Musings on Parental Relationships

My mom is here this week, taking care of the kids during the day while their dad is on vacation.

I’ve been thinking since she got here about how our relationship has changed in the past few years. When my older son was born seven years ago she became my main advisor on parenting and being a mother. I saw her as someone who’d been about as happy as was possible being a SAHM. (I now know she was lonely and isolated a lot of the time, but that’s a big part of the SAHM burden, and I think she weathered it as well as anyone could.)

But there was a big distance between us that had always been there, but was getting worse. As much as I needed her, I couldn’t be honest about my marriage and how toxic it was. So we did the same dance we’d always done–I pretended I knew what I was doing, and she let me have space because she thought I knew what I was doing.

I was terrified to tell her I was getting a divorce. I floated it to her as we were cooking on Thanksgiving morning 2006, and she was horrified. But when I called to tell her and my dad “for real” a few weeks later, she stepped up. And she was my champion, the one who kept telling me she knew I could do it, that it was worth it, that *I* was worth chewing my foot off to get out of the trap.

Since then our relationship has been unfolding and refolding in new ways. As we come to new insights about each other and ourselves. The irony is that I need her less now–we’re not enmeshed in the immature way we were. But I value her more.

I’m wondering if this is common for our relationship with parents or parent figures to become looser and more dynamic as we weather the crap-pile of life together. What has been your experience?

58 thoughts on “Musings on Parental Relationships”

  1. My dynamic with my mom is definitely changing. I’m 33, I have two kids, a husband, a house, a job. My life is about as steady and stable as a life with an infant and a toddler can be. Despite weathering the day to day parenting stuff, there really isn’t a lot of change happening in my life.On the other hand, my mom is recently unemployed, my dad was forced into retirement, my mom lost her mom two weeks before my infant was born and there have been a variety of other deaths and illnesses in the elderly end of the family. My mom’s life has been in chaos for most of 2009. They desparately want to move closer to us and the rest of the family, but they can’t afford to sell their house, so they spend a lot of time away from home to be where they want/need to be.
    It’s the first substantial period when my mom has needed me more than the other way around. Even more so now than during her treatment for breast cancer 5 years ago. I find myself calling not because I need to tell her anything, but in case she needs to talk to me. I know that losing her mom has left her with a big void…which I want to help fill, but I’m also running a household with an infant and a toddler…so finding the time to call can be a challenge.

  2. I think it is those big, not-so-fun, life-changing events that ultimately end up challenging and changing the relationship you have with your parents.For me, it happened when my Dad got very sick 10 years ago. The whole process of re-identifying with my parents in a new way was really determined by that event. It was awful at the time. The feeling of recognizing that my parents weren’t going to be around forever, and having to confront that head-on felt awful at the time. But I definitely appreciate them more now (and all the stuff they’ve done for me since I was born). They still have trouble accepting my help (‘But you’re the kid, I’m the parent’, my Mom always says) but I at least make sure to keep close contact (we’re 2 hours away), calling 1-2x per week, and visiting every 3-5 weeks. Now that we have our little guy, I really wish we were closer to them. But not so much that I want to move back to the city where I grew up.

  3. My mom lost both her parents while she was still a teen, so forging an adult relationship between mother and daughter has been a new experience for her. The first time she put me (young adult, but single) in a hotel room with her and my dad, but put my sister and her partner in a separate room was the beginning of our new relationship. I’m lucky that she’s aware of this, because we can talk about it bluntly. I can discuss just about anything with her, and I hope as she becomes the more dependent party, we’re still able to weather it as we have our other changes. It’s my dad who is unwilling to discuss his aging and future. Got advice for that?

  4. Like @Amy M, my relationship with my parents is changing because their lives are in chaos (for many of the same reasons — job loss and economic uncertainty, but not poor health) and mine is happy & stable (also with an infant & toddler, though I am a SAHM). Right now the focus of our relationship is my children — they are a source of joy for my parents, which I think is the most valuable thing I can offer them while their lives are in flux.But like @the milliner, they are still ‘the parents’ and I am still their ‘child,’ so I feel like my role as a supportive adult is pretty limited. So I try to be satisfied by allowing my children to help fill their voids while I trust them to make the right decisions about the new directions in their lives without my input.
    But it’s hard.
    It’s all hard.

  5. Sadly, my mom died when I was 21 years old – – less than a year after I got married – so I did not have the luxury of an adult relationship with her.Now that I am on the other side of the generational coin, I find that my relationship with my daughter is blossoming into something really super. I can only imagine that when (if) she has children, it will continue to grow and mature.

  6. My mother passed away six months ago … I have to say I was so busy in my own life (three kids under 5 and a full time job) that I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her. Which I regret bitterly. Her health was sliding downhill, but I have to admit, I didn’t let myself see it happening. I don’t even know what I was gonna say …. sorry, lol.

  7. I think there was a definite shift once I had my son. I found myself more sympathetic to what her situation as a wife/mother had been when I was growing up. She really took to the role of being a Grandma. A terrific one at that. She doesn’t tell me what I should be doing with my child or how I should be doing this or that, but she listens and offers a lot of encouragement. I think it ends up being mutual. We are both still very much a Mother/Daughter but the relationship has grown to set aside some of the past dynamics in favor of something that isn’t dependent upon a battle of power or egos.When I have my doubts about my own parenting abilities, she tends to be the first one to say that I am doing great and she has immense faith in what I am doing.

  8. I found that having a child really deepened my relationship with both parents, but especially my mother. It helps that my mom is so helpful, supportive, and non-judgmental. Her visits to help us are really about helping us and always are actually very helpful. As I learn to be a parent, my respect for my mother has only grown. I aspire to be as good of a mother as she is. And I love that I can talk to her and get parenting advice, but that she always supports whatever my husband and I decide to do.We have only touched on some of the challenging issues others have mentioned, because my parents are still quite young and healthy. I hope we’ll navigate that well.

