I spoke with my father today. And during the conversation he mentioned the turbulent relationship I have with my mother.
Currently my mother and I are on a “break” – she’s called off our relationship for the umpteenth time.
She’s annoyed with me for verbalizing my feelings, and asking her to refrain from unsolicited and unnecessary commentary regarding my weight.
She’s also frustrated and angry because she believes my assertions are designed to make her feel like she’s a “bad” mother.
All she heard is that I want her to change. And that to her, due to her being my elder and my mother, is unacceptable.
But what I realized today is what I wanted and needed is for her also to be my friend.
I get her frustration and her irritation. I understand her “knee jerk” reaction to respond to me with her first thought, to tell me how she truly feels without consideration of how it will impact me. or my feelings.
I understand because I’ve felt exactly the same way.
I can still remember that afternoon. I was sitting on the couch and Titan was in the middle of his 5th tantrum.
He noticed I was choosing to ignore him. So he stopped screaming, he stopped crying, he stopped flailing his arms, and he stopped kicking the ground with his feet.
He sat up, crossed his arms, glared at me and said, “I don’t like you. I don’t want to play with you.”
I immediately responded, “Ok… Does that mean you will leave me alone?”
I will never forget the look on his face.
The complete confusion.
The utter shock.
And finally the dismay.
I was supposed to be devasted at his refusal to play with me. I was supposed to show remorse for upsetting him – even though I had done nothing wrong. I was supposed to comfort him – even though HE had pushed me to my very limit.
I was supposed to do ALL of this because HE needed it. He needed to know his feelings mattered. And at the age of 2 that means a display of sorrow and remorse.
Remorse that I had hurt his feelings to the point that he no longer wanted to be my “friend”. My best friend. Because that’s what he says we are ”Me and you…Best friends.”
And so I corrected my response. I pulled him on my lap and explained to him that I was sorry he was sad. And that we could find a compromise. Dinner first and then milk.
[Backstory: We’ve had serious issues with him consuming too much milk and not eating enough solid food.]
After some conjoling and tickling he finally agreed. And once again our friendship had been restored it’s former glory.
And since that day I have never responded with indifference to his feelings.
This has meant that there are times I have to stand outside on the back patio and watch his tantrums – the yelling, screaming, and pounding on the floor- from a distance.
I call them “adult” time outs.
Times I need to regroup.
Times I need a moment to be alone, to just be by myself.
Times that I unable to be his human jungle gym or allow him to use my ears as a megaphone.
I take these “adult” time outs because I am human.
I have feelings.
I need a moment to put my mom hat back on and provide him the support he needs in this moment of pure, raw emotion.
I need a moment to remember the unconditional love I have for him.
And after a few minutes – and quite a few deep breaths – I am ready to be his “mom” again.
I am ready to show him the love he needs.
As I told my about this incident, he replied that my initial response was the same as my mother’s would have been.
And in that moment it all clicked.
I am mother’s daughter. But I have chosen to override my initial “knee jerk” reaction.
I chose to do this because I am more than my child’s mother – I am also his friend.
And it reminded me of the time when that I tried to be “friends” with my mom.
She listened to my long list of frustrations. I thought her furrowed brow was due to how intently she was listening, which only led me to further divulge my feelings.
And the end I felt heard. I felt relief.
Until my mother responded.
She proceeded to remind me of my place. That I was at the bottom of the food chain. Therefore my feelings when not only insignificant but inappropriate.
And my expression of them to her was abominable behavior. She reminded me that she was my mother. Not my friend. And that I had best remember that.
This example is a window into our relationship. This is not to say I did not cause my fair share (and possible half of my brother’s share) of trouble.
But the foundation of our relationship began at that table. and 20 years later we are still at that table.
I now understand why they say you have to “get down” to your child’s level. They truly means you need to “get down” on EVERY level – especially their emotional level.
I like to keep things simple.
Good = Reward (ranging from simple praise/high 👋🏽 to a treat).
Bad = stopping the bad behavior and apologizing.
Really bad = timeouts.
Really Good = a full on celebration that is always accompanied by over exaggerated dance movies and obnoxious cheers.
We’ve been doing must better these days and the timeout chair has returned to its rightful place beneath his table – it no longer sits awkwardly in the corner waiting to be used.
We have moved on.
I just wish that was possible for my mother and I.
And because it’s not, I now have this unexpected and unwanted grief.
And I am drawing a blank for how to deal with it.
I am drawing a complete blank.