Much Ado About Mother

by Sam

In many ways, I have a good mother. I never wanted for anything, even when my dad was out of work. On top of all the laundry, dishes, cleaning, taking care of my little brother, cooking, and myriad of other "housewife" tasks, she took on a part-time job to help us through the loss of income. She will help anyone with just about anything.

However, there is another side to her. Along with all of her good qualities, there were what I now understand to be some narcissism and other issues.

She was constantly seeking external validation and recognition. She often made comments about how nobody appreciated her and how one day she'd just leave and then we'd miss her.

Or she'd talk about how once she was dead, we'd be sorry we hadn't treated her better. She'd also say similar things about her mother and siblings, how she sacrificed so much for them growing up, but had a mother who only appreciated her brothers and gave her no credit for anything.

She would compensate for any perceived lack of attention or appreciation from us by talking on the phone multiple hours of the day, and basically using friends and relatives as sounding boards. She didn't (still doesn't) so much have conversations as she would tell multiple people stories about whatever was going on in an effort to be told that she was right, or was doing the right thing with regards to whatever situation she was discussing.

She displayed abandonment fears and indicated that her happiness depended on us always living nearby. She would often bring up an aunt of hers who also had only boys. She'd talk about how this aunt gave everything she had to those boys, doting on them and spoiling them. Then those horrible boys left her to live in other states.

I never heard one negative word about the sons from this aunt, or from any other member of the family. She'd follow up the story with questions like, "You won't ever do that to your mother, will you? You love your mother." Sometimes, it was followed with somewhat of a threat, "You'd better never treat your mother that way."

She sometimes would also do the "I don't know what I'd do without you." statements, especially as pertaining to life with only my father. She constantly complained to us about my father, often in front of him, and when not, sometimes with histrionics and tears to get sympathy.

In her eyes, my father didn't communicate enough, worked too late, played too much golf, didn't do enough around the house, and didn't ever want to go anywhere. She'd often say something like, I'd like to take you kids to XYZ, but your father never wants to go. I never could figure out why she couldn't just take us on her own.

In high school and beyond, I began to sense a growing need in her to keep me from becoming too independent. She gave me 3 criteria to use in determining who would be an acceptable match for me - short (like her), of our religion, and from the same county as us (don't ever move away).

She also started to become more fearful of everyday life events that I would have to partake in. She did not want me driving on highways or interstates, to the point that instead of me driving to visit my college girlfriend at 18 years old in her nearby home state, she insisted I take a bus, as if somehow that is inherently more safe.

As a sophomore in college, I tried to take a girl to a Monday Night Football game using my parents' season tickets. She was scared of me making the hour or so drive back to our college late at night and wouldn't give me the tickets unless I agreed that we'd sleep overnight at her house and go back to college in the morning.

My junior year, she saw something on 20/20 about airbags and decided that I had to get rid of my vehicle for one that had airbags. I don't want to belabor the point. Basically, she wants me to avoid any behaviors that I might enjoy if she feels that there is even a remote chance of me getting hurt or killed, and therefore, her being abandoned. I'm fairly adventurous, so there's a pretty long list of things I do that she's not happy about.

Once I met the woman who would become my wife (let's call her Judy), things progressively became worse, especially once Judy became pregnant.

My mother started to exhibit conspiratorial thinking. Anything that Judy did that my mother didn't like (i.e. not feeling like eating during a family dinner) was seen as a major intentional affront and part of a conspiracy to take me away from her.

A lot of passive-aggression came out as well, such as loud sighs to show disapproval of something or to get you to ask her what was wrong. She also began making snippy, backbiting comments, often under her breath. A couple of incidents basically guaranteed that Judy would never want anything to do with her.

On Judy's birthday, she called me up and asked me to come over to talk with her and my dad. That turned into a 2-3 hour lecture including all kinds of perceived slights from Judy as well as making an argument that Judy was lying about me being the father. This was obviously not taken well once I had to explain to Judy why I was gone so long on her birthday.

Later my mother became upset about me telling Judy what was discussed. My father also ended up sending me an email trying to say that the expected due date could not be possible given when we thought conception occurred.

I suspect that my mother was actually the motivator of sending the email. She would often enlist him in trying to get me to do her will. I responded to that email, showing how the dates worked if you used the actual gestation period of 40 weeks instead of 9 months. I never received a response on that issue.

We tried to get married, went through multiple rounds of the required pre-marital counselling, and meetings with our priest. He agreed to marry us and gave us a date. My mom's passive aggression came out again.

As we had a large extended family in the area, I was expecting to send out a lot of invitations in a short amount of time. However, my mother would not come through on giving me a list of all the relatives and their addresses. She kept saying she would, but dragged it out for weeks, saying she just hadn't gotten around to it.

Then my priest called up and asked for permission to speak to my parents, to which I said, sure. After speaking with them, he called me back and said he had to cancel the wedding due to them refusing to give our marriage their blessing.

My parents both deny that is how the conversation went, but their own explanation is somewhat of a distinction without a difference. Instead of answering yes or no, they deflected, basically telling the priest that I didn't need their blessing.

Then we had a judge marry us in our home, but only included Judy's parents as witnesses. When my parents found out, they considered that to be a major insult, and a "slap in the face."

I could go on and on, but basically now, almost 17 years later, the snippy comments about my wife still happen, as does the conspiratorial thinking, overblown fears, desire to be the center of attention, and criticism of me for moving away.

We moved away when I joined the military and moved elsewhere after I got out. "All I ever wanted was to have a close family. I guess that was too much to ask." "All I want is for you to be happy. I just don't understand why you can't be happy without leaving your mother."

So I wrote all of that to get to this - I finally sort of blew up at her while visiting over the weekend and told her what I really thought of her behavior. She did not take it at all, claimed to have no idea what I was talking about, and stormed off to her room.

Basically, all of the behavior I mentioned above was squeezed into a single weekend. It came to a head when she mentioned that all her nieces and nephews love spending time with their parents and she's the only one who's kids don't want to be around her. Did I mention she also likes to play martyr / victim a lot?

My brother, father and I were in their garage to divide up tools that he didn't need anymore. My mom couldn't take not being the one in control of this task or the center of attention, so she needlessly came out and involved herself. She kept ignoring that my dad told her one area was stuff that he was keeping, so she started trying to go through it and ask about every item we weren't even wanting to consider.

Then she'd go back to items that she knew we'd already made a decision on, just to ask again and bring our attention back to her. As I started getting aggravated, I tried to get her to go inside, get my sons up, and make them breakfast. We had stuff to take from inside as well, so getting the boys ready and having them start preparing to bring out stuff would have been very helpful, but it would not have given her the attention she wanted.

When I finally snapped I told her this was ridiculous and to just go inside. She called me rude and I yelled so are you! When she slammed the door, I yelled, "You're your worst enemy!"

She came back out to ask how - getting more defensive at this point. I yelled back, why don't you go think about it. She came back a few minutes later, without her "mask of congeniality" in place. She almost growled, "I have thought about it, and I can't think of any reason..."

After I yelled back, "You say you want people around you but you constantly do things that they don't like, even though you KNOW they don't like it!" my brother intervened and she stormed off to her room. My dad's only response was, "You're right, but you're going to have to reconcile with her." I said, "I know, but dad, she needs help." He just sort of chuckled a bit.

I will end up apologizing for losing my temper at some point, but never for what I said. I doubt she will ever take it to heart and consider how self-defeating she's been when it comes to trying to have that "close family" of her dreams.

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