Caroline’s mother bears some similarities to my own, and I appreciated her candor in this interview.
What’s your age?
Are both of your parents living?
What’s their marital status?
They were separated for my whole childhood. I think they got divorced when I was 16. I never knew my father; he left before I was born. I’ve seen him three times.
How many siblings do you have?
I have two half sisters and two half brothers.
How often do you see your parents?
I’ve only ever seen my father three times, and my mother I usually see every three years, maybe.
What are some of the ways you spend time together?
(Laughs) Arguing! About the only way we can spend together not arguing is playing a game. I’m a really good speller and she can’t spell worth a dime, but she likes to play spelling games with me. Or Monopoly. Most of the time she picks fights. She’s very easily offended when no offense is intended.
On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy her company?
Three, and that’s giving her the benefit of the doubt. It’s very difficult for me to be around her.
What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with her?
The only positive outcome I can see is, if I can love her as Christ loves her, she can see that and be saved. It does nothing for me. If she weren’t my mother, I wouldn’t talk to her.
What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with her?
Everything. Often, when I leave a conversation with her, it puts me in a funk for a couple of days. I guess I see my own flaws in her. I have all the same tendencies, it’s just that I have Christ and she doesn’t. There isn’t anything to soften the edges, she just lets it all hang out there. For instance, she’s just selfish—there’s nothing to moderate it.
How did her parenting contribute to a fractured relationship as adults?
She was irresponsible, she didn’t protect me, and I don’t trust her because of that. I never know when she’s going to blow up now, so I never can trust her, even though I can forgive her for the past. I couldn’t trust her then and I can’t trust her now. I don’t think she ever developed interests on her own. She played computer games and went out drinking. There’s nothing to talk to her about. We have nothing in common, she doesn’t share my worldview, we never see eye to eye.
Do you appreciate anything about her parenting?
Somehow, she taught me to be resourceful. Regardless of whether it was a negative thing or if she did it, I know how. She did always insist that we eat dinner together as a family. She always let me make my own mistakes, and she probably shouldn’t have, but she let me learn from them. My sister lived in the same house and she suffered from that, but for me it was a good thing.
What do you wish she had done differently?
I guess it boils down to . . . I wish she hadn’t been so selfish. Everything was about her pain and her pleasure. As a kid, I thought she would sacrifice everything, but now I realize you don’t leave your kids in the house after they fall asleep so you can go out drinking! I think she did all those things because she was in pain. I don’t think she knew what to do.
How well do you relate to your siblings?
My father’s children from his previous marriage–they are so much older than me. We get along fine, I just don’t see them very often. My older half-sister has lately taken to looking out for me on Facebook. My younger half sister, we are very different, but we have a connection because we both lived with my mother.
Do you think they share your same reflections on your mom?
Can you share a defining story with your mom?
I remember when I stopped really sharing anything important with my mother. It was after college and I had been dating my soon-to-be husband and I was getting impatient. He hadn’t asked me to marry him and I called her for advice. She said, “Why don’t you just ask him?” That was SO not what I needed to hear. I needed her to encourage me to be patient. I realized we would never see eye to eye, and from that day on I stopped really talking to her.
Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?
I feel more negatively about her as an adult than I did as a child. In college, I read a book called From Bondage to Bonding. Reading the book made me extremely angry. I realized whether she did it on purpose or not she enslaved me in a way. She did it worse to my sister because I had the good sense go to college 800 miles away.
The other thing is I started going to counseling in high school. I thought I was going for abandonment issues with my father, but I found out I had more issues with my mother. I used to give my mother all these gushy cards and tell her she was the best mother ever. She would just say, “One day you’ll find out the truth.” That became a self-fulfilling prophecy because it just made me look for things.
While my relationship with my mother has left scars and continues to leave scars, I think throughout my life, God has left numerous life-lines. People who provided love and support and got me through when my mother couldn’t. The best gift besides my husband has been his mother. I never knew you could have a mother like that. She is the picture of what it means to love with no strings attached. She’s secure enough to not need anything from me, and that makes me want to give to her. The sad thing about my mom is she has outrun her usefulness. She has no wisdom; she has nothing to offer me except pain and more pain.