Mom-descending

“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.” – Peter Singer

A curious characteristic of several of the reunions I have assisted in facilitating includes a rather condescending attitude on part of our children towards us mothers.  I include myself in that as well.

I find myself wondering if this is adoption related or if this type of attitude would exist even if we had raised our daughters. I say daughters because I don’t see quite the same attitude with mother-son reunions. The only mother daughter relationship I can use as a basis for comparison is that with my own mother. I can tell you that if I said things to my mother that my daughter said to me, or that others say to their natural mothers, I would have been bitch slapped by my mother or my father. There was a degree of respect required in my family – simply because she was my mother.

Does that not exist in reunion? Does our unfamiliarity with each other breed contempt? Do all manners and common decency go by the wayside? Should we assume that we will get no respect from our children? In addition to a surrendering our children, did we unknowingly surrender our right to be treated with some degree of respect and understanding? Furthermore, do we tolerate it and allow it because we also agree we deserve it?

Perhaps condescension is the wrong term. Perhaps not. By definition to condescend means “to assume a tone of superiority when it is unjustified.”  That might be the right word after all.

In several conversations with friends of mine they have relayed conversations they have had with their reunited daughters. Without fail, there is a consistent attitude that leaves us mothers feeling as though we are being spoken down to, that we are idiots, perhaps even that we take the short bus to work or school every day.

Its subtle but its there. At least four of my friends and I have noticed in our dialogue with our children. It has a patronizing tone or quality to it. 

I found myself wondering if our children assume since we were naïve, ignorant, easily taken advantage of at say, 17, do they think we stayed that way? Do they presume, even subconsciously, that we are not so bright and need to be spoken to in a childish manner? Maybe they think our elevators don’t go to the top floor? As in the lights are on but nobody is home?

I dare say we feel as if they say “Well, you were too stupid to keep me clearly you cannot understand what I am saying to you now?” or “Your were not smart enough to have a job, not get pregnant, not be marriage material so surely there is something not quite right about you” or "You did not finish college. I did. You are a moron. I am not. I would never give my baby away. You did.  Morons do that. Therefore I shall treat you like a moron."

I reflect again on my own mother. There were many times in my life where I did not respect my mother. There were times in my youth when I was quite confident that I knew better than her, was better than her, and was more intelligent. This issue has perplexed me so much I opened dialogue with my mother yesterday. I told her of some of the situations my friends had encountered; I shared some of the words my daughter had expressed to me. My mother’s response?

She stated she knew that I was always very angry with her. But she (or Dad or hey, maybe Father Pitoniak and his teachings) kept me in check. If I was disrespectful to her, it was in silent. She never felt I was outwardly verbally mean or abusive. She never felt like I was talking down to her.  I may not have been overly loving or open to her but I was always respectful of her as a person.

Yet, I am not adopted. So, is this attitude unique to adoption?

My friend Lori has been in what appears to be a pretty good reunion for almost ten years. Yet, even with the “pretty good status” and the length of time, she states that her daughter still talks to her as if she was born yesterday.

What is this? Is it thinly disguised contempt rooted in adoption trauma and related anger? Or do our children really think we are idiots? Can we change that? Or must we just navigate around it? Or is this normal mother daughter relationship stuff?

15 Thoughts.

  1. That’s interesting. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a shield for unspoken pain, maybe it’s a defense mechanism, maybe it’s a generational thing? Honestly I don’t know and couldn’t know.

  2. Funny questions, Suz: They finally think they are all grown. Know the world just as we did. The wings fly, they are independent and superior. Dont need Mom, until they get pregnant as we did then you hear the whining. BUT! wait until you get older, then you are senile, they scream at you thinking you lost your hearing and try to take over your life. Because you dont know how, in fact you never did. And yes, you made all those mistakes because they will never do what you did, you taught them well, etc. etc. Therefore, consider your self punished for the rest of what they cant figure out in their own lives. Personal torment and you cant save them. You are what they are running away from! They are you. I love them to death, but I live cautiously they are now superior they can put me in a home. lol…..

