“Insanity is hereditary—you get it from your kids.” ~ Sam Levenson

"Bathe in me mother and child" by Warwick Goble

“Bathe in me mother and child,” by Warwick Goble

 

“Well, everybody hurts, sometimes” ~ From “Everybody Hurts” by REM

“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henker

Migraine Brain
Migraine Brain

I’ve been wiped out for over 24 hours now with a killer migraine. I had to stop taking my migraine prevention medicine cold turkey (instead of the usual method of backing down gradually) because I had developed a rash on my upper body that had blisters. I know—too much information, but I just wanted to explain my absence. I actually spent most of today lying on the bed in the fetal position with cold packs on my head. Even walking into the brighter living room and kitchen caused me pain. Just have to say how much this sucks in case you couldn’t tell how not happy I am.

Mother’s Day is in two days, and I’m also feeling sorry for myself about this. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with eldest son. This time it’s my daughter. She’s been getting progressively aloof in the last four months. Corey and I have been trying to figure out what’s going on. But when I ask her about it, she says that nothing is wrong. This is kind of her normal reaction when confronted: denial.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Stock Photo of Two Little Girls, Sisters Or Friends, Sitting OnI should say that Alexis has always gone through these phases. I remember when she was in school, she and her best friend would suddenly not be speaking, and when I would ask what was wrong, Alexis would say “nothing.” I mean, she and her best friend would be like sisters one day, and then a complete rift would arise the next day. I always found that odd, but I knew that it was none of my business.

I’m not even sure that she realizes that she does this, but she did the same thing at the beginning of last year. She just began to withdraw from our lives, and when I asked about it, she assured me that nothing was wrong. And just as suddenly as she withdrew, she was back, and everything was fine.

This time, her displeasure seems to be aimed at Corey, but we aren’t sure why. Their relationship has been close ever since Corey and I got married, and when her boyfriend got a new job that causes him to be out of town sometimes, it has always been Corey who she calls when she needs something: clogged toilet . . . mouse in a trap . . .  broken coffee table  . . . whatever. Corey would drop everything to help her, even if he was in the middle of something here.

Now, she doesn’t call him at all. He has tried to find out what is wrong, as have I, but the only response we get is that nothing is wrong. She’s busy. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, so I can empathize with what Corey is feeling: frustrated from the lack of information and the ways in which his attempts at reconciliation have been ignored.

“Young girl…violins…center of her own attention” ~ “Daughter,” by Pearl Jam

mary-cassatt-summertime
"Summertime," by Mary Cassatt

As far as friendships are concerned, Alexis is actually a lot like her father and eldest brother in believing in the idea that the whole world revolves around them. Don’t get me wrong. Alexis is a wonderful, generous friend. Always there to help her friends when they need it, and most of the time, always there for her family. Her father was like that; if one of his friends called and asked him to help chop down a tree, he was there. In the meantime, things around the house that needed repairing were never attended to.

Friendships for all three of them are very important. I, too, believe that friends are important, that if a friend needs me, I should be there. However, the big difference is that I put family first. This inability to put family first was a big bone of contention between my ex and myself. It was also what caused Alexis to leave home after she graduated. She was absolutely clueless or perhaps indifferent as to how her actions were adversely affecting her family. We finally had to draw a line, and she chose to leave.

“If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent.” ~ Bette Davis

edmond-francois-aman-jean-portrait-of-a-young-woman
"Portrait of a Young Woman," by Francois Edmond

I remember so many sleepless nights during that period, worrying about whether or not she was alive and safe. I wanted to call the police but didn’t. Instead, I would sometimes drive through the neighborhood to see if her car was parked by one of her friends’ houses. In that way, I knew where she was and could take some small comfort in the knowledge that she had found some place to stay.

Oddly enough, our reconciliation occurred on a Mother’s Day when I came home to find a card from her and a long letter apologizing for her behavior. I called her immediately and asked her to come home, and she did. From that point, things were very good, until she began to go into these phases of isolation again.

“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.  You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” ~ Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

mary-cassatt-young-woman-reading
"Young Woman Reading," by Mary Cassatt (detail)

When you are a parent, it’s so hard to know if you are making the right choices, if you have made the right choices, if you could have done something differently that might have resulted in a better outcome. I have learned that parenting is one of those on-the-job training situations. You can never be fully prepared, no matter how many books and articles you read. 

There is no other job in the world that can make you feel so completely insufficient and that can cause so much self-doubt. It is a job filled with regret over words spoken in anger and frustration and actions taken in an attempt to reign in unruly offspring. Parenting can make you feel completely unqualified, whether you are raising sons or daughters or both.

