Broken Boughs

My family tree is large and its roots stretch across the globe. I don’t even know how many second cousins I might actually have, much less their parents’ names.

But I’ve often wondered if having relatives even matters.

You see, I have struggled for a long time with family expectations and standards. As the eldest grandchild, I was expected to set an example and my mother pushed me to excel in school and in other activities.

When I did well, I was praised and my mother was pleased. When I didn’t, which was more usual, it was explained as, “Well, she never studied/practised enough and she’s not naturally bright/talented so why should I expect anything from her? She’s useless!” or words to that effect. So I buried my feelings, avoided the stares and resolved to try harder next time.

But school got harder, extracurricular activities got more demanding, the days seemed to grow shorter and my grades got no better.

I stopped trying. I hated school. Hated the other kids (heck, they hated me but that’s another story). Hated always being the one never chosen for the good groups or interschool competitions. Hated always having to play the piano at family events. Hated being my mother’s chance to outshine the kid of Aunt This or Uncle That.

Because my mother also skillfully kept all relatives’ attempts to chat with me at bay, nobody ever knew how I felt. One of my aunts once encouraged me to write to her (she lived in another state) and my mother found out. “Why are you so stupid? Can’t you see she just wants to assess how you write then teach her children? Do you think she cares what you have to say? You’re so stupid.”

Back then, I knew nothing of narcissism or Tiger Mums. I only knew what lay ahead if my mother didn’t look good, or if I didn’t do things her way. I remember telling her off once, that she treated me as a performing monkey more than as a daughter. That conversation didn’t end well.

Most conversations with my mother never ended well. She and I are different personalities. And my father was never strong enough to support his child against her.

I stopped speaking to my mother 15 years ago. She tells everybody that, followed by a litany of all she has done for me and how much money she has wasted on me. And how I am unfilial, worthless, undependable, untrustworthy or whatever.

Family occasions are weird because we’re both present but we stay apart. It works for me because I have nothing to say to her, and she can’t call me any names.

I have started seeing a therapist to help me deal with the unreleased fury and grief I have within me. I want to learn how to cope with how I feel now and how I felt then.

What has this post got to do with branches? Well, there are countless branches on my family tree. Yet not one provided shelter or shade. I don’t want to blame anyone because narcissists are that good at camouflaging the truth, and they probably saw what she wanted them to see.

I have so much to say about my mother. I might share more stories. We’ll see.


11 thoughts on “Broken Boughs

  1. Sorry to hear that you’ve had such a poor relationship with your mother — and your wider family. Hopefully, releasing your feelings into the wild like this will prove cathartic for you. Perhaps you could try getting in touch with some of those other branches?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a shame that we end up with some toxic relationships in life, especially when it involves a parent. I’ve had to forgive my mother some awful things. She never should had responsibility for any living thing, children or pets. But she now has severe dementia and though she lives in another state in memory care, I have to take care of her finances and other things. So it goes.

    I hope you won’t have to eternally avoid those other branches on your tree. Maybe the time is right for some of them to learn who you really are. Or maybe go out to the tips – where your mother hasn’t gone. I’ve been able to get to know many of my mother’s relatives, people she’s not cared much about in a very long time. I cherish them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Yes, honestly, I’ve wondered about the relatives who might at least be neutral and be sympathetic. I guess I need to be strong enough to reach out one day, track them down … I’m not encouraged by an incident at a funeral last year: an aunt I hadn’t seen for years and almost never recognised came up and went, “Oh, so you’re the daughter!” and it wasn’t friendly. Believe me, my mother’s reach is wide.

      I’m sorting out my thoughts and feelings. Writing them here and in my journal helps.

      Liked by 1 person

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