Wednesday, 13 October 2010

My mother

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!


  1. I do apologise. I think I lost myself there!

  2. I just agree to agree with my mom.

  3. I wish my mum was still here for me to undo some things and say things I didn't while I had the opportunity. You only have one for a finite period of time. Make the most of it (says I, who didn't). If she was here now, I'd like to think things would be vastly different and I wouldn't be so selfish. If she was here now, I would express myself better and more often. She would feel more love than was shown. I wouldn't hide behind a hectic life and allow precious time to pass.

    Oops! I guess I lost myself too MollyP
    A thought-provoking post.

  4. The books are out there...e.g. Jim bought me a book a couple of years ago called, "How to manage your mother - 10 steps to a better relationsip." Haven't read it yet!

  5. Eric - that makes you clever and agreeable!

    Ken D - My dad was pretty estranged from me (and my siblings) in the last 8 or so years of his life. I think we could never get past the issues we had with each other - both ways. I don't regret that time (although it doesn't make me feel happy when I think about it) but I don't think it could have been any other way. He always got angry so quickly. It was easier to be estranged - because we could not get past a point where we caused each other so much distress! I guess this post is about what parent and child could possibly do to get over such gridlocked patterns of behaviour towards each other!!

    Claire - well read it and give me the brief notes please!

  6. I agree that the adult mother/ child relationship is a really complex one. I am doing a course on returning to Teaching at the moment, and we were recommended a book by Florence Littauer (sp?) about different personality types. I don't normally go in for that sort of thing, but my course director is someone I respect so I thought I'd give it a go. It is a fascinating book and it really helps you to understand how to get on with different types of people. Straight away it put into context what I need to do with my own mother (bossy type!) and it was one of those Eureka moments.

    A really thought provoking post, esp Margaret Atwood quote - thanks!

  7. No, YOU read it and send me the notes. I can't be arsed with this one!

  8. My parents are in their eighties and are still devout Catholics. But they are almost hippie-like in their wonderment at new ideas. They ask ME what my opinions are and they still listen. I'm lucky. But even though they are very open, I still need that distance. God knows why, but I do.

  9. Good to see you in town Molly, even though I was sandwich-ly challenged at the time. Interesting blog post and comments.


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