My mother visited last weekend. I do love my mum deep down (!) but on the surface our extreme differences cause us some difficulties. Our conversations can sometimes sound like the Guardian fighting with the Daily Mail. I try to steer her away from social and political comment but she nearly always brings them up - seemingly every time genuinely oblivious to the fact I might have a different viewpoint and then surprised at just how different and then a bit cross about my alternative view (I should agree - yes?). And sometimes it gets a bit heated because I am terrible at letting prejudice and negative evaluative judgements aimed at random minorities - just pass by.
Because the relationship with my mother is tumultuous and I prefer harmony, I am always looking for things that help me be more accommodating of her and her ways (even if she's not trying the same with me).
and then I came across this in the novel I was reading.....
What fabrications they are: mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves - our own hungers, our own wishes, our deficiencies. Now that I've been one myself I know.
from Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
It did make me stop and think. What is it about the parent-child relationship that can sometimes be so strained? Does it boil simply down to some parents never accepting their child can be a free thinking individual that can disagree with them? (Always the young child in their head?) But this quote did make me think about the responsibility I have over any views and patterns of behaviour towards my mother that I have not challenged in myself. Like Margaret says (she's so wise) perhaps the child cannot expand their view of the parent beyond the one they made in their heads in early adulthood or teenagehood - the one that a child can blame for all their shortcomings and dissatisfactions with childhood/life/anything. As the child, it's certainly easy to see a parent first and foremost as just a parent and overly focus on their impact on you in that role - rather than ever affording them any individuality beyond that role.
But how much of what we think about our parents is fabrication? Is it fabrication because it is uniquely just the viewpoint of a child of their parent and so affected by this distinct relationship as to be unrecogniseable if you shared it with a non-family member? Nobody else would probably hold the same view - being a person's child is bound to give a unique viewpoint of that person! However, I think we know our parents more than they ever think we do - as they are so much part of our forming (and therefore 'inside' us). Because of this they do also seem to have the direct line to any hang ups we might have. Is this though because they put that hang up directly there or is it because we shunned their views (and them as a person to some extent) as part of growing up? For example an acquaintance can say exactly the same thing about me as my mother but only my mother will get my heckles up by saying it- is that proof that my difficult relationship with my mother and the reactions I have towards her are based on my part on a stagnant (shunned at teenagehood) view of her, rather than it being about genuine hang ups put there by her? I don't know! Perhaps when it comes to parents our reactions can be too conditioned - as theirs can towards us. How do we move on together and get over that?
As we grow up, most of us need to shun our parents to some extent, to broaden our horizons. This requires us to rebel to some extent - or at least form some independet opinions. Perhaps it is this process that makes the view of our parents stagnate so much (and stagnate at a point of persistent rebellion for some of us!)- as much as their view of us can stagnate! Either way, it's not helpful.
Perhaps the parenting books could focus beyond the toddler stage to help the likes of me form a brand new relationship between adult child and adult parent. Please!