“To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Mother With Children Klimt
"Mother with Children," by Gustave Klimt

And then there is the “mother curse” that comes back to haunt you: “I hope you grow up and have children exactly like you.” And you do. Your children may not be exactly like you, but they test you in the same ways that you tested your own parents. They push the boundaries and break your heart just as you did the same to your own mother and father. In this way, history does repeat itself.

A friend of mine, in responding to my recent post on Eamonn, had this wonderful analogy: “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jello to the wall.” Oh how true. Except that I would change the word teenager to children, because no mater how young or old they are, your children still retain that ability to make you feel as if you are somehow wanting, unfit, and unreasonable, even when you are certain that you are not.

“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” ~ David Bly

pablo-picasso-mother-and-child
"Mother and Chld," by Pablo Picasso

In my heart, I have no doubts that Alexis loves me and loves her family. I also know that the very aspects of her personality that grate on me so much are those aspects that are similar to my own disposition: her moodiness, her mercurial swings, her absolute fierceness in her devotion to her friends. So I do keep these things in mind.

Another thing that I know is that I still have the ability to hurt my own mother and she me, even when we don’t intend to do so, which only shows that regardless of age, the relationships between mothers and daughters are fraught with landmines.

The risk diminishes with age and maturity as both parties reach a point at which they understand each other more than they don’t understand each other. But the need to step carefully never completely goes away.

So in the end, I will wait out this current estrangement, try to be patient, knowing that this pulling away is a necessary part of her growing up. And I will try to remind myself not to be hurt, even when I am . . . in spite of the fact that my daughter, who lives in the same city as I, mailed my mother’s day card.

More later. Peace.

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7 thoughts on ““Insanity is hereditary—you get it from your kids.” ~ Sam Levenson

  1. Glad to hear that you’re on the mend. There’s nothing like having to stop some meds cold. They can just tear you apart.

    It’s funny how certain experiences can be seen throughout generations. There’s nothing like having children of your own to make you appreciate your own parents. Ironically, even knowing that you can still hurt them doesn’t stop you from doing it.

    As for the subject of teenagers, the best way I’ve ever heard it put is that once you understand that being a teenager is a 24/7 struggle to not be embaressed, you have total understanding. You also realize that there is nothing you can to not embaress them. Say hi to their friends, their embaressed. Don’t say hi to their friends, their embaressed that you didn’t say anything. There’s just no winning.

    You’re doing (and from the sounds of it, have been doing) a great job of being a support to your daughter. Continue to be there for her, and she’ll make it through this.

    1. Thanks for the kind words of support. I know that it’s just a matter of time, and she’ll be herself again.

  2. Hi Lita,
    I am so sorry to hear you are laid low with a migraine. Please take all the time you need to recover fully before you jump back into your normal routine, especially since the bad reaction to the meds.
    I understand what you must be feeling in regards to Alexis. It’s heart breaking, I know but I have found out through trial and error , that sometimes daughters just need their space. They isolate themselves from their family, forgetting that they even exist, deal with their own issues , then bound back into our lives as if nothing has ever happened. She loves you , Corey and her brothers, as you all love her. You are family and families can be bloody hard work at times but it’s worth it.
    Have a lovely Mother’s Day 🙂

    1. Thanks for the words of support. I could really use them at the moment. I’m not sure if I get depressed on mother’s day as a rule, but I think that it might have happened a few times in the past. The abrupt cessation of the meds caused a horrible migraine, blinding light when my eyes were closed. I plan to spend most of the weekend in bed. Might catch up on some blog reading if I can spend more than a few minutes in front of the monitor.

  3. Lita – How odd that our lives, relative to our daughters, have many parallels! Leyna too, became aloof after the big move to Florida. Called me to tell me that although she loved me and her dad and family, she just couldn’t “be around us” anymore. That she would try to make it home on holidays and call. Just couldn’t stand our rules, the way we treated “the man she was going to marry” (a.k.a. the useless ex drug addict)and that Florida was great! Based on this, we sold her car.

    About 4-6 weeks later, I get a panicked call from her, crying and wanting to talk- in the background his Mom, who she now finds out is a drug addict,is screaming and threatening my child. She hung up and I didn’t hear from her for over a week.

    The outcome: she came home, with the boy and promptly moved back out.

    Thus began a 5 year saga of more torture and Hell.

    Remember – she’ll need you before you’ll need her. Hang tight, wait it out, and this too shall pass. To watch your child spiral downward as mine did, was akin to trying to walk up a glass hill with oil on the bottom of your shoes.

    1. It sounds as if her ex was beyond contempt.

      Alexis already had her spiral downwards, and it was one of the most painful chapters in my life. Right now, she’s just in a phase, and I understand that. But at the same time, I just wish that she understood that her phases do affect other people more than she realizes.

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