Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Project "Break the Cycle". Day one.

I was tucking in my daughter last night and for about the 10th time she insisted that I spent more time in my son's room than in hers. She's been doing this lately. I ask my son, who's 11, to go get the mail and she pushes him out of the way to grab it first. There are serious competition issues going on. So she's keeping track of how much time alone he gets versus what she gets at bed time. So I go into the same old speech about how she is not in competition with her brother. She begins to get whiney and complainy and it begins to make me insane. I get stabby when she gets temper-tantrumy. So I tell her that I don't spend more time with him and that I try hard to be sure that I spend equal amounts of time and that the times I leave her room early are usually the nights when I can't stay because she starts to get cranky and mean and I don't stick around for that. I tell her that she's saying I'm being a bad Mom by spending more time with him than her and I don't need to hear that when I try so hard to make their time equal. And then she said the worst thing she could ever have said to me. "You love him more than me."

I sort of stumbled into my bedroom where my husband was folding laundry and I said, "Did you hear her? She just said I love him more than her. Can you believe it? I don't act that way!" And he sort of shrugged his shoulders. I said, "Wait, you're saying I do act like that?" And I don't recall what he said but it was the equivalent of "If the shoes fits."


I grew up the child of a High School Track coach and a crazy person. She was nuts. At the time I thought she was normal but now I know better. I have many stories but I'll illustrate what was normal for her with the highlights.

I was in 1st grade and one day my mother was brushing my hair which she didn't do often. And I was whining and crying because it was waist length and I had not been introduced to conditioner and she'd start at the root and rip through it. She told me to stop. So I explained loudly that she was hurting me and she just picked up a pair of scissors and cut it off in one swoop. Just snip, snip, snip. Off. To my chin.

My mother took me to doctors to have EKGs and other tests done because she believed I had narcolepsy since I could fall asleep anywhere, but my parents never made me go to bed before midnight. My tests came back normal but she was certain they must be wrong and so she illegally obtained something called Desoxyn, which is called speed on the street, and gave it to me, every day for about 2 years. I was in 2nd grade.

My parents got tickets to the Track events for the 1984 Olympics. We drove out there in my grandparents' Itasca. We all went together to the stadium most days but one day in particular they could only get two tickets not four. Normal people would decide which parent would take which child. My mother and father go together, hand us a bus schedule for the greater Los Angeles area and tell us to visit South Coast Mall. We got lost and had to ask strangers how to get back to our hotel. I actually remember walking along a chain link fence doing an impersonation of Tina Turner singing, "What's Love Got to Do With It." since where we were looked just like the video. That's not a good thing.

In 4th grade she sat down with my teacher to discuss my issues with school. She sat there and lied her face off to my teacher. She said they tried and tried with me and they didn't know what to do, I just wouldn't do my work. I cried my eyes out. My teacher, Ms Christiansen, asked me what was wrong and I couldn't tell her. I couldn't say that my mother was lying.

I reminded my mother 100 times about my upcoming 5th grade Maturation Clinic. It was a huge deal. Parents had to go with their kids. But on the day of, she didn't show up. My teacher and a few other parents kept asking me where my mother was. I didn't know. I was given permission to go to the office and call home. I let it ring all the way through, twice. When she finally picked up she said she couldn't come, she was taking a nap. I stopped telling her about or asking her to come to any of my events. And my dad was just...I don't know...working?

I stole the white drop waisted dress with a pink sash that my mother made for my sister's 6th grade graduation to wear to my own 6th grade graduation and no one knew because I walked there by myself, got my certificate, and walked home by myself.

In 7th grade I hosted the school talent show. I bought myself a 1950s formal dress at a thrift shop, got myself ready, drove myself there (on our scooter) and home again without a word. I don't think anyone in my family ever even knew I did that, and it never occurred to me that was weird. It was just the norm at that point.

