Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Gray Cloud

The Matron thought long and hard about posting this (well, okay, more than 30 seconds) because her brother and sister--not her mother--know about and sometimes read this blog. She understands that they have an entirely different relationship with their mother than the Matron does. So this is her experience, only.

When the Matron was a Youngish Miss, 29 or 30, something disturbing happened to her. All she wanted to do was run this event by her mother, even though past experience and common sense told her that such Outreach would not unfold as hoped for. What Young Miss hoped for was that her mother would say something like this: "I love you. Everything is going to be all right. "

Seems like reasonable enough expectations?

Instead, here's what her mother said in the dark face of her daughter's crisis and need: "Please don't tell me anything about your personal life again."

Yes, she can hear you gasping. And you know those are the exact words, because how can you forgot something like that?

Those words broke Young Miss's heart. She hung up the phone and wept for hours. Thankfully, Young Miss was seeing a very wise therapist at the time who declared her mother's statement a great gift. The therapist advised the Matron to honor her mother's request and not tell her anything about her personal life, ever, again.

Wait until she asks about something, advised the therapist. Only then, because you'll know that your mother really wants to know.

To this day, the Matron's mother does not know where her daughter works, the kind of classes she teaches, how relationship with her husband is, what her dissertation was on, what she minored in in college or graduate school, if she's volunteering at school or elsewhere, how the births of the children went, if there's retirement or college money, what restaurants the Matron likes or what books she's been reading.

Her mother never asks.

45 comments:

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

And then the universe sent the Matron many blogging friends who care to know all about such things.

Cha Cha said...

Your mom is missing out. You are an amazing, incredibly interesting, loving, beautiful woman.

I second Cheri's comment.

She She said...

What a gift to your children you are (and to us, your faithful and always-interested readers).

My mother never asks either. No way around it, it's painful. And most of the time, I can remember that it's not about me. It'sa about her incapacity. But it still hurts.

Minnesota Matron said...

Thanks, friends. Yes, that's the thing -- it still bothers me! I wish it didn't, but it does.

smalltownmom said...

It's not you, it's her. And I third Cheri's comment.

Kelly said...

My mother asks and then doesn't listen to me, at all. She starts making kissy noises at her ugly dog to amuse herself while I talk.

It sucks. She tricks me every time and then I feel stupid AGAIN.

Thomas said...

I fourth and fifth all the comments. Look what she is missing. It still must be hard though. It is her incapacity for sure.

stephanie

Jennifer said...

That makes me very sad for you. I agree with Cha Cha - she is missing out on knowing a remarkable woman.

I will never again complain when my mother wants to know EVERYTHING!

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

Your mother must live in a very tiny confined little world, if there is no room for the wonderful you. I am sorry to hear it, but I hope, and really know it, that you have lots of other wonderful people who do give a damn, because it is all worth knowing. I for one, love to hear the details of your life and am always much intrigued and amused by them and admire you a lot.

bunnyslippers said...

As horrible as it is, I am sure that it has influenced your relationship with your kids for the best. I hope that they (one day) appreciate what a great mom you are!

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Your mother is definitely missing out.

But, what do you two talk about?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Oh my.

My mother and I knew every single thing about each other--also unhealthy in its own way, but not nearly as painful.

The important thing now is that your children will tell YOU before you have to ask.

Minnesota Matron said...

We talk about her cats, her dog, the children (she is a better grandmother), politics, and of course, the ever popular weather!

Rhea said...

Many people become parents who have no business becoming parents. I was sorry to hear your terrible tale. My mom was not as bad but pretty bad. If that helps.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Amen to what Cheri says--for one woman lost, twenty have found you.
But as John Steinbeck so eloquently put it, a parent's rejection is the toughest to bear.

Daisy said...

So sad. She's missing so much.

Rachelle said...

Oh, Matron, I feel your pain.

I've written this comment ten times and can't get it right.

I just... I appreciate your sharing, and can empathize.

Heather said...

That's very sad. I'm sorry about that.

Beth said...

Dear Lord - and I thought my mother was the Queen of Avoidance. Absolutely amazing what you've achieved without the support of your mother. And you certainly know how to love and support your children - it shines through on your blog.

