Friday, January 26, 2007

A Daughter's Insight

Late last night, while I was enjoying my cup of tea, waiting for my cold medication to kick in and deliver me some sweet relief from my aching bones, feverish mind and phlegmy cough, the phone rang. I croaked hello into it, hoping to instill great amounts of pity in whomever was calling me at so late an hour. (Oh, that poor sick woman, I had better be extra nice to her, as she is all alone and sick and taking care of three children, one of whom isn't even hers, and that woman really deserves a medal...I admit it, I worked my croak to instill sympathy and I'm not ashamed of it.)

My croaking efforts were wasted as it was my big brother Stretch. The only time he has ever had pity on me was when he saw me at my son's viewing. Any other time is fair game for good natured teasing. Walking like a duck because I was hugely pregnant and suffering with pelvic bones that liked to separate; well it was my own damn fault. Should have kept my knees together in the first place. Having a horseshoe imprinted on my 11 year old face and my nose swell up to the size of a hot air balloon, well duh! Who the heck told you to walk behind a horse? Silly girl. Have a straw painfully stuck into the roof of her mouth because said big brother gently tapped the bottom of her milkshake cup? Should have been quicker and moved that cup.

The joys of having an older brother. After he ribbed me mercilessly about my germy house and told me about the joys of handwashing and antibacterial soap, he offered me this pearl of wisdom: Get rid of your kids. They carry disease like little rats. Thanks, Stretch. I would never have thought of that pearl all by myself.

After his dutiful lecture about sanitation and the joys of a kid-free life, he developed the brass nuts to ask me a favour. A favour that would require me talking to my mother. Wow, insensitivity and guilt all in one phone call. How did I get so lucky?

I don't often blog about my mother. Quite frankly, the subject is too painful and I prefer not to dwell on the embarrassing fact that my mother hates me. After all, most families have drama. What makes mine any different? Some how, it seems like my biggest failure; a daughter who wasn't loveable enough to win over her own mother.

Of course, years of therapy, time and some distance has taught me the flaw in that particular thought. My mother is simply flawed. I have made peace with that fact, but it hasn't always been easy, especially with her living down the road. It isn't easy reading other women's odes to their mothers, whether alive or not, and knowing that I have no such words to offer of my own. Mother's Day is brutal, for there is no card that says "I'm sorry I make you so angry and I'm really sorry we can't get along."

Yes, I love my mom. I wish every damn day that our relationship was different. I have tried so hard and made so many attempts my husband threatens divorce if I try again. Because inevitably, I get hurt. My mother simply can't understand who I am or respect who I became.

After years of growing up with her verbal abuse and believing her that it was all my fault, that I was lazy or stupid or ugly or fat, I realized no amount of change would suit her. And giving birth to my own children, especially my daughter, made me question why I should have to. It didn't matter to me what my daughter looked like, says, does or thinks. I don't care if she wants to be a ballerina or a dump truck driver. To me, she is the most precious gift I have. A mini reflection of myself, an extension of the love I share with her father. So why am I not the same thing to my mother?

My older brother and younger sister do not have these problems to the same extent as I do. My brother distances himself both physically and emotionally from her abusive personality. It is enough to see her on holidays and exchange pleasantries with her when he calls to talk to our father. My sister actually lives with her and has somehow managed to find a way not to bring out the inner dragon on a regular basis.

But there is something about me that makes my mother hurl insults at me whenever she gets the chance. Something about my looks, or my speech pattern or my breathing that makes her remind me, in front of my children, that she doesn't like me. She isn't sure she loves me. She wishes she didn't have me.

Of course, two minutes later she denies uttering those words. And then the "poor pity me" routine begins. It is exhausting and embarrassing. My husband and his family, all too often witnesses to such behaviour, have no words and no explanations. They simply hug me harder and offer a prayer.

My friends, often disbelieving at first, until witnessing awful outrages over nothing, are puzzled and saddened. Most grew up with wonderful parents and can't imagine having this type of relationship with their mother.

My children, whom I have tried to shield as much as possible from this craziness, don't understand how a grandma can be so wonderful to them, but so unjust and cruel to their mother. They are at an age where things are starting to make sense to them and they don't know how to make the pieces to this puzzle fit.

I used to feel sorry about this, pity myself and my lack of a mother. I used to spend hours trying to remember one single childhood memory that involved a hug, a touch or kind words or laughter with her. I honestly can't. I have many with my dad, but not one with my mother.

