March 2, 2023 | View PDF
My mother and I are in yet another silent period. Again, it is her choice. She is 70 and I am 48.
Mother and I were reminiscing, and the conversation to that point was pleasant. When I was a child, we had a caretaker with a distinctive cry for my brothers. I mimicked her cry, and mom and I both laughed. Suddenly, the tide turned as if I stabbed my mom with a knife.
It all has to do with mom’s mother. She died when mom was nine, and after this my mom’s life was tough, going from home to home, and never fitting in. Her father did not handle the death well. Mom felt he blamed her for the death of his wife. When I was born, my mom named me after her mother.
My relationship with mom was not much better. I was a behavior problem, tall and overweight. At nine I was sent to live with my father, and at 11, sent to boarding school. The birth name mom gave me was a name other students made fun of. I wanted to die.
One wonderful friend suggested if it was so bad, why not get rid of the name? So, with much protesting from my family, I created a new identity for myself with a nickname. I cannot tell you what it was like not to be teased anymore! As a graduation present, my father allowed me to go to court and make it my legal name.
Thankfully, 12 years ago I found a great therapist who helped me look to the future, but my mom never warmed up to me. I am a fly she would like to swat and can’t. Add to this all my brothers’ wives are thin college graduates, and you get the picture.
When I said my birth name in the voice of my old caretaker, it brought all this back to my mom. She said, “When you changed your name, it was like you killed all of what I had of my mother, and I had to lose her a second time.”
The name change happened 30 years ago. Part of me wants to tell mom off. Part of me wants to comfort her. I am sick of trying to bend myself into something she can deal with, yet I fear doing more damage to our relationship.
Sylvia, you do see the pattern, don’t you? At nine, your mom loses her mother. Then she names you after her dead mother.
When your mom sent you away at nine, she accomplished two things. She deliberately punished you in the way she had been punished by life, and she got revenge on her own mother for dying, the event she felt estranged her from her father.
Some people say the family is the best of institutions, and they are right. But the family can also be the worst of institutions. It can be the home for incest, beatings, insult, and ridicule.
As John Douglas, the famous profiler of violent criminals, said, “In all my years of research and dealing with violent offenders, I’ve never yet come across one who came from what I would consider a good background and functional, supportive family unit.”
The biological link we value with our parents only goes so far. It can be destroyed by the lack of the important elements of caring, love, and protection. You are an adult now. Weigh in your mind what position in life your mother holds.
As you make strides to move forward emotionally, you must decide how much distance to place between you and your parent. Your mother may call you selfish, but trying to make you replace a dead relative, and holding a hurt from over half a century ago, is selfishness raised to the level of cruelty.
Wayne & Tamara
Wayne & Tamara are also the authors of “Cheating in a Nutshell, What Infidelity Does to the Victim”, available from Amazon, Apple, and most booksellers.