Super Gran was once a lousy mum
Q: I’m a 33-year-old mother of two beautiful girls and I also have a great husband. I thank my lucky stars that things have turned out this well as I was constantly in trouble growing up. As a teen I used drugs and alcohol heavily but in my 20s I turned things around.
As I’ve grown older it’s become clear that I never got the parenting I needed. My mother was very distracted and disinterested in us kids. She drank heavily and had affairs and then left Dad when I was 11. Although we left with Mum, I moved back with Dad six months later because life without him was chaos. So it was poor Dad who copped the rough years with me, though he did his best.
My mother has now morphed into Super Gran. She loves my kids and spoils them rotten and they love her too. Now that she’s been sober for years I’m happy for her to babysit.
What bugs me is that Mum has never apologised to me for those years. She will sometimes talk about what a ‘‘nightmare’’ I was and the other day made the comment that I won’t have the same troubles with my girls, implying that they’re too bright and wonderful to become teen nightmares like I did. She takes no responsibility at all. My husband thinks I should say something, but Dad says give it up, she has never admitted to any wrongdoing in her entire life.
It took me a long time to get my self-esteem together and watching my mum treat my kids as if they’re superior beings to me, brings back all the anger and self-loathing.
A: How much do you want this apology? Your letter shows how entrenched your mother’s denial is, so any acknowledgement of blame could be messy to extract. You may need outside help to reach some sort of satisfactory conclusion.
If your mother has never admitted to any wrongdoing in her entire life, (according to your father), then I doubt she will put her hand up now, just because you confront her. It’s clear your mother has her own perspective regarding your teenage years and she’s likely to tell it as she remembers it. You need to be sure you want all this if you decide to continue.
You’re the parent now and by the sounds of it, you and your husband are doing a good job. But there’s no guarantees that your girls will stay bright and wonderful so you need to try to maintain their harmonious environment.
You’ll inevitably take your eye off the parenting ball if you begin to tackle your mother. If distraction and a sense of chaos were the factors that pushed you off the rails then by pursuing a confrontation, you could be inviting those same factors back into your daughters’ lives. You might intend your discussion to be private and confined to the adults involved, but children have acute antennae when it comes to tension and disharmony. The ripples that spread as you try to extract this apology may not be worth it.
Your mother has had her turn and in your opinion, she stuffed up. No matter what she says about the past, you can be sure she’ll be watching you and privately comparing your efforts with her own. For various reasons, some people are incapable of apologising. Maybe being Super Gran to the girls who adore her, is the best apology she’s capable of.
❚ Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including
As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line. Your anonymity is assured.
She loves her grandkids but her own children were her last priority.