Debbie arrives home, slams her books on the table and sighs, “Sanchez lied to me again.” Sanchez is her boyfriend of one year who is a major cause of friction between Debbie and her mother, Monique. Debbie is 18 – Sanchez is 26. Debbie phones her best friend Linda. “Girl, Sanchez lied yet again.”
“What are you going to do about it, Debbie,” Linda wearily asks. She is too through with the antics of Sanchez, the weak imitation of a man who has her BFF addicted to his wiles.
“I don’t know. I love him, girl.”
“The question is, does he love you? I say, “Not!” I wish you would get a grip and lose the loser, please!”
“Hello! earth to Linda – I love him.”
“Debbie, your lover does not love you.”
“Ok, Linda, I need to believe that he will. The thought of not having him is just too painful.”
“Having him?! He has you in a trick bag. You don’t even like your own mother anymore because of that fool. That ought to tell you something, Debbie.”
Debbie cannot handle the truth so she opts to get off the phone. “Let me call you back,” she says icily.
“Yea, ok,” Linda coolly responds.
Monique comes in the house where Debbie sits on the sofa sulking. “What’s wrong with you?”
“None of your business,” – Debbie storms out of the room and heads upstairs to her room.
Monique glares after her daughter who she no longer knows. Ever since Larry, her husband, and Debbie’s father left two years ago, Debbie has become increasingly rebellious and difficult.
Monique has grieved the absence of her husband as her partner, and his daily involvement in the family dynamic. She has felt pity for herself, and Debbie. With Debbie, her pity has resulted in less discipline which, to her dismay, has led to increased defiance from Debbie. Her mother, Edith, just yesterday told Monique, “You need to deal with Debbie’s bad attitude before it gets worse.”
“But Mama, I feel sorry for her with Larry gone, and Sanchez dissing her on the regular. She needs to know that I love her, especially since Larry left us.”
I understand that you love her - there are seasons, however, when tough love should be the order of the day. If you keep feeling sorry instead of disciplining her, nobody wins in the family drama. Remember how me and your father raised you, Monique – love with a firm hand.”
“O mama,” Monique whines.
“Don’t O mama, me.” I know what I am talking about. Debbie does not come here with that nonsense. She knows that I am not having it. She needs to recognize that you are not having it. You work to shelter, clothe and feed her and she has the gall to verbally abuse you?! “O no!” You need to handle your business with that daughter of yours.”
Monique knows that her mother is right. She broods and remembers what was – before Larry left. “Well,” she sighs, “He’s gone. I need to redefine my life to save me, and Debbie.”
The next morning, in the kitchen, Debbie keeps calling Sanchez who does not answer. She aches to hear his voice, to know what he is doing, to get with him. “Sanchez, what is going on?,” she utters to herself with fear in her voice.
Monique walks in the kitchen, “Good morning, Debbie.” Debbie ignores her mother. “I said, Good morning, Debbie.”
Debbie snaps, “It is not a good morning to me. It could be a good morning, for starters, if you would leave me alone!”
That’s it - Monique, with intensity, walks to mere inches from her daughter’s face and declares, “You are put on notice right now, Debbie that my tolerance with your disrespect ends today. Your attitude has been offensive since your father left. It has gotten worse since you have been with Sanchez. I shrugged it off because I felt sorry for you. No more, Debbie, no more!”
Debbie looks stunned. She recovers herself – shouts at her mother, “I hate you!” and leaves out of the house.
Just then, the phone rings. Monique answers – Larry speaks. He starts slowly, “Monique, I have been thinking. You are the best that ever happened for me. I cannot explain to you why I left because I do not know myself why. What I do know now is that I regret it.”
Monique thinks, “Huh!” Her immediate concern, though, is Debbie. “Let me call you back, Larry.”
Larry gulps and says to himself, “I just exposed my feelings to her, and all she responds is “Let me call you back, Larry?” His ego is wounded. He expected Monique to give him some play. He feels like a fool. “Ok, Monique, you do that.”
Monique is sorrowful about how her relationship with Debbie has disintegrated.
Debbie meets Linda at McDonald’s. She tells Linda that she hates her mother. Linda listens and warns Debbie that she will regret alienating her mother. At that moment, Sanchez walks in. “I have great news ya’ll.”
“What?,” exclaims Debbie.
“I got a job offer doing what I love to do, marketing. I leave for Texas in two weeks. Debbie looks incredulous. “Sanchez, I do not want to relocate to Texas!” Sanchez, after a lengthy pause, responds quietly, “Debbie, I need a fresh start. I’m going to Texas alone.” Linda looks down.
Debbie screams, “What?!” Sanchez looks around, humiliated by Debbie’s outburst. “Just like that, Sanchez?! It is over?! How could you do this to us? Don’t you understand what you mean to me? Don’t you?” she screams.
“I’m sorry, Debbie, it’s not that deep for me. It never was.”
Debbie shouts, “My mother was right about you. I grew to hate her to love you. She warned me. My hatred for my mother was because I could not handle her truth. I became a fool for who I thought was a real man. I abandoned my mother for you, Sanchez.” What do you say about that?!”
“You made that choice, Debbie. I would not dare abandon my mother for anyone. I will always remain close to my mom. You should have listened to yours about me - usually, mothers know.” Sanchez exits.
Tears flow rapidly from Debbie’s eyes. “From now on, you better believe that I will heed what my mother says,” she yells after him. She rejoins Linda, “I need to go home to my mother, Linda.” Linda nods.
When Debbie arrives home, Monique braces herself for round two of this morning’s disagreement. Wait, she thinks, “Debbie has a deeply wounded expression.” She decides to be quiet until Debbie is ready. Debbie, wailing, blurts out, “Mama, I am so sorry for how I have treated you. Please forgive me, I am so sorry.” Monique embraces her child, and cradles her. Debbie is consumed with pain as she sobs uncontrollably. Her mother holds, and comforts her.
Later when she calms down, Debbie shares with her mother what happened with Sanchez. Monique patiently listens. After more conversation, Monique says to Debbie, “I have some news that you may be pleased to know.” “What, mama?” Debbie eagerly inquires. “Your father called today and said that he regrets leaving.” Debbie sits up, “Really?!” “Really, her mother responds.
“What did you say?” “I told him that I would call him back.” Mother and daughter talked more about the possibility of a family reconciliation.
Monique mulled over what Larry had shared. She asked herself, “Do I want to give this marriage another chance?” She weighed the pros and the cons. Debbie is all for it but she told her mother that it was her decision. “Hmmm,” thought Monique.
A few days later (she had to play a little hard to get), she phoned Larry. They agreed to meet for dinner. They discussed a reconciliation understanding that they both had changed since the separation. Monique told Larry that her preference was that they date for some months. At this juncture, she was not inclined for him to move back into the house nor was she interested in the resumption of sexual intimacy with him. Larry was not fond of those conditions. Monique made it clear that those were her terms. Larry had to elect to accept or reject. After a few more dinner dates, he realized that Monique’s terms were non-negotiable. Eventually, he relented. For seven months they dated and got to know each other again. The eighth month Larry returned home. They became a family again. The benefit of the separation and drama is that they all have greater appreciation for one another. They value the love, and embrace it more gratefully.
Does anyone remember the 1961 single by the Shirelles, “Mama Said?” It went, “Mama said there’d be days like this…”