Mom un­der­mined child’s dream of be­ing an artist

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Living - JEANNE PHILLIPS

Dear Abby: My mother re­cently con­fessed to me that in my se­nior year of high school, she sab­o­taged my chance to go to my dream school (with a nearly full schol­ar­ship) be­cause she didn’t ap­prove of my want­ing to go to art school. I missed my ori­en­ta­tion be­cause she “got the date wrong” and then told me the school re­fused to resched­ule. The truth is she never con­tacted them and let them think I was a no-show. Stupid child that I was, I be­lieved her.

Abby, I can’t be­gin to de­scribe what an im­pact this has had on my life. She has used that in­ci­dent as “proof” that I didn’t know how to make good de­ci­sions. Ev­ery time we talked, she’d re­mind me that ev­ery­thing I was do­ing — my friends, my re­la­tion­ships, my hob­bies — was a mis­take, a waste of time or both. Fi­nally, to pre­serve my san­ity, I had to cut off con­tact with her, but my con­fi­dence and self-worth have never fully re­cov­ered.

Now, nearly 20 years later (af­ter a very rocky, un­sta­ble rec­on­cil­i­a­tion), she has con­fessed that she torched my dream on pur­pose. She said she was sorry, but im­me­di­ately fol­lowed it up by say­ing she knows a few outof-work graphic designers, and I should be grate­ful to have a sta­ble job.

She re­fuses to go to coun­sel­ing for any rea­son, and talk­ing to her doesn’t help. She de­flects by talk­ing about how bad I’m mak­ing HER feel. I don’t know what to do with my hurt feel­ings; the dam­age is done. But all that old pain is fresh again in a new, aw­ful con­text, and I now dread to think of what she may want to be “hon­est” about next. Am I be­ing too harsh? Must I just suck it up and let it go? — Could-be Artist in Ten­nessee

Dear Could-be Artist: You are not be­ing too harsh, and you should not suck it up! You now un­der­stand that your mother, who seems to have an ob­ses­sive need to con­trol, isn’t some­one to be trusted. Be­cause she can’t be de­pended upon to do what’s right for you (as most moth­ers are), you will have to emo­tion­ally eman­ci­pate from her. Coun­sel­ing can help you to work through your pain and dis­ap­point­ment and reach that goal more quickly than if you try do­ing it on your own, and that’s what I ad­vise. You have my sym­pa­thy. Your mother’s par­ent­ing tech­nique was ter­ri­ble.

P.S. It’s never too late. You can get back on your path by go­ing to art school NOW.

Dear Abby is writ­ten by Abi­gail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los An­ge­les, CA 90069.

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