Friday, October 15, 2021

YOU WON'T DO IT RIGHT, SAID MOTHER

 Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When I wanted to help with something around the house, You won't do it right, said Mother.

Consequently, I didn't learn a lot of every day things that most people know. Plus, my older sisters hated me because they had to clean the house, while I seemed to get a free pass other than being required to put clean sheets on my bed––which I didn't do right––and when I was older, vacuum my bedroom, which I didn't do right.

When I was a teenager, I saw Mother getting out the decorations to put on the Christmas tree. I want to help, I said.

You won't do it right, said Mother.

I was never allowed to hang a single decoration on the Christmas tree.

Mother also made it her duty to ensure I had no confidence.

She often told me I was "thick-headed" and if I ever wanted to have any money, then I'd better marry a rich man. You don't have any friends, she often told me, because of the way you act. No one likes you.

I didn't know then and don't know now how I "acted." I also don't know why kids would come by the house to spend time with me. According to Mother, they were not my friends.

Along with the emotional abuse was the never-ending threat of physical abuse. She liked to beat my older sisters with a yardstick or a fly swatter, but me, for some reason, she liked to slap across the face. When I was as tall as she was and definitely stronger, I continued to cower before her raised hand.

Small things could send her into a rage. It didn't occur to me until much later that she was guilty of those small things. If I misplaced something or actually lost something, she became furious. 

She lost things all the time, especially her keys. She got a huge key ring so maybe she'd be able to key track of the keys, but she couldn't. She laughed about it, but if I couldn't find something, it was the stuff of nightmares.

To this day I remain terrified of losing anything.

Mother was rather large, yet she went on and on about the size of some of my older sisters. She'd wave her hands in despair. They're big-boned, she'd say.

When I was in junior high and wore a pep club uniform that included a gray skirt, she told me my legs were too big for me to wear a short skirt. I think I weighed about 90 pounds. Probably not even that much.

The summer before I started high school, I gained a few pounds. Mother became apoplectic with rage. It didn't take long for me to lose the weight. Boy, that gym class sure took the weight off you, she said.

The gym class had 60 girls in it. By the time the teacher finished taking attendance, we had about 10 minutes to do whatever bullshit the teacher wanted us to do. I lost the weight because I ate only one meal a day. Mother would have been delighted if I had been anorexic.

A friend told me that every time she won a medal in forensics her mother sewed it to a piece of black velvet that went in a case hung on the wall. I won numerous medals. I don't think my parents ever looked at them or knew what I had done to win them.

During my senior year in high school, I won a substantial scholarship in a state-wide essay contest. If you really want to go to KU, maybe we could manage it, she whined.

I hung my head. I don't want to.

I knew what was expected of me. I took some classes at the university in town, where I remained other Mother's thumb.

Mother did like one thing about me. People often mentioned how pretty I was. Once when I played in a piano recital, she heard someone behind us say, She always looks so cute.

That put a smile on Mother's face, but it confused me. If I was so stupid and unworthy of friendship, then how could I possibly be pretty?

I think her belief in my looks furthered her determination to keep me from having a career. You will never be able to hold down a job. If something went wrong, you'd fall apart. You'd better get married or you'll never have anything.

I had a long-term boyfriend but he had turned out to be a jerk. I wanted to break up with him but didn't dare to do so because I knew Mother would say he broke up with me and then list the many reasons I wasn't worthy of him or anyone else.

My desperation to hold onto him because of Mother led me into a deep depression.

When I was finally free of him and starting to recover, I began dating someone else. As soon as it was feasible, I married him. I still had most of the money from the scholarship along with other money I'd saved. I used it for my husband's education.

Although she'd been desperate for me to marry, my performance as a wife did not please her. What are you fixing for dinner? tended to lead to That's not enough, so I invented large, substantial meals that were far beyond our means.

Even so, That nice boy will divorce you became one of her refrains

That nice boy was not so nice. 

We had an agreement that he would get his BA and then I would get mine. When he came home one day and announced he wanted to get his PhD, I didn't dare say a word.

The good part was that he got into graduate school in another state. I could escape Mother.

to be continued . . . and it's not all bad

28 comments:

  1. Some mothers are loving inspirations. Others need to be survived.

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  2. Sigh.
    Parenting is such an important job - and we don't put any requirements on people before they go ahead. Nor do we offer them (or their children) the support they need.

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    1. In the movie Parenthood, Keanu Reeves' character opens up to his mother-in-law about some of the abuse he suffered and goes on to talk about the requirement of licenses, but you don't need a license to be a parent.

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  3. A childhood from hell. But it didn't end there, did it?

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  4. If only bad parents realized the harm they do.

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    1. I've long worried about my parenting skills. I don't think Mother worried a bit.

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  5. My heart breaks. I don't think some parents ever realize how damaging just their words can be.

    xoxo

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    1. Mother didn't seem to be someone who examined her conscience.

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  6. WOW!! Talk about abuse! I never did a load of laundry till I got married, cause "You won't do it right".
    Hugs ~

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    1. I had to fight to be allowed to do my own laundry.

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  7. Wow. Parents really need to get their crap cleaned up before they have kids. Sending hugs.

    Hurting people hurt people. That's what I tell myself at work when I want to choke the shit out of mean people.

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  8. Wow, Janie, does this ever strike a chord! One of these days, we should compare horrible mother stories. I'm sorry you had such an awful experience with yours, but, as the saying goes: "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I was lucky and got out early...Looking forward to the next chapter!

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    Replies
    1. I don't think it made me stronger. It took a long time for me to recover.

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  9. Your mother sounds very judgemental, that doesn't sit right with me

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    1. She was definitely judgmental and never stopped being that way.

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  10. Replies
    1. In my mother's eyes, my childhood never ended.

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  11. I wounds of unfit Parenting last a lifetime, sadly just because some people can have children doesn't mean they should.

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    Replies
    1. She might have been a good parent to two or three children. Six was too much.

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  12. I suspect your peers didn't want to come round to your house because of your mother; it had nothing to do with you.

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    1. My friends actually did come over. That made her comments even more mystifying.

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  13. How very sad, Janie. You've done well to come through all of that and retain your kind and loving nature. It's hard to understand how people can often not see what they are doing wrong. I read something about forgiveness a long time ago that has always stuck with me. People are doing the best they can with what they had at the time. If they learn better, they do better. Maybe your mom just never had the energy or ability or fullness of heart to look objectively at her treatment of her kids, and therefore could never change. Reasons do not change what those kids suffered, though. That's the hard part.

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    Replies
    1. Some people lack self-awareness. I think she actually made some efforts to be better.

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