I know I am not the first in this club, nor will I be the last. But knowing this fact doesn't make it any less isolating. Any less painful. Every argument we've had, every harsh word, I pick apart to examine and see where I went wrong. Was it really my fault that my mother didn't talk to me for two full months from the day I buried my son? Could I have been nicer to her at the funeral? I guess I should have hugged her first instead of waiting until the end of the day. But I just couldn't face that accusing look in her eyes, the one that said I failed as a mother and managed to kill the one good thing I had done.

I haven't given up trying to reach my mother. But now I understand, it isn't me. Something within her is broken and is reflected back to her, every time she sees me. Sometimes she can control that rage and disappointment, other times she can't. But I admit to no longer caring as much. Or hurting as much when she tells me what a loser and a disappointment I am. I fear one day I may stop caring all together. And that saddens me.

Because for all the feelings of shame and sadness I feel when I think of her, I know that I am who I am because of her. I am resilient, persistent and humorous because of her. I am intelligent, sharp and I know what I want, thanks in large part to her and her genetics. I am the mother I am today because of the mother she was yesterday. I wouldn't change that.

But I do grieve that mother-daughter bond, especially when my own beautiful daughter comes up to me to simply hug me and tell me she loves me.

How I wish it were that easy for me.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey T

Regardless of what your mother says,you should be proud of what you accomplished. Your precious little bug when he was born had a lot against him. It was iffy if he would walk, his chances of living past two were less then steller & so much more. But your bug was walking, showing his love, enjoying life & lived to be 4 years 9 months & 17 days old.
Next time your mother says anything just remember that you didn't kill the best thing to ever happen to you, you more than doubled his life expectancy with the love & care that you gave him. Not an easy thing to do & something to be proud of!!
The Newly Mrs. T

10:53 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry meant to sign it "The Newly Mrs F" not "T" but I guess that's okay. I'm on T's side any day!

The Newly Mrs. F

11:16 a.m.  
Blogger Ben & Bennie said...

T., I can only offer what you have already said. You are a brilliant woman despite not having a "real" mother. You are one of those incredibly strong people who break the chain of abuse.

Look forward to the day when your own daughter brags to your granddaughter about what a great mother she has.

11:18 a.m.  
Blogger kimmyk said...

Maybe in some sort of twisted way your mom is jealous of you.

It's sad that you don't have a good relationship with your mom, but as hard as it is, you could have a heart to heart with her and try to hash it all out. Sometimes it just takes a pot of coffee [or a bottle of wine] to get the words flowing.

Just don't let her disrespect you in front of your children. I'd draw the line there I'm afraid.

You're a good mom and wife-don't let her make you feel differently.

11:20 a.m.  
Blogger stefanierj said...

I know you didn't intend for this to be a love-chain praising your own mothering and daughtering skillz, but too bad. You are an amazing, caring, sensitive and hilarious woman. It's sad that a lot of that is probably a result of the fact that you needed to be those things to cope w/your momz, but there you are: a big sweet glass of lemonade made from some of life's sourest lemons.

Shorter version: you ROCK.

11:54 a.m.  
Blogger B.E.C.K. said...

I think it's so hard to learn that some people's actions have nothing to do with us, and that some people never change, no matter what we do (because their actions have nothing to do with us -- see?). Your mother is probably a very unhappy person who has chosen a scapegoat for her own crappy feelings about herself. I'm sorry you're that scapegoat, and I'm glad you've gotten to where you are today. You seem like a very insightful, funny, loving, connected person -- no small accomplishment, considering the circumstances! *hug*

1:29 p.m.  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

While my circumstances with my mother don't sound quite as extreme as yours, there are many sentences in this post I could have written myself. Like you, I dread the flood of mother's day (and father's day for that matter) posts. They bring up everything I didn't have. In fact, after last Mother's Day, I wrote a long unpublished post and sent it to a blogger who had asked the question, "Do some mothers come broken?" My answer would be yes. Some do.

I admire your resilience and ability to stay in the relationship at all. And, while I don't know you in person, it seems as if you have been able to keep from parenting your children like she did you. And that is a difficult thing to do. I struggle with not bringing my own issues down upon my children's heads. And sometimes I do. But I do know I am a better mother to them than mine was to me.

Oh goodness, would you look at this comment. It just keeps going on and on. Obviously you hit a nerve for me. Thanks for sharing with us, T. You are an amazing person!

1:38 p.m.  
Anonymous roxylynn said...

