Once when I was about 13, my family decided we needed to drive from California to New York. My aunt and cousins lived in New York, and my father’s family lived in Missouri. There were other stops along the way, sights, random family members I never knew existed, etc. So they purchased a motor home and packed three kids into this sardine can on wheels, and we headed east.
I’d spent a lot of that trip reading. There was no internet, phones, or electronic games in the ’80s. It was challenging to play board or card games in a moving vehicle, and quite frankly, I hated them. So I read while the soundtrack to the Jazz Singer blasted from the eight-track. To me, this trip was tedious; to my mother and stepfather, it was a great “family” adventure.
Like me, my mother grew up in California, where thunderstorms are few and far between. We pulled over somewhere in the southern US, New Mexico? Texas? Oklahoma? We all crawled into our assigned sleeping spot to go to bed. My brothers had the loft over the driver’s seat. My parents deconstructed the kitchen table, which turned into a queen-sized bed. I got to sleep on the vehicle couch.
At some point in the middle of the night, I woke to find my mother on her knees, on the floor, “praying” for God to save us. There was a horrible thunderstorm, and lightning was hitting the ground across the street. Of course, being a child and hearing your mother crying, “we’re all going to die,” is a bit disconcerting. But the storm passed, and we all lived.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of stops dictated by my parents. There were other storms on the way, storms they decided I was deathly afraid of, but never mentioned the fact that mother was the one screaming, “we all going to die.” Eventually, we made it home, and life went on as normal.
Fast forward several months. I hear my stepfather telling my aunts and cousins the story of the storm during that fateful trip. Yet, in his version, it was not my mother on the floor screaming, we’re all going to die; it was me. He laughed and made fun of me to my family for something my mother had done. Well, what teenager would put up with that? I spoke up and told all who would listen that it was not me screaming and crying during that storm; it was my mother. Silence. I was sent to my room, where my stepfather followed me to yell at me for “embarrassing my mother.” Seriously? What the actual fuck? You’re a liar and embarrassing ME. But the truth has never mattered in my family,
Over the years, things like this happened over and over. My family was awful to me. Telling me I was fat, accusing me of being a whore. Often accusing me of sleeping with the neighbor boy. He was 15; I was 14. And if I was too happy, if I danced around to music, I was on drugs.
When I was ten, my mother and most recent stepfather moved in together. In quintessential 80’s style, the light in the kitchen was a large rectangle with fluorescent tubes. There was a plastic sheet that covered the light bulbs. It was summer, and I had come home from somewhere with a babysitter, perhaps the neighborhood pool? I was wearing flip-flops and dancing. I did a little Can Can kick, and my flip flop flew off my foot and hit the light. The plastic sheet was knocked to the floor and broke. I remember hiding under my bed when my parents came home and my stepfather screaming my name. I don’t remember the rest of that day.
In my adulthood, everyone has tried to control me. It’s funny as they’re always accusing me of trying to control everyone else. I am charged with many horrible things when I stand up for myself and refuse to comply with their demands. Once, shortly before my brother’s first marriage, my mother wanted me to take her and my daughter to a bridal shop to get a dress. Right now. I told her it would have to wait two more days as I had an appointment with the accountant the next day and needed to prepare. She got red in the face and yelled at me, “That’s just not good enough!” I told her that I didn’t think my brother’s wedding, which was two weeks away, was more important than my taxes that were due the next day. She told my brother I said his wedding wasn’t important.
There was another time when I asked this same brother where something I had left at my parent’s house was. I hadn’t seen it in many years, and every time I asked about it, everyone feigned ignorance. A few days later, I went to my parents for something, and here comes my mother, stomping down the stairs, once again red in the face saying, “Oh, so we stole your gun!” It was an old WWI rifle that didn’t even work. It was more of a decoration than anything. I looked at her confused and said I never said that. But my brother told her I had said they stole it, so it must be so. I am the asshole for defending myself.
Such has been the entirety of my life. Every time I stand up for myself, I am an awful, horrible person. If someone comes to my defense, these people viciously attack them. Nothing I ever do is good enough in their eyes, and I am forever the piece of shit that won’t just let them have a good time by doing what I am told.
And this brings me to today. My daughter will be 18 tomorrow. She and I have a rocky relationship. There are many aspects I don’t want to get into, but a lot of the issues I have with my children seem to be other people telling them things about me that are not true. Others seem to provide them with unrealistic expectations regarding my responsibilities towards them. My parents help with the kids, but they also are inappropriate in their communication regarding myself and their father.
I will admit, I’ve been slacking. I have been extremely depressed for the last two years. I also work full time, often ten plus hours a day. Furthermore, every time I try to do something nice for my kids, it backfires on me. It’s either wrong or not good enough, and if I dare to defend myself against my children, who treat me much the same as my parents and brothers, I am gaslighting them. Nothing I ever do is ever good enough for anyone. It’s defeating, and honestly, I don’t want to do things for people when I know it will never be good enough.
So I sent my daughter a text today. Tomorrow she should be with Snow Riders, a high school group that goes up the mountain and snowboards once a week. I asked her what she wanted for dinner for her birthday on Thursday since she will be at Snow Riders on her birthday. She tells me she’s going to Grandma’s for dinner tomorrow, and if I want to come, I can. WTF? My MOTHER and the rest of my family were planning a birthday party for my daughter without even including me.
When I confronted my mother, she blamed my daughter. I told her as a responsible adult, she should have asked me if I had plans. She again blamed my daughter and told me it was ENOUGH. Yup enough, I called you out on doing something shitty to me once again. But it’s not her fault; it’s mine. I did not say a word to my daughter. But my mother could not leave it at that. Either her or my oldest daughter (who wouldn’t have known anything unless my mother said something to her) told the soon to be 18 year old. I got a text from my daughter accusing me of “freaking out” on her grandma, and I should have done something sooner if it mattered to me.
I want to think a supportive mother would have come to me and said, “I know you’re a single mom. I know you work 10 to 12 hours a day. Kid three asked to do XYZ for her birthday. Do you have anything else planned? Do you want to join us?” Nope, not a peep. Everyone in that house kept this from me. And me being upset about it is “ridiculously unacceptable.” And that is the gist of my entire life. Everything I do is wrong. Everything they do is right, and if I call them out for being asses, hurting me, or being self-entitled, I am the asshole. I can’t win, and every time I try, I am left abused, defeated, and feeling completely and utterly unwanted.
Yes, my parents have helped me over the years. But they have also been incredibly and toxically abusive. They have done their best to come between my children and me, and they taught me that it was okay for others to treat me like shit. I believed there was something wrong with me, and that’s why my husband was incredibly unsupportive and emotionally abusive. They conditioned me to think this was normal. I have to wonder if the “help” was worth the way they treat me when I don’t do what they want.
So much for supportive, loving families. I have no idea what it feels like to be wanted and loved. I’ve been discarded by everyone my entire life