Sunday, May 8, 2011

Faking It

I cannot fake it, ask my husband. When I’ve tried, it’s just a mess and everyone’s feelings are hurt. I have this thing about emotional authenticity. I can repress painful feelings and I can keep my mouth shut when I know that just because I feel something doesn’t mean I need to say something. But I cannot say something that I do not feel.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Ugh, it’s a sentence fragment, not even a sentence and it still provokes anxiety for me.

It is better now that I get a Mother’s Day full of breakfast and backrubs and clay handprints and macaroni necklaces and glittery picture frames and acrostic renderings of the word mother. It is better now that I have small, grape jelly scented hands thrusting presents in my face. It is better now that I get to lavish love and sexual favors on my deserving husband on Father’s Day.

But it is still complicated by those other two people.

They were not good parents. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them but if parenting were The Amazing Race, or Survivor, Dancing with the Stars or even The Apprentice(insert your own terrible reality show here), they would have been voted off before anyone really knew who they were. They were so young and their own parents did not prepare them for the important job of parenting. They succeeded in creating a child but the nurturing kind of stuff, the protecting, the safety, the love, not so much.

Still, my dad paid child support, $400 a month until I was out of college. That was four more years then he was legally required to. He sent me cards on my birthday. He told me he had so much guilt and regret about the past. I spent a good year in therapy and I have made peace with my feelings about him. I send him a card on Father’s Day. I don’t mind, I feel like I want to at this point but it is hard finding the right sentiment to capture the complicated feelings I have toward him. You were always there for me Dad. No, that’s not true. You taught me so much. Nope. You mean the world to me. Still not right. I have surrendered the past and accept you the way you are. I love you but am relatively indifferent to you being in my life. I hope your other family does something nice for you. Thank you for not expecting me to visit. There, that’s better.

As you probably have garnered from my recent extreme navel gazing posts regarding my mutter, we are going through a rough spot. I would like to say this is recent but really it is just the culmination of many years and me finally unable to manage it or handle it anymore. I am hopeful that someday I will feel for her more like I feel about my father, loving but benevolently detached. I am not there yet. It is the hope of that someday that I even sent her a card this year. We are not speaking but she is still the woman, no, the child that pushed me from her body.

I stood in the card aisle like an idiot for nearly twenty minutes trying to find a sentiment that was authentic but benign. I realized quickly that cards with flourishy writing were not the ticket. They held too many sentiments and platitudes, none of them fitting. Even the humor cards were off-target and I’m not feeling the funny at this moment. Can’t they have at least one card stripped of all that other stuff?

In my head I imagine what a my ideal card rack would contain:

Happy Mother’s Day, you are my mother.

I know you did your best.

Social services never came to visit, that counts for something!

Your dysfunction helped me develop humor as a self-defense mechanism and it’s great at cocktail parties!

The crazier you are the better my memoir!

Thanks to the medication, I forgive you!

Thank you for the opportunity for painful, personal growth.

Mother, your the reason my self-help library is expanding at record speed.

As days go by, I realize how lucky I am…. That you are not here to ruin it for me.

You are the anvils atop my wings.

Mom, without you, I never would have met my therapist.

I am the luckiest unplanned pregnancy ever.

Thank you for not getting an abortion.

I’m so miserable without you…It’s almost like you are still here.

M manipulative

O oppressive

M matron


  1. "You did the best you could". That's the phrase i use in my head when i become cranky for past transgressions. That phrase, and "not my f--ing problem" have provided a great degree of healing and reduction of stres in my life...

  2. I just can't even imagine what it would be like to have that kind of relationship with my mom. We've always just kind of been there. Never best friends. We've always had a professional familial relationship, like boss and employee. Or something.

  3. Rubes - when my dad was still around, that was always the worst card to find. I would spend the 20 - 30 minutes agonizing, then settle on a cheap humor card with a monkey on the front.

    With my mom, I could get away with the sappy because our relationship was so surface level, I could send it and feel good about it, even though I (we) knew I didn't mean it.

    I loved your dysfunctional greeting card line. If you ever start your own company, please let me write for you - I know I could help.

    Happy belated Mother's Day from one wounded child to another. I got not one, but two clay pencil holders this year. And one very sweet card from my 25 year old son whom I hope didn't spend 25 minutes in agony picking it out.

    If he ever gives me a card with a monkey on the front - there will be hell to pay!

  4. Daisy Fae, I am in the midst of working on the "not my problem" area. Discovering that I am not responsible for my adult mother's feelings is immensely liberating. And of course, knowing that they both did the best they could without the accompanying fantasy of different, healthier parents. I know that I'll get there and I trust the process(therapy and work) but I think little day to day details like cards for Mother's Day will creep in now and then.

    Rassles, I always love your take on this stuff because while your parents sound smart and fair and supportive, I know you have had your own issues with some of the ways they did things. Coming from young screwed up parents and a dysfunctional surrounding family, I tend to assume everyone else has a normal family and it's good for the reminder that it's a bit of a continuum really, mine just being far more at one end. I know my own kids will have their own deal too, I just hope I am wise enough to hear them and be there for them and recognize my own shit when it comes up. Or I'll be paranoid based upon my own experience and go searching for my kid's 'secret mom-bashing blog' :)

    Zen-I usually go with the monkey type cards for my dad too. He's easier for me because he doesn't try to control me or manipulate me or get me to do things he wants me to, or criticize me. He just is, which is much easier. Happy momo

  5. Sometimes I have to remember that I am partly my mum, and to outsiders she IS awesome and fun-loving. But they didn't see her follow me around the house, verbally attacking me on Mother's Day. Luckily through what she was saying I could hear it was about HER issues, not me. Only then could I bite my tongue and not scream for her to get the hell out of my house.