Zenmomma said...

This makes me so sad. Your mom is missing out on so much and hurting you in the process. I wish it were different.

But wait, it IS different. For YOUR children. Their lives are made better by your awareness.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I hear that ache and the gap and somehow know it has informed the kind of mom you are today: Involved, Loving, Non-judgmental.

Sorry she is missing out. What loss, for you both.

Melissa said...

I sixth Cheri's comment.

I'm so sorry for both you and your mother. (BTW, I originally typed *my* mother--do you think that means something?) I occasionally tell my daughter not to tell me certain things, but they are usually of a sexual nature. I will be nsure that she knows I care about her and am interested in her life. Thank you.

Keri said...

I have been a lurker here. And I know this is probably not the time to comment. That said, here I am. Your friends are telling you all of the wonderful things that you should be hearing. Because that's what they are here for. :) And they are your friends. Let me add that your therapist was right. Your mother gave you a great gift that day and your therapist was wise to tell you how to accept it. I have spent over forty years telling my mother things, asked questions! and getting sucked in (like Kelly) but then completely ignored when I try to answer. My mother is a complete narcissist who cannot and will not listen to her children unless they are talking about HER and their love for her.

I am so very sorry for what she said to you in your time of need. And that she has not reached out to know you since then. But know that there are many others who delight in all your accomplishments and it is obvious that your friends will be there for your dark times, as well.

Minnesota Matron said...

Thank you, Keri! And everyone else. I was actually feeling a bit blue about this today and your words have buoyed me. Right now, I am going to go listen to what my children want to tell me :-).

Becky said...

Oof, that is sad. Of course it still bothers you. But what I keep thinking is that she'll never know all that she's missed. I don't understand it.

Ree said...

And this is why you're such an amazing mom to your children.

thefirecat said...

One of the most incomprehensible, awful, unbearable, painful things about this world is that people have faults. Often huge, gaping ones. Even (sometimes especially) our moms, who of course are supposed to be perfect. And we're supposed to love them anyway. And also--so the Matron tells me--we're supposed to receive these flaws and say thank you.

?

Incomprehensible. And painful. And awkward. And very, very real. But it has made a beautiful thing, in its awfulness.

Know that you ARE loved. And I will listen to any of those things, any time. I know it's not the same, and you just want your mom sometimes, but it's all I have to give you.

Sue said...

Dear Minnesota Matron,
Thanks for writing this column. Reading it and all the comments has been very healing for me.

Anonymous said...

Mary,


I recall reading in a sociological text the statement families as slaughterhouses of the nation. Then there followed memoirs, some so shattering as Jeanette Walls' "The Glass Castle," one of many where that phrase took on added resonance.

We need only look into our histories to see battles waged, some won, many lost, scars that remain and patterns, unknowingly and without our consent, that reappear in different guises and with different players.

In "Are you Somebody?" Nuala O'Faolain details her relationship with her family, her parents' marriage, the domestic dramas that play out years and years afterward, and only later, much later, can she look back with less recrimination, with some acknowledgement that as two people, they were only as big as she.

I can only hope for the same forgiveness for whatever slights, real or perceived, have pained.

Thanks, Mary, for your posts.

Anonymous said...

For whatever reason I have found that women of a certain generation (including my mother) are often very selfish individuals who don't care about anyone but themselves and (possibly) their husband. My theory on this is that perhaps they felt they had to have children whether they wanted to or not - and there were not really any convenient ways to avoid it the way we can now. So maybe if these ladies were born into our generation they would never have had children. But then we would not be here! So I can be grateful to my mother for my existence yet saddened that she most likely wished I did not exist.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh serendipitous! I was thinking of Nuala O'Faolain on my way to work this morning - of her writing and her wrenching radio interview in which she sobbed "I don't want to die." I so love her work and miss her on the planet. I think that perhaps some women of my mother's generation (she's in her late sixties) didn't have much choice -- you got married and had babies. I think she was just overwhelmed and unhappy in her marriage from day one and by extension, with everything else. Families as slaughterhouses, indeed.

Mary Alice said...

