I should have known that things were going too well with my mom. I wrote an article for Medium about why I don’t care if I ever have grandchildren and I shared it with her, as I do with most of my articles. All was going well until I brought up her reaction to when I first told her that I was pregnant.
My memory is sometimes faulty but I remember that day very clearly. I went over to their house and told them that I was pregnant; they knew that I’d been taking fertility treatment because my (stupid, ignorant) doctors had told me that I might not be able to get pregnant. To this day, I still have no idea why multiple doctors made such an unqualified guess about my fertility, since I went on to conceive 3 more children without any assistance. (I had a miscarriage right before my pregnancy with Adam.)
My parents’ reaction was decidedly very underwhelming and I was really hurt by it.
I also mentioned that I wondered why my dad later told my sister to take folic acid when she was newly pregnant, since he never said that to me with any of my pregnancies. I wondered if their underwhelming reaction to my pregnancy and concern that my sister take folic acid was any kind of commentary on what kind of mothers they thought we would be.
Where it all started to go wrong was that my mom first said that I didn’t even make sense because my sister and I weren’t pregnant at the same time. (Umm, obviously?)
Then she denied that her and my dad’s reaction to my pregnancy announcement was underwhelmed and just said that they were so shocked that I was pregnant. Okay…I guess I can buy that, even though their expressions were not ones I normally associate with being shocked.
Then, my mom pulled one of her famous old mindfucks: denying that my dad ever said to my sister that she should take folic acid. She actually said, “I didn’t suggest she take folic acid. I’m pretty sure Dad didn’t either. What makes you think he would have said that?”
Um, maybe because I was there and I heard it?
The closest I got to an apology was her repeating several times that she can’t go back and change the past. And just once, she said, “I’m sorry that you felt that way and still feel that way.”
That sounded like a very qualified non-apology. Not “I’m sorry I did that” but “I’m sorry you felt that way.”
Surely, it was too much to ask for her to admit that she screwed up and she was sorry that it’s affected me for so long.
Since we were already discussing the past, I also told her that I always felt like she gave preference to my sister’s kids. As the example I gave, I mentioned that she and my dad wouldn’t go to my kid’s birthday party that we held at Chuck E Cheese, but sure enough, my parents showed up for it when my nephew’s birthday party was held there right before I left for Texas.
I know I’ve mentioned this here before but it bothers me a lot and I can’t seem to let it go.
I mentioned that I always had to have a separate family party for them, which meant that I had to coordinate three different parties for the same week to appease them and that was really hard on me.
She said, “We’ve already talked about that several times.” (No, we haven’t; I mentioned at the time of my nephew’s party that I thought it was crappy that they wouldn’t come to my kid’s party there and she said, “Well, I regret that” and that is the extent to which we’ve ever discussed it.) And, “you are not remembering it entirely correctly.” And once again, she repeated that she can’t go back and change the past.
She’s right; she can’t. I talked about it with J and he asked something like what I hoped to gain from bringing up the past, when it was so long ago. And I don’t really know…I guess I just felt like she and I had reached a different point in our relationship, where we could discuss old issues of conflict and come to a different resolution. But obviously we can’t.
All I really wanted was a genuine, unqualified apology. I think that the fact that I still want one is a sign of where I am unhealed. The fact that she can’t give one is a sign of where she is on her own healing process.
But I don’t think she would actually describe herself as being on any kind of journey to heal and get better. And it’s obviously not a competitive process; it’s ideally supposed to be where two people help each other get better. I can’t make her want to get better, though.
More accurately, she’s still stuck in a place where she can’t admit (either to me or herself) that she’s really deeply hurt me sometimes. She still resorts to claiming that I didn’t really hear things that were actually said.
I just wish that for once she could own it. I apologize to my kids regularly when I do something to hurt them and it’s really not that scary. Similarly, I’ve made very heartfelt apologies to J for the ways that I have hurt him over the years. It actually makes me feel better to lift that burden and I think it has a positive effect on our relationships in the end, too.
But now, I no longer question my reality like I once did. It used to really throw me into a tailspin, questioning myself, when she would say that things didn’t really happen and I knew that they did.
Now, I just see it as sad.
I sent a response that was kind-of a cop out, telling her that I probably should have just discussed it with my therapist, since she was right that she couldn’t change the past. And I said that I was just emotional about my husband having a hard time on chemo (which is true) and that I know she doesn’t like for me to talk about that.
That subject in itself is still far past the limits of our relationship and may always be. I’ve had some hopeful thoughts in recent weeks that maybe I could talk to her about the fact that sometimes it’s really difficult and painful for me to accept that J’s going to die, but I think that hope was also premature. She’s never been open to discussing that, not even after I shared my first Medium article about the fact that he is likely to eventually lose his fight. She said that article brought tears to her eyes and that my relationship with J really is something rare and special, but that was the extent of our talk.
I need to get back to just accepting her where she is and not looking for more from her than she can really give. But that still sucks a lot and it’s so hard to put into action.