I totally agree with kimmyk. I have told you before that your mom is jealous of you. She's jealous of your successes, your beauty- both inner and outer, your intelligence, and the fact that you married a great guy. I love your dad to pieces and I always will, but your mom doesn't have the relationship with your dad that you have with Boo. It's sad and unfortunate the way she behaves, but you must remember that it is her loss. She is missing out on such a wonderful and precious gift that you are, and we just need to keep praying that one day she'll realize the error of her ways.
The next time your mother tries to belittle you or insult your mothering skills in front of Fric and Frac, just kick her in the teeth and tell her that Roxylynn told you to do it. That might fix her. But then again, maybe not.
Don't worry, I will always love you.

3:54 p.m.  
Blogger jellyhead said...

T, I'm sorry that your mother is this way. Please remember what you said yourself - SHE is broken. The state of your relationship has nothing to do with what YOU may have done/not done in your life, because a good mom will love and honour her kids, no matter what. Like you do with your kids.

You know I think the world of you, T, and Jellyma does too! Hugs from both of us XOXO

4:25 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could copy and paste your post into my own blog and it would apply perfectly. I've always known I'm not the only one with these problems, and I do know now it's a reflection of her and not me. But I agree, it is a very lonely feeling.
Thank you for making me feel a little less lonely.

5:02 p.m.  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Damn. I knew your relationship was messed up, but I had no idea how bad it really was. It can't be easy to go through that and I'm amazed you can still find the positive in your relationship. I would have written her off a long time ago. You are a far better person than she'll ever be, even if she changed her ways and started saving orphans in Africa. Blind orphans. Blind orphaned amputees. And their blind amputee puppies.

6:36 p.m.  
Blogger creative-type dad said...

I think your mother is envious of you somehow.
You know your mother better than me, but that's my guess.

6:46 p.m.  
Blogger Jean said...

Wow, I haven't known anyone with a mom with such issues- I think she must be mentally ill- and I mean that in the nicest way - she is wacked - she probably would never agree to seek help - she needs it- you've done awonderful job with your kids and your self.So sorry.

7:16 p.m.  
Anonymous MaddMomma said...

Good grief...every sentence of your post could have been written by my mom. I'm looking at it from your children's point of view. My grandmother has always been incredibly abusive to my mother from the time I can remember. And I remember the first time it really hit me just how ugly she was...and I also remember the look on my mother's face when I asked her "Why is mee-maw so mean to you?".

I'm afraid I can't offer much by way of encouragement. I'm 30, and my grandmother is still one mean spiteful manipulative witch to my mom. I will say that my mom finally called herself "done" and has cut off all contact just to maintain her sanity. I agree, people like my grandmother and your mom are flawed. You are a wonderful person, and I absolutely LOVE your sense of humor. You and my mom share a love of really cheesy puns, and I get much enjoyment from reading them to my husband (and the resulting sour expression, hehe!). My mom and I have a wonderful relationship, and now that I have given her a couple of grandbabies to bounce on her knee, any thoughts of her sour relationship with her mother are gone.

1:26 a.m.  
Blogger Junebugg said...

I've guessed you noticed that dysfuctional families abound. In my family of 5 daughters, it's one of the sisters. She sounds just like your Mom, jealous of everyone else and no one or nothing matters but her. She has the "poor me" thing down pat and is so misserable that her only joy is trying to make everyone else as unhappy as she is.

Hang in there, you've already been told what a great Mom/person you are so I won't repeat it but know that it's all true and your kids are lucky to have you.

7:54 a.m.  
Anonymous Bennie said...

You are a far better person than she'll ever be, even if she changed her ways and started saving orphans in Africa. Blind orphans. Blind orphaned amputees. And their blind amputee puppies.

Damn, Mrs. Chicky nailed it! And got a laugh to boot!

9:15 a.m.  
Anonymous mamatulip said...

Your mother is missing out on an amazing person. And I agree that she might be jealous of you. And whatever her motives are, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what you don't have. But she is missing out.

I'm curious...are you going to do the favour for your brother?

5:57 p.m.  
Blogger Jenn said...

And the more amazing thing is that you can see it all. You see it, get it, and call it like it is yet you don't let it slow you down or worse, bring you down. I'm sure it does 'bring you down' on some level but the fact that you have your own life, are smart enough to live it regardless of the drama, says so much. I say, do what you can to be the person that you are now and not let her make you the person it would be so easy to become. Basically, keep it up.
As everyone else here, I think you are doing well despite it all. You know, part of the profile on my blog fits here so well, "The journey is the best part and when one story ends, its nothing more than the beginning of the next one and every story begins and ends at home. As it should be."

