As a professional lifestyle writer, I vividly recall the moment when I made a significant decision. It happened during a dinner table conversation with my son, who was feeling down about having to finish his broccoli. My mother, who was visiting for the weekend, observed my little boy with narrowed eyes, filled with judgment.
Finally, she turned to me and asked, “What’s wrong with him?”
I calmly responded, “There’s nothing wrong with him.”
She persisted, “Then why is he making a fuss? I think there’s something wrong with him.”
“He’s simply behaving like a normal kid who doesn’t enjoy eating vegetables,” I explained.
She countered, “Well, you always ate your vegetables without a fuss.”
I acknowledged, “Yes, because you would have punished me if I didn’t.”
A brisk departure
My mother abruptly pushed away from the table and announced that she was going for a walk. In that moment, she vanished, just as she had done decades earlier when I was a child and realized I couldn’t rely on her for emotional support.
While there are certain aspects of my mother, who passed away four years ago, that I remember with great fondness, such as her infectious laughter and her delicious roast chicken, I also recall her inability to demonstrate thoughtfulness, compassion, and stability. She would yell, judge, mock, and spank. When my son was born, with his captivating brown eyes and lovable nature, she treated him with the same indifference she had shown me as a child.
“Isn’t he wonderful?” I would say.
She never seemed to agree.
Heartbreaking but not surprising
I eventually realized that my mother, in her late 70s, was not going to change. I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t fall in love with her beautiful grandchild, her first one, but she managed to pay him little attention. Despite living just two hours away, she rarely visited, using the excuse of being “too tired” to read him books or take him for a walk.
I decided to let her walk away, recognizing that I shouldn’t invest my emotions in what was truly her loss as a mother, grandmother, and human being.
One day, as my son played at her feet while she sat on the couch flipping through the newspaper, I asked her, “What’s wrong?”
She snapped, “What do you mean?”
I continued, “Why do you come if you don’t want to do anything with us?”
With a sneer that brought back memories of my own childhood, she finally said, “If that’s your attitude, I’ll just leave.”
And she did
When my daughter, a blue-eyed pixie, was born two years later, my mother’s interest didn’t increase. In fact, she claimed to have a busy social schedule and took a week to meet her first granddaughter.
I attempted to understand and be more welcoming. I regularly brought the kids to visit her and encouraged them to ask Grandma to play. I urged them to behave, be polite, and extra courteous. However, it was exhausting, and it yielded no results. She continued to criticize my parenting and complain about my perfectly delightful children.
So, I ultimately decided, as my son stirred his broccoli and my mother stormed away mid-meal to take a walk, that if she couldn’t have a loving relationship with my children, I had to let it go.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t need to. I simply allowed her to walk away, realizing that I would no longer invest my emotions in what was truly her loss as a mother, grandmother, and human being.
I never prevented my mother from seeing my children, but I stopped actively promoting a relationship that she was unwilling to have with them. There came a point when we would visit my mother, and beyond the expectation of basic politeness from my son and daughter, I no longer cared if they made any effort at all. I had already experienced a childhood filled with longing. I had already wasted too many years hoping that my mother would someday become attentive. I didn’t want to spend the next two decades waiting to see if she would finally mature.