Spare me this shit

Thursday, May 05, 2011

This is the thought I have every single time I see another post on Facebook, or on Blogs, or even on Blogher about Mother's Day.

My relationship with my mother is difficult. Non existent, really.

Yes, By my choice. For many, many, many reasons. And Now, for the past week leading up to mothers day, I get to be pummeled with reminders, daily, of this relationship.

The subtle message is that I am a bad daughter for not raising a shrine to the vagina from which I emerged. A Kind of daughter Lemming, rushing to change my profile picture to my Mom, to gush how much I learned, or how much I treasured all the time we spent together.

Spare me this shit.

One of the things that I fought - HARD - for when I was Director of Child care was the removal of holidays, including mothers day, from the center.

Because what if you are the child in foster care?  Being asked to make a card to the mother who can not care for you because of her addictions? Or because she decided to live with a man who beats You, or her and feels that she can not live without him instead of you? Or a mother who does beat you, or withholds food or affection and you spend your time covering up for her because this is the person who is supposed to love you the best and to betray her is to betray yourself?

So no. No Forced mothers day gifts or cards or poems being made by children who can not choose, for a million reasons.

Spare them this shit.

I spent a good part of my session with my therapist today unraveling bits and pieces of why I can not soothe myself as an adult.

"My mother always told me that I was such a calm and unflappable child", I said. "It wasn't true. I just learned to shut down rather than attempt to resist or fight."

"Your mother had that part covered, didn't she?", my therapist responds.

"Are you kidding? Why bother to resist when you are being faced with the hurricane of her emotional life? What could you have felt that wasn't MORE than what she felt? I just shut down."

And I still do. My emotional highs and lows do not reside on scales with normal human beings, because I did not learn this modulation.  I am a 41 year old woman who is re-learning how to comfort herself because my mother did not give me this skill.

"Mothers do that", my therapist tells me. "They teach children how to scan the horizon and put things into perspective. Judge whether something is a danger or nothing to be worried about. This is what you do for Emily when you sit with her and talk through her fears - Right? - Yes, you want her to do well on the test, but if she tries her hardest and doesn't...nothing truly bad will happen."

I laugh.

"Yes. Do your best, but if it doesn't go as planned, you won't live on the street or have food withheld - I tell her that nobody has asked her father and I how we did on our Fractions test in 6th grade, and in the scheme of things it is just not a big deal."

"Exactly. You teach her to assess and soothe her fears. When you don't have a parent who teaches this to you - you end up over or under reacting to perceived threats - cycling through highs or lows that you can't modulate."

My own mother thrived on the energy of tumult. Of crisis. Of Upset and Worry. Of Intrigue.

It is what makes her such a good nurse.

But as a mother, she had no reason to soothe us for our energy was what she capitalized upon. We were the batteries that fueled her spotlight.

So, forgive me if I can not join in the rah-rah-rah Mother's Day Bullshit.

My batteries are simply too low.

8 Baleful Regards:

Never That Easy said...

I am no longer working at any sort of childcare center, but I think of you every time my niece comes home from preschool with a holiday project or my teacher friends start talking about their 'special days' curriculum. I wonder what it would have been like to work in a place like your center, where none of it was mandatory. I imagine that there were so many kids who were lucky to have been there while you were.

And I'm sorry for all the rah rah.

Majerus said...

I feel this so much. Father's day is this way for me.

I love Emily's birthday card for you, and I love that you're honest with her, and that you're forging a relationship with her that transcends the pain of your relationship with your mother.

Dried-on Milk said...

oh boy sounds like the relationship with my mother. it's still there but barely, we've learned to coexist for the sake of other family members that mean the world to me. but as far as me an her go...well there isn't much there and since having my own daughter and not understand why my mom is so bat shit crazy, i just can't and will NOT follow in her footsteps when raising my daughter. I have bits of my mom in me that i hate, sure but i think we all do but when it comes time for any kind of sentiment, like mother's day, i cringe. i usually find the funny card for mother's day bc i don't feel all those warm and fuzzy feelings that i should have. so why fake it? and so, i coexist. i constantly skirt the issue if anyone asks. i totally get the shutting down... i totally get it.

Dawn said...

Oy, Fathers Day is a whole other kettle o' fish.

And it is true that I an envious of other people who seem to have a healthy relationship with their mom.

I wonder what that feels like, I long for it. Even when my mother shows up in my dreams, I want to believe her, I want to be comforted and soothed by her.

And I falter too - there are times when I want to pick up the phone and just talk to her - because I miss her. But I also know that the door that opens is not worth the expense to my sanity, because I can not change her.

And stacia - I bought the funny smart ass cards for years too.

Ginnysicle said...

My relationship with my mother is slowly rebuilding, but I am still grateful I don't have daughters because I'm terrified I'd repeat the cycle that my mother and her mother, and my mother and I had. I think the last healthy mother-daughter relationship in my family was between my grandmother and HER mother.

And I'm a thirty-year old woman who deals with frustration and disappointment like a three-year old sugar crashing. (Which I can't blame entirely on my mother, to be fair.)

La said...

Reading this post, I just realized that this is exactly why I am the way that I am. That my mother, also generally caught up in the hurricane of her own bullshit, never taught me to self soothe either. I didn't realize there was a name for it. I just thought it just... was. That my general lack of fear of situations I should probably be concerned about and inability to get particularly riled up one way or another was just a counterbalance to her muchness.

I hate that the reason I figured this out is because there is someone else in the world feeling the same way that I do. =(

Dawn said...

La, I hadn't figure this out until very very recently....although it is true that some of my non-interest in things that other "normal" people seemed to be interested/upset/happy about stuck out to me.

I think it still feels dangerous for me to feel too much - being too happy is REALLY suspicious and I will take news that should make me feel proud, happy etc and just Not react. Being too sad feels easier, but only if it is linked to being depressed. The sadness I have been feeling since my medication change is real sadness. Not depression...and I almost feel like I deserve it.

My real problem is when I do feel - I can't control the expression of it. I cry...for a year. I cry through my therapy sessions, sometimes starting to cry before I walk into her office.

Of course lots of people in my family self medicate this trait - drugs, alcohol, sex - those are the things that soothe us.

But it isn't good to rely on exterior frames of reference because they will always let you down.

I have no idea how I am going to build this internal structure. I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the idea of it. But I think I have to - or be caught in this cycle forever.

Jaelithe said...

Dawn, honey. Mother's Day isn't about her anymore. It's about YOU. Aren't you somebody's mother?

The mothers people should be celebrating on Mother's Day are ones like you.

(I have done my damnedest to make Father's Day about my husband and other actually useful fathers in my own head. My own father hasn't seen a card from me in 15 years.)

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