The Vine: October 20, 2010
Let me set the scene for you: I'm nineteen, currently living with my parents. I have my A.A. and I'm pursuing my A.S. in culinary management. While I love my parents, I've figured out that I love them from afar. Because of a series of events (starting with the removal of my adopted cat, my father going through my room daily, and arguments with my mother over whether or not I can be happy at the weight I am), I've been pushed to make that "afar" a lot further than it is right now. They know that my ultimate destination — for a lot of reasons, one of which is the culinary industry up there — is Chicago, IL. My parents live in Jacksonville, FL.
Because I can't stay in my house any longer, I've told my mother that in December, I'm going to move out. She thinks I mean somewhere in Jacksonville so I can finish my degree. I don't. In December, I'm going to move to Chicago and I'm going to stay there. This would mean dropping out of college and moving across the country by myself to live in a strange city and make it on my own in a well-known cutthroat industry. Suffice to say, I can understand my parents' hesitation.
But regardless, I'm leaving. I know my mother doesn't believe I'm leaving — when I asked her if she'd told my father, she said, and I quote, "Why would I? I don't think you're ready to move out. I'll tell him if and when you're ready to move out." So you can probably tell that she won't react to my news very positively. In fact, she's tried her damnedest to get me to spend my savings (which I'm saving for my apartment) on things I don't want or need. I'm not sure if she's doing it subconsciously or not, but I know she doesn't want me to go.
And herein lies my problem, Sars. I know I have to tell them. I can't just tell them, "By the way, I'm moving to Chicago tomorrow." I need to give them notice so they won't freak out when I pull up in a U-Haul and pack all my stuff in boxes and take off. They have to adjust to the fact that their baby girl is moving across the country from them, and there's really nothing they can do to convince me to stay.
But the thing is, I'm terrified to tell them. I hate arguments and confrontation. And I know that that's what's going to happen when I tell them — there's going to be an argument. Words will be exchanged that I know we'll regret. My mother will cry (her trademark for winning an argument).
So, Sars, here's my question. When should I tell them? I've had friends suggest just saying "fuck it" and telling them and walking away. I've had friends suggest I tell them after I've signed my lease. I've had friends suggest I tell them sooner rather than later, so they can be involved in the process of my move. What do you think would be the best, in this situation?
Home Sweet Home
A month beforehand. It's the same notice you'd give a landlord, and while it's tempting — and, given your parents' consistent refusal to treat you like a voting adult, may seem advisable — to wait until the night before and then drop a peace-out on them from the middle of a cloud of bubble wrap, I suspect that that would just bolster their belief that you aren't grown up enough to make it on your own.
Part of that is legitimate concern for you, part of that is denial that you're no longer six years old…regardless of what it's made up of for them, keep in mind that, while they may want to turn your announcement into a shrieky referendum on your maturity, it doesn't have to become that for you. I get that you dread the inevitable "You're WHAT?" and "Are you CRAZY?!" and "No way can you blah blah doomed to fail blah blah undermining-cakes!", and it's hard not to take personally, but in the end, it isn't personal. It's their shit, not yours; it's not a prophecy.
Rehearse the announcement. Get a friend to help you if you can, the way that attorneys rehearse witnesses for cross-examination; have the friend role-play your parents, saying all the dismissive, combative, sobby things your parents might say, while you repeat phrases like "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I disagree," "I'm sure you don't mean that; I'll really miss you," and "I understand you're upset, but let's discuss this further after you've calmed down." You may get frustrated and upset and lose track of the script, and that's fine, but the key is not to fall into the trap of trying to convince them or get their blessing. You're not asking permission.
It won't go perfectly, but however it goes, then it's over and you can stop worrying about it. Just try to avoid getting into an unproductive "YES I CAN SO!" kind of dialogue, because they want to make it about "can" — are you able to, are you allowed to, whatever — and you just need to keep repeating, gently but firmly, that it's "will" that's relevant.
Me and my mom have a pretty unorthodox relationship. We're really close, almost like best friends, in a way. Since I'm an only child, we've always done things together and she's talked to me as she would a friend. I'm still respectful of her — it's not like I curse at her or anything — but we have a pretty relaxed relationship.
However, she does something that really pisses me off. Whenever we have an argument or disagreement over the phone, she's really quick to get snide, rude, sarcastic, talks over me, and hangs up the phone in my face. After this happens, we'll usually go days without talking, and I hate myself for it. It's really gotten to the point where I hate discussing certain things with her (i.e. money problems, school problems) because I know how she is. I've told her that while I love her, she can be a little hard to deal with.
She just says she has a bad temper sometimes and…she's pretty much dismissive of that. She's super-defensive when I bring her attitude to her attention.
But Sars, I really really hate when she hangs the phone up in my ear. It's like a total slap in the face. I'd never do that to her, and she does it on a fairly regular basis. It sometimes makes me not want to talk to her at all, because she's such a difficult person to talk about things with.
I don't want to make her seem like a bad person. She's not. She's done a lot for me. But I'm fairly independent — I don't mooch off her and expect much from her. But I do tell her about different things going on in my life since we don't live with each other and don't talk every day, but she's just…not an easy person to get along with. It's like, to put up with her, I have to remind myself that she's my mom and I love her. But it's hard to say I'd even like her if I was casually acquainted with her.
I know this is really one-sided, and I'm not trying to make myself seem perfect. But so many of these acrimonious phone calls wind up with me saying "hold on…calm down…wait a minute, let me just…I didn't say I…" followed by her just hanging up in my face. It makes me feel like shit.
What am I supposed to do?
Let me point a couple of things out to you here. 1) "[She] hangs up the phone in my face. After this happens, we'll usually go days without talking, and I hate myself for it." 2) "[I'm] saying 'hold on…calm down…wait a minute, let me just…I didn't say I…' followed by her just hanging up in my face."
…Okay? Okay, here's what I see going on here. You have given yourself responsibility for her behavior, because that in turn lets you believe that you can control said behavior. This is one of the most frequent (and understandable) pitfalls of interpersonal relationships, and it's particularly difficult to change the pattern with a parent. And you can change the pattern, even if you can't change her behavior — which you can't, really.
You can let yourself off the hook for getting angry at her when she's rude and verbally abusive; you should get angry. If she hangs up on you and the two of you don't talk for a few days, that's on her, not you. If she's talking over you, overreacting, bullying you, and you choose to end the call by saying, "Mom, I don't appreciate being spoken to this way, and I'm going to get off the phone now," that's on her too.
She does that shit because it works. Stop responding to it. She wants to hang up on you, fine; the next time you talk, she can initiate the contact, and if she doesn't lead with an apology, ask for one, and excuse yourself until it's forthcoming. If she's talking over you, inform her that, if you aren't allowed to speak, you'll be ending the conversation, and then end it. Stop participating. She may not catch her snap, but you'll spend less time trying — in vain, I will note again — to get her to hear reason, and less time feeling like crap about yourself for failing.
You aren't failing; this isn't yours to control. You can only control your own behavior, so the next time she's an asshole to you, "control" yourself out of the argument and don't take the bait. You have nothing to feel like shit about. Stop carrying that around.
Tags: the fam