  9. My mother died when I was four years old and I was raised by my dad. Now that I’ve got a daughter I realize how much I am identifying with her and imagining what having a mother must be like. I feel I am totally clueless about the role, but desperate to live up to my imaginary standards.

  10. My mom died before I became a parent, and I often want to ask her what I and my brother were like at the ages my children are now. As an adult, I think back to her parenting and how much it damaged me (my dad’s, too), so there’s not much I’d want to take from her book. I find my maternal grandmother and aunts to be valuable parenting resources, though. I have definitely gotten much closer to them as I’ve aged and matured as a parent.My dad and stepmom just become more narcissistic with age, as well as enmeshed in my sister’s lifelong soap opera, so, meh.

  11. My mom died before I became a parent, and I often want to ask her what I and my brother were like at the ages my children are now. As an adult, I think back to her parenting and how much it damaged me (my dad’s, too), so there’s not much I’d want to take from her book. I find my maternal grandmother and aunts to be valuable parenting resources, though. I have definitely gotten much closer to them as I’ve aged and matured as a parent.My dad and stepmom just become more narcissistic with age, as well as enmeshed in my sister’s lifelong soap opera, so, meh.

  12. My grandmother died when my mom was 22, and had been (according to many relatives) a woman who loved her daughters but was cool, sometimes distant, and devoted most of her energy to her job and to the various garden & social clubs she belonged to. As a result, my mom never felt she got the love and approval she wanted from her mom, but still cannot admit that to this day (she is now 65). She’s made many bad choices in relationships, trying to fix this childhood hurt, and in many ways is at the emotional maturity level of, well, a 22 year old. She loves my son, but there are always things that come up in unexpected ways around her resenting my ‘success’ at life (a stable marriage with a loving man, and financial security) which is in decided contrast to her own situation. So, it can be stressful – that walking on eggshells feeling – to be around her.So that’s the parent I’ve got, instead of the one I’d love to have – one that I could develop a real and deep adult relationship with (my dad had his own set of issues, but passed away 9 years ago).
    I’ve actually thought of putting an ad in my local paper for a ‘guest’ mom…I read an article about a woman who found, as an adult, a couple that was willing to develop a parental role with her to everyone’s benefit.
    Congratulations to those of you who have moms you can have a good relationship with, commiseration to those of you who have moms more like mine, and sympathies to those who have lost their moms.

  13. My grandmother died when my mom was 22, and had been (according to many relatives) a woman who loved her daughters but was cool, sometimes distant, and devoted most of her energy to her job and to the various garden & social clubs she belonged to. As a result, my mom never felt she got the love and approval she wanted from her mom, but still cannot admit that to this day (she is now 65). She’s made many bad choices in relationships, trying to fix this childhood hurt, and in many ways is at the emotional maturity level of, well, a 22 year old. She loves my son, but there are always things that come up in unexpected ways around her resenting my ‘success’ at life (a stable marriage with a loving man, and financial security) which is in decided contrast to her own situation. So, it can be stressful – that walking on eggshells feeling – to be around her.So that’s the parent I’ve got, instead of the one I’d love to have – one that I could develop a real and deep adult relationship with (my dad had his own set of issues, but passed away 9 years ago).
    I’ve actually thought of putting an ad in my local paper for a ‘guest’ mom…I read an article about a woman who found, as an adult, a couple that was willing to develop a parental role with her to everyone’s benefit.
    Congratulations to those of you who have moms you can have a good relationship with, commiseration to those of you who have moms more like mine, and sympathies to those who have lost their moms.

  14. I think within the first six months of having my first baby, I turned to my mom and said “Thank you!”…Hoy, mom kept telling me my life would change once baby arrived, it did…Bottom line, I’ve always had a good relationship with my mom and dad. I come from a family of four and I can happily say that we are extremely close to my parents, our relationship with our mother has morphed from parent-child to mentor-adult to best describe it, as for my dad, well we still are his little kids and that’s ok too…Being a parent now certainly gives me full appreciation of you probably wishing your kids always stayed yours and didn’t grow up ;)As I get older, I find that my mom has become a friend/mentor giving me advice when I need it or just listening…I certainly have, on my end, enjoyed watching them interact with my two kids…Added appreciation for what they have done for us and it also offers glimmers of what they would have been like with us when we were little…
    We do live far apart (different countries), but all of us talk to my parents daily if not every few days.
    All in all, I hope to be able to morph into that same role with my kids when they become adults.

  15. I think within the first six months of having my first baby, I turned to my mom and said “Thank you!”…Hoy, mom kept telling me my life would change once baby arrived, it did…Bottom line, I’ve always had a good relationship with my mom and dad. I come from a family of four and I can happily say that we are extremely close to my parents, our relationship with our mother has morphed from parent-child to mentor-adult to best describe it, as for my dad, well we still are his little kids and that’s ok too…Being a parent now certainly gives me full appreciation of you probably wishing your kids always stayed yours and didn’t grow up ;)As I get older, I find that my mom has become a friend/mentor giving me advice when I need it or just listening…I certainly have, on my end, enjoyed watching them interact with my two kids…Added appreciation for what they have done for us and it also offers glimmers of what they would have been like with us when we were little…
    We do live far apart (different countries), but all of us talk to my parents daily if not every few days.
    All in all, I hope to be able to morph into that same role with my kids when they become adults.

