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The Question
doc-pants, I understand your point completely. I don't ask my parents to apologize for how they parented me. My mother did what she thought was best for me at the time. I've got three kids of my own (two of them already out of the house) and I realized when raising them that all you can do is love them and help them grow in the right direction as best you see fit. Even with that, it takes an extra measure to realize that they are their own individuals and they will make their own way in the world. While they were young, I worked to teach them right from wrong, to teach them compassion and love and caring. Now that my oldest two are adults out on their own (last one turns 13 in a few weeks), I give them advice IF they ask for it. I don't preach to them what they should or should not be doing in their lives.

Some of the best wisdom and counseling I ever received was from my father. I called him when I was 20 to tell him my girlfriend was pregnant and he asked me what I was going to do about it. The first thing I said to him was, "Well, I have a responsibility to this woman and this child." He immediately ended any further questioning on it, later telling me that he knew I would do right no matter what. I've been married to that woman now for almost 25 years, and one time I asked him what he thought of her. He said, "She's not who I would have chosen, but then again I don't wake up next to her every morning." He adores my wife and holds her in the highest respect, mainly based on how his grandchildren have turned out (he says that she is responsible for more than 50% of the people they are since I work to support them all). I have an excellent relationship with him and talk to him regularly. While he has admitted he thought I may have been making mistakes when I was younger, he let me make them and also feels I have overcome any and all of them.

I tried laying out the exact same ground rules as you with my mother, and it didn't work. She refused to show me basic respect, trying to dictate to me everything I needed to do to fix what she saw as problems in my life. An example is my major health issue, cluster headaches. I've been seeing the top doctors in the world to help with them, and I still get incapacitated by them from time to time. While being tried on a new medication that wasn't yet fully in my system enough to do a lot of good, I was visiting with her and getting hit by a nasty attack. I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to go in to see the doctor and have them 'fix' me right away. She's a nurse practitioner and knows well enough that instant 'fixes' don't exist in the medical world. A similar thing happened with my stepfather. My boss at work had talked to doctors he met at parties about my headaches and what I took for them and had come to the conclusion I was a junkie. I'm sure most people understand that sort of thing is highly illegal to do with someone who reports to you, yet my stepfather had the gall to call me and tell me how I needed to have my doctors call my boss and explain everything to him. It wasn't put across as advice, it was 'DO THIS NOW'.

As I fought back against those, my mother and stepfather got nastier from there. I have been incommunicado with them now for over a decade. I have put things out there through my sister (who still has some contact with them) that I am willing to try again but they need to realize where they have overstepped the line and not do it again. They have refused, my mother actually told another family member that she will not come 'groveling' back to me. Unfortunately, it's become clear to me that they could not care less if there is a relationship or not. It's sad, in a lot of ways, I have been willing to try and make things work, and my wife is accepting of the fact I might want them in my life, yet they don't want to be here.

I was angry and resentful of my mother's encouragement to dress when I was younger because I didn't truly understand. Having my own children and raising them I found that there is no manual on how to raise kids, that no two children are alike, that each situation requires thought and care. The rage went away over my dressing and all that went on there. What was unacceptable was that even after being on my own, married and successfully raising my kids for over a decade, she still thought she could dictate to both my wife and I how to lead our lives and raise our children. Even after being told to 'butt out', she refused. When she realized she was losing her power over me, she took it as nasty as possible. That was the point I decided it was healthier to end things for good.
Hi Richardto,

Yes, I agree, in my own situation I think my dad was probably a little more “flexible” than your mom sounds to be.  Here is how my family’s period of “incommunicado” began, and also how it finally came to an end:  At the beginning of our period of incommunicado, our contacts with one another finally slowed down and then ground to a halt as I felt their “negative judgmentalism” of myself had simply become intolerable. It had finally gotten so bad that the only means of communication I left open to them was via messages relayed via one of my two sisters. They took this as a sort of an insult, and then opted to simply stop contacting me for about five years. This was a good five years for me, as it was then far better to have no contact at all with them than to have to deal with the amazing levels of their negativity and judgmentalism.

At the end of the five years I was 49 years old, and for the first time in my life I then finally got engaged to be married. Naturally I told my one sister, but I told her that nobody from my birth family was invited to the wedding, as I could simply no longer tolerate their insulting behavior as it was, let alone to allow it to "color" my wedding. Low and behold, for some strange and unfathomable reason, suddenly they all began to feel a little more “flexible.” I'm sure this couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that their first-born child, and only son, was about to get married, could it have? Wonders never cease! Now I was finally in the “driver’s seat” and I knew it! This is where I then chose to “drive” that bus, so to speak. I told each of them that before they would be allowed to come, they would each have to specifically promise three things to me. It’s been a few years, but this is generally what the three things were:

  1. Never say anything behind my back about me that they hadn’t already said to my face.
  2. Treat each family member equally, never playing favorites.
  3. Always prefer respect over disrespect towards myself and one another.

