Friday, October 13, 2006

Crazy mother

You may or may not know, I had (have) a crazy mother. When we were younger, she cycled between just being demanding to being downright mean and insane. For example, she liked everything to be just so (that didn't mean our house was clean, nor was it organized, but damn it those cups better be in the cupboard with the handles pointed the right way or there was hell to pay). She didn't do it herself, but she had high expectations for the rest of us, and we were the ones that did the housework and chores. Putting the salt shaker three inches to the left of where it "belonged" in the cupboard could spark an outburst that uncluded pulling out and whipping everything from the cupboard down the stairs, breaking dishes, and would sometimes culminate in carrying one of us (the likely offender or maybe just the one she could reach) by the hair to show us the mess so we could clean it up PROPERLY. Mommy dearest had nothing on that. One night, mother went to get a sheet from the linen cupboard and saw that somebody had folded the fitted sheets incorrectly. We were all in bed. I remember how my heart jumped when I heard her scream, how I covered my head with my blanket. Hoping that she would get somebody ELSE. She pulled us all out of bed by our hair, our legs, our necks. Dragged us into the hallway to see the crime then pulled everything out of the linen closet. We had to bring it down, wash and dry them, and it all had to be ironed before it could be put back. I vaguely remember my father wandering into the hallway with a confused look, before stumbling back into their room and going back to sleep. In my dreams he always rescued us, told her she was being insane, made her stop. And while sometimes he did argue with her, the end result was always the same. He would retreat, and her tirade would continue. You never knew when she would turn. A mother-daughter shopping trip would lull me into thinking maybe we had a bond. Maybe things will be better. But no. I was never thin enough, pretty enough, blonde enough. Clothes never fit right. I was always too warm. I always did something wrong. As an adult I vowed to myself that I would not be that crazy mother. I was going to be a GOOD mom. A mom that baked cookies and pulled sleds and supplied finger paints. The mother that made her own popsicles and healthy cupcakes. The mother that made sure the child was properly dressed but allowed her to make her own fashion choices. I have read to DD since before she was born. I wanted her life to be enriched, not to live in fear of putting the milk on the wrong shelf of the fridge. Well, ladies and gents, it has all backfired. My dd hates me as much as I hated my own mother when she had her tirades. No matter what I do for her, it is never good enough. Never what she wants or wanted. She is like her father, in that she needs a cheerleader to do ANYTHING. From going to the bathroom to putting on her socks to going to school. And frankly, this morning, I put down the pompoms. Since school started back I have spent my mornings running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Making lunches, feeding pets, dressing children that are limp as noodles because they want to wear something "else" but don't know what that is. This week it all came to a head, we have been late three times despite the fact that she is up in more than enough time for us to get out the door and to school early. DH has been here, and in earlier weeks he jumped in and helped. But he has lapsed back into that "stand in the hallway with arms crossed tapping the foot" as I do everything and DD resists. I am not proud of this, but today I was reduced to screaming until I burst a blood vessel in my eye (and I think I may have tore a vocal cord), and literally dragging her out the door and into the car. She wouldn't get dressed. She wouldn't brush her hair or let me brush it. She refused to wear her winter coat, wanted the lighter coat that I swear to effing god she refused to wear the day before because "she hates it". Then she ran and hid until we were late. I just don't know what to do. She is so resistant for everything, even things she WANTS to go to. Parties that she is overexcited about and doesn't stop talking about, when it is time to get ready and go she resists. Screams and cries over dress choices, won't dress or let me dress her. Refuses to have her hair done. Won't put on shoes or a coat. Hides when it is time to go out the door. But if you even suggest that we aren't going, absolute hysterics. I did not hurt her, although I am thinking I could have. I wanted to. I wanted to throttle her and yell "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? JUST PUT YOUR COAT ON!". Why do things have to be so hard? She won't do her homework (she lies on the floor face down for hours at a time to resist). She helps around the house if she feels like it and on her own terms. The house is completely torn apart and I can't keep up with it. I am sure the neighbours have something to talk about after the spectacle this morning. Me kicking the door open to drag DD outside kicking and screaming, who had been jammed into her coat without even putting the arms in the sleeves and her shoes had been jammed on her feet and not tied. I confess I wanted to just drop her in the driveway and leave her there. I got her to school, we were late, and I used the drop off lane (which she hates and I normally don't approve of). There was no good-bye hug. I basically pushed her out and tossed her bag out behind her, then pulled away. Now, I KNOW all of this is not good. I know that is not proper parenting. That a good mother would be able to find the proper motivation to get her daughter going. Positive reinforcement, not negative punishment. But frankly my dear, at this moment, I don't give a damn. I don't care if she ever goes to school or leaves the house again. She can stop brushing her hair, she can stop wearing socks. She can go outside with no coat on and freeze like an idiot. Because I don't know what to DO. I can't go on like this, that is for sure. Sigh.


