The Vine: October 6, 2010
I'm nearly 30. My parents have hated each other since at least their divorce (about 25 years ago) if not long before that. They both have solid reasons to feel that way about each other.
My dad and I have always gotten along very well. My mom and I have a really rough relationship. Most people who know both of us thinks she can't deal with the fact that my dad and I are very similar. More than once over the years I've considered if it's worth it to continue having a relationship with her.
My brother (10 years older) is a total waste of earth's resources. His (first) ex-wife is evil, addicted to drugs and crazy. They have a son who's severely impacted by autism. (As in 11 and non-verbal.) They are terrible parents.
About three years ago my brother and father discontinued their relationship. About two years ago my brother told me to never bother to speak to him again. (Along with a bunch of really horrible other things.) Since that time, my life has been a lot calmer. I don't have to worry about him showing up at my door, eating all my food, saying really fucked-up things (sexually) to my friends, stealing my things, and punching me when I call him on any of that. Yay.
When that all went down, I asked my mom to never talk to me about him and never talk to him about me. Generally she respects that, but one time when I was drugged out of my face in the hospital recovering from surgery she shoved the phone at me and he was on the other end. I was not amused.
Anyway, today she called me and this conversation took place.
Her: "I'm only asking you because you're honest so I know you'll be honest with me."
Me: [in my head: oh FUCK] "Okay, what?"
Her: "Do you know if your dad is planning on taking your nephew to Mexico? Not like to Baja for the weekend, but like, down where you went this summer. For a while?"
Me: "Mom, Dad hasn't seen him in three years. What the hell are you talking about?"
Her: "Well, [Brother's Ex] has been trying to get Nephew a passport, and Nephew just showed up with a new haircut that looks like the ones your father used to give him and once he said that he wanted to take him to Mexico for a while."
Me: "So you're calling to ask me if I know about Dad taking Brother's son to Mexico without his knowledge or permission?"
Me: "Mom, I've never heard of anything like that. Okay?"
Then I got off the phone. Then I got PISSED. I mean, seriously. Please don't call and ask if I'm in on hiding a plot where my dad works with my brother's evil ex-wife to get my special-needs nephew out of the county. Based on a haircut. Right?
So I called her back. It didn't go well.
Me: "Mom, do me a favor. Don't ever. EVER call me with something like that again."
Her: "I was calling you because I care about Nephew."
Me: "Mom! You're fucking accusing me of knowing about a plot to KIDNAP MY NEPHEW AND TO NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT."
Her: "This isn't about you! I called because I care."
Me: "I said I don't want to know a thing about Brother's life!"
Her: "This is about Nephew!"
Me: "What kind of person do you think I am, Mom? You sound insane! Seriously. Why would you even bother talking to me if you think I'd just wait for someone to ask me if my father was trying to kidnap my nephew! With Brother's evil ex! I mean, if that's what you think about me what am I doing having a relationship with you?"
Her: "THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU."
Me: "You're a sick person."
Okay, I know I wasn't like a picture of calmness and maturity. I don't really care. It's hours later and I'm still seeing red.
Here are my main questions. 1. Am I insane for thinking that my mom was accusing me of knowing about a plot to take my nephew out of the country with out my brother's permission based on a haircut? 2. Am I way overreacting in thinking that I don't need her in my life if that's what she thinks about me?
I know from experience that she will never apologize for this.
There's a reason I went to college 3,000 miles away from home
Yes, you kind of are, on both counts.
Your mom has some boundary issues as far as your relationship — or lack of one — with your brother, but if you think about it more calmly, of course you can understand where that comes from. She loves you both, and she wants you to love each other, in spite of ample evidence that, at least right now, that can't be. That denial is irritating, but try reacting with compassion, instead of adolescent rage that your orders aren't being followed.
But Mom isn't the only one with entanglement problems here. Your furious, dramatic reaction suggests that, as much lip service as you give to not wanting to deal with Brother, you're still involved with him emotionally. Refusing to speak to or about a person takes a certain amount of effort and maintenance; sometimes it's necessary, but patrolling that emotional border means that you do have a relationship with Brother, of twisted sorts, and that he does take up significant mental acreage.
I don't see any indication that your mother "accused" you of anything. There's maybe one phrasing that implies that she thought you might know something, but it's your phrasing and she's just replying to it. I think she's probably reading too much into a haircut, so we agree there — but how much simpler and less stress-inducing would it have been for you to say that, gently, and end the conversation? "Mom, I think you're probably reading too much into a haircut. I know you're concerned, but I don't know anything, and as we've discussed, this subject isn't one I want to go near. Talk to you later." How hard is that?
I think it's extremely hard, for you, and it's time for you to get counseling and deal with how tightly tied you still seem to feel to these people from whom you get no joy, whose behavior you can't seem to put into perspective. This isn't a judgment; it happens with our families of origin, that an incident like this will stick sideways in your throat for weeks when any third party would be like, "Let it go, life's too short," because you want sins of the past redressed and injustices righted. It's normal, it's common, it's exhausting, and it's unrealistic, and a therapist can help you recognize how you contribute to these interactions, and how to change your own behavior to cut down the toxicity.
No, Mom probably won't apologize for this, nor should she. She's right: it wasn't about you, and furthermore, making it about you is wearing you down. But if you apologize to her for taking her head off, and explain that you can be oversensitive on the topic of brother, without getting defensive, at least you've put it out there and then you can move on from the incident.
But you've got to move on from something here, and cutting her out of her life won't do that. It'll just change the relationship dynamic to one where you spend the entire time cultivating your sense of injury, and you must have something better to do.
Tags: the fam