Sunday, September 10, 2006


This has been an anguished end of the weekend. My mother called as I was making dinner; this was a follow-up to a family wedding we were at last night. We chatted briefly about the wedding. And then my mother said, "I'll be thinking of you tomorrow, teaching your first class...what time is it, again? 5:00?" It is indeed at 5pm tomorrow that I'm teaching my first class at New Uni. And it's lovely and sweet that my mother will be thinking of me. I am a lucky daughter - my mother is nothing but kind and loving. But I reacted the same way I've reacted since I was ten. The mother-hating way.

I made my mother cry. As I have before. She said, "I feel as if I don't know how to talk to you. I've tried everything, and that's why I don't call as much anymore. You intimidate me sometimes. I feel as if I embarrass you."

And I have nothing to say in my own defense. She's right.

Why do I do this? I watch myself doing it, the same way I have for so many years, and see myself quite clearly being a complete, appalling shit. Behaving in ways that are so out of character for me. Friends - and GF - who see me interact with my mother are shocked. They laugh at the incongruity between my daughter-self and my everyday self. Except it's really not funny. And I can't figure out how to stop it. It's as if it's a sick force that feels bigger than me (as it surely is, our friend Kristeva would say...) I feel like a monster.

The worst part is that feeling like a monster is a sort of objective reaction to myself. In these moments of discussion with my crying mother, I don't really feel anything. There she is, crying, anguished, and there I am, an emotionless stone. What an asshole. This, too, is so out of character for me - this kind of repression. I'm a crier; I emote, usually. With her, I just apologize, but it's without real emotion; it's apologizing for what I can identify as shocking behaviour on my part, what I recognize as appalling, inappropriate rudeness. But I'm turned off.

These moments with my mother put me in touch with the very worst parts of myself. I think it's time to get me to a counsellor to talk through this one. It's not "bigger than me", and I can't use that sense to excuse myself. I have a responsibility - to my mother, and to myself - to wrestle with this, to understand it, to try to exorcise it.


medieval woman said...

How exactly did you make her cry when she asked about your class last night? I'm not asking out of morbid curiosity, but because sometimes analyzing the trigger and reaction - the actual moment when you turn from Dr. Hilaire to Mr. Hyde - can help. I, myself, tend to be horrible to my mother at times - I'm her only child and she's still very much a mom. When we talk about things, she can get very didactic and I feel instantly infantilized or "edited" in some way and that stabs me with an annoyance so deep that I lash out and start yelling. I'm getting better at just sucking up the stabs and pointing out when she's doing this. She usually admits it and laughs sheepishly.

Not that our situations are the same, but I hear some similarities - I probably have treated my mother overall worse than any person in the world over the years and she didn't deserve it.

Actually, I think I'll give her a call now. :) Hope your first class is awesome!

Hilaire said...

Yes, I have been trying to figure out what this is about, with the help of GF. Although it's all so tangled up and repressed that it's hard to discern. The reason I react - and make her cry - is that she gushes over everything that I do. It's all just so amazing to her. Oh my god, a first class - I might as well have just discovered a cure for cancer. Everything I do is subject to this same gush, revealed in her tone as much as in her choice of words. I can't take it. I'm just going about my life, doing ordinary things - and she makes them into a huge deal. Everything becomes this major, ta-da moment. I do my hair - AMAZING. I go to work - BRILLIANT. It's her pride and worship of me, I guess...I find it I lash out at her. I need her to back off.

I phoned her back later last night, and we chatted a bit about it. She said that she thinks she tries to make up, through me, for a very fraught relationship with her mother. Her mother essentially disowned her for seven years until I was born (because she moved in with my dad out of wedlock, as a university student), and she has spent her mothering years consciously trying to make up for that...hence trying to repair that broken relationship through me, I guess. And she has an unabashedly sentimental personality, too, I think. Those two things are a deadly combination.

Ah, family.

Thanks for sharing, MW - it helps to hear that people have similar relationships with their mothers, it really does.

grumpyABDadjunct said...

I don't make my mother cry (that I know of anyway) but she often leaves me cold. We just can't seem to connect, and I admit that I don't really care to try and change this. When I was in therapy I worked out that I'm still angry with her for something she did when I was very young - my shit to deal with. But I also realized that my mother is kind of selfish and really never put me first and is not very reliable and quite self-centred and I just have to deal with her as she is. At least you and your mom can talk about it, Hilaire, my mother and I have never discussed this because I don't think she could even hear that she isn't wonderful.

Hilaire said...

You're so right - I am lucky that we can even talk about it. Though, I must admit, even in this area she's too much - I told her maybe I'm thinking of therapy, and she said, excitedly, three times, "well, if they want me to go with you ever, I'd be happy to". She's all over it - she can't just let me do my thing. Suffocating.

Thanks for weighing in on this - it helps me to hear about other people's relationships with their mothers being broken. Since there's so much propaganda about happy mother-daughter connections.

grumpyABDadjunct said...

Given how poisoned my mother's relationship with her mother was she and I are probably doing more than alright! She is a good person and she tries in her own way but she is really overcompensating for what she doesn't want to do, to the point of the ridiculous. One of the hard parts is that she is friends with some of my friends and they all think she's great so it is hard for me to find someone to vent to about her.

Wow, your mom offers to go to therapy with you - there's the problem right there! But it sounds like you know that, and that's half the battle.

Hilaire said...

Ew, that's really hard...your friends thinking your mom is all that, I mean. It's sort of similar - my mother is nothing but sweetness and light...that's what people see. So it's hard for them to imagine why I'd be such a beyatch to her...

Sigh...Take care.