  16. eccentriclibertarian – I want a guest mom.I have a mom, but we’ve never had a motherly/daughterly relationship. I am the mom in this relationship, and when you’re 10, that’s a pretty rough place to be. It’s also rough when you’re 33. She’s a good grandma since grandmothering is a whole lot less responsiblity than mothering. I don’t blame her, but I mourn what I never had. And I think I would have fluorished with some guidance, mentoring, encouragement, motherly advice, etc. I’m striving to be a good mom to my own kids, and she sees and respects that. It’s exhausting though.

  17. My mom still acts as if I’m the teenager/young adult under her roof that I was 10+ years ago. She treats my brothers the same way (and one of them is back with her for the present). It’s rough, because otherwise we have a really good relationship, with lots of emotional support (and that’s not even all that dysfunctional anymore since I live in another state and she’s been forced to find other friends) and shared interests. I don’t really know what to do about it, other than go on living my life.

  18. @eccentriclibertarian- I’ve often thought that there should be some sort of “foster grandparent” connection network set up. Some of my aunts LOVE children but do not have grandchildren of their own. They would love to play the role my Mom plays for me with someone. And I have several friends here who are far away from their families or who have less than helpful families. They wish they had someone like my Mom to help them.Unfortunately, my aunts aren’t in the same place as I am, or I’d do some informal matching. But it makes me think that there should be a matching service. I’ve even thought about setting one up, but always get stopped at the thought of the background check issue.

  19. Gosh, My Mom…. I had an amazing dynamic mother growing up and hope to be the kind of parent she was to us to my DS and any future babes. Sadly when I was 22 the day after my birthday my mother had a car accident which altered her life and ours. She came out talking and walking but with a significant amount of brain damage. She is lucky to be alive and I know I should be grateful but to be truthful I feel like my true mother died when I was 22 and I’ve been grieving for that loss ever since. Kathleen as she is now called used to be Kath or Kathy talks different, moves different, likes different foods, is a hoarder, and has the emotional life of a teenager. Its all about her almost all the time, unless she wants to take care of someone which fills her I need to be needed role. We clash, I’m still paying for a comment I made when I was 23 and she was still in hard core rehab and that was 13 yrs ago. We were similar personalities and how I go through life is based on how she parented me but it seems to make her jealous, angry, and can try and undermine me whenever possible to be “right”. I thought it might get better as I became a parent but it did not. Its sad on so many levels, I do miss having the support and love of my mom but I think I have adopted other role models to help step in. I’ve tried lots of therapy around this and obviously this is a nutshell but I have this wall that I haven’t figured out how to climb or take down. My father on the other hand is my rock and one of my best friends and I’m grateful to have him!!

  20. This is SO my dysfunctional area….I have a mom who is both wonderful and giving of herself, emotionally, as well as self-centered and irrational at times.
    Before kids, I looked forward to the days when having children would enhance our relationship. Now I’m just jealous of people to whom this has happened.
    As I’ve aged and my personal and financial life has become one that is stable, my mother has continued to be the free spirit she always was. No career, no financial discipline, no commitment or planning. So, in this way I am the adult here.
    In other ways my mother and I are stuck in the teenage dynamic. She know how to push my buttons and I haven’t let go of the things that anger me about my single-parent upbringing enough to ignore it. To make matters worse, she is becoming more self-centered as she gets older.

  21. Having my son has made me appreciate my parents in a way I would never have been able to do otherwise. My parents divorced when I was very young and my father has never had anything bad to say about my mom other than he is always sorry for the times she hurts me and for her struggles with addiction. I can’t even imagine the restraint that must take. My mother was sober for about 15 years, from when I was five until I was in my early twenties. She was a really good mom. I haven’t seen that woman in years and have almost stopped looking around corners for her. I love being able to share stuff with my dad – he is a super dad but it would be so, so wonderful to have my mom around, too. I have no idea what will happen as they age. I guess I should be proactive and start having conversations with my dad and siblings.

  22. This is a current topic of thought for me and discussion with my husband as we contemplate whether to stay in our home town, or move 2,200 miles away to a place we love… definitely on my mind.I always thought that my relationship with my parents would have a fundamental shift to a more equal place, once I had a child of my own and we were all parents. But I was wrong; they both still have the ability to push my buttons and magically turn me into my 14 year-old self – not a nice experience (for anyone)!
    Having said that, my parents are very helpful and spend a lot of time with our son. But it never feels like it’s without strings, opinions and expectations. We returned from vacation with them both, and my mum’s views on certain points of my parenting became obvious. It felt like a silent clash… she would sigh, and say, “ok, whatever you like,” while I could feel the disapproval seeping across the room. Which only served to make me incredibly irritated, fortunately did not provoke any major open disagreements.
    I love both of my parents very much, but am finding the relationship still as much a challenge as I did when I was a teenager.

  23. It’s funny – I hear so many people comment that they were able to appreciate their mothers more once they had children of their own. My experience has been the exact opposite.I’d always known the abuse and neglect my siblings and I had suffered was bad, but once I had children of my own, I was truly horrified by our experience. How a mother could treat her child the way my mother treated us – it’s just incomprehensible to me. I envy those of you who have moms loving, supportive moms.

  24. @eccentriclibertarian and @noname for today kind of sum up my complex feelings on the topic but to put it in my own words.Sometimes I’m amazed at how helpful and supportive my mother can be – when she feels like it. Sometimes I’m amazed at how much the grandmothering experience is, for her, all about her – much as mothering was for her when I was growing up.
    Sometimes I feel great sympathy for the stresses she had as a young mother from a dysfunctional family background.
    Sometimes I look at my small, innocent child and the thought of some of the things she did to me at that age makes me furious.
    It’s complicated. I love her. She’s my mom. But she’s not a safe person and she’s not home and never has been. No amount of stress has really changed that.

