Karen is from Connecticut. She has a degree in education. She loves game shows, animals, the beach, and her family.
And the Academy Award goes to ... Mom
And the Academy Award goes to Mom…
Some people really get a bad break when it comes to parents. There are negligent parents, authoritarian parents, permissive parents, absentee parents. They can all do damage to a child, on through to adulthood. There’s some truth to the idea of the psychiatrist always blaming the parents. They are nature and nurture. By and large, I didn’t make out too bad. My father is so patient. My mother is so generous. When I step back I can even laugh at their foibles, sometimes. Other times, though, my anger can shake the walls.
The problem is mainly that my mother has a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Someone with a PhD might call her a narcissist. That’s probably because they don’t have to live with her. They would be wise to duck after a comment like that otherwise. My ex-boyfriend used to call her the martyr. I hadn’t put it in those words before, but I couldn’t deny it. It’s a pretty apt description. I’ll set the picture with an example, Mom works tirelessly to make the extravagant meal that no one asked for. Her children end up leaving before the meal is served because they had other plans. “Oh, Okay” says Mom, while her face says “Daggers. Daggers into your thankless souls now.” If looks could kill, she’d be a cereal killer. She walks up the stairs, heavy footed, and Dad furrows his brow in that way he does. He shakes his head and follows her. The whole mood of the house has changed suddenly until she says otherwise. You see, her life is so hard.
Her dramatics create a space where everyone else has better play into them, or they will be exiled by the arctic cold shoulder. Holiday gift giving, for example. Mom has a tendency to pick gifts for others based on what she wants them to have, not what they actually want. But you must act like that gift is the only thing that has been truly missing from your life up until this point. It’s the thought that counts. Mom has so many thoughts when choosing a gift. We are obliged to acknowledge them with countless thanks.
The problem is that I’m much more likely to ask for the receipt in the above scenario. I’d let the food go cold on the stove. To hell with it. I can’t buy into the whole thing some days. I fervently stand against the pandering, the pandering that Dad has most exclusively lived by for the last fifty years. I’ll show up just to burst a bubble.
My father chides me to be nicer to my mother. “Don’t upset your mother.” “Don’t be angry with your mother.” Just to be safe, don’t have feelings in front of your mother. Anyone else’s feelings would take up too much space. Space that her feelings require.
Maybe I could be more like Dad. I can just ask Mom what exactly it is that I should be feeling. That’s the puzzle he’s always trying to solve. What he should want to eat. What he wants to watch on television. His opinion may be requested, but the truth is she already holds the correct answer in her mind, and he simply needs to guess it and avoid the landmines, or else.
It is often difficult for me to wrap my head around Dad’s appeals for me to mask my feelings, sugar coat things, and walk on eggshells for my mother. How old was I the first time he asked me to do this? That’s a lot to put on someone. Should I always have to be the adult in the situation? The bigger man. “No, I’m sorry Mom. Of course you’re right.” I remember a visit we took to NYC when I was home from college for some break. We went to dinner and a show. I picked a restaurant I wanted to try. Unbeknownst to me, it was the wrong one. I had ruined the day. It was too far away from the theater and there was a wait. Mom pouted and cried in the corner of the parking garage, eating crackers while Dad gave me the furrowed brow. I hadn’t even known I was walking into a landmine.
Maybe this type of behavior wouldn’t be so infuriating to others, but it would at least register as annoying. Go on a drive with her. I dare you. Put your food on the brake and she’ll gasp and fling herself toward the windshield in reproach. Add fresh ground pepper to her salad and she’ll ask for tissues, blot her poor watering eyes, and push the offending plate away. How could we not do better by her? I washed her dishes and she told me I was trying to “cancel her.” I’m sure that was followed by her marching up the stairs ostensibly to rest. This exit allows the offending party to sit in shame and think about what they did wrong.
I straightened her house, and she told me all of her favorite things were thrown away. She really likes old heating pills and expired dog medication. I don’t know if she has ever uttered a sincere “thank you.” She is much more of a fan of the disdainful, “I’m so sorry. What did I do wrong now?? Beware. There is no right answer to that.
With mom, if there is an argument, it ultimately becomes a contest of who can be more offended. Check mate. She always wins.
© 2022 Karen Michelle C