Yesterday, I wrote a piece about my favorite parts about and memories of Halloween.
Today’s piece is a lot more serious. And maybe scary. But not in the classic, spooky, creepy, Halloween sense.
It’s my worst memory of Halloween.
J and I went to one of those Dress Up As A Couple Halloween parties when The Boy was three going on four. He had just started preschool. He, my parents, and J and I were just beginning to be comfortable (mostly) with overnight stays when J and I went on ‘dates.’ My mom often complained about watching The Boy for us when he was small and she was still working. She never looked at spending time with The Boy as getting special time with her grandson. To her, that was ‘work’ on her day(s) off, being responsible for ‘our kid.’ Work she didn’t think she needed to do, because while it was ‘work’ for her that she didn’t want to sacrifice part of a weekend for, she considered (and probably still considers) taking care of my son a way for me to freeload. I didn’t need a babysitter. I had ALL my time ‘off,’ because I didn’t go to work all week like she did.
Once, we asked my mom to watch The Boy for us two weekends in a row (because we had tickets for an event one weekend and a friend unexpectedly in town the following weekend…things we couldn’t change to spread the dates out more to accommodate her better), and her response to this was, ‘I’m not doing *this shit* every weekend.’
(This shit = watching our son, in case that was unclear.)
So J and I had a long talk with The Boy before sending him to stay over with my parents for that Halloween party date. The Boy was (and still is, but not as bad) a picky eater. And he is an only child and my parents’ only grandchild. So he had a lot of toys and liked getting new ones, and my mom doesn’t really know how to entertain a child, but she does know they enjoy being taken toy shopping. And at three, almost four, he understood and took advantage of this.
We told The Boy to eat what his grandparents made for breakfast and not demand anything special or refuse to eat (we had already fed him dinner) and to not ask to be taken to a toy store…he didn’t need any more toys. He said he understood. I get that he was three going on four, and temptation is great, and memory is maybe short, but I believed him that he understood everything we’d talked about.
After J and I went to the party, came home, watched rated R programming on television, slept late and ate our own breakfast, we called to check on The Boy.
My mom told me that The Boy sent my dad out to get him a special breakfast item because he wouldn’t eat anything else (which we talked about before). And she told me that they’d gone to Toys R Us and bought something new (which we talked about before). So I asked to talk to The Boy on the phone. I asked him if he remembered what we talked about before we took him to my parents’ and he said yes. So I (calmly…I don’t yell at my son now as a sassy preteen…I didn’t yell at him when he was a preschooler either) told him I was disappointed about breakfast and the toy store. He’d done the opposite of what we talked about. And he began (as three going on four year olds do) to cry. My mom snatched the phone back from him and said, ‘Why did you have to make him cry?! All you do is make him cry! He was as good as an angel (translation: not crying) before you called!’ I don’t know how long all of you have been here, or how much you actually read, but I’ve written several posts about how me crying when I was younger was dealt with…basically ‘Stop crying…no one wants to hear you crying…crying is weak and selfish and bad…’
She also added (yelling loudly) over the phone before I hung up that she was his grandmother and she can do whatever she’d like with him…and buy him whatever she wants…when he is at her house. And how dare I say that she shouldn’t send my father on special trips to the grocery store to honor The Boy’s willfulness and how dare I say that she doesn’t need to take him to buy him more toys every single time he’s alone with her. I told her that we’d be there shortly to pick The Boy up and that we wouldn’t be staying for lunch (because the morning had already become unpredictably and uncomfortably confrontational).
When we got to my parents’ house to pick up our son, my mom called me a bad mother and an asshole in front of both J and The Boy. J looked at me, silently asking with his eyes what I’d like him to do; if I wanted him to step in to handle the situation with my mom. I told him to just take The Boy and his things out to the car. I told my mom we were leaving and that I was really hurt and that I didn’t want to talk for a while. That I needed time to just calm down before I talked to her anymore about anything. She called me the same names again. So I told her, ‘I’m done.’ And went home, honestly prepared to never have another night out alone with J until our son was old enough to be out with his own friends or at least home alone safely.
My mom came over to our house unannounced about an hour after we got The Boy’s things put away, to leave a pot of spaghetti she made, and complained that we didn’t eat after she made it for lunch.
Then she called me to yell at me on the phone the next day when our boy was at preschool and she was at her work. I found this very surprising because when I was a girl and a teenager, one rule I definitely had drilled into me was to NEVER call my mother while she was at work.
She told me I was being overly sensitive (which is a common thing she has always said and continues to say to me). She didn’t really mean the ugly things she said; how could I think that? (Because she repeated that behavior for 30 years maybe?) She didn’t know why I took things so personally (like being called a bad mother in front of my only child when my full time vocation is parenthood). I told her (again) that I didn’t want to talk about anything until I was sure I could be calm and asked her not to call me again. But my mom has never really respected my boundaries nor valued my feelings. SHE wanted things to be fine and glossed over on her terms and on her timetable.
There have been many instances of my mom saying things to me and behaving in ways that made me feel undervalued, or even wholly unloved, a lot of which I felt at the time and still feel are/were intentional. And a lot of which are ‘worse’ than this instance (but I’ll never write about them for obvious reasons).
And I always did immediately gloss over and forgive her and pretend I wasn’t hurt by what she did or said. Until that time. Insulting me in front of J and our son, particularly about my parenting skill and style, was something I couldn’t just blow off in the moment.
I didn’t speak with my mom at all for weeks. Because I couldn’t be calm. And I knew she wouldn’t be either. The tension between us didn’t improve for months. Our boy is now 11 going on 12 and I can honestly say that while my mom probably thinks things are great between us now, because there is no open hostility, and her relation to me has always been surface and superficial, to me, things have never been the same since J and I went to that Halloween party.
That’s my worst memory of Halloween. It doesn’t involve getting sick on candy or being scared at a haunted house or by a mean neighbor or bully or a horror movie. As sensitive and arguably wimpy as I am with that type of stuff, it doesn’t really scare me nearly as much as faltering human connection does. But my worst memory of Halloween’s not even thinking about how I was kind of a loner kid like Linus in It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! before I met J.
It’s a reminder every year that my mom has never understood me or treated me with the sincere kindness and love I’ve always wanted from her. And it’s sort of a projection that she likely never will. To me, that’s really scary.