I was a constant disappointment to my mother. Right up until the day she died. She let me know how much I disappointed her by having my stepfather leave her house to her niece instead of any of her three children. She also decided to split whatever was left fives ways including her niece and nephew along with her own children. In my opinion, it was her way of saying that her niece and nephew treated her better than I did. (For the purposes of this blog I will only be speaking for myself and not for my brother or sister.) And she’s right…they were better to her than I was.
We grew up in a different time…another generation and things were different then. Kids were not considered the most important in family units. The parents were. As the children, we were to be seen and not heard, we weren’t to offer an opinion….especially when other adults were present, we knew what was expected of us and if we didn’t keep up we suffered consequences. I think it was the same in many households at the time.
What may have been somewhat different is my mother didn’t seem very interested in the lives of her children. My sisters and I were both majorettes in the high school marching band. She would usually go to a game or two a year. But she made it our responsibility to find a way to and from the many night practices during the week and the competitions and football games we were to perform at every weekend. Lucky for me my sister was three years ahead of me and once she started driving she was my ride…like it or not!
I lived at home with my mother until the ripe old age of 28 and even then I was asked to leave. I had decided to pursue a career in radio broadcasting and it didn’t pay very well. As furious I was when that happened it was indeed a good thing because it forced me to find a full time job that paid enough money for me to fund my own place. I had several different jobs all over the place before that. She said she allowed me to stay all those years because she wanted me to pursue my dream. The funny thing is she was never very interested in listening to me on the radio. One of the first jobs I was able to get on-air was doing shore traffic reports for numerous stations in our area. She never listened. She would tune in from time to time…if she were in the car and it was convenient for her but she never seemed to go out of her way to listen on a regular basis. I heard from her friends that she bragged about me but she never did that in front of me.
I had been working as part of a morning crew on a pretty popular station in Philadelphia and the show was doing really well. I was the news/traffic reporter and sometimes I would get to chime in with the other three co-hosts. I was offered an opportunity to co-host another morning show at the Jersey shore (anyone who knew me was well aware of my great love for the shore). When I told her I was moving to the shore to co-host my own morning radio show….just me and another host…an incredible opportunity, her response was, “Now you’re leaving me too?” As my brother and sister had both moved to other states. She went on to ask me at a later date before I moved why I would leave such a big show in Philadelphia to go to a small station that didn’t have as many listeners. I told her that it was paying more money for one. It would also be my own show where I would have much more input into what we discussed and how things were done. Not to mention how much I loved the shore. But I’m guessing she was disappointed that she couldn’t tell people that I was part of a popular morning show anymore because no one in that area would be able to hear the radio station.
When I was getting married my mother offered to purchase my wedding dress for me. She was giving me the same amount of money she gave my brother and sister when they got married but for some reason she specified it was for my dress. I’m not sure if she thought that would make me seek her approval for my gown or what. But here is what happened. She mentioned that she didn’t want me to wear a strapless gown. I have no idea why. I did tell her at the time that I would rather find something that wasn’t strapless either but 90% of the dresses were strapless…it was the style. I went out to shop the first time and she fell in love with a dress that had a high neck and a back cutout. I told her I liked it but wasn’t sure it was the one. I decided to look in a shop down the street from my house one day on a whim and I immediately said yes to a dress but you guessed it…it was strapless. I was there alone but I took a picture of myself in it and everyone I sent it to said the same thing….oh, that is YOUR dress. It’s so you! I asked my mom to go with me for the fitting and to put a down payment on it. When she first saw me in the dress she said in a very monotone voice…..yes, it is very pretty. In that passive aggressive way of letting me know she wasn’t happy that I didn’t go with her choice.
About a year and a half before my mom died my husband and I bought my dream house at the shore right on the water. It was something I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to pull off. I was so ecstatic I was literally glowing. The day of closing I posted all these pictures of my new view on Facebook and photo’s of us with our friends celebrating our new place. She liked one of the photo’s on Facebook so I know she knew we had closed and were official shore homeowners. I waited for six days and I still hadn’t gotten a phone call congratulating me on our dream house. No questions as to how everything went at closing. If we had moved in yet or what needed to be done before we could move in. I heard nothing from her. So on the sixth day I called her myself and asked if everything was alright and what she had been up to. Same old, same old she responded. And I really got upset. I told her I couldn’t believe she didn’t even to call to see how things went when I bought a house. I bought a house…my dream house at the shore…and why didn’t she care? I asked her why she didn’t seem to care about anything that went on in my life. She told me that I was never interested in what was going on in her life. I told her maybe that was because it’s a two way street. She did seem to be pretty upset after this conversation but to be fair, so was I. She sent me flowers the next day with an apology. I think it may have been the only time she ever apologized to me in my life. I called her and told her I appreciated the gesture. She asked me if I was still coming to Christmas dinner which was in about a week. I told her I was and she said great….I’ll see you then. Bye! She still didn’t get it.
At my mothers funeral there were a ton of people. They had to bring in extra chairs. She would have been thrilled. I collaborated with my brother and sister to write a speech that would have made her shine down with pride. It had all the wonderful elements that are supposed to go into those things. As we were preparing for the funeral I found a bunch of old pictures and was reminded of some of the happy times. Because of course there were happy times. My mom wasn’t the worst mother to walk the earth but she wasn’t the best either. But she always wanted to be adored and revered for giving birth to us and raising us. I think my mom thought she did the best she could. I think she was very self involved and her top priority was always herself. Which is fine if you are willing to admit it. But she wasn’t. In my opinion she had an attitude that we (her kids) owed her for all she did for us. It’s not that I’m not appreciative of what she did for us and all she had to go through….it’s that it was thrown in my face all the time. When really, she did what is expected of people when they have children. You raise them. But for some reason she felt that since she wasn’t the center of my universe I was an ingrate. Again, just my opinion.
But as I was, for the first time in a long time, being reminded of more of the good than the bad….I find out that her house was going to her niece and everything else would be split between us three kids and the two kids she wished were hers. She was very good to those two and they were very good to her. But she also treated them completely differently than she did me. I tried to explain that to her but she would say she understood what I was saying and continue to act in the same exact way.
I spent a lot of time in my therapists chair discussing my relationship with my mother. I didn’t call her a lot. Because when I did the first ten minutes would be spent complaining about how long it had been since the last time I called. Then she would go into all her ailments and how awful she was feeling. I was sympathetic but it’s all she ever talked about. A pleasant conversation it was not. When I asked my therapist if I should feel guilty about the way the relationship played out with my mother she said I acted the only way I knew how to survive it. I never wanted to cut ties completely with my mother. Maybe we both would have been better off if I had. I don’t know.
It’s still painful to me when I see all these wonderful postings from people saying how much they adore their mother. I wish I did. But she hurt me over and over and over again. And when I told her that she hurt me she would only ever say…I didn’t mean it that way. I guess because she didn’t mean it that way it shouldn’t have hurt me.
Complex may not be a strong enough word for some children and their parents. But don’t feel guilty about it. Any relationship, including the one between a child and parent is a two way street. If you are reaching out and not getting much in return…that is not your fault. Talking it out may help but it never did in my case. Hopefully you will have better luck if you find yourself in a similar situation. But the opinion of your mother or father is not the end all, be all. It should be taken into consideration but don’t construct your life to their wishes. This is your life and you need to live it the way that makes you happy. I truly hope you can’t relate to my story at all and will never know how a parental relationship like that would be like. I hope you have wonderful parents who made you their world and want you to be happy in spite of how it affects them. But if you don’t….you will overcome it and still be able to live your best life! Just like I have.
#hopefulist #makeityourbestdayyet #writenow #happyandhopeful