I ripped the bandaid off and asked my mom to coffee. We met in the afternoon, sat down after some perfunctory chit-chat and this is what went down.
Her: So, what do you want to talk about? Lay it on me, I can take it.
Me: (confused). It seems that you want to talk so, what do you want to talk about?
Her: (crying). I know you met your bio-fathers family and I’m really happy.
Me: ummm, ok (this is not how I thought it would start out)
She talked a lot, apologized (I think) for some things, and left me a little off-balance. There’s still a disconnect happening. She apologized for not trying to keep in touch with him (and he didn’t try to keep in touch with us), I realize there were bad decisions all around. I told her I can see the differences between what she did (got us out of bad situation and I’m grateful) and how she acted after (completely controlled my life and I never felt good enough). Her response was that I was never the kid they had to worry about. My response to that was that I was compliant, I always thought that if I just got the straight A’s, did everything she wanted me to do, then it would be good enough, but it never felt good enough. I never felt good enough. I wasn’t happy. That the only reason I’m not a hot mess is because of my personality, that’s how I got this far.
I think she apologized, to some degree? She admitted that she realizes that what they did (my parents) wasn’t in the best interest of their kids. It’s taken 3/4 of her kids waking up and realizing the control we were under for her to get there. But at least, she got there? At the same time, she kept saying, “I was a young parent and ignorant, but that’s not an excuse.” She said things like that so many times I started to wonder if she is using it as an excuse. Sure, she was a young parent, so was my dad. They were college-educated, post-graduate educated, working scientists. They weren’t dumb. I guess they fall under the typical baby-boomer screwing up their kids theory. Baby boomers tried to give the next generation everything they didn’t have and do everything for them instead of letting their kids learn. Check. Check. Check. In my case, they also tightly controlled my every decision, activity and choices. She said she thought all the self-doubt goes away as an adult (hahahahahahaha), and I shut down that pretty damn quick citing that I’ve had to do a lot of subconscious therapy work to release trauma and realize my self-worth. That if I hadn’t done that work, there’s no way that I could go to my boss, tell him my position isn’t working for me and make drastic changes to my work-life. As an aside: When I first told her I was going to be cutting my hours she heard that “they are cutting your hours?” and I thought, who the hell immediately thinks that? Clearly, she comes from the world is out to get me so I’m going to control everything camp.
Ah, and then there was the kicker when it comes to my bio-dad. She said that when I was 18, she remembered telling me that she would help me search for him and I said no. So, she thought I was fine. Yep, about as fine as someone conditioned to not ever talk about it is fine. At that point, she could have shared everything, but still there was that control thing, right? I was still controlled, I was still going to the college she chose for me, I was still not supposed to talk about my feelings.
The topic of mental health came up, one of my brothers is likely bipolar, and apparently she has tried to get him help (I know how this goes, something along the lines of “you can’t cope”), and she likes to bring up her sister who has been medicated for decades. I told her I needed to be treated for depression in college, and at least I’m being treated now. I still get the sense that it falls on deaf ears, or that she internalizes all of this to flog herself. The difference I see and feel now, is that I have no control over her reaction, only mine.
She talked a little bit about her parents, which I long identified as an abusive household (clearly, when there are stories of dishes being flung at my grandfather and the way my grandmother treated people in general), yet can’t see that it was abuse. It was just how it was, and she had some other friends who were in similar situations. It’s not hard to see how she fell into a fantasy world with my bio-dad, marrying him even though there were red flags abounding.
As we left, she asked if she could call to take the boys out whenever she wants. And here where nothing is different. Sure, it was a decent talk, I heard some things I was surprised to hear coming from her and I acknowledged that it was really great that she has been able to recognize these things about herself and how we were raised. There was a fair bit of “I failed as a parent” that I didn’t really react to, because I’m a) not going to fall over myself saying that she didn’t fail, and b) I am not in the position to validate that feeling. But, at the end of the day, she wants a fantasy mother-daughter relationship that has never been there. She wants to be able to text every week about seeing my kids (I’ve been ignoring those texts for 6 straight weeks or politely declining or making S respond since she texts both of us). She can’t see that we have our own lives, that we’re busy and sometimes, we don’t want to have plans on the weekend.
I had to talk it through with S as I started to spiral into the thoughts that I’ve been reading it wrong or I had it wrong all along. He stopped me immediately. Sure, she is citing that one long ass conversation we ended up having in a locker room of all places as when the light bulb went on (that was over 3 years ago), yet none of her behavior has really changed in those subsequent years. She still withheld information from me when I asked for it, and there were countless times when we were over at their house for dinner where this type of conversation could have happened, but didn’t.
So, maybe a baby step forward, but I’m not super excited to go over for dinner anytime soon or have them babysit my kids.
Today, I’m a 6/10. Meh.