wasn’t very kind to herself.

It made me mad. And confused.

I loved my mother. The sun rose and set with her. She was my world. That the insults to my mother came from my mother made very little difference. I still felt angry whenever she said that she wasn’t good enough in some way.

I was angry that she would treat herself that way. I was angry that she couldn’t or wouldn’t see the many ways that she was perfect just the way she was.  I was angry with her. But I couldn’t defend her from herself.

She was (and is) the most beautiful person I knew – inside and out. And if she didn’t think she was good enough, was it possible that I wasn’t good enough either? I had to decide if she was right – that she should feel bad about herself. Or, if she was wrong and just didn’t know it yet.

I decided that she was wrong. Instead of the million little perceived flaws she had, there was really only one: that she didn’t like herself. It hurt that she didn’t like herself. After all, I liked her a great deal.

Every time she would get down on herself, I’d whisper under my breath or scream in my head, “You’re wrong!!”

It took a long time – many years and many good, persistent friends – to change my mother’s mind about herself. But, when enough people say enough times that you are good enough, you start to think that maybe they are right – and you are wrong.

My mother is a beautiful person – inside and out. And these days you won’t hear anyone tell her any different…even her.

Moms, please be conscious of how you treat yourself. Little ears are listening. And it does matter to them how you treat their mother.

original artwork by Meg C. DeBoe at

original artwork by Meg C. DeBoe at

Categories: Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “My Mother’s Keeper: When I Couldn’t Defend My Mother from…My Mother

  1. LOVE this. So true!

  2. This is absolutely beautiful! I loved it.

  3. Kids’ eyes can change how we see ourselves. We forget that kids don’t ask for perfection; especially in the pre-tween years, they see you as the best of what’s right in the world. Whether you’re short or tall, no matter your weight, independent of your paycheck or social standing, nothing is more regal to a young child than mom and dad.

  4. Goodness it breaks my heart that your mom not only felt that way, but spoke of herself that way in front of you. I’m so glad she feels better about herself now. I try really hard to use positive words about myself in Evelyn’s presence. i’ll admit: I have days where I beat the #@!&* out of myself. But I try to keep in inward because I grew up hearing my mom say negative things about herself, and it really hurt/baffled me as a kid. I never could understand why she didn’t see what I saw!

  5. This very thing has been on my mind so much lately. We all need to be kinder to ourselves!

  6. So very, very true. I don’t want my children to learn how to be negative or overly hard on themselves from me. Especially my daughter. Great post. So glad that you shared it!

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