  3. Though I don’t have daughters, I wanted to throw in my thoughts on my sons; raised and reunited. At about age 14, it seems my raised sons all began to change their communication dynamics with me. I have one who is 14 and just entering this phase. I have one younger who still says, “Mommy, I love you” and kisses and hugs. So sweet.
    But the others challenge and spare and rail against me in cyclical storm like patterns. I feel like a house built on the shore or a docked boat. Pick the metaphor. And their verbal sparing and challenges are the winds and the relentless rains from the water.
    It may be my parenting style…I don’t know. I allow it. I do know that I never would have gotten away with that challenging style with my parents. Never. Generational difference?
    However, I definitely want my sons to know that they have a place to rail and test the boundaries and still feel entirely safe and loved and accepted. I do have boundaries and I don’t believe I accept abuse. However, it is exhausting. So I let them rail at me. If I am like the shoreline, they can rail enough to blow away the top sand, but can do nothing to destroy the bedrock underneath.
    My college age son seems to have outgrown this behavior and is beginning to appreciate me and we are deveoping nice mother/adult son friendship..whew relief!
    With the son I am reunited, he also has done some of this railing and sparing.
    I wonder if he has needed to do the same kind of testing; even more so than my others?
    So, I wonder if any other mothers of sons experience this challenging and sparing communication style so unlike that you write about regarding daughters. Males like a challenge?
    I do apologise that this is so long, but it brings up something I have been thinking about for a while.

  4. I completely respect my mother (cloth) and don’t have much respect for my other mother (wire) (The new terms I like to use regarding them. I’m sure you know where that comes from.)
    Even though I don’t really respect the wire, I still try very hard to be respectful when I am around her. I also believe she’s given me damn good reason to lose that respect.
    My first mother deserves all the respect in the world. I could not imagine talking down to her or thinking she’s ignorant. In fact, I believe she’s the most brilliant person I’ve ever met.
    In general though, I am respectful to everyone. Despite being raised by an idiot (shhhhhhh don’t tell her) 😉 I try very hard to respect everyone I cross paths with in life.

  5. As a teenager I was disrespectful and condescending to my parents and teachers.
    In reunion my daughter has expressed a full range of emotions. It’s been much more difficult to develop our relationship than with my raised children. I’ve struggled with guilt and my own worthiness through much of our relationship. Owning up to my experience has been most beneficial. I’ve never really thought of her as being condescending towards me. She’s been angry. She’s blamed me. Could my own false sense of superiority affect the possibility of condescension? She is my child. We’ve both had a lot of growing up to do together.
    It’s more about hanging in past the emotional ride than looking down or up to another. One of my favorite sayings is “Spirit is no respector of persons”. To me that’s about getting to the true relationship beyond personality. It hurts to wade through the pain. But what choice do we have?

  6. I can be horribly disrespectful in a general way, I am a very arrogant person, I try hard to over come this, but I find when I am false, I am not very convincing.
    Apparently, my mother doesn’t notice, but like she said, she struggles with a false sense of superiority as well.
    I think it is anger though. It is very hard to deal with the fact that your mother left you, intellectually we can understand why, but the baby part never understands.

  7. I can’t speak to the relationship in reunion, but I do know that i had my moments with my mother. When I was in high school, there were phases during which I could hardly be in the same room with her because she just bugged me. But we’re now very close, so I think the root of that phase was me. May be there’s at least some of this at play in what you describe, Suz.

  8. See, I have the opposite thing. My first mom has said really hurtful things to me like, “I never think about you. I only think about your kids.” And then she laughs.
    I’m not sure why it’s funny. I find it very hurtful.
    And I don’t defend myself or say anything. I just clam up which is totally unlike me with other people. Not sure why that is.

