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My Mother, Not My Friend

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Every teenage girl wishes, sometimes secretly and sometimes right out loud, that they could count their mother amongst their best friends. What teen girl wouldn’t want a mother so cool that her clothes could be borrowed and worn to high school and only receive admiration instead of gawks and snickers? What teen girl wouldn’t want to run squealing with pride to their hip mother’s waiting car in the high school parking lot at the end of a long day of learning? I remember in elementary school having two friends whose mother’s were fifteen years younger than my mom. Both the moms were in bands, wore leather jackets, listened to Adam Ant, and smoked cigarettes. Man, I thought they were cool. But there comes a time in a woman’s life where we stop wanting our moms to be our friends and just need our moms to be our moms.

When I was in junior high and high school, my mom was just a mom. She closely examined my report cards and picked them apart, noting areas where she wanted to see improvements. I was frequently threatened with moving schools if my grades didn’t improve. The few times I was picked up from school, it was in her beige minivan with either the Annie soundtrack or Neil Diamond blaring away. Her clothes were plain; her hair always a mess and she never wore makeup. She has never been a morning person and I walked to school most days just to avoid a car ride with her. She was strict and emotionally unavailable. When I got my period at the age of twelve, I didn’t tell her because I had no idea what was happening to me; I figured I must be dying. She never talked to me or my sister about those womanly things. When I ask her about it now, her reply is, “you never asked.” How can I ask about what I don’t know to ask about?

During my teens, my mom contracted a yet-to-be-diagnosed illness that left her unable to work. Now, twenty years later, she has yet to return to the workforce and her education and work experience is so obsolete, she won’t consider the idea of ever returning. Her disability has caused my mom to regress into a time when she was happy and healthy. She spends her days reminiscing about the past; never living for the day, or excitedly looking toward the future. Her memories have warped through the years and the stories that are recalled over and over seem to change with each retelling.  


It seemed that once I hit my thirties, my mom’s role in my life changed. She started to see me as a friend, someone to cry to and someone to support her. When I ask her to share her feelings with a friend and not her daughter, her response is that she can’t because her friend is too busy. Her closest friend is a darling little spitfire of a woman who has two grown boys and an active life despite her own health ailments. But she, obviously, doesn’t have time to play shoulder-to-cry-on to my dramatic mother. 


Over the past year, I’ve spent countless hours at the opposite end of a phone line, a full state away, listening to my mother’s distorted recollections of traumatic past events, such as her failed marriage to my father which ended in divorce twenty-six years ago. Tears were shed when recalling the first time she met my stepmother (who has now been married to my father for twenty years). When she feels she has been wronged by a family member, she calls me to vent about it. Along the way, somehow she got the idea that I am her protector and confidant. Well, I’m not. She is my mom and she should be my protector and confidant.


I am a thirty-four-year-old, married, professional woman who forms her own opinions of people based on what I see and hear. My mother, the child, would like to turn me against everyone who has wronged her in the past, including my father. I adore my dad, and have worked very hard to rebuild my close relationship with him that was lost after their divorce. 


My mom has painted a picture of herself as this poor little picked-on soul who lives an honorable and perfect life but just seems to be the brunt of everyone’s frustrations. In actuality, she is a sneak, a fabricator, and a troublemaker. Still, her greatest feat is to appear helpless, especially to her daughters. She is very self-centered and loves to talk about herself. My extended family members all seem to get along with this one common factor that always throws a wrench in the works; my mom. 


I have been filled to the brim with the dramas, lies, and complaints to the point where I could pen an afterschool special about her. She has told me that she always suspected my father was molesting me as a child; this is wildly untrue. She said she suspected my father of being unfaithful to her because she would find his ring lying around; he was a fireman who was not permitted to wear jewelry to work. She reminds me of all the wrong things he did to me, like putting Mr. Bubble in my bath when I was a baby which gave me a bladder infection; like announcing on Christmas Day, my fifteenth birthday, that he had eloped with his wife without including his daughters and thereby ruining Christmas forever; like refusing to go to counseling to salvage his marriage to what my mom feels was, “the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, and cook.” I don’t know what she has been smoking, but pass it over; I’d love to live in la-la land like she does. 


The reality is if she really were so perfect in her marriage, would it have failed? I doubt it. If she were really such a perfect mother, would I be writing this right now? Definitely not. 


I love my mom because I have to. I don’t look to her for advice or comfort and neither does my younger sister. Both my sister and I have spent time on the couches of counselors, but our mom refuses to do the same. When major life events happen, we frequently don’t inform our mother, or we at least make sure she knows to stay away. I asked her not to visit me after I had a scary surgery in 2008 and I don’t see her being by my bedside when my first baby is born. 


The greatest wish for both myself and my sister is to have a normal mom. One who calls us and asks us how we are doing and shows genuine interest in our lives. One who does not bog us down with her embellished stories of her painful past. One who keeps her negative thoughts to herself. One who understands when you have to preface a sentence by saying, “I know I shouldn’t tell you this … but” then you probably should keep your mouth shut. I guess it sounds selfish, but I want my mom back. Problem is, I think she is too far gone.

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