Sunday, November 23, 2014

I love my friends. Really hope they're wrong.

We've had a few misses in our Book Club. Everyone can't always love every book we read. But the evening is always a great experience, and I've never once left wishing I had those four hours (more or less) back. I'm fortunate to have a great mix of women in my book club. I'd like to be more like each and everyone of them in one area or another. This month's offering was "Defending Jacob," and it inspired a lot of passionate thought. In short, it's about a family whose only son is accused of murder. The father is/was the chief prosecutor in their affluent town. The wife a fine person. The case of course blows their happy lifestyle wide apart and the guts of the book is how the parents dealt with the kid and each other. I won't blow the book for anyone who hasn't read it. It's definitely worth your time whether you're a parent or not. One of the tangents we followed for a while was how it's normal for a teenager to -- at some point in their most angst-filled years -- hate their parents and tell them so in word and/or deed. I had to disagree. I don't think it's normal. And right up until Friday night, I was sure that people who say it's OK for teenagers to treat their parents like crap is 100 percent unacceptable. It's sort of like the toddler who is allowed to kick and bite his mother as she's trying her best to keep the little brat alive. When I see that, I always fast-forward in my head and see the kid as a tattooed, facially pierced, green-haired teenager demanding keys from his mom who he/she calls a certain 5-letter word. (Am I judgmental much? Yes, sadly. But I'm working on that.) "You never told your mother you hated her?" I was asked by the majority of the group, who collectively were looking at me like I was the last American to try Starbucks. "Nope," I said. I refrained from the explanation. And upon reflection, I wonder if I really am smoking Pollyanna parental crack. I didn't tell my mother I hated her. (I didn't say I never thought I felt that way; but I can't imagine saying the words. And let me tell you, there were occasions...) I didn't tell my mother I hated her because I'm pretty sure she would have slapped the bejesus out of me. It's just not something a Pentecostal kid is ever allowed to do. It's no fun to be on the slap-ee end of an adult hand or plastic toy or the dreaded switch you had to fetch yourself. But then I thought about it. One of my sisters -- the one most close to my mother then, now and forever -- had big-ass fights with her a lot. I remember them yelling at each other and at one point, my mom literally pushing her out of the house with the broom, literally sweeping and smacking her out the door. Why? I don't remember. I just remember the incident. I don't know that this sister said the words, "I hate you," but their verbal disagreements do linger in my mind and I can picture it. Another sister was often unhappy with my mother, but I think it was mostly out of earshot of my mom. I'm not sure. I'm the youngest of seven, and I'm sure my memories are distorted. For the record, my mother was a fine person. Had I birthed seven kids in 10 years on a farm where modern conveniences were long in coming, I'd have been in prison for sure. In my older years, I like to think I give her a break for whatever perceived shortcomings she had a mom. At the same time, I never had a solid hold on where my mother unconditionally liked me. I know she loved me. That was non-negotiable. She didn't really have a choice. But liking your child isn't the same thing as enjoying their company. I wonder now if I didn't fight with her -- as my friends say normal teenagers do with their parents -- because I was afraid she'd cut that flimsy cord altogether. Certainly my sister who fought with her routinely had a strong tie to her. So, could my friends be right? They all have great relationships with their mothers despite their teenage rampages. Am I really destined to one day soon have the littlest redhead in my house turn on me like a snarling weasel? And should I want that to happen? On the way to acting class yesterday, I gave Alison an abbreviated review of Book Club and asked her if she thought one day she'd look at me and tell me that she hates me. She thought for a minute and said, "Well, I guess it would depend on what you did." "This isn't about me," I said. "It's not what I would do. This is all on you." She thought a bit longer. She couldn't envision such an emotion though she did allow that I annoy her from time to time. She kept going back to her original thought: "It would depend on what you did to me." I've known for a while that parenting is hard. I'm not sure I'm ready for the next few years. Did you tell your mother you hated her? And was your relationship stronger as a result?


Hilary Ricks said...

To my great regret now, I did on more than one occasion tell, or more accurately yell, my mother that I hated her. As a consummate Libra, I also yelled it at my father at least once. Although with him it was when I was way too drunk for a 14 year old... I digress. I know my mother hated me from 16 to sometime around 21. Understanding that she grew up in a totally different world than I faced and therefore could not appreciate the peer pressure and bullying I faced did not make me less nasty. Which I was on a regular basis. In my defense however I did recognize that my intense meanness could not be normal and asked for help, which I never found until I happened to be a test subject for a magical drug called Prozac that in 2 days lifted that overwhelming desire to cut everyone down so they would feel as bad as I did. Would I never had told my mother I hated her if Prozac had been available to me when I turned 14? Doubtful, but I'm pretty sure she would have been spared the day to day bad attitude.

Remember that we bunconians have discussed this several times and already our consensus is that we are far better equipped to deal with our girs' teenage angsts than our mothers had been, and all 4 of our girls seem to be well-adjusted, basically optimistic, extraordinarily intelligent, creative, and funny blossoming young women. Maybe we will manage to navigate 14 to 21 without hearing those 3 words, or any other such vitriol. But if it does happen, we have each other, and Cheryl's book club members, to call and commiserate about it with. And that is something my mother did not have!


Cheryl said...

Insightful as always. We ARE lucky. Thanks, friend.

Mary said...

Very late to the party but I never told my mother I hated her. I was completely appalled when I saw other teens say that to their parents. Raised three sobs and they never said it. But I wasn't their friend. I figured if I never made them mad either I wasn't parenting or they weren't smart enough to push the boundaries. That's another topic. Children who never test the boundaries worry me. Can't they think on their own?