I went on the first what’s going to be many shopping trips with my mom for the upcoming holiday season the Saturday before this past one. And I went shopping with her yesterday too. Yesterday, she talked over me for most of a 45 minute car ride there and most of a 45 minute car ride back, discussing how rude other family members of ours are for talking about themselves and monopolizing conversations, without a hint of self awareness.
Here is where I guess I need to interject that people tend to share their lives with me fairly easily. A friend just the other day checked in with me and how NaNoWriMo was going (it’s going! I might not make a finished manuscript by the end of this month, but I WILL make a finished manuscript of this story…soonish…), and it was well past the time she normally turned in for bed, but she said, ‘You’re just too easy to talk to.’ She’s my friend, but perfect strangers do this sometimes to me too. I think it’s because I genuinely listen when other people talk to me. That’s my natural response to being addressed. I let people share their lives, even if I haven’t encouraged them to (and sometimes I do encourage them to). Once when I was waiting for my appointment time at the hair salon, the woman sitting next to me, whom I’d never seen before in my life, told me all about how she was worried about her daughter, who had just been in a car accident. ????
It’s honestly one reason I don’t like going out much. I want to listen to people, but strangers approaching me with their anxieties just add to mine, and that happens to me fairly regularly when I leave the house.
So it wasn’t terribly surprising last Saturday out with my mom, that a woman around my mom’s age began talking to me out of nowhere in the department store about how her kids never answer her phone calls. I asked her if she’d tried texting, because I personally prefer text to talking on the phone, and she then shifted her focus to my mom and asked about getting your kids to answer calls, etc. I’ve written before about my hatred for the phone in general and how my mom insists on calling when I’ve told her repeatedly that I’d rather her text.
My mom agreed with the woman at the department store about how kids are so inconsiderate and don’t appreciate everything done for them enough to pick up a phone call and ‘what if it was an emergency’ (which it NEVER is…my mom calls me a lot…sometimes she’ll call me twice in the same 10 minute span about like…fertilizer options for her flower pots or something, and I always answer her calls…even though I don’t want to and have told her I prefer text, but she doesn’t respect that boundary). She complained about my brother doing that to her, commiserating with this woman while I stood there, silently looking at sweaters. I’m sure the only reason she didn’t complain about me was that I was standing there and was her ride home.
But the truth of things is, my mom taught my brother and I how to relate to her, and she particularly taught my brother how to treat phone calls at work. My mom told my brother and I that an emergency consisted of 1. house on fire or 2. someone gravely injured or ill and close to dying. There were no other reasons to ever ever ever call her at work. Not to check on her welfare when she was four hours later than quitting time and still not home. Not to inform her about any problem we had beyond numbers 1 or 2. DO NOT CALL HER AT WORK. And if we did? Straight to voicemail. And now, my brother, who is a special education specialist at an inner city public school, doesn’t answer her calls when he’s at work. And sometimes after working hours. And she’s surprised and bothered by it. Sigh.
I don’t tell my mom things about my every day life, like I know other daughters do. Like when our washer broke or when my battery didn’t fire in the school parking lot the other day. Because I call J when things go awry. He wants to hear from me; he always answers; he wants to help. I wouldn’t have told my mom my leg broke or our dog died if I could get around needing her help with looking after The Boy and driving me places.
My mom not answering her phone hasn’t improved since she retired either. She didn’t answer repeated calls from me, J, or my dad while she was out shopping with a friend one Saturday when she said she’d babysit and got mad at the rest of us for being upset and anxious when she finally showed up, still not answering her phone.
And last Monday, after saying she wanted to go out with me on another trip and for me to show her how to do something specific, *she didn’t answer her phone* when I called…twice…after allowing enough time for her to sleep in (five hours after I wake up in the morning every weekday).
My mom often looks hurt that I don’t share my life with her, but I’m not inclined to chase people down and force them to listen to me. I don’t enjoy shouting over people to be heard, and with her, it seems like that’s the only way I can be heard. Even on the rare occasions when I speak up, she talks over me.
Sometimes I feel guilty for not giving my mom the ideal mother/daughter relationship she seems to fantasize about. But then I remember, that she taught me how to relate to her for decades. It’s hard to undo that much conditioning.
I do answer all of her calls though. Even though she routinely doesn’t answer mine. I just only share my life with people who show me they are truly invested. With people who answer my calls.