Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mothers and Sons

Oh my God. I saw the movie The Spectacular Now today and am still an emotional wreck. It's an excellent teen romance movie - sooo smart, so well written, and not at all what you think it's going to be. I'm going to reveal a few things about it in this post so "spoiler alert".

I saw it with a friend, and as we walked out she asked what I thought, and I just completely broke down. The pivotal moment for me was when the teenaged boy and his stressed single mother finally have it out, and she tells him that he is loved, he is good, and he's done good things. I immediately flashed to Bumpus reaching out to tag my hand, or hurting himself and putting up his arms to be held, or clinging to my arm when he's scared of something. Lately we've been doing this thing where I put my lips in a kissy position and he walks over and offers up his forehead to be kissed, over and over. He loves it. And it just made me think about mothers and sons, and how much boys need to know that their mothers love them, and that their mothers think they are good. And how despite my awkwardness in this department I strive to do this every day. 

Of course it also made me think about my own mother and father and our fractured relationships. My father is on Facebook now and drives me nuts commenting on every picture, every status update, posting odd incomprehensible poems to my wall, and constantly references the one or two things he remembers about me from the brief time we knew each other (he moved back to Brazil when I was around five and I've only seen him once since then), as a desperate way of trying to connect with me and make up for thirty five years of neglect. I am not friends with my mother on Facebook, but recently I browsed over to my father's profile to see what he'd been up to and was shocked to discover they have conversations there (last I heard they were not on good terms); one which involved her posting a picture of me and him from around 1976, saying "remember this?". He responded that he missed me so much, and she wrote back that she did, too. This exchange brought up a maelstrom of emotions for me - sadness, anger, and annoyance that once again I am the parentalized child, feeling sorry for my out-to-lunch parents, who both 100% caused the rift that exists between all of us. 

The scene where the mother recounts for the son all the good things he's done in his life made me think of something I rarely like to dig up, which is this awful, hateful email my mother sent me on Christmas after she told me to cancel my trip to Brazil to see her because since I no longer believed in her religion, my very presence would be toxic to her. Rather than apologizing, as I expected, she went on a rant basically telling me I am a bad person - manipulative, an emotional blackmailer, you name it - and as a kicker that I'd been like this ever since I was little and she'd always known this about me - that I am, to all intents and purposes, BAD. Can you imagine your mother saying something like this to you? When your only crime was telling her you have stopped believing in her religion?

Needless to say I never got over it. It killed a part of me that's gone forever. I never responded - and in fact never contacted her again until years later when B was born and I felt it would be downright cruel to leave her or my father out of it, as much as neither of them deserve anything from me. I know her email was just her own projecting and acting out and is NOT true about me (it's way more true about her, actually), an uninvolved relative said about it, "that's your baby. You can't say things like that to your baby." You really have to watch what you say to your loved ones. Some things you just can't take back. 

And I hate that I'm a grown-ass woman and my stupid inept parents can still have such an effect on me that I can start bawling on the sidewalk in Pasadena over a teen romance movie. It's over. They're a mess, I'm a parent now and am fixing the mistakes they made, I'm moving on. I'm creating my own son who will learn to be kind and caring and selfless, because he'll always know that his mother loves him and thinks he's good. Maybe unlike me he can one day be a wonderful loving spouse to someone. Someday when he's grown like me.

But every once in a while that impossibly damaged little girl comes out - the one that was abandoned by her father and who's mother did not love her and did not think she was good - and I cry for her.


  1. Someone wisely once told me not to expect rational thoughts from an irrational person. It stuck with me, and has helped when people treat me like crap.

    One day, Bumpus will be old enough to tell you that he always knew he was loved, cared for, and thankful that you broke the cycle. You are a good person, and you are a great mom.

  2. And now I've cried for her, too. I could never understand when I would hear stories of bad mothers...even more so now that I am a mother & it guts me to think of causing my daughter any pain. At the risk of sounding condesending, you should really be proud of how far you've come, from that kind of upbringing to now be so self aware & making sure to be a better parent & not making the same mistakes.

  3. This post could be written by me. I grew up with a mother who behaved like a lunatic and a father who didn't give two hoots. I haven't spoken to my father in 4 years ever since the day he held my daughter like she had some kind of disease. I took her from him and never looked back. My mother I can tolerate although it takes every ounce of calm I can muster. I've spend a lifetime trying to overcome their parenting but there are days where I drive home in tears thinking about how jacked up my family tree is. My sisters and I don't have the best relationship and it all stems back to them. If any good came from our experiences is that we go out of our way not to be the same kind of parent and our mothers were to us, and our children are the better for it.

  4. Oh. That's so sad. I'm sorry you had to endure that kind of pain. No child should have to experience that.

  5. A beautiful post. You are indeed healing yourself just by the fact you can write all this down. And Bumpus is truly lucky to have you for a mom. You are doing a great job and I know this only through your writing - you are saying and doing exactly what a great mom should be. ;)

  6. When we reconnected, my father did the same as yours (after my parents divorce when I was 3, I saw him at ages 4 and 6 and then not again until I was 28 years old). He would talk endlessly about his experiences with me as a young child - memories I didn't share or appreciate. He was a lifelong alcoholic and at the end of his life I took care of him, something he never did for me. He did give me a great lesson - he taught me to not live a life of regret. Other than that tragic lesson, he had little to offer me and I simply gave up any expectations from him. I was very lucky, though, in that my mother was good and loving. I am so sorry that both of your parents have caused you so much pain. I imagine at some level they know what they have done to you and they just cannot deal with the reality. Bumpus is a lucky boy- he will always know how much you love him.

  7. What an amazing post, Hil. We've known each other for so many years, that the first thing I want to do is tell you how friggin' well written this is. As a writer, I'm thankful to read something that is written, not a rant (a specialization of blogging it appears). This stands so far above most online writing it's a tad startling.

    You know I can relate to this. It's so painful to let go of what was and embrace what can be. I don't know what it's like to be a parent to my own child, so I can only imagine the shit that's coming up for you. And of course, it was a movie that sparked your to release an emotional memory. Again, I know you, so this makes so much sense to me.

    As for that photo of you, I'm tempted to make that my phone screen saver. That face and those eyes and the way you are holding your mouth. I would recognize that young Hil. You deserved to be loved better. I know parents do the best they can, but in your case, you deserved so much better.

    Amazing post, fantastic blog. I'm a big, BIG fan.

    xoxo - Mikey in NYC (the city that smells like poo)