In 8th grade I missed the bus a few times, but the 3rd time it happened my mother screamed at me that I wasn't her daughter and hung up on me. I walked with a friend to her Dad's office where we Xeroxed our boobs.

The Summer before my freshman year my mother started a running bet with her best friend that I would get pregnant by the time I was 15. I had never even held hands with- let alone kissed- a boy. Her best friend, may she RIP, wisely betted against my early and unwedded pregnancy. I saved that for my 30s.

On her off days she would slap my face and shake me and leave me notes telling me I was a little @#$%. She had hundreds of different jobs and friends and spent money on clothes at the expense of us having heat, electricity, a phone. My sister and mother would come home together laughing with shopping bags and when I would ask where they had gone they'd answer that they had gone out for Ice Cream. And then my sister would show me the clothes that she got. So when I heard what my daughter said, it was a dagger to my heart, bamboo under my nails, hot pokers in my eyes. Because it was what I had been told my whole life by my older sister. That my mother loved her more than me. And she was right. She did. Love being a verb, she loved my sister more than me. I was being accused of the worst possible crime I could be accused. That I was just like my mother.

Oh man. This can not be. I'm breaking the cycle and I'm doing it now. I need to start figuring out what I need to do differently and I need to execute. Like yesterday. 2011. Breaking the cycle. Here we go.


Holly said...

Yep. Pretty sure your mom was crazy.
Also mighty sure you're not your mom, nor do you parent like she did.
I can't argue with you about the details, but on the whole you already seem to be doing a great deal to break the cycle.
Please don't let this particular kick be the one that keeps you down.

Hailey said...

Amelia, you are not a bad mom. We all tell ourselves that one time or another, but it simply isn't true. You are a very brave mom who has been through crap that most of us would never dream of going through. Your kids love you and it's normal for a kid Bell's age to say stuff like that. You adore your kids and that shows and they know it!

Mrs. Organic said...

Yes, what they said. You are worlds apart from your mother.

Have you ever read "The 5 Love Languages of Children"? I have one daughter who needs love expressed to her in quality time, but the way that comes easiest for me to express love is by doing acts of service. So basically I'm speaking Japanese to a Spanish speaker, and she is not understanding my I love yous. I am trying to change myself and learn how help her feel loved. It can be a tough undertaking.

Kami said...

Wow, and I thought my mom was crazy?!?! We could share so many stories! I was emotionally abused from my mom my entire life. Still am. Needless to say, I hardly talk to her anymore.

I'm sure you are a great mom and I know you are a great person! I think all kids say things like that. Don't take it personal. Mine do all the time. :)

babyfishfel said...

I know a new mother who will likely rival your mother. She was unstable before she had her son; now she's off the deep end. And there's nothing I can do about it. Ugh.

You, meanwhile, are responding to, listening to, and loving your daughter. That's the kind of mom everyone should have.

Kacy said...

Have you read "the Glass Castle"? You should.

Emily said...

Crazy mom for sure. And you are not your mom. End of story. I'm with Mrs. Organic--that is a fabulous book! I have one daughter who needs to be loved a certain way and it's really, really hard for me, so I'm sure she feels like she's loved less. I am working on it. I am not perfect (far from it).

Amelia Merritt said...

I totally appreciate the support. I really do, it means so much. You guys are all amazing and kind. I love you loads.

Alisa said...

Wow! What a remarkable woman you are to have come through all that. My mother forewarned me that the day would come when "I hate you!" would be screamed at me from one of my kids. It was not a shock when it happened! I think Maya Angelou was the one who said "When you know better, you do better." Half the battle is recognizing the fact things that were wrong in our upbringing so that we can, in fact, make a course correction. A couple of months ago my daughter said to me in tears "I'm sorry I am not good enough, Mom." Talk about a stake through the heart! We should talk...I love all my kids, but sometimes I have a favorite. (It changes.) The trick is not letting the "less favorites" know it while I figure out why!