The Mom’s Beat: Mother-child bond can survive even the most damaged relationship

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by Laura Stetser by Laura Stetser

I have a confession to make: I cried at a rap song this week. Sounds kind of ridiculous, but it's true.

I was running an errand when Eminem’s new song, “Headlights,” came on for the first time, and it caught me totally off guard. I was expecting another anger-fueled rant with a catchy hook, but instead discovered a completely thoughtful, heart-breaking story.

Never shy to cast a glaring, indignant light on his personal life, Eminem takes an unexpected turn in this new song, and shines a softened and forgiving spotlight toward his estranged single mother.

The rapper has publicly expressed hate toward his mom, even going so far as to say in previous songs that he wished she would burn in hell for not caring properly for him and his younger brother. Their distance has been deepened by years of anger and even a lawsuit.

Now a father himself, her son seems to have gained new perspective. He explains that despite losing his brother to foster care and being kicked out of his home on Christmas Eve one year by his mother, he now sees that she did her best through the turmoil.

“That’s when I realized that you were sick, and I realized it wasn’t fixable or changeable, and to this day we remain estranged and I hate it… Regardless I don't hate you, Ma. You're still beautiful to me, 'cause you're my mom… Now I know it’s not your fault and I’m not making jokes… But now the medication’s taking over and your mental state’s deteriorating slow, and I am way too old to cry. This (stuff) is painful though. But Ma, I forgive you and so does Nathan. For all you did, all you said. You did your best to raise us both.”

In homes everywhere, scenes of neglect and abuse happen each day. Some children raised in homes like these are equipped with the ability gain perspective and even forgiveness before their parents die, but many are not. I admire the ones who share their stories of family strife, because it undoubtedly helps others who cannot give voice to their pain.

I am blessed with a wonderfully close relationship with my mother, but I know that many are not so fortunate. Damaged relationships between friends and their mothers have shown me that sadly, things can get complicated as people try to make their way through this world. Yet despite how hard people try to break them or pretend they do not exist, the bonds of mothers and their children are fused at the core. 

In the book, “The Lives our Mothers Leave Us,” written by Patti Davis, daughter of Nancy Reagan and former President Ronald Reagan, prominent women discuss this powerful mark that mothers leave.

The-Lives-Mothers-Leave-Relationships The-Lives-Mothers-Leave-Relationships  

“Even if our mothers are gone, they are never gone from us. If we search our internal landscapes, we find them – sometimes etched as delicately as a watermark, sometimes as deep as an engraving. Our mothers stand behind us in the mirror, trail our footsteps, tap on our shoulders. If you burrow under the surface of any woman, you’ll find what her mother thought about her,” Davis writes.

One of the women Davis interviewed was author Anna Quindlen, who lost her mother to ovarian cancer when she was just a teenager.

“There’s just a hole in my heart, and nothing to plug it. The truth is that there’s no one, ever, in your life like your mother. And that’s even if she’s a bad mother, punitive, critical. Your mother is the mirror. Whether you elect to gaze at the reflection with equanimity, to tilt the glass or crack it outright, it is the point from which you always begin. It is who you are,” Quindlen said.

Eminem now admits that despite years of antagonism and pain between him and his mother, there is an emotional connection that still exists, even from afar. They, like headlights on a travelling car, are still connected by the internal wiring.

“As we pulled off to go our separate paths, I saw your headlights as I looked back. And I'm mad I didn't get the chance to thank you for being my Mom and my Dad, so please accept this as a tribute,” he raps.

If growing old were to only give us one gift, I would hope it would be this ability of children to realize that mothers are human, flawed as much as they are wonderful and to forgive the mistakes they have made along the road.

Laura Stetser is a full-time reporter and mother of two school-age children. Connect with her via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @TheMomsBeat.

Read more of The Mom’s Beat HERE.



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