People often tell me that I look like Susan Sarandon. I don’t thing that I do, and I don’t think she is particularly attractive, so I don’t really like when say that. I do not consider it a compliment.
My Mother, Sister and Niece were over the other day. They were recounting a story about my Mother having told a waitress that she looked like Jennifer Hudson.
The ensuing conversation went someting like this:
Me: I know that you meant it as a compliment, but maybe the woman doesn’t think Jennifer Hudson is attractive.
Mother: But she is.
Me: But maybe she doesn’t think so. It might not be a compliment to her.
Mother: of course it is. Everyone wants to be told they look nice.
Which then evolved into me being crazy, the whole world has gotten ridiculous if you can’t give someone a compliment.
Me: But she might not, and however you look at it you’re in a superior position as the customer and she just has to laugh at everything you say because her tip is dependent on how much you like her. You should never put someone in that position.
Mother: Well I don’t consider myself superior (now consider this said in a negative, whiny, superior tone)
Mother: Well (imagine a really haughty tone) I don’t consider myself superior to her
Me (or my sister- I don’t remember at this point) But you are superior in that she is serving you. Her tip, therefore her livelihood depends on what you think of her service. Just like why a superior at work shouldn’t tell an underling that they look nice. It’s a power imbalance. (who knew we’d end up talking power balances again)
This then evolved into a conversation about workplaces. I having been the only woman in the room who worked as a female executive in a male dominated field said that I did not like when men at work would tell me that I looked nice.
My mother responded: Of course you liked it when people told you that you looked nice at work…
Let’s just say that my voice is hoarse right now from the amount of yelling I did. I stood there telling my Mother about what it felt like to be one of the only female executives on a floor full of men- open cubicle. How it was not how I wanted to be viewed. I wanted to be respected for my intellience, not my legs…
To which she recounted a story about how she had to once train a man who was going to make more money than she did.
So- I was emotionally spent, and relating a story about the topic at hand. And my Mother had to one up me with the one story she had about her 1 year stint in corporate America, which didn’t have anything to do with the topic.
And…my Husband is not usually one to notice things (seriously- I rearranged something in my living room a few weeks ago and he didn’t notice till my daughter came home) so when my Husband said:
There you were, spilling your guts out about how it felt to be on the trading floor in the 80s ad 90s, and she didn’t even say that she was sorry that you had to deal with all that. She showed no empathy at all. She had to counter you and bring the conversation back to herself.
Because I am so used to a lack of empathy or warmth or understanding from my Mother, that it doesn’t dawn on me that she should be empathetic….
Which brings me to some of my own personality traits: lack of empathy and a certain coldness.
When you have been raised by an emotionally distant, controlling, narcissistic parent, how many of those traits do you retain yourself?
And when you have grown up with little warmth and empathy, you begin to think that you don’t deserve any: you begin to think that you are not worthy of it…
So- to all of you who say that kids are resilient- I would rethink that thought.
To those of you who think that parenting doesn’t matter: I would rethink that thought.
We are the products of our parents actions. Period. What you do and say, how you act begets the person that you become.
We all make parenting mistakes.
ALL OF US
Making mistakes is fine. But we must own the mistakes we make with our children. When your adult child says that the way that the parent handled something, or did, had a negative impact, as a parent you must at least think about what they said.
I have told my Mother countless times that the way that she did things was bad for my mental health.
But she still insists that her course of action was correct. She can not admit that she may have not handled something in the best way possible. I am 55 and she is 79, and she will not listen to what I have to say as a rational adult.
When my daughter came home last weekend, she said that distance has made her realize something about my parenting that was not really good for her. I admit that I was hurt, sad and angry- at first. Then, when I got over my initial feelings I began to think about what she said, how it was impacting her, and I thought of ways to actively change. My daughter wasn’t telling me that I was a bad parent- she was telling me her true feelings about certain things.
Why would you not actively listen to what your child is saying to you?
My Mother is not happy that she and I do not have a particularly close relationship. I understand that- because I am not so happy about that either. But her unwillingness to even think about what I say to her is hard to deal with. I leave an afternoon with my Mother emotionally drained and sad. My sleep numbers, which had been really good, plummeted on Saturday night because I was so upset. Two days later I am still not great…
When someone tells you how they feel because of something you said or did, you have two trains of thoughts: you can cling to your belief that you did nothing wrong, or you can think about what the other person said, put yourself in their shoes.
It all depends on what is more important: being right, or having a relationship with that person.