“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.â€ – Carl Jung
I wonder what specific things my daughter dislikes about me.
In discussing my post of yesterday with a few friends I was reminded of many adoptees I have helped reunite. Nearly all of them are in their early twenties. Nearly all of them have given their mother in reunion very specific direction, judgements, corrections on her behavior or life. I find this a bit unsettling for all concerned but more personally wonder when, what, if my daughter will do the same to me.
Consider my friend H.
H found her mother a few years ago. Upon finding her she proceeded to tell her mother that she was too fat, needed to lose weight, must stop smoking, must stop dating the guy she was dating and must get a new job (because it was a lowly job and reuinted daughter was embarassed to tell her adoptive parents what her mother did for a living).
If mother did not do these things, H indicated she would have a hard time developing a relationsihp with her and might decide not to see her. The weight, smoking and boyfriend were a big issue for H. In my opinion, she was essentially threatening her mother. Do what I say and be the mom I want or you will not be allowed to see me at all.
H told me all of this and I often found myself startled at her boldness. Because of the nature of our friendship, I could (and did) gently probe her on the demands she was making of her mother. Were they appropriate? What were they rooted in? Was she attempting to make her mother into the mother of her fantasy versus accepting who her mother really was? Did she also demand such things from adoptive mother? Over time, H seemed to soften and told me she appreciated me poking a bit at her as she realized how difficult she was being.
But H is not alone.
Several of my other friends, also the same age range, have done similar things in their reunions with their mothers.
- Don’t smoke or I won’t talk to you anymore.
- Stop drinking or I won’t see you.
- Don’t dress like that or I won’t be seen with you.
- Brush your hair differently or I won’t allow you to come to my home.
- Don’t date that guy or I won’t call you anymore.
- Don’t have a myspace page. That is for young kids. Act your age.
Where does this come from?
Do all adoptees, at least all female ones, accept their mothers in reunion only with conditions? Is this an age or maturity thing? (Recall that nearly all my adoptee friends are of the same age). Does a 40 yo adoptee entering reunion make such demands on her mother or is that something that is limited to twenty something adoptees? Since many adoptees were given conditional love by their adoptive parents are they simply mirroring what they learned? Since they grew up being told to be a certain way, act a certain way, pretend to belong, do they feel it is okay to say the same to their mothers in reunion? Are they even aware they do this?
When our children do or say such things to us, do they have any idea how triggering that is to days gone by?
If my daughter gave me a “don’t”, I am quite confident I would hear my father saying “Don’t put those pictures out. That did not happen and we will never discuss that.” (“That” being my daughter). It would be very hard for me to separate out my daughters DONT from my fathers DONT. Once again, I would be feeling not good enough, not right enough, not welcome and not accepted only this time by my own child.
I couldnt sleep last night. As my fan whirred along side my bed, I stared up at the ceiling and wondered what ultimatums might daughter might someday give me and equally so, how I might respond. (Maybe she already has and I have already responded?)
Would she tell me I am too fat, too short, too loud, too uneducated, not a good enough mother to her brothers, dont dress properly for my age, or what?
My belief is that if she were to ever say any of those things to me, I would take my own mothers approach and tell her to “stuff it”. LOL. No seriously. (Well, seriously, my mother would tell me that and has when I have corrected her or demanded things of her. She is also good for telling me to go pound sand). On second thought, that stuff it would be my first internal reaction, but my likely external reaction would be to tell her I found her words offensive, hurtful and to ask if we could talk further about them. I have a pretty high emotional IQ and have had enough to therapy to think before I react. But what about the mothers that havent had the benefit of what I have?
I suppose, for me, the delivery of such information or request would make a huge diffierence. If my daughter said “I wish you would not smoke. It concerns me for your health and I want you to be around as long as possible”, I might be touched and it might actually lead to me ceasing smoking. (I dont smoke, btw). But if she said “Smoking is disgusting. You are disgusting and if you dont stop I wont be around you”, I might have to tell her to take a long walk on a short pier.
But still, I am curious, where does this come from?
Does this conditional love for mothers in reunion vary by adoptee?
Is this fantasy related? Trying to obtain the mother they dreamed of versus the mother they really have?
Is it age/maturity related?
How should a mother respond to such demands?
Do we, as in years past, become someone we are not to satifsy the wants of others or do we push back and risk losing our child again?