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mother, daughter
friday, november 15, 2002

the day before yesterday i got to be the bad daughter. yesterday i got to be the bad mother. sometimes i feel like life isn't satisfied until i've been a bitch and cried in the same week. that's how it feels now.

as a mother i feel i am doing the right thing, but the right thing can be so hard to keep to when it results in a painful lesson for your child, no matter how necessary that lesson might be. my oldest is in dance at her school. they actually have a junior varsity dance troupe. and the school is the only school with a dance program in the entire district. a couple of years ago, she started screwing around with the academics - not doing homework, not studying, flunking. we've tried different things to try to get her to realize that this behavior wasn't going to fly. finally we told her bad grades, no dance. earlier this year it looked like things had started to improve. she was finally getting on track with school.

then tonight she tells me she's flunking two classes. now one of them may not be her fault. the teacher has pretty much a no zero policy that means a kid can't even get sick because then they'd get a zero and flunk. make up work is on her schedule, which is fine to a degree, except some kids do have other things going on that they can't miss and her schedule can conflict with theirs. this happened to my daughter this quarter. and, trust me, if she's flunking the class because of that, i will be speaking to the principle. this policy is completely unrealistic.

however, on the second class, my daughter admitted she wasn't turning in homework and she wasn't turning it in because she wasn't doing it. so, i did what we told her we would. i called the dance coach and told her my daughter could not participate in j.v. for the rest of this year. if she gets her grades up and keeps them up and pays attention to the academics, then she can try out for next year. if not, we will transfer her back to her home school.

my daughter is devastated and i feel like crap. i want to give in, but i can't. she wants to mess around with the whole school thing when she's not living in my house, that's her biz. she'll be in college by then. but as long as she's in high school and under my roof, she will take the academic part of school seriously. dance is all well and good, but it is brutal as a career. the sooner she sees that, the better off she'll be. and she'll have less of a chance to end up like me.

this all came after a blow out with my mother. my mother, as all two of my readers know, is mentally ill. she's a paranoid schizophrenic and she's been displaying symptoms since i was 12 or 13 years old. it got completely out of hand around the time i turned 15 or 16. even before i turned 18, i was the one people turned to to take care of the messes her disease left behind, i was remembered as her daughter, i was the one expected to take care of her. the realization of how sick she was actually didn't hit until i was around 20, and then i fell apart. understandably. i barely had my own life under control and i was expected to take care of hers. no one told me how to take care of her, no one told me what to do or what i could do, just told me i had to take care of her. that's a lot to place on a kid who can barely figure her own self out.

anyway, she decided she wanted to come by this week. i had misgivings. for obvious (and some not so obvious) reasons i am completely uncomfortable with my mother, particularly for long periods of time. a 20 minute visit is about all i can take with her. this time she wanted to sit with us through the second half of lotr. and there were the signs she was not completely with it. for example, my son called her grandma with her name attached to it and she looks at him and says, "you don't remember me do you?" three times i mentioned ororo had no tail because she's a manx and all of a sudden my mother exclaims (like 10 minutes later), "she has not tail!" i'm getting déjà vu feelings of the time when i was crocheting a blanket for my oldest, whom i was pregnant with at the time, and mother asking me if i was giving the baby up for adoption. ummm . . . no. if i were, would i be crocheting a baby blanket for her?

so, yes, i have severe issues with my mother. knowing she has a disease does not help me. every time she's here, i am apologizing to my husband and my kids for her bizarre comments. i feel horrible exposing my kids to her illness. the older ones know and understand all this now, but it doesn't make me feel any better when she's saying strange things and they have no idea how to respond. soon my youngest will be old enough to understand and i'll be trying to explain it to her too. and i just can't keep doing it.

so, we'd been sitting there for a bit and finally stood up and told her it was time for her to leave. she's, of course, stunned, but i am being both protective and selfish. my kids don't need to be exposed to her illness or the tension her illness causes, and i sure as hell don't need to feel tense and uncomfortable in my own home. she even pulled out the "you don't love me" guilt trip on the way out, but i was having none of it.

she calls later and for the first time i decide to be honest and just explain that she doesn't understand what she put me through as a kid and how uncomfortable i am around her and i just would prefer to limit our communication to phone calls and letters. she asks me again if i don't love her and tell her this has nothing to do with loving her or not loving her.
to which she says, "you don't love me." and hangs up. after a bit of thought, i decided that this was probably for the best. she stresses me out every time i see her, and i hurt every time i see her, and i'm terrified both for her and myself - and for my kids - every time i see her.

then today comes the letter with the usual paranoia bullshit. she didn't put me through anything - she's been tortured all her life and i have just got to open my eyes and see the truth. nothing is her fault. i have erroneous ideas about her. i need to go to church and pray and get a clear head.

ok, so she's partly right: it isn't her fault any more than my adhd is mine. she's sick. very, very sick. but the underlying thoughts are wrong. "they" did not get to me and turn me against her. her illness put me through a lot as a kid, as a young woman. yes, i think she's right about me needing to get back to church, but that has nothing to do with her.

the truth is, my plate is full. we struggle every month just to make it through another one and i can't do shit till my degree posts. i am adhd and anemic and can't afford my meds. i have a multi-differently abled son who may not need me when he's older but definitely needs me now. i have three girls i am trying to raise in a neighborhood where they have a higher chance of getting involved with drugs, gangs, and prostitution. for a long time there i was in school and i want to go back and finish it someday - as soon as i can afford to apply to another school and get accepted. the last thing i need right now is to be dealing with my mother and her talking clocks and paranoid delusions (or delusions of grandeur, depending on the month and medication she's on). and i don't need to be reminded that one day that could be me screaming that doctors are trying to change me to a man, making my children crazy with my paranoid behavior, hearing voices from thin air.

what i do need is one place in my life where there's peace, one less things to worry about, one less thing that requires me to be strong. i'm at my limits without her, i don't need her taking me over the edge. i just don't have it in me to deal with her.

it hurts that i have to let her believe i don't love her. but right now, it's all i can do. it's the only way to not have to deal with it - with her.

bad mother, bad daughter. i just can't win. and i just can't take my mistakes away without making it all worse.

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