I grew up with a neurotic mother. It’s hard to remember a situation in which she wasn’t freaking the fuck out about how something was affecting her.
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While on road trips, towing our camper, she would grip the plushy part of the door handle and yell at my father for driving too fast even when he wasn’t.
She was perpetually exhausted leaving no time for genuine concern for her children’s’ feelings or hell, even their interests, except of course if by happenstance your interest aligned with her interest. Then she might give you the time of day.
Or, oh course, when one of her friends was around. Then she would really put on an affectionate show. She was a completely different overly loving person when in earshot of people she would try to impress. Fake mom.
We didn’t respect her as an authority figure because she wasn’t one. We intuitively knew she was off.
Yet I still desired to be a good girl so I spent most of my life consoling her while madly resenting her for it.
In my early 20s, a friend died of a drug overdose. I was crying as one does when they hear of such news. To which my mother replied, “What are you crying about? You are only crying because he was cute.” She was unavailable to allow space for others to feel when it wasn’t about her.
She ruined my surprise wedding shower by blurting out in front of me how excited and nervous she was to show off the location of the party that she wasn’t even planning. Instead of feeling disappointed that it had been ruined, I first pretended like I didn’t hear because I was attempting to control her feelings but ultimately the surprise was ruined and I set about consoling her.
When I purchased a home the compliments I got were about how the house was like her childhood home. She walked around talking about when she “lived on Honoree St.” Then she sat on the only piece of furniture that made it’s way from the moving truck and asked me to get her a Diet Coke while the rest of us brought boxes in.
While in the hospital giving birth, I asked her to leave the room because she didn’t have enough self-awareness to stay calm for my sake. With IV drips in my arms and an epidural in my back, I was trying to keep HER calm.
In between contractions, I could hear her in the hallways making the experience about her. Telling anyone who would listen how nervous she was, including my toddler son.
For some narcissistically bizarre reason, everyone who walked down the hall needed to know that HER gynecologist was delivering HER daughter’s baby, “isn’t that just crazy?! OMG What are the odds, MY GYNECOLOGIST!”
Every experience was about how it was affecting her and it left no room for anyone else. Her selfishness took up all the space.
That day, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to do to my children what my mother did to me. I wasn’t going to allow them to feel unsafe and anxious and responsible for my emotions. I was going to be the mother that I never had.
Right now I am thinking about all of the children all over the world who have a mother like mine, mothers who can’t pull it together to fake it for their kids.
Our children are looking to us to show them how to process this experience and I can’t help but see a bunch of grown-ass adults who are doing a piss-poor job at it.
Are you sitting on the couch eating and binging news?
Are you drinking all day?
Are you addicted to adrenaline and drama?
Are you dumping your worries on your children?
I read a quote once that immediately became my favorite, “If you want to really know if someone is a good person, look to their kids.”
Troubled children become troubled children because they have troubled parents.
Take a look in the mirror.