My Mom and Family Dynamics

I’ve whined about my mother here before and I don’t feel great about that. I am extremely grateful that my parents have opened up their home to me and that they support me emotionally. I’ve also talked a bit about my abuse at her hands when I was 1 to 3 years old and beyond. This abuse set me up to feel very little for her, in fact, I am terribly ashamed to admit, that I often feel disgust for her.

That said, I am also consumed with guilt about that so I go out of my way to try to at least appear to be patient, kind, and interested in what she says, even while I am not.

I’m sad that my mother and father basically seem to be living sad, ruined lives. They can’t get along even for one day and I may be partial when I say this, I can’t know for sure, but I give her credit for 90% of the problems they have around here. It does not have to be this bad. And I’m sorry that this is their reality at 80 and 78 years of age. I, personally, would rather be alone than live as they do, and I think they feel the same (I know my dad does). At this point, however, there’s no way for them to live apart.

Neither my father and I can understand why, but my mom is consumed with the local football team, the U of O Ducks. When football season comes along she becomes manic. All of that is fine, but it’s how she behaves if they begin to lose that’s awful. If they get a few points behind she berates them and either turns the TV off or leaves the room if my dad wants to continue watching it. She is completely over the top and she has NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER regarding her disgust with the team. It’s as though it is personal.

When they begin to lose, or actually do lose, she stops speaking to my father for the day, as though it’s somehow his fault. But the most amazing thing is how she badmouths the team in a really vicious way. It’s absurd! I once tried to explain to her that one team had to win and one team had to lose, and the opposing team has moms and grandmothers who also want their team to win. You’ve got to let them have it now and then. But she looked at me blankly ’cause I guess that doesn’t apply to her beloved Ducks.

There are so damned many areas where dad and I have to walk on egg shells, but football season takes it to a whole new level. It’s exhausting. I offered to make tacos last night but she said no, the game is on. I told her I could easily make them on my own but she said, no, we can’t eat them while we watch the game. My dad, in a rare moment of strength vetoed her and said yes, that’ll be fine, we’ll have tacos.

I’ve only made tacos about a bazillion times in my life but every time she comes in like a QUEEN to fry the corn tortillas. I step aside because it’s her damned kitchen, and then I try not to cringe when she does so many things differently than  I do.

For example, she heats the oil from the beginning at about the “4” (low) setting so it takes forever to get hot and as far as I’m concerned never does get hot enough. Then she folds them with stainless steel tongs and is so rough with them that they are almost always torn. And last night, when I realized we only had so much peanut oil for frying, I asked her to let the taco shell drip a bit over the pan so that we can make the most of the oil we had, but I watched in horror as she pulled it right from the oil, heavily dripping all the way to the paper towel she had ready. I said, “Mom, look at all that oil wasted.” “Huh?” Her usual response. But I cannot criticize someone in their own kitchen even if I was the one to buy all the ingredients.

So every time I want tacos she fries the shells and they are not cooked well enough to prevent falling apart while holding them.

It’s probably me. I’m probably just so ultra sensitive to her due to our dynamic. Other people probably would not see it this way.

So last night was an emotional roller coaster here because for a while the Ducks were behind and her mood was horrific. Then they came from behind to win so she calmed down.

My mother favors male children and grandchildren and can find no fault with them (except the drug addict grandson). She and my dad raised my brother to be the next John F. Kennedy. My dad even took my brother to Washington D.C. for his 13th birthday. My parents were not affluent when we were young, but no expense was spared so that my brother could play Little League and later, be on the high school basketball team. And our lives revolved around going to these things and watching him.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy and a good man, and I love him. I don’t blame him for the favoritism he received. In fact he has mentioned that he feels guilty over it now. He was prepped since birth for college, but my sister and I didn’t even know what an SAT was until our peers began to take the tests. We were prepped to be losers.

When I was seventeen, and really suffering from a bad break up with the handsomest boy in high school (a water polo player), my dad did one big thing for me which has made me feel special in the family for the first time. My only real hobby was black and white photography. He took the washer and dryer out of my mom’s little laundry room and moved them into the garage. Then he painted the walls of the laundry room black and he took me to the store to buy all the equipment I needed and turned it into a darkroom for me. My very own space within the house. To say I was blown away by having something just for myself is an understatement.

My mother used to have horrible screaming fits almost every Saturday morning with either me or my sister. My dad worked a job where his days off rotated so if he was not home, she would fight with us. Even at a young age I realized my mother was fighting with me at my level and she was not behaving like an adult.  Every single fight ended with her laying on her bed in the fetal position crying. Then after a few hours she’d clean herself up and take my sister and I to the mall to buy us stuff to make up for her actions. When I was 15 and got my first job, I no longer let her buy me anything. It was my way of having some control over the situation.

I have never enjoyed her touch and I actually recoil from it. There is super-8 film of us the day my brother flew to England for a year abroad. We stood facing the runway and my mom had begun crying, and she put her hand on my shoulder. I remember it like it was yesterday, and the proof is on the film: I tried to move my shoulder so that she’d take her hand off.

Going back earlier, I recall during my mid elementary school years that our mornings getting ready for school were horrific. She worked full time, but when I was ready to comb my hair I went into her bathroom for her to brush it out. I have fine blonde hair and maybe combs and brushes back then were inferior, I don’t know. But by the time she was done I’d be near tears from the pain. Once I stuck my tongue out at her in the mirror and she caught me. But every single day without fail, as I walked to meet my girlfriends at the corner, I’d greet them with, “I hate her. She’s a witch. I hate her.”

And I truly did.

One reason I feel I must get on my feet and out of here is that I don’t want to live alone with my mom when my dad passes. I will take care of her and I will see to her needs, but I do not want to live with her. I fear that I’ll say things that will hurt her regarding her treatment of my dad. So I need to get out while I can.

I feel that all of this makes me seem like a really horrible person but there’s nothing I can do about it. This is a lifetime of abuse, anger, and resentment by both of us.

I hate the aspects of my personality that are like her and I struggle so much to not behave like her. When my husband wanted to hurt me to my core, he called me by her name. And truly, that is the worst insult. I try to tell myself that I am not her. That I am also my dad, but most of all I am simply me. But it’s difficult. I’ve never known such an unhappy person in my entire life.

I don’t know why she is the way she is. And that in some ways she’s worse than when I was young. She was a professional working woman so why does she now talk with her mouth full at the table? Why does she make so much noise at 6 a.m. when my dad and I are desperate for a little sleep? Why does she hold grudges for days and days? Why does she seem incapable of self reflection? Why does she say, “Huh?” even though she heard us clearly — every single time!?

The other day I thought I needed to stay here longer, but today I don’t feel that way. How I’ll feel tomorrow is anyone’s guess. Depending on the amount of the settlement I may not even be able to afford to move out so there’s no sense in planning it now. But the panic I felt the other day about finding a place and moving out on my own is gone for now.

I apologize for wasting a whole post complaining about my mother. I feel it makes me seem very petty and makes me seem like a bad person. I guess this is a good subject for me to bring up at my counselor’s office.

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2 responses to “My Mom and Family Dynamics

  1. I think your counselor’s input could help you a lot. One of my favorite kinds of questions is, why does someone __? Or why do I always ___? I get some pretty good insight. Your mom sounds like a narcissist, but I don’t understand the intense anger she has. Like the world owes her? She sounds incredibly difficult to live with. I’m sorry for how she treated/treats you!

  2. God, you’re so insightful, Cynthia. She really is a narcissist in fact I can’t help but compare her to my husband sometimes! To never be wrong must be quite a burden. I hope you’re well.

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