Tuesday, May 1, 2012

(S)mothering

A few months ago I wrote that my relationship with my mother had been transformed.  As most of you know, I went through some very dark times last summer and into the fall.  At that time, despite the fact that she had just moved to a new house and lost her father (my grandfather), my mother was totally there for me.  She didn't freak out.  She didn't make it all about her.  She was simply a solid, dependable, loving presence in my life.  I didn't know that she had it in her.

I thought: this is amazing!  For once, my mom is caring for me the way I always wished she would.  I guess she's learned a thing or two over the past few years.  Hey, better late than never.

I was humbled and grateful for the chance to connect with my mother in a new and healthy way.  I thought this transformation was for good.

I'm very disappointed to discover that the change didn't stick.  In fact, it was just a continuation of my mother's old pattern of only really being there for me when I'm completely incapacitated.   When I was young I remember her taking really good care of me when I was sick, very scared, or very sad.  At times when I was absolutely helpless, she would put her arms around me and make everything okay.

At any other time, not so much.  Unless I'm literally collapsed in tears, or lying prone on a bed with a thermometer sticking out of my mouth, she likes to lean on me.  She complains to me.  She asks me for advice.  She wants my help with figuring out the controls to her new clothes dryer because apparently I'm better than her at reading instructions.  If there's a conflict between her and my step-dad, she tries to get me on her side.  More often than not I feel like I'm the parent.

Credit where credit is due: she has improved since I was a kid.  I do see her making a conscious effort to respect me as a person in my own right, rather than as an actor to be manipulated in her own personal drama.  Sometimes she manages this.  Sometimes she doesn't.

I noticed her slipping back into her old behaviours during the last two family gatherings.  When my step-dad knocked over a bottle of water at the dinner table, I could see her trying to catch my eye.  She wanted me to smirk and roll my eyes with her, like, "Geez, you can't take him anywhere!"  Granted, she's right - you can't take him anywhere.  He's clumsy and absentminded, and he's bound to trip and/or spill things and/or say something well-meaning but inappropriate at every social occasion.  It can be frustrating.  But I'm not willing to play this petty game of taking sides in the ongoing saga of parent vs. parent.  It's not fair of her to ask me to do that.  I'm her child no matter how old I get, not her buddy, or her therapist, or her life coach.  It feels really icky to get pressured by her to take on those roles.

Mostly what I feel right now is disappointed.  "Better late than never" turned out to be an illusion.  It could be worse, obviously - at least she manages to be there for me when I'm bottoming out, which is better than nothing.  That's her trying her best, so I guess I'm going to have to find a way to accept it.

10 comments:

Warped Mind of Ron said...

It's hard for people to change and stay changed. I'm glad she's there for you during the tough times and hope she keeps working on that change through the not so tough times.

Jameil said...

How frustrating. I have nothing to offer except an e-hug. ((hug))

DarcKnyt said...

Gosh, Spark, I'm sorry to hear that. I guess with things looking better for you there's no pressure on her to maintain the nurturing? A shame.

I'm glad you're mature enough to see through the games though.

Tracy Makara said...

Awww, I'm sorry Spark. I remember you writing an earlier post about how great things were between the two of you. Hopefully you can reach more level ground with her without having to have a crisis in your own life. *HUGS*

Granny Annie said...

This post of yours makes me ponder what my children might say about me. Often it seems that the more I try to please them, the less I manage to do so.

G. B. Miller said...

I can completely sympathize with you.

It's tough to get a parent to change multiple decades worth of bad behavior and it's doubly tough to watch them suffer the consequences that stems from their bad behavior.

Much like what I'm going through with my mother. Decades of bad behavior is now manifesting itself in ways that were forecasted years ago.

Lynn said...

Golly - and wasn't it your stepfather who finally got you the correct medical attention? I wonder why she does that?

I'm so glad you are well now - I remember how dark those days were.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Thanks. I do have some hope that she'll continue to change and grow. She certainly has learned a few hard lessons in the last few years, and is a better person for it.

Jameil: That helps. I feel better. :-)

DarcKnyt: Thanks. Having spent 2008-2011 being tugged in between the two of them when they were separated, I am all out of patience for being the monkey in the middle.

Tracy: I'm sure things will be up and down, as always. We have our good times and our bad times. She's certainly not a bad person. She tries hard to do the right thing. But it's very hit and miss.

Granny Annie: Well, of course all kids occasionally talk smack about their parents. My mom complains to me about her mom! It's the way of the world.

GB Miller: Aw man, that's rough. The worst part is watching someone you love put themselves in a bad situation over and over again. There's only so much you can do, but people get stuck in their self-destructive behaviours and refuse to budge.

Lynn: They have an infuriating relationship. They love each other but they bring out the worst in each other. He's kind of a slob; she's obsessively tidy. He does what he feels like; she worries what everyone will think. It's neverending. They will always have something to squabble about.

DarcsFalcon said...

Well, at least she is able to find it within her to be a good caretaker when you seem to need her the most. It would be really horrible if that was the time she chose to kick you while you were down. Sadly, there are parents like this out there.

I guess you try to find the silver lining, right? It sounds like while you may not always like her methods, you are still pretty confident of her love. :)

*hugs* Sparkly one. Believe me, coping with parents can be no easy task but you seem to be managing with your usual aplomb. :)

LL Cool Joe said...

This post didn't turn up in my reader. As I read it though, you could have been writing about my mother. Unless I'm on death's door, I would never expect anything from my mother.