  9. See, I have the opposite thing. My first mom has said really hurtful things to me like, “I never think about you. I only think about your kids.” And then she laughs.
    I’m not sure why it’s funny. I find it very hurtful.
    And I don’t defend myself or say anything. I just clam up which is totally unlike me with other people. Not sure why that is.

  10. A part of me really struggles with wholeheartedly believing that my mother really loves me because she gave me away. Its hard for me to move past that. It effects our relationship in a big way.

  11. My son was a bit patronising at first in our reunion. He thought everything he was told about me was the truth. Boy, was he in for a shock.
    At first, he said, “What do you want from me?”
    I said “First, I want you hear my side of things – then if you want me to, I will walk away. However, if, after hearing my side of things, you want to be friends, I would be delighted.”
    I then asked him about what he was told about me.
    He said “You didn’t know who my father was”
    I said “BIG FAT LIE! – your father has been helping me to look for you for years. He signed a court affidavit and he wants to meet you straight away. If you still have doubts after you meet him, you can do a DNA.”
    (my son and his father look like clones – both are exactly the same height, same build, same very bad eye-sight, same voice same dimple in the chin – they are even going bald in the same way!)
    Our conversation continued that way.
    By the time we were finished, he was eating humble pie.
    “Do you mean EVERYTHING I was told was a lie?”
    Yes I said.
    But how could they do that, he said.
    They are supposed to tell people the truth.
    I told him that they really didn’t want us to meet, so they told him a pack of lies so that he wouldn’t want to.
    He was shocked – but I pointed out that it nearly worked.
    He acknowleged that – now he does respect me after realising a lot what he was told was wrong – and that the authorities and even his adoptive parents could not be trusted to tell him the truth about his adoption (including the probability that his adoptive father paid a bribe for him – something that he does not deny).
    It is a bit complicated to go into my whole story – but it was the complete opposite of what he was told.
    After finding out what I was put through, he seems to have changed his tune somewhat.
    He is far more respectful now.
    He has even called me Mom – our reunion is 5 years old this Sept.

  12. Suz: I just read a blogger and I am not sure if I should/could mention the name. I wanted to comment, but then it would seem it would be a war of adoptees vs. bmoms. What I read is: the awareness of reunion is challenged in so many ways. I wonder why so many continue to have heartaches with their mothers when they search and find. Not all are denied! Not all are thrown away again. The problem is many come with challenges and anomosities towards their bio’s. You can hear it in the blog. WE are not all like this. They should not speak for all mothers who have been in pain all these years. They say they understand what, how, they were relinquished. But, there is resentment and an attitude. With that there can be no peace.
    I know you hear this, and so do I.
    If this doesnt belong here, erase me. Sorry

  13. this post does not at all reflect my experience in my own reunion. Maybe we are still in a bit of a honeymoon? But two years in and my daughter has never been rude, condescending or disrespectful. Perhaps her experience is a bit different than others you mentioned in that I have finished college, several degrees in fact, and she has not, but that example speaks to the bigger issue, which is does she hold me in overall warm regard and respect, or in contempt, and I am lucky enough to have the former.

  14. My anger is at the system that prevented her from keeping me. When she’s told me her story, I can clearly see coercion and pressure. Ironically she didn’t see it that way. She blamed herself and tried to take all blame. I didn’t blame her though because all I have to do is close my eyes, remember myself at her age, put myself into her situation, with all the people from the agency telling me I didn’t have a choice once she signed bogus prenatal papers that meant nothing but an “intent to surrender,” but made her think she already signed it. I believe that I would have done the same. I really do. It’s so easy to fall into the trap once you’re within their grasp, and sign what they tell you that you must sign *IF* you love your baby. I just can’t blame her because I truly do not see her fault in any of it.

  15. I didnt get condesation, I got anger, bitterness and general rudeness. I was lied to and about and somehow that was supposed to be ok.

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