DEAR KELLY: I hate my mom and I don’t know what to do. We totally just don’t get along and we argue constantly. Mom’s so close to her mom and talks to her every day, sometimes more than once. She’s always saying to me how hurt she is that I don’t want to be close like they are.
I have an older and a younger brother and, for some reason, she’s always thought we had to be best friends. Since we aren’t, I guess I’m a total disappointment to her. Whenever she comes in my room to talk it’s incredibly awkward and we have nothing to say to each other.
My Nonni has tried to talk (or guilt) me into getting closer to my mom. It’s only made me not want to be around both of them. Whenever I’m with my mom and Nonni, my Nonni will tell me about how close my auntie Rae is with her daughter and how sad my Nonni is that her mom died when she was 14 years old. She never got to spend a lot of time with her mom because she was sick almost her entire life.
It’s miserable to be around them because it’s just depressing. I’d rather not spend all that time with two people who I hardly have anything in common with and who do nothing but try and make me feel bad. What should I do? (I wrote this letter for an English class grade, so please publish it so I can get extra credit).
DEAR BREE: I’m glad you are getting extra credit for this because that might be the only good thing you feel comes from my answer.
Honestly, life is short and you never know when you will no longer have a chance to make amends with your mom. You might not want to be “close” to your mom right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to push her away and make no efforts to change the relationship.
I’m just going to keep it real and say your attitude might be a huge part of the problem. Your mom and grandmother are both sharing genuine and authentic feelings about their lives and their feelings, and you are being totally dismissive and downright disrespectful. How about if you hop off your high horse and listen to what they are saying? Perhaps if you opened not only your ears but also your heart, you would see how much they care and love you.
It’s sad you feel like a disappointment and think your mom despises you. But what saddens me more is that your mom seems to be reaching out and you aren’t open to her gestures or attempts at connecting with you. Why would someone who despises you try to talk with you or have her mom try and help guide the two of you together? It’s obvious your mom wants to have a relationship with you and, instead of seeing it, you are rejecting it.
Let’s start with normalizing a little of what you are experiencing. It’s common for mothers and daughters to spar during teenage years. Mother-daughter relationships are intense and conflict is typical. But just because you argue or disagree does not mean you hate or despise each other. Those are harsh words for someone in your family. The conflicts aren’t usually personal feelings, but rather miscommunications that cause hurt feelings. The more the hurt feelings, the bigger the wall between you both.
Stop seeing your mom and grandma as strangers or enemies and start to see them as members of your family who care about you. A change in perspective would be a great start to changing the relationship. Better yet, how about you do a little forward-thinking and treat them the way you would like your daughter to treat you one day.
I cannot believe there isn’t anything you share in common with your mom or grandma. Do you like to cook? Bake? Walk your dog? Share a favorite show? Yoga? Go to concerts? Theater? Love of Chinese food? Scrapbook? Go to the movies? Just because you each represent different generations doesn’t mean you can’t have common interests.
Find one thing you all agree on and use that as your launching pad on spending time together. If you love a certain type of food, explore new restaurants together or better yet take a cooking class. If you enjoy going to the movies, invite your mom to come and see a show with you. There are endless possibilities.
My fear is that you have no interest in reaching out to make things better. If that’s the case, you are missing out on a potentially very special relationship. Your mom sounds desperate to have a relationship with you and the guilt trip isn’t a smart way to connect with you. You matter to them, so much that they are trying anything they can to relate to you, including the unhealthy guilt and comparisons to your aunt. Have a honest conversation with your mom about how this makes you feel and figure out a better way for you guys to bond that doesn’t leave either of you feeling empty or discouraged. Perhaps if she is aware of how you feel, she will change her style of communication with you and be more positive with her choice of words.
Your mom and your grandmother are not just “two people.” They are your blood, your family and your history. They are part of who you are. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Let your family be a circle of strength for you as you get older and grow to appreciate the roots they have given you to become your own person.