  25. Ok, this isn’t going to win me any daughter of the year awards but here goes.I love my mom and she is an excellent grandmother. But frankly she is probably one of the main reasons that I will never be a SAHM. Because she sort of sucked at it. I believe she probably has some sort of adult ADD which comes across as sort of flakey and disorganized which drives me up the freaking wall.
    So I never considered my mom a best friend because because I didn’t really respect her and I didn’t look up to her.
    However; as I have gotten older, I do realize that she loved us dearly and was the best mother she could be. Particularly having kids so young (she was 20 when she had me and 23 when she had my twin brothers. YIKES!)
    And she loves my kids and makes an effort to see them every few months even though she lives 600 miles away.
    I have a lot more empathy for her since my dad died suddenly a few years ago from a very aggressive cancer. Dad was her rock and she seems even more lost and flakey without him.
    So love her to pieces but not really a source of parenting advice. Although my mom has never judged or said anything about any of the parenting choices I make. Which I really do appreciate. For all of her flakiness, she has always supported all of her kids.

  26. @eccentriclibrarian and @noname, my mom was in your shoes. Much noname’s, really – once she had kids, she realized that she could not imagine staying mentally unhealthy, unkind, selfish, controlling, abusive, neglectful, yadda yadda, so what the HECK were her parents thinking???? It hurt more, not less. And then she got over it, too – they were messed up people in a long line of messed up people, and my mom chose to stop the line with her. Of course, that meant inventing the new version of parenthood, which means she messed some of that up, too – but certainly it is way better than where she started! She let that be an opportunity, and was the kind of parent she wanted to have had, instead (which is really a pendulum swing, and creates some other issues – I think we’re more back in the middle in this generation, not reactive but responsive).Anyway, since my mom really wanted a guest-mom (her step-mom was sorta kinda but not really there), my mom IS a ‘guest-mom’. One of my sisters was originally a friend who kind of fell into our family. She and I shared a room (sorta – we alternated in the same space without overlapping, due to school and work schedules). We became friends on the minor overlaps (had been somewhat before then, too), and things just started to … well, refuse to stop. First she was in for holidays, and then we were babysitting her son while she worked, and then my mom was coaching her on life skills, and then she was helping my mom around the house, and then we were collaborating on how to help her son do better in school, and then my mom was setting up a college fund for him, and then she was married in our house with mainly ‘our’ family attending (her family of origin is half not-healthy, half-overseas), and then my mom was talking to her mom to get official permission mom-to-mom to be in-loco-parentis, and now… now she might as well be adopted (open style). Her son is cousin to my kids, she’s in my mom’s will equally with the rest of us, her husband helps us out with yard work, my husband is putting in their crown molding… and while shs still has quite useful and fine parents (overseas), it is nice to have a local parent, too. Very nice. Having an extra sister is not an issue for us, either, as we are used to there being a crew of us, with many different configurations (halfs, steps, halfs of halfs, etc.).
    Most people don’t feel a need to go quite that far with it, but… it works.
    I also adopted the grandparents across the street, as a kid. I felt bad for them because their kids visited only once a year. I felt bad for me because my grandparents sucked rocks (my grandmother on one side was okay, but seldom visitied). So I would go over and ask them questions about the things they loved, and the grandma taught me about gardening, and the grandpa taught me about shell collecting. I can still remember the smell of their sunroom, all humid from the houseplants. Nowhere near the same level of involvement, and as they got older their kids (and grandkids) showed up more and more to take care of them, so I dropped back out of range to keep from encroaching (yes, I was always that intentional…). I’m really glad I did it, though. And glad my mom permitted it (I would ask before I went over).
    The background checks these days would be a challenge. The organic process is what worked for us, but it is harder to make that work if neighbors don’t talk, etc. Church groups might be one route, maybe?

  27. @Elizabeth, I knew someone whose daughter had head trauma and ended up a different person. He said the same thing – his daughter died the day of the accident, and he was given this one instead. She looks the same, but her entire approach to life is different. Some things he loves about her, but some stuff is just hard, and he still misses the child he lost that day. (She was a young adult at the time of the accident.) Amazing how you can be glad and heartbroken at the same time, he said. Welcome and resent, too.Complicated. It sounds like you’re doing as well as could be asked, though I’m sorry for the challenges you have been given.

  28. This comes as a timely discussion, given that my own relationship with my mother is undergoing some ups and downs. We’ve always been close but at the same time there is a lot of dysfunctional stuff as well, and it continues to rear its head at the most inopportune times.The main issue I have with my mom is that she so often tries to resorts to a form of emotional and/or practical blackmail to get me to do what she wants or do things in their (my parent’s way).
    This hasn’t changed since my daughter was born. In some ways it’s become worse. Left as a single parent when my baby was nine months old, I leaned pretty heavily on my folks at that point- and in many ways our relationship was the best its ever been- but looking back I sometimes think it was because I was so much in their debt and needed them so much and they loved having so much influence/control over me.
    Now that things have stabilised for me, there’s currently an uncomfortable tension as the dynamic shifts back to me making my own decisions as to what’s right for me and my child. My mother will defer to my choices on the face of it but then there is a whole operation of sabotage underneath it and some of it is pretty unpleasant. Frankly, parenting is hard enough with all this additional layer of guilt-tripping/second-guessing, etc.
    Sometimes I just want her to give me a hug, tell me she’ll support me no matter what- and really mean it for a change.

