Saturday, November 18, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Before you can have a healthy relationship with your mother she has work to do

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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Mom must own up to drinking, emotional problems

Q: I rarely get a phone call from my mother — maybe once every several months — and never get an email. I'm lucky if she "likes" a Facebook post or sends a text. I've tried calling and emailing but usually get no response. She says she's eager to visit and be a grandmother to my kids, but I don't see a lot of effort.

For what it's worth, she divorced my father a few years ago and is trying to have a second adolescence (ditching family for parties, talking of little besides partying and drinking, texting while driving with my children in the car, etc.).

Yes, I realize this is deeper than a tendency to text, but I can't even make the first steps toward repairing our relationship if all I get is a "like" once in a while. What do you think?

Anonymous

Carolyn: You say: "I can't even make the first steps toward repairing our relationship if all I get is a 'like' once in a while."

I say: You can't even make the first steps toward repairing your relationship if your mom won't admit and seek treatment for her drinking problem and the emotional problems underlying it.

I'm sorry.

Anonymous again: I know there's a ton of baggage my mother is carrying, and I don't understand all if it. But she's my mom and I love her and I want her to be happy. And I want to have a relationship. I just don't know how to go about it. She won't seek treatment and I know she really thinks she has done nothing wrong. I guess I just know life is short and I don't want to regret not repairing the relationship while I had the chance.

Carolyn: Of course, I don't question your motives. But you also need to be realistic about how much of that repair job is really under your control. Al-Anon might be a good next stop for you. Also, as many have written in to say, don't let Mom drive your kids anymore. Her judgment is too compromised.

Anonymous again: Thank you for calling this situation what it is. I've always known my mom has a drinking problem and said as much to my dad a few years ago, but I pushed it out of my mind.

In short, my mother has issues due to a trauma years ago that I don't know the specifics of (she said something in anger to me as a teenager but didn't elaborate). No, I haven't let her drive with my kids in the car since the texting incident and I never let her spend time with them without my supervision.

I don't want her to be a cookie-baking grandma, but when she chooses pub crawls over a preplanned trip to visit us — we live in another state — and our conversations revolve around how much partying she's done without so much as a question about my family, then I get sad. Anyway, thanks so much for giving me clarity and an idea of how to move forward.

Carolyn: You're welcome, and, again, I'm sorry about your mom. For more information, try the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' toll-free substance abuse referral and information line at 1-800-662-4357.

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