Well, my bluff has been called. For the past 8 years I’ve succeeded in keeping my mom at an arm’s length of my life, but all of that is coming to an end this Spring.
My mom and I were very close when I was young. But around my senior year in high school we started to grow apart. It just seemed like everything I did was wrong, so I gradually shared less and less with her so that she’d have fewer things to complain about.
When I moved out to CA it became easier to keep things from her since she doesn’t fly and has so far not ventured out to this coast to check things out for herself. I don’t tell her outright lies mind you, but I leave a lot out of our conversations. A LOT. A significant enough amount that we really don’t have much of a relationship anymore because there’s not much I feel like I can tell her without bringing on her tsk tsk‘s. And at 40-something years old, I get really tired of hearing her disapproval.
I’m sure when I was younger my mom offered criticisms as a way to help me do better. For example, I used to like to draw and color but I was never really very good at it. At least, that was my impression of my abilities, because when I’d show my mom one of my masterpieces, rather than telling me it was beautiful and hanging it on the refrigerator she would offer advice on how to improve, like “If you outline the section before you color it in you’ll be better able to stay within the lines. And here, let me show you how to do textures…[colors]…see? When you keep all of your strokes in the same direction it looks smoother and more finished than if you color in every direction.”
Grades in school? “Well, a B is good, but you could have gotten an A on that if you’d applied yourself.” Did I actually get an A? “That’s great! See, if you applied yourself, you could get straight A’s.”
This has continued right up until I started TALO last year. Thinking she couldn’t possibly find something to criticize about me getting healthy, I excitedly told her about the program. Her response? “I told you to make those changes in your diet 4 years ago.” Sigh.
In working with my therapist over the past year, I’ve said that I want to learn what a healthy adult parent-child relationship involves and how I can better interact with my mom. I’ve even told my mom that I want to learn this, so that we can get our relationship back on track. She in turn told her therapist that I wanted to learn how to communicate with her, so we now have family therapy phone calls every other Wednesday afternoon.
During our first phone call, her therapist asked what I saw as some of the problems in the relationship. I told her the fact that my mom hadn’t come out here made me feel like she wasn’t interested in my life. The therapist was shocked that in almost 8 years my mom hasn’t yet come out here. Believe me, no one is more shocked than I about this small matter. But apparently telling the therapist did the trick, because my mom has called my bluff – she is coming out here to visit either the end of April or the end of May.
At first read, this is great news. It is exactly what I’ve been saying I wanted after all. But with a little more digging in the therapist’s office, I’ve discovered that while I do want her out here, I’m really loathe to let her inside the Great Wall of CA that I’ve constructed. I just know that my life will be “not good enough” for her standards. House not clean enough, neighborhood not safe enough, social life not busy enough, dogs not well-behaved enough…the list is endless, really.
Let’s hope I survive this little adventure. I have a feeling I’ll have lots of stuff to blog about in the next few months.