Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: On why I can't talk to my mother (and tips on how to prevent your adult kids from shutting you out).

11.11.2015

On why I can't talk to my mother (and tips on how to prevent your adult kids from shutting you out).

For more of a background story to this piece, click to read my blog post, "How to suck at parenting. Effing badly."

I didn't need to hear from my mother on the day before my 31st birthday.

Now hear me out, it's not often that I do hear from her (or from anyone else in my immediate family at that). Usually they'll call in the event of a tragedy or if a computer needs to be fixed, which I then ignore due to my work schedule. Most, if not all conversations aren't very positive after I see the dreaded number on my caller ID, and any sort of dialogue dissolves very quickly within a matter of minutes.


I may be broke as a skunk, but I don't need the money. I've needed what never existed and that money can't buy, a supportive family who set a positive example for the way I needed to live. I was fortunate to have had mentors along the way with whom I was able to circumvent the toxicity of emotional neglect that surrounded me every day. Even then, those families that I had to create for compensation eventually crumbled, due to death or distance.

So when I have to answer a phone call from my mother, I have to hold back a dam of more than two decades of pent up anger, emotional neglect, and flashbacks of every unnecessary obstacle set before me. And all she could manage was a phone call to ask me if "my bank account numbers were still the same." With that, the dam breaks and I have to ask her point blank why she only cares about that.

Granted, my basic needs were met when I was growing up. However, the need for emotional stability, parental approval, and positive encouragement lacked despite the fact that I was doing well in many of the endeavors that I had to fight them to allow me to do. My mom was never around; she worked nights at the hospital and slept during the day, even after I came home from school. And when she was available she didn't interact with me much or even try to connect with me at any level. My dad wasn't very much available either, he was usually working on something instead of spending time with me, even though he was a stay-at-home dad for many years. Fortunately, I didn't have any learning or academic issues so I was able to do homework on my own. I did get help on projects though, but it was mainly so that my stuff would "look better than everyone else" rather than for me to learn anything from the creation process itself.

I spent most of my youth extremely bored and hungry for attention or at least an activity to do, and with my parents' fear of me "learning bad things" from other "American" children I spent a lot of time at home by myself surrounded by books and staring at the computer for hours. That's what left me very brooding with a tendency to overthink everything; I had way too much time to process information. Yes, I am aware that most of this narrative involves a lot of time at school, and the reason for this is that this was the only topic that I could ever talk to my parents about. Feelings were non-existent, and important topics like sex and growing up? That's what HBO and rated R movies were for.

And don't even get me started about my father. He was a person who got angry when I didn't do what he wanted and disowned me when I couldn't achieve that impossible level of perfection and decided to embark on a different path. Put it this way: I checkmated him in a game of chess when I was nine and he never played against me or ever mentioned the word "chess" again. Yeah, he was that kind of petty.

The worst part about this is that my mother plays the victim card like a pro. She takes no responsibility for any wrongdoing and does not acknowledge the basis for my frustration and rage. She's also a carpet to my father and cannot speak her own mind nor express herself, so she doesn't appreciate it when I share my opinions with her.

Without further delay, here are the things that you should not do if you'd like to keep communication open with me.

1. Talking over me only ends the conversation early. Usually, this happens toward the end of a phone call when my mother realizes that she is in the wrong. I begin to say something, she'll butt in with some sort of guttural sound that lies somewhere between two languages, and while I continue to speak she'll continue to change the subject. This is the cue where I remind her that she interrupted me en route to an appointment while I was riding my motorcycle and then politely hang up.

2. Praying for me every night is coddling yourself and your ego only, because I honestly could care less. The response to "you only call me once a year" is telling me that you "pray for me every night." It's no secret that I walked away from organized religion years ago, mainly because my parents used it to control my behavior and improperly justify not allowing me to be normal. There is no compensation for actual attention. It's nice that you're trying to make yourself feel better for being an absentee parent during the years that I needed you the most by apologizing to a deity. I still think I'm the one who would appreciate the apology. And for the record, I am sorry (not sorry) for not becoming a nun like you wanted me to.

3. Having a "Super Bowl" mother is even more annoying when she's been doing it for my entire life. I have learned to live so many years with my mother's absenteeism, so her coming around and distracting me doesn't help at all. In fact, it's actually more depressing because there is always an ulterior motive to those actions, be it guilt or a response to my anger. If you didn't take the time to forge any relationship with me in my youth, why is there an expectation that I'm just going to let you into my life with open arms?

4. It is not my obligation as an adult to talk to you. Your actions force me to make the choice on whether I should talk to you. Just because the "family" tag can be placed on a person, it is not a directive to force communication onto someone. My time and my respect is sacred and is earned, not given. I had to live under negative forces for years because I couldn't get out of it. I am relishing my freedom now.

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With that being said, here are some guidelines to increase your chances that your kids will actually look forward to talking to you when they become adults.

1. Talk to them when they're children. When I mean "children," I also cover the terms "teenager," "young adult," and "adult." To you, they will always be your children, and they will remember what you said (or didn't say). Let them know who you are, what your dreams are, and how you feel about them. The generations of stories that you can share with them offer invaluable lessons and a window to their origins.

2. Be sensitive to their feelings and teach them to express their emotions. I am so well-versed in bottling up my emotions that I could work for Coca-Cola. However, I am getting better at that aspect of my life. When a child is sad, let them cry. When a child is happy, let them be as happy as they damn well please. If they are angry, ask them why instead of telling them to stop because it doesn't look right. I can guarantee that this paragraph can save you thousands of dollars in therapy.

3. Tell them that you love them and that you have their back. I knew I was screwed if I got into a jam, and it wasn't because my parents weren't there; it was because they had joined the party that was blaming me. Protect the people you love and don't forget to remind them that you do love them. The words "I love you" are empty without the actions to back it up.

4. You signed up for this gig. This gig just happens to last for the rest of your life, so please stop half-assing your job. Your job as a parent doesn't end after the kids start speaking for themselves. For the love of everything sacred, be there for your damn children. If they have performances, attend them. If they did a great job at something, tell them that they did. If they fall down, help them back up and urge them to keep on going. Please don't put them in a bind where they have to constantly questioning if you're there for them. Just be there, standing next to them proudly and not applauding from a thousand paces.

I think this final point brings out the most resentment in me because of the stories I was always told about how my mother was "desperate to have a child" after having three miscarriages and all sorts of fertility issues. I think someone forgot to tell her that after the baby is born, it has a full life to live and can't stay small and helpless forever. But instead of celebrating me, she lamented of what I never became: the spitting image of her.

Tomorrow will be a good day, I got the difficult stuff out of the way today (like this rant) and am going to enjoy time with someone that I love who truly loves me back. Remember that love makes the family, not blood. Somehow I survived long enough to finally (and completely) understand what it means to be loved unconditionally...it only took 30 years.