Friday, April 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

How can I relate with my estranged and toxic mother?

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Q: When I was 16, I came home to my mom sneaking out of our house with her belongings and my younger brother. She was leaving my stepdad, and me, too. She actually left us a note on the kitchen table.

I was already the stepkid with the "horrible" dad my mother bashed repeatedly, so this crushed me.

After watching my stepdad go through the motions of moving out and not asking me to go with him, it became clear I was on my own. I called relatives and the general consensus was it was none of their business. After years of no communication, I called my dad and he let me move in with him.

Come to find out he was a nice person who made me feel wanted for six great years. After he died of a heart attack, I called my mom crying and she said, "Good, he got what he deserved." She didn't contact me again for nine years.

Now she texts me sporadically as though nothing has happened. I reply only to what is being asked and offer no more. Over the years I tried to work on our relationship but she refuses to acknowledge any possible negative feeling I have. She says I was abusive to her (I wasn't) and has told relatives these lies about me. It's ruined my life and has left me without any family support.

I think I need to just stop all contact with these toxic people, but I've been made to feel at fault for so long my mind is cloudy. I have gone to therapy, but they don't tell you what to do.

I've read of your loving relationship with your mom and figure you'll give me the sternest response, and I want to see all angles of this.

Left Me

A: This is painful even to read, and you lived it. I'm so sorry.

I've said this before, and it applies here: The adults in your life were responsible for nurturing and protecting you. When they abdicated this responsibility, it conferred to you. Of course as a child you were in no position to act as your own parent/protector. You were betrayed.

Now, though — in your 30s? — you're equipped to act as your own protector. You had some terrible models, but I bet you can list pretty quickly all the things you'd do for a child, and never do to a child.

That list is what you need to do on your own behalf now. Let's say No. 1 is "I will respect my child's needs and feelings." Then: Apply that standard to dealing with your mom. Maybe No. 2 is "I will protect my children from family members who mistreat them." Applying that to your situation is a straight line.

About my mom — she took care of me when it was her job to, and she let me take care of myself when it was her job to. There's a lot more to it in the details, obviously, but her not breaking that fundamental contract was the foundation upon which everything else was built.

Your mom broke that contract, so you're free to write your own — without apology to your mom or anyone else who would judge you.

Comments
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Family reconsiders taking group trips

Q: Should there be expectations about taking vacations/trips with other family members? We have two issues:(1) We have three kids, including teenagers, and my brother and wife have two kids. The younger is 6. My wife and I find it hard to plan someth...
Published: 04/20/18
On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

ORLANDO — When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago, it was light on thrills and heavy on conservation. On April 22, 1998, Earth Day, the Orlando park had a single thrill ride, Countdown to Extinction, and a handful of shows like ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Tell Me About It: How to deal with conversation dominators

Q: We have a few relatives, including a sibling, who we don’t see or hear from often, as we are busy or live far away. We meet over a meal or for an hour or so, or at family gatherings requiring a drive, and I am so frustrated that they dominate the ...
Published: 04/19/18
Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

The top things to do April 20 to 22 in Tampa, St. Petersburg and the whole Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

Axe Throwing Tampa and Raider Axe Lodge are bringing the axe-throwing trend to the Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

BEER: ZooBrews and BeerfestAs if we needed any more proof of the craft beer craze, this weekend brings two events with a smorgasbord of samplings. • The newly renamed ZooTampa at Lowry Park is calling ZooBrews a new event that appears to be an awful ...
Published: 04/18/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

1 Field of Dreams: Kick off baseball season with Tampa Bay Rays mascots and a movie that makes every baseball fan cry. Raymond and DJ Kitty will be at Tampa Theatre for photos and you can join in a Take Me Out to the Ballpark sing-along on the Mighty...
Published: 04/18/18

Tell Me About It: Don’t feel awkward about checking friend

Q: My husband and I adopted a dog that does not like strangers; he is in intensive training and part of that is having strangers over to our house to practice meeting people. I usually invite a friend over after explaining the situation and promising...
Published: 04/18/18