  29. My mom has always been an enigma to me. I’ve only started to really figure her out in recent years. Actually, the excellent book “Mother Styles” (exploring the intersection of motherhood & Meyers Briggs types) was so helpful to my understanding. I think she’s an ISTJ. I’m an INFJ. We so do not mesh & that’s ok because now I’m starting to get why, and see that it was never going to work out based on the people we are. My mom could never be my friend, and I’m a grown ass woman who lives thousands of miles away from her and talks on the phone with her once a week about fluff. I have never told her anything really deeply significant about myself, or shared any of it with her whenever I was working on a big life problem. That’s been the secret to a drama free adult relationship with her: boundaries.She has issues… (she’s a rageaholic & is the dominant partner in a dysfunctional marriage to my dear old passive dad) but is nevertheless loving in her uniquely odd way, is extremely helpful with my child on the rare occasions either of us fly across the country to visit, and basically every outsider thinks she has far exceeded America society’s stringent expectations of what it means to be a so-called “good mom.” I never correct anyone when they lavish her with praise, just smile and nod and think to myself “wow, even smart people are fooled so easily by outside appearances.”
    My view of our relationship is further complicated by the fact that I am an only child. Not that only children always have it bad (on the contrary!!) I think it can be a wonderful arrangement in the right family – it’s just hard when one parent is unhealthy and there are no other siblings to bounce off your intuition of “Mom’s crazy, right?” Luckily, my dad was about as close to perfection as a passive dad can be, and his parenting shored up her weak spots. Once I hit adolescence and had my own opinions, I started to have ideological conflicts with my mom (beyond the usual stuff), and I pretty much gave up on her when I learned that she gives really stupid advice (i.e. once she found out a college boyfriend was cheating on me – because he called to tell her – and her assvice was “Boys need to sew their wild oats”) for which I have harshly judged her forever as being rather simple minded. And I fancy myself all empowered, urbane & sophisticated… heh heh but I’m only half-joking.
    So with that as the backdrop, when I finally became a mom at 31, I was older, wiser, and had long since psychologically, financially, and physically distanced myself from my family of origin, particularly my mom. I would never & have never asked her for any parenting advice – there are far better sources today (hello, Ask Moxie!) and let’s face it, I already know what she would say anyway, and I’m not looking for approval (which ironically, I already have because she knows I’m generally happy in my life, and my life kind of looks like the picture of success (oh, little do they know!)
    Anyway, I envy all of you who can lean on your mom sometimes, and can also see her as a caring peer & trusted advisor. Hopefully, I’ll learn to be that kind of mom when my kids are grown – suggestions welcome.

  30. “Loose and dynamic”… I’m not sure if that’s how I’d describe my relationship with my parents as I’ve become an adult; in many ways I feel a less dramatic – but still somewhat serious – version of what noname experienced. My parents have a very dysfunctional relationship due in large part to my father’s 40 years of addiction. As an adult, and a parent, dealing with them and their insanity, I’ve felt the need to establish very clear boundaries. They do not get it at. all. despite inpatient rehab + 12 step programs up the wazoo for my dad and scads of counseling for my mom.My therapist keeps telling me I need to just let go of any need to have them understand my point of view – my indignation over the way my dad’s addictions have ruled our family life from my infancy to last Christmas – and move on. It’s hard, but it feels absolutely right.
    Trying to do that AND maintain a relationship between them and my daughter? It’s tough. Really tough. As long as we all relate to one another in pleasantries and small talk, we can do it… and it doesn’t hurt that I live 400 miles away from them. But my hope is that in the long run I will be able to accomplish what Hedra’s mother has done – to stop the line with me.
    This is rambling and I’m not sure it makes any sense.. but it felt good to write it. 😉

  31. I’ve been struggling with my relationship with my mom for years. Like a previous poster, I also was an only child and had no one to ask, “Is it just me, or is mom crazy?”. (Incidentally, I married an only child with similar issues with his dad…don’t know if that’s a healthy thing, but it certainly has been nice to have someone to commiserate with after so many years of toughing it out alone…).My problem with my mom growing up was twofold: complete and utter lack of privacy (snooping through diaries, always listening when I was on the phone, reading letters, walking into my room without knocking) mixed with my mom’s totally f-d up upbringing which left her in a sort of permanent young child herself constantly needing attention state. Her constant need of attention way overshadowed my own need for attention (but also embarrassed me) and continues to this day.
    It’s not so much that I need attention from others (I feel pretty healthy as an adult and have somehow miraculously married someone who is vocal and interested in finding ways to not repeat our parents’ mistakes), but I guess I could sure use my mom’s attention. She’s a great grandma, and a good mom, but she is ALWAYS the focus. We can be having a perfectly good time/conversation and she will interrupt me and just talk about something totally different. Or just turn to my dad mid-conversation and say something. It doesn’t help that she has some seriously messed up medical obsession type things going on (she was verbally and physically abused by her father who was a physician, and therefore the ONLY attention she got growing up was through being sick/injured. You can only imagine how this has played out as an adult. Let’s just say that she recently got turned down for a surgery she f-ing REQUESTED and that she has been dropped by her health insurance).
    My husband and I are both pretty freaked out by her medical obsession stuff. What if she were with the kids and they *happened* to get injured, sick, whatever. I guess I came out unscathed physically from my upbringing, but I think she’s only gotten worse.
    She also cries at the drop of a hat.
    And is constantly in grandma competition with my mother in law.
    So no, we do not have a good adult relationship. I would like to know what one is like, but I just have the same feeling now as a 35 year old that I’ve always had: I do not come from a “normal” family (whatever that is!) and my mom is not capable of functioning in a “normal” way. We do the best we can, I guess.

