Ever feel like someone finally gets it? From a surprising source, no less?
Let me start by saying that my mother is a freak. Really. We have had an exceedingly difficult relationship the past 10-15 years, most of which I will not get into right now. I will simply share the worst story, which took place last summer, so you can get a picture of waht I’m dealing with here.
Last July my mother tried to reach me one Sunday. This was a beautiful summer day, and I was with my daughters at a birthday party for one of their friends. I wasn’t home. Any and all calls to my home were picked up by my answering machine. While I had my cell phone with me, I left it in the car, choosing not to carry it with me around other cavorting five year olds running through sprinklers, sliding down water slides, and burying themselves in cake and juice. Therefore, anyone who called me on my cell phone while we were at the party would also be popped right into ole voicemail. Makes sense, no?
When we left that party I was exhausted and my girls, then 5 and 2, were exhausted. I think I barely had them buckled into their car seats and they were out, and I was wishing I could be too as I drove us home. I was so tired and singularly focused on getting us home that it didn’t even occur to me to look at my cell phone. Frankly, I have it more for me to make calls than to receive them. Therefore, it wasn’t till I had both girls carried upstairs half asleep taht I glanced at it – three missed calls, and three voicemails! Uh oh! Then the house phone – four voicemails! Double uh oh!!
After listening to all seven voicemails I had to make a decision on who to call first. There was one on each device from my best friend in upstate NY, my aunt, and my mother (the seventh was unrelated to the drama of the day!). Called S, my friend in NY, first to get the scoop. Apparently, my mother and aunt have been worried about me and trying to find me all day. Worried that something had happened to me. Um, OK. Gee, can’t a grown woman be out for the day? S and I had a laugh about it (my aunt had done some Internet sleuthing just to get her phone number) and then I figured I’d better get my mother out of the way, let her know I was OK.
She cried with crazy relief when she heard I was OK, but I was supremely annoyed. Ticked off that she called three states away to try to find me, with no real reason for the Sherlock Holmseing. It wasn’t till the next day when I talked to my aunt that I got “the rest of the story”. My mother had somehow gotten it into her head that I had killed my two children and myself. I admit when she first told me this that I laughed. It was so absurd it was all that came out! It was over the next day or so that I became livid. Who the hell is she to come to some crazy, unsubstantiated, RANDOM conclusion like that, and then not only decide it must have happened, but to tell others about it!?! What does that tell me about her level of regard for me as a parent or even a responsible adult? If I were having trouble (I wasn’t and am not), is that really the FIRST step I would take?? Oh, I’m getting all worked up all over again! I’ve already taken more time than I intended just getting to this point, but it was not pretty a few weeks later when she learned that I knew the whole story. And she’s been judging my parenting even more harshly ever since.
Fast forward to three weeks ago, when I was guilted into inviting her to spend the weekend with us. A weekend I was not looking forward to. She loves my girls, but I don’t think she likes them much. She is just not a “little kid” kind of person. And my older one especially has picked up on that. She finds excuses not to do things iwth them, and complains vociferously about any noise the make and is very critical of the decisions I make and the way I handle certain circumstances. But, this weekend was slightly more tolerable than usual. She actually found time to play iwth the kids, and happily watched them both mornings so I could go on a much needed run. At one point she said she wanted us all to go into Boston to do “something”. And I looked at her and said something like, “I don’t want to go to Boston. I’m tired all the time, and when weekends come, it’s our only downtime. Right now, this is all I can handle. I just can’t handle Boston right now.”
This morning during our weekly phone call both girls got on separate extensions at the same time. They have the high pitched voices of little girls, and don’t really get the taking turns to talk thing, and my mother couldn’t handle listening to them both at the same time. When she told me this, I said, “that’s what every day is like for me” and she started to cry and said that she finally gets it. That yes, she was judging me harshly but that she really didn’t get that I was doing the best I could, that she did the best she could, and that she really does see that I’m doing OK and she understands. She brought up my “speech” about not going to Boston as her epiphany (which apparently was more profound than I’ve relayed here). Well, whatever the cause, whatever the source, hallelujah! Validation. From my mother. She’s a freak, but her opinion and approval still matters to me more than I care to admit.