It wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I was able to understand my relationship with my mom. I’m still not sure I understand it fully — and it might not be until my kids have kids that I do, but it is getting a little clearer as the years go by.
One of the hardest aspects of the relationship is that of authority figure. I’m pretty sure that, from a very young age, I rebelled against authority figures — except I was too shy to rebel in front of anyone other than my family, so most of that rebellion manifested itself into rage at home when I was not given my way or disciplined in anyway. I had temper tantrums and screaming fits. I once picked up a pile of newspapers and as I went to fling them on top of a brand new dining room table realized that something very heavy was among the papers. I flung them anyway and put a dent in that table that is there to this day.
My mom wasn’t all that strict. In fact she was pretty lenient. I was a “good” kid for the most part, except for the tantrums at home. There were times, however that she put her foot down — or at least made suggestions that made me uncomfortable. Like the time she thought I should talk to the popular kids that were in the same store as we were. Or the time that she suggested I stop by the office at school to see if anyone turned in my lost purse that held my retainer because I’d lost so many retainers we were going to have to pay for the next one. I remember the feeling I had about those experiences. My chest felt tight, my throat closed up. I clenched my teeth and fists. My breathing quickened. I was mad. I didn’t want to talk to Laura Holtz. I’d already asked at the office about my lost purse. I didn’t need suggestions. I just needed to be left alone.
I don’t have temper tantrums much anymore. I still occasionally “lose it”, but not like the old days. I still have trouble with authority figures though. Basically, I don’t like being told what to do — especially if I was already planning on doing it or if I had reasons for not doing it. I also have trouble when I’m questioned about an action. I guess in that case I get defensive.
I don’t usually have trouble taking orders from someone who employs me. I try to do the job I’m given. I never had much trouble with teachers or professors — I expected assignments and did them. The authority figures I have the most trouble with are the ones that one day are my friend or associate and the next day are president of the PTA or a neighborhood or not-for profit-board member for whom I do some odd (volunteer) jobs. I have trouble when they give me assignments — or micromanage whatever tasks I’ve taken upon myself — especially if I’ve been doing it alone for years and they come in and want to change things. Sometimes, even, my anger can rise when a friend (or my husband) seems to be taking over something I’ve planned.
The anger is the same as what I felt when my mom would make suggestions. And I find myself thinking in a rebellious teenage voice, You Can’t Tell Me What To Do. You’re Not My Mother!
I never do say that aloud, but I don’t always handle it well either. Sometimes I explain my reasoning. Sometimes I reply angrily. Mostly I say nothing, take a deep breath and move on although occasionally I tweet about it or make it my Facebook status.