Thursday, May 26, 2011

Talks with Momma

I am grateful to my parents for giving me a good sense of moral/spiritual and ethical values I generally treasure. On the other hand I also got a load of questionable values that has taken me decades to sort through. I had a conversation with my mom that reminded me just how far I have drifted from some of her values and how much I want LuLu not to learn many of the lessons she instilled in me (which, I have had to unlearn again and again and again).

Leaving home (circa 1993) to go to college (which they paid for, thanks! mom and dad) I had the following assumptions.

1) Anger is bad. Nice people don't get angry. You are a nice person. If you do get angry, eat a cookie.

2) Arguments are bad, and must be avoided at all costs. There is probably something wrong with you, and it is best not to mention it. If in doubt, eat a cookie.

3) Disagreements are bad. Have a cookie.

4) People who disagree hate each other.

5) Don't ever ask for what you need-- it gives the other person the power to withhold it from you.

6) If you need something important, the best course is stealth. The CIA has it all right.

7) All the important things don't need to be spoken out loud. Everyone already knows them, and if they pretend like they don't, they are doing it on purpose because they hate you.

8) Don't say anything.

9) Conflicts happen because one party is bad. There is a deep moral and spiritual element to everything. If you disagree with me, and I am right, it means you are bad. If I am wrong, then it means I am bad. Every banality has a spiritual aspect.

10) Rules are for people who hate each other.

Tags-- Elliptical, indirect, reverse psychology, complete insanity.

If there is an imbalance of power in your favor (and you are the parent) things can go rather swimmingly. Shame is a great tool. Stink-eye is also a great communicator. And if you like to bake as well, then you are set.

Of course, there were positive things I never doubted, and these are big. I never, ever doubted my parents loved me. I never doubted that they were "doing their best". I knew they were giving my sisters and I the loving house they never had (and were doing their best to approximate with the imperfect tools they inherited).

If you have ever lived with me, now perhaps you'll understand the complete terror I had of conflict, the insane lengths I went to to avoid (deny, stuff, cover) it, the look of abject terror I probably gave you when you needed to confront me about something. The way it appeared that our conflict was shredding the very fabric of my universe (because it was). The bizarre assumptions I carried about how your behavior should be. Or the moral condemnation I meted out. (sorry!).

When Dutch, LuLu and I arrived home around 8 PM exhausted from a work party my mom greeted me with this:

"I found my wet laundry on the dryer." (see #7)

I immediately was defensive (#9) (I was not going to be the "bad party")

"I needed to use the dryer and I didn't have much time"

Mom wasn't going to take that-- she breaks out a level 9 Stink Eye. "That is no reason to leave my laundry wet"

Sorry I say.

"But I love you" she says (#4)

"People who love each other can still disagree" I say.

She continues explaining how put out she was. She accuses me of "drama." I ask her why she keeps harping on it. The Knee-Biter is sinking further and further under her blanket and Dutch suddenly leaves the room.

I continue to defend my rude and thoughtless behavior. I am not a kid anymore and her stink eye is more amusing than devastating. I eventually concede with a sarcastic tone (which I do actually regret, sarcasm is never justified) that I am a thoughtless and rude person.

She tells me that if the Knee-Biter had used that tone with her she would be in trouble. I say, "then send me to my room" as I grab the baby out of her arms and stomp to my room. Dutch is already in bed. "Your mom is crazy" he tells me. "You should really smooth things over". I return to the living room and give my mom a hug and tell her I am sorry and hopefully assure her that I have heard her (but you never know).

The last time I had an overt disagreement with her was December of '09. We were discussing what to do with Dutch's liquer collection before we moved into their house (#9, corollary-- alcohol is always bad). She threatened to "make a house rule." (oh no! anything but a house rule!!)(#10)

Things I want to teach LuLu (and possibly the Knee-Biter, if it is not too late)
1) Rules and boundaries are okay and healthy.
2) There are plenty of things in life that don't have spiritual or moral implications.
3) It is necessary to talk about important things with important people in your life.
4) Loving communication is always good.


onlyincambodia said...

Your resolution is beautiful. I can totally relate to the relationship struggle between a mother and an adult daughter living under the same roof. The final 4 lessons are invaluable!

M. L. Benedict said...

Good for you. The conflict spurred a big shift. I recommend also a little reading about Shadow.

Camille said...

@M.L. Shadow? You mean in the Jungian sense, or something else?

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