The Cookbook Junkie said...

I remember putting my mother through hell like that, around kindergarten-grade school age. I have no idea why. I've figured out my motivation for many things over the years but I have no idea why I liked to be so contrary since I didn't seem to be getting anything out of it, except ruining everyone's day.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered having dd checked for some sort of chemical imbalance? Considering the genetic background of your mom.... you might want to get this checked out.

mtnester said...

Dances, your DD sounds like a typical 6 or 7 year old who doesn't know her own mind till she hears what YOU want and then chooses the opposite. It WILL get better, but for now it might help to have her select her own clothes the night before, including the socks and coat. Also, I think you're on the right track with today's events: she may learn better from "natural consequences" than from anything you say or do. If her hair looks a mess, her friends may tease her; if she goes out without a warm coat or socks, she'll be cold for a while. She'll learn to take better care of herself just to avoid discomfort and embarrassment. Don't make it a contest of wills.

Your own childhood sounds like a very difficult one (to put it mildly), but I wonder if it isn't the source of some of your creativity: you had to invent strategies and find ways to make your landscape more predictable and serene. But unfortunately, you learned to get along with your mother by trying to placate her, and now you're trying to please your daughter. Don't worry so much about losing her love--you won't! (I treasure a note my DD wrote me at that age: "Dear Mommy. I hate you. Love, Diana")

lorifromutah said...

Do you honestly think you are the first mother to have a meltdown when her six year old does things like this?

I mean, come on.
DD is pushing your buttons and so is DH. Hubby is only pretending to not understand what's going on. DD is six and has figured out how to push Mom over the edge. That takes the heat off of her, you know.

So you had a bad morning.
You're human dearie.
I doubt you've drug DD out of bed by the hair on her head in her short little life, have you? If anything, it sounds to me that this episode has been building for sometime.
I take anti anxiety medication just for situations like this.
No, xanax doesn't stop my girls from being little jerks nor does it make DH any kinder or thoughtful BUT I can handle their BS better, which is really what's important. How YOU (me) handle these things and get through them in the most construtive way possible.

If getting cold is better than wearing an appropriate coat, so be it. If wearing socks goes against her principles, okay and to hell with what the teacher thinks. Hair looks goofy? Her classmates will let her know and believe me, they have FAR more influence on her than you do. Let her make some mistakes to learn from.

In the meantime, give yourself a break, okay? My mother could be hell on wheels (still is) but is aghast when it's suggested she could benefit from anti anxiety meds and antidepressants. It's all genetic. The really cool thing is you recognize there's a problem and know something needs to be done about it.


Anonymous said...

Oh Dances,

My heart feels for you, and I KNOW what it was like to have a mother that raged. To this day (I'm 36 years old), I cannot watch "Mommy Dearest" without something inside me wanting to hide. The nights lying in bed, listening to her make her way to my bedroom, pulling me out of bed to "clean up this f**king mess"....shudder.

And I wonder why I'm codependent and have relationship issues with trust and boundaries today??!! From my perception (and experience), people who grew up in families like this, try really, really hard not to rock the boat as an adult. We try soooo hard to not be angry, that we don't know how to express anger or dissapointment in appropriate ways. Things build up and we explode. We also have problems with setting respectful boundaries and expressing our needs from the people we love. We were taught that having needs, boundaries, and feelings were bad. With family, it's very easy to try to be the pleaser all the time, because that worked for us as kids. As long as mom was happy (and not raging) we were safe. Perhaps that reflects a little in how things are going with you, and your family has wayyyy overstepped boundaries and respect. Were they there in the first place?

I'm going to recommend a couple of books for you to read, they've helped me so, so much:

"Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie
"The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie
"When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" can't remember the author
"Stop Walking on Eggshells" can't remember the author

Some of these books may not directly relate to your situation at this VERY moment, but will greately help you understand where you came from and where you learned behavioral and coping skills.

Big hug to you!!! said...

i thought about this some this weekend. wish i had the answers, i would certainly give them to you.

you have had some good advice here. i remember telling my daughter, now 22, "because I am the grownup, and YOU are the little girl" when my authority was questioned. thats a good thing for you to remember.

i also told her-and still tell her to this day- everything i do, i do because its what is best for you. she believes it now, not so sure she did when she was little.

and give your husband a big kick in the pants!