  32. Becoming a parent has changed my relationship with both of my parents in a way that I could never have prepared for. It gave me the confidence to face the fact that my father was an unrepentant and abusive man who was trying to set my one year old up for the same psychologically abusive games he’s been engaging us in. When it was just me he was hurting, it was different. But seeing him attempt the same twisted and f’ed up crap with my infant…well, the mama bear in me roared and I had the courage and strength to say enough! And while we are on “speaking” terms again, it is only because it makes my brother oh so miserable when the family is fractured.And my mother, who had been a character with a bit part in the screenplay of my life has taken on a different role and is doing a bang-up job of it. I dared hope that becoming a grandmother would change how she felt about me – my mom never liked me and I theorize that it is because my father raised us and we remind her too much of him and not enough of her, but what was to be expected? We saw her twice a year. In seedy hotels. For awkward holidays. And she didn’t recognize us and couldn’t understand who we were becoming and why we were all so angry. Anyway…when E was born, I dared dream. And I my hopes were dashed time and time again when she would criticize my parenting over the phone. And I would tell myself, she never had the chance to mother. This isn’t about you, it’s about her. Blah blah blah. It still hurt. A lot. And then she came out to visit when E was about a year old and she got a taste of him. The real him. The stubborn, strong-willed yet beautifully sweet child that was mine. And hers. And somehow it changed. She and I were on the same side. She was filled with respect for me and how full my hands were. She would call and tell me how she recounted all the things he did to the rest of the fam and they all shook their heads in amazement. She would call and check to see how I was doing and instead of offering advice, she would commiserate. She would say things like, “Well, I’m sure you’ve tried everything,” instead of “Well, have you tried…” She even paid me what might have been the first compliment to escape her lips when she said that I needed to give myself some credit because it was obvious I was doing a wonderful job with him – that he was such a handful because he was smart and loved and paid attention to.
    As sad as I am to have effectively lost my father, I am better off without him and am a better person for finally having faced and beaten off the demons. Not that I’m done doing that, mind you. Oh, that’ll take the rest of my life. But the denial is gone and that is a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. And as hard as it is to stand my ground against my father and to see the pain I cause my brother by reflecting the past, the abuse, and no longer absorbing it and making it ok, I hope that one day he will understand. I hope for his sake it’s before he becomes a father, but perhaps, like me, he’ll have to find himself in a situation that smacks him so crisply across the face that he can’t help but deal with it.
    And I’m glad to have finally found a way to relate to my mother. We have a common love, a common passion and I know it thrills her to be a part of all of this as much as it does me. It wasn’t until that motherless void started to fill that I got to really see just how deep the fissures ran. I hope that the future makes up for the past – in both of our cases. And I would have given up my time with my mother if I knew it meant that my children would have a doting grandmother. The fact that I get my mother back, for the first time, is bonus.

  33. @nej, that is beautifully written, and really moving. i’m so glad you are able to see all this – the good and the bad – so clearly.

  34. There is something SO COOL about stepping out of the mother-daughter-childhood dynamic and creating an actual friendship with your mom.

  35. My mom has told me everything from “she wishes she had never had me” to “you are not a good parent”. She is insane. She drinks, takes any type of pill she can get her hands on and is now contesting my grandmother’s Will, as my Grandmother left me everything. The relationship with my mother is toxic and I feel so much better, cleaner, lighter, happier now that I have ceased all communication with her. I am sad my children will never know her at this point but she is just not a nice person, she is actually rather evil. I often wonder how someone can be so horrible to their own child but I may never have an answer to that question.

  36. @Heather – Have you thought about how you’ll explain this to your children? Someone made a good point when I stopped speaking to my father that my kids might grow up and resent me for having kept them away from their grandfather. I hope that if/when that time comes, I’ll be able to explain to them, in a way they can understand, that as much as I would have liked for them to have a relationship with said grandpa, it wasn’t safe and as their mother, I had to make an executive decision because I was the adult and the one with all the information. For a long time I told myself that as long as the grandfather/grandson relationship was ok, I wouldn’t stand in the way of it and I didn’t, until that fateful day when I watched my father intentionally hurt my son. And I’m loathe to admit this, but I gave my father the benefit of the doubt and let it happen again, the 2nd time being the last time. So some day, unless the world stops revolving on it’s axis and spins in the opposite direction, I will have to sit my children down and explain to them why they don’t have a maternal grandfather. Which sucks.@Michaela – Thanks. That just poured right out of me. Don’t know if I was going through AskMoxie withdrawls or what, but all of a sudden, I had a lot to say. Even though I really should have been in bed trying to get some sleep.

  37. @nej, I thought I’d posted a similar comment – absolutely lovely, well written, beautiful. I recognize the sentiment, as well, since my mom had a similar experience with her step-mom in the last six months of her step-mom’s life (she got her mom back for the first time). It was a great gift to get that, and I am glad you have it sooner.@Heather, my mom and I were just talking about the whole cutting off of the grandparents thing. My mom did the ‘99% cut off’ version, which was a mistake – my grandfather managed to terrorize me in that remaining 1%, sufficient to leave permanent emotional scars. She tried to keep our visits to something akin to visiting the zoo – just enough to recognize that there was something out there and that it was dangerous to get too close. But frankly, I’d have been as glad to get an explanation. Certainly my mom had plenty to back it up, even the photos of my grandfather as a child are creepy, and as he got older, his inner self showed more and more in his face. :shudder: I have compassion for him as well, as I am absolutely certain he was horribly abused (since his father also abused the grandkids, not content to stick with just destroying his own kids…). And he had Asperger’s (diagnosed in his 90’s), so he had zero mechanism for healing that, too. Compassion for him, plenty. Any desire to have spent more time with him? No. I was terrified of him, and rightly so, because he was dangerous. Heck, I was terrified of pictures of him. My mom was as fair as she could be about why we visited, and why we did so rarely, balancing teaching what she wanted us to be able to do with trying to keep us safe (that is, she wanted us to be able to value grandparents and family, so she tried to model that… it was a bad conflict with ‘safe’).
    So… just marshall your arguments. Your kids may or may not agree with your assessment. They may want to make their own observations, or not. My step-dad didn’t let his kids visit his father, and just explained and explained. My little brother was terribly put out by it, thought he had the right to develop his own relationship with his own grandfather. But he has made his peace with that, now, too. Especially after my step-dad encountered his father again at a family funeral, and his father a) didn’t even recognize him, and b) once he figured out who he was, ignored him pointedly. I think my brother finally figured out that maybe there wasn’t anything there worth having, and maybe he could really trust his dad’s judgment on that. Anyway, prepare to have to argue your case, and be willing to hear their side, even if you don’t change your mind.

