Ugh. I was going to try to write about my conflicted relationship with them at Medium but I couldn’t make it not sound whiny. I’m too close to it, I guess.
I am conflicted, though. As I process and write about the kind of parents that my husband and I are, I can’t help but feel cheated by the contrast of what I have never gotten from my own parents.
There have been times when my mom in particular has had brief moments of almost getting it. But she clearly still doesn’t really know me or what I stand for—particularly when it comes to my parenting goals. I don’t think she really had any parenting goals.
In fact, I remember that one time shortly after I graduated high school, she said that all she hoped for was that I’d make it to my high school graduation without getting pregnant. I also remember that at the time, my uncle (my dad’s younger brother, who never had kids) said that he thought that was such a low bar. And it was. I had a lot of potential that my parents didn’t cultivate at all. (I mean, I graduated magna cum laude while raising three young kids, and it didn’t count because she didn’t think it was a hard enough major. Pretty rich for someone who never attended college.)
Even more than that, though, for that being their one goal for my life, they didn’t really DO anything to prevent it. It was only the fact that I was so underweight and malnourished that I didn’t have regular periods that actually kept me from getting pregnant. It wasn’t attributable at all to anything they did or didn’t do.
I let my mom read Dylan’s college admissions essay that got him into A&M yesterday; she was hopeful that it would make her feel more like she knew him. That in itself is incredibly sad to me—how can you not know who your grandson is? Of course, the answer to that is that she never listened to anything he talked about, choosing instead to cling to her incredibly inaccurate view that he liked to stir up trouble and make her life more difficult.
That’s not to say that he didn’t like stirring up trouble, but she didn’t even know why he was doing it. I did and that made me think he was even more awesome for doing so. He was never trying to upset her, like she thought; he was just eternally curious about everything and a bit of a good-natured prankster sometimes. His sense of humor is one of the traits his siblings and I like best about him because he’s otherwise so serious.
In his essay, he wrote about how moving down here was the pivotal moment that shaped him into who he is today: resilient, hardworking, determined to challenge himself.
And more than that, he also talked about how much my husband and I have been his greatest role models and support system.
I would love to think that my mom developed a different view of me when she read that but she didn’t seem to. That would take self-reflection, which I honestly don’t think she’s capable of. She’s perpetually in victim mode; things happen to her but she doesn’t think she has agency in them. I know that stems from childhood trauma she suffered and that’s very sad, but she’s never made any effort to get over it. At her age (67) she’s not likely to ever do the work.
I wanted her to read that and tell me I had done a good job in raising him. Of course, she didn’t.
I have realized that my relationship with both of my parents, but especially my mom, probably isn’t ever going to change. We’ll continue to text every few weeks (me almost always being the one to initiate it) and it will always be very surface-level stuff.
I feel disappointed that this is as good as it can possibly get. She doesn’t want to hear that she’s done anything damaging to me (and in fact, shuts it down if it starts going there.) She doesn’t want me to talk about my deeper feelings that might let her know about who I really am.
I am incredibly strong. I work on continually getting better and have made immense progress in the past five years in particular. I give my entire life to be in tune with my kids and to try to help them reach their goals.
I get it now that she will never get it. I’m still disappointed by that, though. Knowing that I have to keep my own mom on the level of a workplace friend hurts.
It also hurts that I have given my kids so much more emotional support than she’s ever given me. And that’s just my own burden to bear; I can’t do anything about it.
I’m very glad and grateful that I broke the cycle with my own children. I just wish she had any interest in breaking the cycle with me.