do not mourn what you do not have

My mother called today, and yes, this is news.  She does not contact us very often.  The last time we spoke was at my kid's birthday party about six weeks ago. 

I'm okay with this.

"How are you?" she asks, and her voice is so devoid of any hint of feeling that I am certain she is inquiring because she feels she needs to, because she is required to ask, and not because she especially cares one way or the other.   So naturally I say I am fine, and I say it with a blank face and an empty heart.

She always makes a point of telling me how much she misses "the children", as if the bundle of them is a singular entity.  In return, I tell her an anecdotal story about my many children that is neither here nor there, a pinpointed snippet of our life that gives no glimpse of our big picture.

Today she said she would like to come visit on a Saturday when my husband is not home.  She does not like to be around him, avoids eye contact, does not speak to him unless absolutely necessary.  

He's okay with this.  He makes it a point to be in the room when she and I are together; we learned the hard way that his presence was a necessity.  My mother will follow me when I leave a room, and she will take out her needling needles and poke, poke, poke away until I've nearly bitten off my tongue, and then she will say something that is mean and personal and completely unnecessary and I will be cut to the quick.

It's my family's own special tessellation of crazy.  The same behavior followed by the same behavior followed by more of the same.  Passive Aggressive Pink next to Obtuse Orange and Codependent Cerulean.  From a distance it looks beautiful, normal even, but the closer you get the sharper the colors become, the angles seem more pointy, and you realize that the whole thing is woven together with poison.

I was talking with a dear friend of mine about the conversation I had with my mother.  I told her about the request for a Saturday visit when my husband was not around.  She was flabbergasted, and I heard a gasp behind me.  My oldest ran from the room in tears.  

Grandmother doesn't like Daddy?  Grandmother doesn't like Daddy?  My oldest has as much of an understanding of our extended family as anybody, but I think the idea that Grandmother would not be enraptured with Daddy was nothing that had ever been considered.  It was puzzling why Grandmother would actually say out loud that she did not want to be around Daddy, and even more so, the idea that someone wouldn't like Daddy boggled that little brain. 

It is so difficult to navigate the waters of parenting within a larger dysfunctional family.  I want my children to form their own opinions.  I want them to be able to enjoy their relatives as much as they possibly can.  At the same time, I refuse to lie to them or to interpret situations in such a way that would give them a false impression of what is really going on.

Grandmother didn't say that she doesn't like Daddy.  I don't know why she would say she doesn't want to be around Daddy.  She didn't say anything that helped me to understand where she's coming from.  That was the best I could do.

I hate it when the best I can do sucks.


  1. Thank you for posting this. It has been my experience as well, with my mother. I didn't have the same background as you, my parents were divorced. My mother was abusive and does not know how to love anyone but herself. She is hostile toward my husband (has made horrific accusations) and she told me she wished I'd aborted our first son (and, based on her words and behavior, I assume our other children). She introduces jealousy and strife between them and treats them as a unit (as you said) and perpetually infantile. Thank you for writing this.

  2. is it possible we share a mother? mine is the same only she calls about every 3-4 months (thankfully).

  3. I don't have kids (of my own), and my family situation is a lot different than yours in its specifics, but still, that paragraph about the colors of crazy that you live in the middle of? Was so much my life that I almost cried.


I read, appreciate, and try to answer every comment. Thanks so much for your visit!