  38. @nej, I thought I’d posted a similar comment – absolutely lovely, well written, beautiful. I recognize the sentiment, as well, since my mom had a similar experience with her step-mom in the last six months of her step-mom’s life (she got her mom back for the first time). It was a great gift to get that, and I am glad you have it sooner.@Heather, my mom and I were just talking about the whole cutting off of the grandparents thing. My mom did the ‘99% cut off’ version, which was a mistake – my grandfather managed to terrorize me in that remaining 1%, sufficient to leave permanent emotional scars. She tried to keep our visits to something akin to visiting the zoo – just enough to recognize that there was something out there and that it was dangerous to get too close. But frankly, I’d have been as glad to get an explanation. Certainly my mom had plenty to back it up, even the photos of my grandfather as a child are creepy, and as he got older, his inner self showed more and more in his face. :shudder: I have compassion for him as well, as I am absolutely certain he was horribly abused (since his father also abused the grandkids, not content to stick with just destroying his own kids…). And he had Asperger’s (diagnosed in his 90’s), so he had zero mechanism for healing that, too. Compassion for him, plenty. Any desire to have spent more time with him? No. I was terrified of him, and rightly so, because he was dangerous. Heck, I was terrified of pictures of him. My mom was as fair as she could be about why we visited, and why we did so rarely, balancing teaching what she wanted us to be able to do with trying to keep us safe (that is, she wanted us to be able to value grandparents and family, so she tried to model that… it was a bad conflict with ‘safe’).
    So… just marshall your arguments. Your kids may or may not agree with your assessment. They may want to make their own observations, or not. My step-dad didn’t let his kids visit his father, and just explained and explained. My little brother was terribly put out by it, thought he had the right to develop his own relationship with his own grandfather. But he has made his peace with that, now, too. Especially after my step-dad encountered his father again at a family funeral, and his father a) didn’t even recognize him, and b) once he figured out who he was, ignored him pointedly. I think my brother finally figured out that maybe there wasn’t anything there worth having, and maybe he could really trust his dad’s judgment on that. Anyway, prepare to have to argue your case, and be willing to hear their side, even if you don’t change your mind.

  39. @nej re: your question of @Heather about explaining why a parent made the decision to keep her children away from an abusive grandparent. How about the unvarnished truth? Should the kids inquire, one could take it as a valuable opportunity to talk about how abuse and denial patterns work in some families, how there are members of some families who may or may not be well-meaning, but who engage in denial and use guilt, fear, and manipulation to essentially enforce & enable interactions between abusers and their young prey. One of their best tactics is to create the unfounded fear in the parent’s mind that someday the kids will hate them for standing up to the abusers.

  40. @nej re: your question of @Heather about explaining why a parent made the decision to keep her children away from an abusive grandparent. How about the unvarnished truth? Should the kids inquire, one could take it as a valuable opportunity to talk about how abuse and denial patterns work in some families, how there are members of some families who may or may not be well-meaning, but who engage in denial and use guilt, fear, and manipulation to essentially enforce & enable interactions between abusers and their young prey. One of their best tactics is to create the unfounded fear in the parent’s mind that someday the kids will hate them for standing up to the abusers.

  41. @hush – Your comment is getting printed out and stored in our safe deposit box b/c some day I will need to come back to it. As “strong” as I am about this whole thing, I am still very vulnerable to the guilt, manipulation, etc. especially when framed around my role as a mother and the potential impact my choices have. And I can only repeat the phrase “I’m doing the best I can with the information I have” so many times before it starts to sound naive. So, thanks.

  42. @hush – Your comment is getting printed out and stored in our safe deposit box b/c some day I will need to come back to it. As “strong” as I am about this whole thing, I am still very vulnerable to the guilt, manipulation, etc. especially when framed around my role as a mother and the potential impact my choices have. And I can only repeat the phrase “I’m doing the best I can with the information I have” so many times before it starts to sound naive. So, thanks.

