Whenever I come upon an aphorism, I sigh, because it’s just more work. I know, you ask, why so? Well, it’s that they are so darned seductive, they sound so right, so good, and it’s so easy to just adopt them and use them as fact.
But alas, they are used for just that very purpose. They are conniving in their attempt to lull you into complacency, begging you to search no deeper for truth.
And that’s what you must avoid. That is unless you are of the lazy mind variety. And of course you aren’t like that.
This is not a blog I care to write about, since mother-daughter relationships are certainly not my speciality nor my interest at all. I have my peace with life as it is, and seek no angst driven conversation the point of which is to make me feel “okay.”
It is what it is.
Okay, more background. I came to me last night as we were watching Brothers and Sisters. Nora, mother of the brood (Sally Fields) is trying to convince her son that she in fact, has full confidence in his ability to get through law school. She says some things, and then erupts. “God I sounded just like my mother. I said I would NEVER be like my mother, and I guess I am.”
She is wretched, and her son assures her she is nothing like Grandma. I realized that we are never neutral when it comes to that question. Either as we are thrilled to be compared to our mothers or fathers (sex to sex), or we are appalled at the mere suggestion. Nobody says, “I’m okay if I turn out like Dad, and okay if I don’t.”
That seems because we have clear opinions on the relative parenting skills of our parents and want to emulate or do the exact opposite.
There seems to be an aphorism that any person you don’t like tends to mirror things about yourself you don’t like. Nobody likes to hear that. And everybody worries and talks about channeling the person sometimes. “I just heard Mother come right from my own lips!”
I’m not sure the aphorism is true. Psychologists probably say it is. It may mean that people you don’t admire are people who show you characteristics you particularly look to avoid in your own behavior and personality. Perhaps you “fear” acting like them, but I’m not sure that you actually end up being like them.
I saw good mother-daughter relationships as I grew up. So I can tell when one is good. Unlike marriage. In most all of my adult life I never saw a marriage I considered “good.” Tolerable? Perhaps, but not good. Of course another aphorism is that you can never “judge another marriage from the outside,” and this one is quite likely true. Nobody knows but the two people what it is really like.
But you can tell one you don’t like. It of course, doesn’t mean the marriage is bad, only that it would be bad for you to have one like it. The parties themselves may be quite happy with each other.
Some folks think that having a bad or non-existent relationship with a parent is sad or miserable. I can say, from my vantage, that it is not. It is fact. Period. I don’t actually attribute a lot of fault. Parenting is not a given. It is learned behavior and if one hasn’t had a good teacher, one undoubtedly won’t do a good job, except by chance, and real commitment. Most people take being parents pretty much for granted, unfortunately.
And frankly, that’s not the worst position to take, since most children are fairly resilient and most can withstand general dysfunction. Plenty of kids survive rather rough parenting in terms of physical abuse. I didn’t have that, and would categorize my family as simply adept at getting their way by manipulating other’s emotions.
This is never a good idea, but adults are fair game. Children don’t have the experience to defend themselves, and end up with self-esteem problems at minimum.
Psychologists of course claim that the worst thing to do is to disengage. They think this fails to resolve issues. Recently on GMA, Peg Streep talked about this and her book Mean Mothers. She too made a permanent break with her mother.
No doubt those who have excellent relationships with parents are aghast at such choices. They must find such a decision tragic from their point of view. From the point of view of the person who ends such a “relationship,” there is little to do except to put a dying horse out of it’s misery.
For there is seldom, I think, reason to think that such relations can be salvaged. They can never be “good” in any real sense. They can only become “accommodating” in which each side has had the chance to air it’s anger and resentment. Some of the worst things may change, but it will forever more be a forced kind of thing.
I’d rather have the “good” relationship rather than a limping along type. Same for marriage. Most marriages are “okay” but I’d have rather done without than settled for that. I was lucky in that one. I found a prize among men. My marriage is by most standards excellent, though we of the excellent category know how much effort is involved in keeping it so.
I just can’t seem to raise the necessary energy to “keeping it so” to a relationship, that in the end, will only be tolerable.