Believe it or not, they each did make these three promises to me, and they all came to my wedding! These three things then set the tone for my relationships with each of them in the years since. In the beginning they would occasionally try to revert to the old ways, but each time they tried, they would receive back from me only a stony cold silence, and no “compliance” whatsoever. Eventually they all more or less gave up on trying to restore the “old order,” with me. Not to say that they all completely reformed in all of their other relationships between one another. But they are all getting markedly better even at this (it seems.)

My only really "big mistake" at this point was not to make sure that my wife herself was truly on board with these three promises. So young and naive way back then at the tender age of 49.... Sigh.... Next time around the wife makes the same promises too!

In your own relationship with your mom, obviously it takes two to tango, and if she simply has no desire to do your version of the tango, I most certainly agree with you, she probably never will. All I can suggest is that if you haven't already done this, (and you probably already have) you could simply prepare a space in your own heart for her, imagining the real possibility that she might one day finally be willing to dance again with you, and imagining exactly what the smile on her face might look like on that day. If you might not have yet done this, then if you did, then somehow, in some way at least you yourself could already heal more in that relationship, and for her part, if or whenever she might finally be ready, there would already be a warm and well lit dance hall, ready and awaiting, for her to dance again in your own life.

Your mom sounds like quite a "scary" person in many ways. The way she insisted on trying to control your very thoughts about dressing, now that sounds pretty wild! Fortunately my parents never took it that far. Control my actions, yes, but to intentionally try to "brainwash" me like that using intimidation, no. One of the types of things I recall my dad doing was to occasionally make up subtle, difficult to verify, negative lies about one child and to tell them to another, just to try to make himself look as if he were in-charge of us all. We kids only realized that he sometimes did this type of thing when we were all adults! But what a revelation it was to us all when we later found out about this!

Later yet I found out that this same technique was employed by one of my sisters against both of us other two siblings, whispering things to my mom about us! Ugh!!!! Still, back to the subject of my dad. After my wedding, and after he agreed to my three rules, he's never since done anything like that. I'm finding that in reality, I'm probably a little bit more spiritually "aware of things" than either of my parents, and so how can I get upset with them for that? The same condition may apply to your circumstance as well, no? In some sense, I feel that spiritually, it may be my role to teach them, even if I'm physically their child, and they once taught me in the practicalities of how to live here.

If my parents had tried to do the "brainwashing thing" with me, and I still felt in any way vulnerable to such activities by them, I probably would have made an open discussion of such activities with them, to my own satisfaction, and a full promise by them to never to repeat these types of activities, the first requirement on my list of rules. You've probably already been there is my guess. Had my family even never agreed to my own list of rules, at least we all would have still known what was really going on, and where things really had to go.

Just a few thoughts on the matter. Probably way off base....

Wink Blind in one eye.  (Hope I got the right avatar here.)
Hi again Richardto,

I apologize for perhaps over-editing the post above. I guess writing this out here must be some form of therapy for my own self as well. At any rate, having to write-off your mom must be unimaginably hard. I like to believe that even with the most difficult relationships of my life, somehow at the very deepest level, we are all still interconnected. In my later years, even with the very most difficult relationships with anyone I might have to work with, I've always taken the initiative to send at least a "closing letter" to such individuals, that was always written without any attempt to express anger, but still telling the person "my side" in as neutral and helpful of a tone as I could, without making any slurs or denunciations. This has always made my heart feel lighter afterwards, and I like to even hope that the heart of the recipient of the letter might even feel lighter afterwards too.

Wink Blind in one eye.  (Hope I got the right avatar here.)
True forgiveness:

A rounder portrait of my father….. I now feel a need to be fair to my poor dad. Yes, he did occasionally act dishonestly in ways that caused more harm than good. But who here has never told a lie? Yes he did some things that I personally could never see myself as doing, but each of these things, if I am honest enough with myself, I have done in some way in my own life. Maybe not on such a grand scale, but through the course of my entire life, I may have not always been entirely true to each of my friends, etc. etc. etc. Who here has never groveled for another’s favor, etc. etc. etc.?

On the positive side, my father, despite his shortcomings, did believe in the power of true honesty, and he succeeded in teaching me that respect for truth and honesty, despite all of this. So was he conflicted? Obviously yes. But so aren’t we all?

As a small child, at first most of us want to believe that we have been born into a family of Gods, but all too soon we each come to discover that our parents are mere mortals just like ourselves. I must confess that in my past I have often made the mistake of somehow blaming my own shortcomings (my mortality) on them! Certainly they were imperfect guides, but they did their best, and so must I do my best. 

The more harshly I judge them, the weaker I myself become. The more compassionately I am able to judge them, the stronger I myself will become. So I forgive my father for only doing the best he was able, in what he obviously must have perceived to be threatening circumstances, in order for him to have had to have made up stories like that. I also would ask that when I was untrue to a friend, that my friend might one day find it in his heart to likewise forgive me. True forgiveness works exactly like that. As I learn to truly forgive others, guess what? Exactly as I learn to forgive them, so I begin to feel myself being truly forgiven! How strange that it seems to work that way!! Now who woulda thunk?

Wink Blind in one eye.  (Hope I got the right avatar here.)

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