  43. @Nej, luckily right now my two smaller children are 4 months and 2 years. My mother outright dislikes my two year old so she really doesn’t want to see him. She really has something against him. My husband has basically stated he does not want our son anywhere around her, which I respect and agree with.When my infant was born 15 weeks ago my mother came to see him. She kept telling me she had some “connection” with the new baby and kept asking me for him, like really asking if she could have him. IT WAS WEIRD. My father even thought it was odd. To this day (or the last time I spoke with her for that matter) she asks if she can have him. It is freaky.
    My oldest is 14 and since he has an established relationship with my mother and father he is free to see them as he wishes. They are wonderful to him and he is very good about talking with me about anything that bothers him. My mother’s drinking for instance has schooled my son in the ways of the alcoholic – he is very aware she drinks, and that she drinks too much, but since he is 14 we can openly discuss it.
    Do I think I am doing the right thing? I have no idea. Am I doing my absolute best for my children. 100%, yes.
    I am an only child with no cousins. That means I have basically given up most of my family in deciding not to speak to my mother. I would not have come to this point if I didn’t feel it was necessary. Is she physically abusive? No. Is she manipulative, dishonest, mentally abusive? Yes. I have enough to handle without someone sapping the life out of me every chance they get.
    And… my grandmother raised me, thus she left me her home. My mother hadn’t spoken to my grandmother in seven years. SEVEN YEARS. Now that my grandmother passed away my mother is contesting the Will. She feels the WIll is not correct and that the house could not possibly have been left to me. I cannot tell you how painful it is to have your mother fight to take something away from you. I do not care about the house. She can have it. It disgusts me that she is not happy for me, that I was given a gift. I would never in a million years take from my children or be sad they received something and I did not. I could go on and on and on but it is what it is. Some people just cause pain where ever they go.

  44. @Nej, luckily right now my two smaller children are 4 months and 2 years. My mother outright dislikes my two year old so she really doesn’t want to see him. She really has something against him. My husband has basically stated he does not want our son anywhere around her, which I respect and agree with.When my infant was born 15 weeks ago my mother came to see him. She kept telling me she had some “connection” with the new baby and kept asking me for him, like really asking if she could have him. IT WAS WEIRD. My father even thought it was odd. To this day (or the last time I spoke with her for that matter) she asks if she can have him. It is freaky.
    My oldest is 14 and since he has an established relationship with my mother and father he is free to see them as he wishes. They are wonderful to him and he is very good about talking with me about anything that bothers him. My mother’s drinking for instance has schooled my son in the ways of the alcoholic – he is very aware she drinks, and that she drinks too much, but since he is 14 we can openly discuss it.
    Do I think I am doing the right thing? I have no idea. Am I doing my absolute best for my children. 100%, yes.
    I am an only child with no cousins. That means I have basically given up most of my family in deciding not to speak to my mother. I would not have come to this point if I didn’t feel it was necessary. Is she physically abusive? No. Is she manipulative, dishonest, mentally abusive? Yes. I have enough to handle without someone sapping the life out of me every chance they get.
    And… my grandmother raised me, thus she left me her home. My mother hadn’t spoken to my grandmother in seven years. SEVEN YEARS. Now that my grandmother passed away my mother is contesting the Will. She feels the WIll is not correct and that the house could not possibly have been left to me. I cannot tell you how painful it is to have your mother fight to take something away from you. I do not care about the house. She can have it. It disgusts me that she is not happy for me, that I was given a gift. I would never in a million years take from my children or be sad they received something and I did not. I could go on and on and on but it is what it is. Some people just cause pain where ever they go.

  45. I have always had a fairly good relationship with my parents, but was struck by something you said, moxie – the same thing happened for me that when I quit trying to hide the toxicity of my marriage and pretend that everything was ok. They both completely showed up for me and our relationship is better than it has ever been.

  46. I have always had a fairly good relationship with my parents, but was struck by something you said, moxie – the same thing happened for me that when I quit trying to hide the toxicity of my marriage and pretend that everything was ok. They both completely showed up for me and our relationship is better than it has ever been.

  47. Becoming a parent made me thankful for the good relationship my mom and I had while I was growing up. She’s bipolar and her illness was under control, for the most part, while she was raising me.Now her illness seems unmanageable, even with frequent hospitalizations. I’ve had a hard time coping with the change in our relationship – I’m now in the caregiver role. I mourn the loss of the strong, independent woman whe was and that my children will never have that person for their grandma.
    The silver lining is that I’ve gotten much closer to my dad and stepmom. They’ve helped me get through the worst times and are amazing with my kids.

  48. Becoming a parent made me thankful for the good relationship my mom and I had while I was growing up. She’s bipolar and her illness was under control, for the most part, while she was raising me.Now her illness seems unmanageable, even with frequent hospitalizations. I’ve had a hard time coping with the change in our relationship – I’m now in the caregiver role. I mourn the loss of the strong, independent woman whe was and that my children will never have that person for their grandma.
    The silver lining is that I’ve gotten much closer to my dad and stepmom. They’ve helped me get through the worst times and are amazing with my kids.

  49. “I’m wondering if this is common for our relationship with parents or parent figures to become looser and more dynamic as we weather the crap-pile of life together. What has been your experience?” – same. I believe it’s necessary to be looser in order to coexist, or at least tolerate each other.

  50. I was also thinking about the inrievtew questions that were asked; and the inrievtewers are asking the questions that they feel their audience (British magazines or TV shows) want to hear her talk about. This is all part of Angie’s job; and she does a great job. Even if you know she has been asked the question a zillion times; she always answers in a polite, respectful, interesting way.Cherrysnowdrop: I disagree with you comment that she gets put down for caring and talking about her humanitarian work. Most articles that I read, that say negatives about her, do still comment positively about her humanitarian work. Even when you read comments, people who don’t like here, pretty much agree that she does a lot of good with her humanitarian work. Her and Brad have both made comments (I am just paraphrasing / summarizing) that they use they celebrity status to draw attention (publicity) to topics that they want highlighted (Katrina, Darfur, Haiti, International Criminal Court, etc.) I am so glad that one reporter asked her about Pakistan. And her first part of her answer was great, addressing the donor fatigue due to all of these humanitarian issues. This past year, there has been an extraordinary large amount of disasters. She also reminds us to remember after it is out of the news. And in telling how her and Brad are trying to figure out where is the best place to donate your money; it encourages people to do their own research and make sure your donations are going to the areas with the most need and to the organizations that are able to make the most impact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *