Saturday, September 23, 2006

Getting Personal for My Daughter

Although there is a lot of love there between us, I seem to occasionally manage to get my daughter really miffed at me. I'm not sure what her picture of a real mother entails, but I feel that I am falling short in her estimation. I raised the two children I was privileged to keep with a sense of self-reliance and a "rule" (not etched in stone) about any and all difficulties. That rule is simple. If it is something that you can do something about, then if you need my input, I'll let you know what I would do in that situation and if it fits, fine...if not, go to plan "B." BUT, If you can, personally, see no solution to the situation and you choose to stay in it and choose not to do anything to change it, then for Pete's Sake, talk about it once, then stop complaining about it and learn to live gracefully with it. I don't like to see my children sitting in and enjoying their misery.

I guess our idea of deep, mother-daughter interaction is different. I try to just be a listening ear but when I see her in pain or the kids screwing up their lives or the little ones hurting over something that all can be remedied with definite action, I find it hard to not wonder aloud why action hasn't been taken. Adoption has entered into the life-skills portion of our relationship and eroded the contacts that seem to speak mind-to-mind in uninterrupted Mother-Adult Child relationshps. I am stumbling between what can be considered constructive and active listening and where advice comes in and where my impatience takes over, so I probably haven't always given her the best reasons to trust me with her ongoing angst. She really shies away when I, unable to contain myself, point out the adoption issues that are very obviously hampering her ease in dealing with people, especially me. I have also seen so many times when her inborn strength shows through and she is definitely stronger and smarter than she thinks she is.

She's been through a lot and that's a fact. She had a terrible first marriage (just like I did, as a matter of fact). Her daughter, my granddaughter, has numerous behavioral and life difficulties. Both of the people who adopted her died within a couple of years of each other and she was not equipped to handle that emotionally. She retreated and self-medicated because it was just too much for her. Her only handle, for her first 33 years in this world, on who she is and where she belonged was leaving her. Her grief was accompanied by unadulterated terror and it shone like a beacon...hard to miss or misinterpret. I've had another adoptee identify and explain to me the terror of that happening. My daughter and the situation made it really hard for me to be there for her during all that and my personal issues (my bad...sorry Sweetie) got in the way as well. My granddaughter has been a constant source of worry and pain for her. I know that feeling and adoptees are certainly not immune to maternal guilt trips, earned or unearned.

Now I am getting older and am not making such a good listener when she, the rest of the kids and the grandkids are dealing with heavy dilemmas. I don't know if it is just the post-menopause "screwies" or the fact that I am living life for the first time in ages without the help of mood-altering prescription more Paxil. It all just tends to overwhelm me and I feel very anxious, helpless and a little bit on the spot. What would super-mom do? Is there such an animal?

Is there something wrong with me that I don't want to and am not the type to hang on the phone for over an hour? I get very impatient when I have other things to do and feel I cannot politely excuse myself to do those things and I feel guilty for feeling impatient and wanting to finish my supper in peace or watch a video with my husband or go on my planned shopping trip. I'd feel that way if it was Jesus, Bhudda and Mohammed on the other line. I know that she gets her feelings hurt if I end a conversation. I get especially frustrated with the marathon calls that seem to be just for chewing the same flavorless gum of a repetitive crisis until it disintergrates with nothing really learned. Maybe I am too much of a "that kind of a" Mom to be a "shoulder to cry on." I want my children's problems FIXED, damnit! Perhaps I need to learn that all these talks don't have to have a solution. Perhaps she needs to learn that the lives of others in her family don't stop because her friend is being a putz or her daughter hit another brick wall.

So now all the things I have done to try to be what I thought was a good mother to all my children seems to be a source of irritation to my daughter. Hey, maybe that's progress. I don't know a single, non-adopted adult child that doesn't have areas of annoyance with their parents. Maybe we have arrived! What a concept. And tell me, how many mothers can just sit silently and watch their children floundering through waist-deep muck and slime when there is a clear, dry and high pathway right next to them and all it would take is a slight change in direction to get on that path? And no, I don't think my children are stupid. I'm not stupid and I have taken enough of those swamp strolls in my (even recent) younger days to know whereof I speak.

If it would help her to know this, I really don't treat her problems any differently than I treat her raised sibling's. They can both tell her that I ask them that same question, "What are you going to do about it?" It's frustrating. Adoption has influenced the way she perceives the way I mother, seeming to see, rather, a campaign to hurt her feelings when nothing could be further from my mind and certainly not my intent. The only thing good about all this, is that enough of a relationship has been established that she'll get over it and I'll hear back from her and we'll keep stumbling on because neither of us want to be without the other one in our lives, somewhere. We had enough of that for 33 years. In many ways, we are too darn much alike.

I do love her dearly, just as she is. Maybe she needs to learn to love me the same real families do...warts and overbearing-"mamaness" and all. Maybe what she got for her search was a real mother, not a sweet, retiring eggshell-walker of a good little beemommie who knows her place, but one of us Big Mama know-it-alls that wants to see our children happy and functioning well and able to ride those big waves that life sends our way.

So if you don't like it, snap back at me, Kiddo. I'm not going to go away and leave you if you do. If sulking helps, sulk. I've enjoyed a good sulk or three in my life as well. But I'm not just a friend who happened to give birth to you. I'm Mom for life. I'm what Nature gave you and you're stuck with clumsy, but well-meaning me. I know all the right emotions were put inside me when I had you...I loved you then when I first held tiny-new you in my arms and I love my adult-grandmother-kiddo now and you don't have to be perfect for me to love you. It just so happens that the tender-hearted, open-armed YOUNESS of you is impossible not to love.


Andrew McAllister said...

"clumsy, but well-meaning me"

I bet all of us parents could be described that way at one time or another, couldn't we? All any of us can do is to keep trying our best. Your daughter has a mother who loves her and tries to help. Not every daughter can say that.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

Anonymous said...

Robin, I can so relate to your frustrated feelings about this. Except I've never raised a child. My only child was lost to adoption.

We are going through yet another period of separation but I feel that we both need this space. I grew weary of the years of phone calls at any time of the day or night demanding that I speak with him about some slight he had imagined that from days or weeks before.

I am pretty pragmatic and could never understand how his entire life was a drama with him blaming the rest of the world. When I would gently try to make him understand that there were other ways to look at a situation - he would insist that I wasn't truly listening to the enormity of his problem. and on and on it went.

I know his adoption issues play a huge part in his dysfunctional life but he refuses to even consider the possibility. It's just so sad.

Anonymous said...

i think your daughter has found a darned good Mama! One that sees strength and courage in her daughter. Far more than my own mother-who-raised-me who only saw flaws and who used control and abuse to try to make me to as she wanted even when i was an adult. You, on the other hand, give your children the freedom to grow and find themselves. a Mother who has confidence in her children. You don't treat your adult children as if they were babies but you respect them as competent adults. This means a LOT and this is how i strive to treat my own children as well.

Anonymous said...

Carol C.
You have just written my story with my son.
Leslie B