--J

9:26 p.m.  
Blogger toyfoto said...

My mother is a difficult woman, too. It helps a lot to realize that it isn't your fault and that her problems are of her own making.

I'm glad you have found that out, some folks never do; it doesn't make the pain go away in the least but it does help you move forward.

... Hell, you can now start a greeting card business for people who's loved ones are emotionally flawed. I might even start with a line of puns.

6:34 a.m.  
Blogger J. said...

*sigh*
Mothers and daughters ... such a confusing, messed up relationship.
I miss my Mom tons, because she's gone now ... but I can honestly say that we never really got along until I had my daughter.
She never supported me - my daughter? she'd bend over backwards for.
But she did lighten up in her older years.

I'm sorry you can't find something with your own Mom chicklet. Shame on her.

Hugs, baby.

12:07 p.m.  
Blogger My float said...

Why are some mothers like that? Mine's also in the 'too hard' basket. I love my mum but I don't actually like her, or enjoy spending time with her. Every other sentence out of her mouth is a criticism of me or other people, so I limit her 'alone' time with my son. I don't want him catching it! At the same time, I've started trying to not respond to the bait and just end the conversation or talk about something else.

You've taken a very big step by caring less. Your kids need you more than anyone, and they need you to be full of confidence and love. Having negative people around us is no longer an option.

Whatever your mother's reasons are for having an issue with you - they're her reasons, not yours. You don't have to take them on, nor will you ever be able to unravel or solve them. So don't bother starting. It's better to build something fantastic with your own family than go digging around the past. You're clearly not how she perceives you, and really? That doesn't matter. We can't change how people perceive us, we can only influence how we perceive ourselves. You are a fantastic, wonderful, warm person. (Heck, how patronising do I sound?! Sorry!)

Anyway.

Your kids so clearly love you and that's all that matters. And your littlest one? He chose you. Just remember that.

Here endeth the rant.

12:53 a.m.  
Blogger sillychick said...

One more person agreeing with the whole jealous thing. My sister treated me somewhat the same way (not as extreme) and I would worry over constantly. That is until one of my friends pointed out that my sister was jealous of me.

What?

Yes, turns out that no matter what I did, good or bad, my sister would constantly bad mouth me behind my back. She would tell people how stupid I was and how she would have done it differently.

She's now 41 years old, divorced, living with an ex-con, one child who had a kid at 17, another child who is in jail, and is suffering from some lung disease from years of smoking 3 packs a day (though she'll tell everyone it's just "asthma.")

Yes, her way of life is much better than mine (ha!)

I only know you thru your blog, but seems to me you've got your shit together. You love your hubby, adore your kids and have an awesome dog.

I hate to say this, but it applys to me: just because they're family doesn't mean you have to like them. I wouldn't hang out with my sister in every day life, so who says I have to do it just because she's family.

Emotional vomit over.

8:42 a.m.  
Blogger Motherkitty said...

T, I agree with everything all your correspondents have written. I don't know about the jealousy aspect though. I would like to point out that you may remind your mother of some incident in her life when she was pregnant with you or after you were born. Subconsciously she may blame you or take her nastiness out on you because she equates having a second baby with her "misfortune." I feel sorry for your father having to put up with her nastiness for so many years. All of us can only speculate on the real reason for her behavior because we don't know her in real life.

I do know I had an aunt (who had three children, and a fourth out of wedlock that she gave up for adoption) and an uncle who abused their children physically and verbally, threw them out of the house -- and did every nasty thing to them when they were young. The three children are now so messed up emotionally that they can't get over it to this day. I still can't believe someone in our family could treat their children that way. Makes me sick.

I say the way to deal with your unruly, nasty mother is to just tell her that you aren't going to put up with her nonsense anymore. If she can't love you as you are and speak to you with love and respect, then you don't wish to be around her to take her abuse. Also, she won't be allowed to see your children any more if she continues to mistreat you in front of your kids. That should get her attention.

I know, you want her love. But, believe me, I know this approach will work. When my husband and I were much younger we fought all the time. One day, when I couldn't take it any more, I just told him I would never fight with him any more. And, we haven't. It's been difficult at times but that hurdle has been jumped over.

I think you are a wonderful, terrific person, and all I want to do is send you my best wishes and a huge motherkitty hug. Wish it was in person but the best I can do is send it to you over the internet.

11:56 a.m.  

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