The relationship between a mother and her children should be the best that any person can ever expect to have. In spite of this, during my whole life my relationship with my mother has not even been good, and it started to deteriorate to a greater extent during my teenage years, when I was between fifteen and sixteen.

Ever since my parents were married, they have never gotten enough sleep because they have had to constantly attend to my two older sisters, who are both mentally retarded. Due to the fact that I was born with no physical or mental handicaps, they saddled me with a great deal of responsibility at a very early age, expecting me to be more mature and to be able to give more than any child at that age possibly could.

Right when I had my first boyfriend as a teenager, my mother became very fond of him. When I ended the relationship because I felt it was best for my emotional stability, she blamed me for everything and wouldn’t believe all that I told her about how my boyfriend had become very violent with me and had hurt me. In addition, thoughtlessly, as she was prone to do, she said hurtful things, such as that she was disappointed to have me as her daughter, and even that I was a lesbian for trusting my friend more than I trusted her. As a result, I started using drugs that led to my having to be hospitalized and needing psychological help.

Now I am married, and my husband is a gift from God. However, I can tell that my mother doesn’t love him the way she loved my last boyfriend, and she has threatened him many times and said very hurtful things to him. My husband and I have discussed it, and we believe that the best solution is for us to put some distance between us and my family. Several days have passed since we have spoken to her, and it has been peaceful keeping to ourselves, but now I can’t do it any more. My mother does not want to change…

Dear Friend,

We completely agree with you that the relationship between mother and child should be one that gives the child a positive example for forming all future relationships. Psychologists tell us that bonding with mothers in the early months of life is critical to a child’s development, and that the relationship with one’s mother is the most important throughout the pre-school years and beyond. Just as the womb is a protected sanctuary for the developing new life, the mother’s arms should be the protected place of transition for a newly-born infant and toddler. God designed it this way, and His will is that all children have this introduction to the world.

So why don’t all children get to experience this ideal? Is it because God loves some more than others? Is it because some children have more value or potential than others? Or can it be that some deserve more than others? A thousand times no!

God designed and created a perfect world. He made the first couple, and they became the first family. God could have made them like robots, each one with exactly the same strong loving arms, tender hearts, and wise heads. He could have chosen to give them no options about what they would do, who they would be, or how they would live their lives, so they would always be good, loving, tender, and wise, and would always be perfect parents. God did not want His children to love Him because they had to.

Did you hear about the Austrian father, Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter as a prisoner in a dungeon below their house for decades? She didn’t get to choose what to do, where to go, or how to live. She could only do everything exactly the way her father wanted. She had no options at all.

We would all agree that a father who tries to control an adult child’s life is not a loving parent, even when there is no dungeon involved. A loving parent gives a child guidelines for how to make good choices and then lets the child decide for himself. A loving parent is proud when the grown-up child chooses right and rejects wrong.

That is what God did. He gave Adam and Eve guidelines, and then set them free to make their own choices. Almost immediately, they chose badly. They used their free choice to disregard the guidelines and exercise their own will. Was this God’s fault? Did he plan it this way? Is He responsible since He let them choose? No, they were responsible for their own wrong choices.

This is the way it is today. God has given every human being the right to choose good or bad. And when they become parents, they still get to choose every day that they live. Some choose to follow God’s guidelines and God’s example of loving and wise parenting. Others choose to live selfish and sometimes evil lives that severely damage the development of their children. Some help build their children’s self esteem through loving and genuine praise, while others choose to say cruel and hurtful things that their children, when they reach adulthood, will never be able to forget. Some use wisdom in deciding how much responsibility their children should have; others put their own interests above their children’s and take unfair advantage of them.

Charles and I have very different backgrounds. His parents served God and followed Biblical guidelines throughout their entire lives, so he grew up in a loving and caring family environment. My parents, on the other hand, were alcoholics who chose to disregard Biblical guidelines about almost everything in life. As a result, I grew up in an environment with no stability or security and frequent violence. My mother couldn’t get over her own background, and this set her up for a cycle of doing much the same to her own children. One time, in a drunken stupor, she came at me with a knife, which fortunately I was able to wrestle away from her. Needless to say, I never had the kind of mother/child relationship that you also long for.

From a very young age, I determined that these difficulties would serve to make me strong and that my goal in life would be to break the cycle. I would never bring this kind of miserable life to my children. I decided that alcohol was my enemy and that I would never touch it. I also was blessed enough to ask Jesus Christ into my life as a young teenager, and He gave me the strength that I needed to make it through and to build a better life for our five children. His guidelines that I find in the Bible have served to make my life a wonderful journey. Of course, there have been problems, but as the apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

The past is over! It was horrible, but it doesn’t have to ruin your present or your future. You are strong and you have made it this far. You can not only overcome the difficulties of the past; you can also make a better life for your children. You can stop the cycle of poor parenting. You can be the first to follow God’s example. I would encourage you to read the Bible and find the guidelines you need to help you start a better life. Find other healthy families to spend time with.

As for your relationship with your parents now, I would encourage you to lovingly set boundaries for what contact you will have with them. It is wonderful that you and your husband agree together on a plan of action for right now. You may find that the plan needs to be altered at some time in the future. Always keep in mind that your most important priority has to be the physical and emotional health of yourself, your husband, and your children.

May God give you the wisdom and strength you need!