A let­ter to...

My ex­tra-clingy, over­pro­tec­tive mother

The Guardian - Family - - Family | Family Life - Anony­mous

Oc­ca­sion­ally, I let my mind tor­ture me. I won­der what it must be like to have any level of au­ton­omy, any sense of agency. You have never let me know a world that did not re­volve around you, although you will deny this and say you will­ingly sac­ri­ficed your life so it would re­volve around me, for that is what a real mother does, and that you are the only real, proper mother in the world.

There are prob­lems you refuse to see. I can­not leave the room for five min­utes with­out you call­ing for me. You see it as a to­ken of your love – if I love you, I will rush back to you. I joke that I should wear a cat’s bell around my neck. When I go to work, in­stead of us­ing the time for your­self, you sit clock-watch­ing un­til I de­part my dead­end job and then call me, talk­ing un­til I walk in our door. You would pre­fer it if I could work from home so I would never be out of your sight.

I know that, by the age of three, you were an inse­cure, emo­tion­ally des­per­ate child with a skewed sense of the world, pet­ri­fied of life be­fore it had be­gun. “If you truly love me, you will …” “I adore you, so you will …” This was the spine of your think­ing.

You de­spise the world, and have tried to keep me out of it, a pure lo­tus in the mud of a per­verted hu­man­ity. To you, there is not an­other hu­man, other than your par­ents, who is not im­moral, selfish and de­ceit­ful. You fear the world will lead me away from you and your im­pos­si­ble stan­dards of be­hav­iour. You blame the world for all the pit­falls and poverty we have en­coun­tered in life. The world is all wrong.

You never dealt well with me hav­ing friends – ones I could spend an af­ter­noon with, in­stead of you. I still re­call your hys­ter­i­cal ac­cu­sa­tion that I wanted my friends more than you. I let them drift away; it seemed the right thing to do. Now, I do not so­cialise. Any­way, I can­not com­pre­hend this mod­ern so­ci­ety; ev­ery­one has moved on with­out me, so I avoid it. For­tu­itously, I never cared about find­ing a part­ner. No one could have tol­er­ated your con­tin­u­ous pres­ence – you would have in­sisted on liv­ing with us, eat­ing with us, watch­ing TV with us, hol­i­day­ing with us …

TYou fear the world will lead me away from you and your im­pos­si­ble stan­dards of be­hav­iour

he fault is not en­tirely yours. We come from an in­su­lar, re­stric­tive fam­ily that en­cour­aged de­pen­dency and re­fused pri­vacy, dig­nity and any­thing more than mild self-ex­pres­sion. There is only the fam­ily, no need to be self-suf­fi­cient and no need for out­siders. Each gen­er­a­tion sac­ri­ficed self-rule on the al­tar of fil­ial duty (and then we won­der why in most gen­er­a­tions one mem­ber con­sid­ers – or even at­tempts – dis­ap­pear­ing … but mother-guilt rules with an iron fist). When I quip that our clan would be more com­fort­able in the 19th cen­tury, I get blank stares. It never oc­curred to me to ques­tion the prin­ci­ples and val­ues bal­anced pre­car­i­ously on my head. That was my nor­mal – a nor­mal that has left me woe­fully un­pre­pared for the 21st cen­tury.

By seven, I had stopped laugh­ing. You blamed my ill­ness at the time, but that was when I be­gan to give in to you. I wanted peace, so I self-sac­ri­ficed. You have suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing the per­son you re­quired. Now in my 50s, I am too fear­ful and in­ca­pable of break­ing away from the only re­al­ity I have ever known.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.