She was wrapped up in her own world - oblivious to her own childhood wounds, and was very emotionally detached, critical, micromanaging and dismissing. I have and am working through these things, but I know she still has her own unaddressed emotional issues and hurts.
My main goal is not to try to repair every little bit of damage, but to reach her and simply to improve our relationship before she is gone. I want to know I did everything I could to love her and of course, there is, unquestionably, some bit of selfish desire to see her acknowledge me fully and in a loving manner.
The desire is two-fold, for her and for me, and I'd like to know how to encourage this step. She is definitely able to understand - even if her memory isn't best - what it is we talk about. I'd like to get through before she is mentally worse or totally gone. Any been there, done that folks out there?! Thank you!
My mother is very much the way Jocelyn described hers. That said, I have in my adult life always had a better relationship with her than any of my siblings had or have. If you're waiting for her to "see" you or to acknowledge the wrongs committed in the past, I think you need to forget that. My siblings who are still waiting for that are ... well, still waiting.
When my mother was younger, I took the approach of treating her as a peer and investing in understanding what was going on in her life, rather than expecting her to parent me in any way. That worked well for as long as it lasted. We bonded, and still bond, over things we both enjoy, such as food and dogs and certain TV shows.
Once she became too old to really have a life I'm not involved in, I switched over to the approach recommended by CareyB. Sometimes we go over old photos, including some from before I was born, and she tells me about the people she knew and the places she's seen. My grandparents, her early relationship with my father, her first years of motherhood, etc. If what you're really seeking is acknowledgment and recognition from your mother, be warned that this approach probably won't work for you. Mom and I brought a bunch of Mom's old photos over on an overnight visit to one of my sisters, and instead of feeling it was a bonding experience my sister was angry. She felt the photos, were distancing, putting something between her and my mother that prevented her from getting my mother's attention on the visit. So I think what works may depend somewhat on how deep your wounds are. If you're able to let go of childhood hurts and be with your Mom as she is, who she is, it will be much easier for you. But I know that's easier said than done.
Make new memories and experiences. Be there because you want to be, not because you're waiting for mom to apologize or tell you that you're a good kid after all. This board is littered with the broken lives of those who gave up careers, marriages, retirement savings and the chance to have their own families to try to get one iota of validation from their abusive and/or inattentive parents.
ArmyRetired, you also raise some interesting issues about family history. These kinds of discussions can really be bonding experiences.
I've often wished I had more discussions with my mother and grandmother about my maternal family, who emigrated to the US to escape the Turkish massacres. Those details are lost forever; I don't even remember the names of some of the distant relatives who were born here in the States.
I think the next time I take Dad for a Dairy Queen I'll take a note pad and ask him to tell me more about his family when he was growing up. I do know that his relatives emigrated from Ireland.
It is not my desire to drag us through some in depth process of rehashing everything. I am seeing her come to the end of her days... and frankly... she is the one who is suffering more than I am. None of her kids call her or write to her because she doesn’t know how to relate heart to heart with us. She is too busy being important or smart or “just fine all the time” ... and “never lonely.”
CarlaCB said it right “I don't think Jocelyne's purpose is to clear the air. I think it's to set the relationship on a different basis than what happened in the past.”
I AM getting much comfort in loving and caring for her. I do look into her eyes and tell her I love her, and give her plenty of chances to reciprocate…. and with no strings attached. I just wanted to hear what others would have to say and I appreciate all who have reminded me kindly not to set my hopes up too high.
Sendme2help: I love your quote from Scripture… perfectly applicable. My mom is doing better. She took a fall on July 9th, down 6 steps, broke 3-4 ribs and her collar bone, so she’s at the nursing home until her oxygen level improves. She’s very tough and is pretty much back to her feisty self!
GardenArtist: Quoting you “I often wonder how many issues with our parents arose and became problematic after psychoanalysis became more well known …” I hear you.
This is just a sincere request, wanting to learn how to connect in a way we never have before. That’s my whole point… and I am very thankful for all the great advice I have already received.
Mom was a gardener for years and I'm sure she missed being able to grow her own flowers.
On good days, I managed to keep to my resolution to give my mother the affection and, especially, the approval that I eventually realised was the only thing that made her happy. On less good days, the frustration with her detachment from reality and all the rest of it, made taking care of her very hard work.
I'm not sure you can hope to shift her behaviour or perspective; but you can adapt the way you see her and the way you speak to her. Every time you're gentle and loving, it will give you something comforting to look back on. Aim for that, and then any other issues you can resolve, or even begin to understand better, will be a bonus.
Mom was with for one tough year before she died. As her dementia worsened, she became lost to me. Long before she passed peacefully in her sleep. Unlike you, my mom was an angel walking. I was her only. We were each other's biggest fans. So, with her lost to me, what could I do?
I decided on "safe and happy." If I could make her feel even just one of those things, I was on the right track for both of us. I kidded with her, poked a bit of very good natured fun at her, made her fave foods as often as her restricted diet would allow. "Mom! Guess what you're having tonight!" Bought her bunches of flowers every few weeks...I'd pick her up a cheap pair of dangly ear rings at Walgreens..buy her an inexpensive article of clothing from Blair. In short, I pleased her with pretties, as she, with her southern heritage called little gifts.
I'm thinking that, along with the other excellent advice you've gotten here, that a few and occasional pretties thrown in can't hurt. Her surprise and your generosity -- in light of your troubled relationship -- may be healthy food for both your hearts.
I wish you well.
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