I feel like the wickedest witchiest bitch, but it’s all been an excellent learning experience on my part, and hopefully won’t be repeated. More than anything, I owe my daughter a huge apology; for being mean to her before Christmas, for not being supportive of her life choices, for sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, for not having enough faith in her awesomeness, and for being a horrible mother, even if it was with the best of intentions.
Christmas was amazing. Aubrey went above and beyond in her search for the perfect presents. She got Ron a bartender’s set and a book of drinks recipes; I got a gorgeous dragonfly scarf and hand twisted wire dragonfly shawl pin; Matt got a set of musician statues made of wire and hardware bits; Ron and I each got mugs and a pound of Christmas Blend coffee from Starbucks. For Ron, she found a LOTR mug on Etsy. For me, she picked a kitten on its back, playing with a ball of yarn. In proof of our Vulcan mind meld, she purchased the mug shortly before I purchased my phone case with a kitten on its back, playing with a ball of yarn and neither of us had any idea of the other.
Meanwhile, I received a link to an article by Peg Streep, the author of Mean Mothers; Overcoming The Legacy of Hurt. I’ve always said that my Higher Power speaks to me through the internet, and sure enough, They didn’t let me down. While scrolling through facebook, this article popped up just when I needed it most. It was generally about daughters divorcing their mothers but it was meant to be supportive considering how hurtful Christmas can be, and oh is it hurtful. No matter how much progress one makes, Christmas and Mother’s Day will always cause pain, particularly when viewing photos of other happy mother/daughter families. For me, unpacking ornaments and seeing the rejected apple ornament from when I was seven years old picks at the not so healed scab. This year, I asked Aubrey to please paint over it. When the tree comes down, she will dig out paints and fix it into something that doesn’t hurt.
While searching for Mean Mothers on Amazon, I decided to check Scribd on the off chance they have it, which they do. Scribd also suggested Will I Ever Be Good Enough?; Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride. I decided to read that one first, as I feel that Mean Mothers will be a more traumatic read for me.
To add to the Christmas frustration, my mother has taken to adding little cheerleader comments on my facebook posts. I ignore them, but they seriously piss me off, as I know they are just for show and an attempt to make my friends think she is the mother that I wish I had, but that I know doesn’t exist. My childhood friends have all sent me texts or messages saying, “WTF?” as they all know that’s not the real her. When one person did ask if perhaps she’s attempting to change, I pointed out that not once has she picked up the phone to ask, “How are you feeling/what’s going on/how can I help/what do you need from me?” I gave up on calling her, as the only thing she ever talks about is how my uncle is dying (he’s been dying for 12 years now, and is still well enough to drive a car). She never tells me about my nieces and nephew, I don’t get invited to parties, and I certainly wasn’t informed when she was investigated by child protective services and had to leave the home for 30 days (that was last year). So no, I don’t give her credit for attempting to change.
Sadly, while reading Will I Ever Be Good Enough, I discovered not only myself in the client interviews, but also in the description of narcissistic mothers. In my effort to avoid being the avoidant mother, I went too far the other way and became the engulfing mother. There in black and white was evidence of all the things I never wanted to do wrong but did. I take some comfort in knowing it’s because I never had a good mothering role model, and while that’s great up to now, at age 46 I have to take responsibility for my own actions.
My other comfort is that most of my engulfing was done out of love; when Aubrey decided she wanted to dance, I made sure she went to the best school, driving back and forth to Austin every weekend. When she wanted to ride horses, we paid a fortune so she could ride a couple of times a week and I froze my ass off through the winters, huddling over a barrel fire waiting for her lessons to finish. I “protected” her through bad boyfriends, shitty friends, and various other life mistakes because I love her and want her to be safe and feel loved. And I did it all wrong.
As I read through Karyl McBride’s descriptions and examples, I recognized several of my own behaviors. Worst of all was that I’ve always seen Aubrey as an extension of myself. Don’t get me wrong! I also see her as her own person, but I’ve felt like her behaviors reflected on me, showing me as a good parent when she did something right or a bad parent when she did something I didn’t agree with. Although I’ve tried hard to let her be her own person, I’ve been known to be manipulative and punishing when I didn’t get my way; when she didn’t DO what I WANTED her to DO. All moms joke that our children would be much happier if they would just shut up and do everything that we tell them to. What a horrible, unfunny joke that is. Actually, our children would be happy if we would just shut up and let them do what they want to do (adult children, that is).
The one thing I’ve done right, but still managed to bung up because I’ve never expressed it well enough, is that I love her for who she is, not for what she does. Aubrey is amazing, brilliant, talented in a multitude of ways, has a flair for picking up bits of other languages, has a way with even the scariest of animals, is fearless, loving, and a good person. THOSE are the important things. Who she dates, where she works, what career she chooses, none of that reflects on me. Although she works as a hostess when she is smart enough to be a doctor, she does it with an extreme work ethic; she never calls in unless she is deathly ill, she’s the best aerial acrobat that her company has ever had, she’s professional and hard working, and has been employee of the quarter more times than anyone else in the four years she’s worked there. THOSE are the things that reflect on me. It’s not what she does, it’s how she does it that make me a good or bad parent.
My worst offense, however, is telling her whom she could or couldn’t be friends with and whom she should or shouldn’t date. I’ve not been supportive in her choices, which I should have been no matter how much they make me cringe. I’m sure even non-narcissistic mothers believe that no one is ever good enough for their daughter (or son), and I certainly believe that. But again, I’ve been focused too much on how things look and not how things are. And while I stand firmly on my decision that her current relationship is extremely unhealthy, it’s not my job to judge, punish, or manipulate. It is my job to be here. PERIOD.
There have been times when I’ve not been able to get across my concerns and instead my words have come out as judgmental. When we learned she was bi-sexual, I truly honestly did not care about her sexual preference. I cared that she had lied to us and her girlfriend had been spending the night. Unfortunately, those two revelations were quite tied together, so it was impossible for Ron and I to explain that we weren’t angry about her being bi, we were angry that the other girl was older and should have known better, but instead manipulated us and her (they were 12 and 14 at the time).
With this latest relationship, neither Ron nor I have been able to make her see that we don’t care that he’s a waiter, that he’s 38, that he lives with his mother, that he had a rough childhood; we care that he’s a 38 year old waiter that lives with his mother and is still using the excuse that he had a rough childhood. If he were 22, none of the rest of the things would matter because the hope would be that he would outgrow those things. If he were 38 and successful, secure, and truly loved her, we would be thrilled. I’m also pretty stuck on the fact that he’s a friggin’ idiot and I’m not sure Aubrey’s smart genes could compensate enough for his dumb genes. I also get a strong abuse potential vibe, which I’m pretty damn sensitive to. All that said, she has to figure these things out on her own.
So the theme for 2016 is; IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT ME! I’ve asked my therapist to help me work on being a better mother, to learn how to balance between avoidant and engulfing, to be supportive but not intrusive, to stop being manipulative, to better express my unconditional love without it coming across as conditional. I have faith that I’ll succeed. My immediate family are the most important people in my life and my children are both well worth my making some positive changes. And that, more than anything else, sets me apart from my mother.