Ouch on so many levels. Though we want our parents to be able to help us through things, our parents are human too…and sometimes they are not at a point in their own lives where they CAN help us shoulder our burdens. Or can even shoulder their own burdens.... whether we are cognizant of our parents issues or not, sometimes they are just too heavy. It sounds like hers were.

Even though we long to be mothered...sometimes we have to BE the mother.

Optimist said...

Hoo Boy MM! Reading your posts and the comments above leave me feeling exhausted - as I would after an intense therapy session.
Yes, oh Yes, the questions followed by the glazed eyes and the interruptions about the cat...
So hard to not take it personally - since it was modeled by my Mom, I look for it in everyone. Ouch.
And guess who is guilty of the same behavior?

Me.

Mary - I, like you, am going to turn off my inner chatter today and am going to listen with attuned ears to the intricacies of Star Wars Legos and the latest Choir song that is being warbled over and over.

Thank you for your beautiful post.

xox Bonnie in Houston

JCK said...

I loved what Cheri said. It is so true. And I am sad for both you and your mom. That you lost that relationship with your mother and that she is missing out on such an amazing woman - her daughter.

SCREAMING FOR CHOCOLATE said...

Wow... I am on the other end of the spectrum with my daughters. I usually talk to them EVERY day...But it probably made you a stronger woman. I wasn't very close to my mother. It was her choice.

Coco

Jennifer H said...

Ouch. I can imagine that hurts every time you hear it played back in your head.

Your therapist was right, though I don't imagine your mother thought she was giving you a gift. But better to know what not to expect than to hope for it and still not get it.

M said...

Oh my, Matron.

I care. Tell me, what WAS your dissertation about? I'm sure I could find out by searching back in your blog but I'd like to hear from you.

Minnesota Matron said...

My dissertation was titled "The Anorexic's Story" and it analyzed how the narrative of anorexia became folklore. Everyone can describe and even diagnose anorexia - the seamlessness of this narrative keeps us from understanding that much 'normal' female eating is disordered. That was the dissertation :-).

Lynda said...

I cannot imagine being so detached from my child. Bless you,Mary... you are an amazing woman!

another mary said...

I had dreadful mothering as a child - after my dad died my mother started drinking - a lot - talking to her dead husband, going out to bars - coming home falling down drunk sometimes. I took care of her and my younger brother and sister - my older brother cocooned... She stopped drinking when I was an adult and though we never talked about it, I know she regretted all the dreadful mothering and tried her best to be a good mom and grandma until the day she died. I miss her much and had that healing time not occurred where she stopped drinking my ache for her would be a different kind of ache.

You have overcome and accomplished so much, Mary - so glad you made it here - in spite of your mom's carelessness! Hope you can think of how much you are loved when that gray cloud moves in.

Cyndi B. said...

wow...just popped over from Noodleroux and I must say I am stunned. And so heartbroken for you. Her loss.

Kalynne Pudner said...

Someone should write a dissertation on whether women with pathologically detached mothers are more likely to go into college teaching. Any psychology or sociology takers out there?

I am as amazed as everyone else by your gifts and the grace with which you share them on this blog. And even more amazed that you can summarize your diss in a comment box paragraph. THAT, my dear, is TALENT.

SUEB0B said...

That sucks. The problem with the self-absorbed is that they never notice that they are so self-absorbed. Because...well...you know. Circular.

I think there are some people that don't actually know anyone else exists except in relation to them and how they can get their needs met.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mary. I mean really. . .wow, to you and to all the comments. I DID need to see this.
I wanted to comment on the utter lack of choices for these women, be it birth control or career options. I have to commend this generation for the fight that they waged. The battle scars are no less obvious than the soldier's coming home with PTSD, I guess. They were supposed to love us because we were the children--and some of our mothers couldn't hold up. . .
I try hard to put myself into my mother's shoes to see the world through her eyes. It is a vindictive, angry place with such an outrageous, sticky gloss of false optimism that cracks the second she puts that brandy to her mouth. . .it makes me feel such utter fatigue.

Thank you, Mary, and everyone who posted comments.
(Nicole G.)

MJ said...

I am so sorry. I, too, have a difficult relationship with my mother. It was good until my dad's first stroke and got progressively worse. Altho it has mended to some degree, it will never be the same.

Your mom is missing out.