Monday, September 7, 2015
"Here's To You, Mrs. Robinson" - A Different Kind Of Triangle
January 15, 2014
A little while ago I ran into a post about a four-year-old child who had been separated from her mother for two years. The title of the discussion was, "I-dont-like-you-mommy-i-like-grandma."
The post was by a Bubblews contributor , and it reminded me of one experience I had being separated from my mother for a far shorter period of time, and when I was three years old. The situation was different, and I was never a child to yell at my mother (as the child in the above post apparently is), but I thought, maybe, that sharing the perspective that I remember might offer some version of insight into a couple of different angles/perspectives.
When I was three, my mother went to the hospital for kidney surgery for several days (no longer than a week, maybe a couple of days less). The day before she was to come home I knew I'd get to go with my father to pick her up. I had ideas about what a special day it would be, and how we could maybe go to lunch at doughnut shop that was in the city square. (I was three. To me, just being able to have lunch with my two parents, especially my mother, alone would have been special. Besides, I didn't know the difference between a doughnut shop and a nice restaurant at that age.)
I thought about how special a time we'd have together - just the three of us. My mother, always one to be kind to strangers, had offered the older woman who'd been her roommate a ride home. So, as my father and I sat in the car (they didn't let little kids in hospitals then), waiting to see my mother show up with a nurse; I was shocked to see the woman show up as well. My mother told my father she'd told the woman they'd bring her home. I was really angry, and when the woman got in the back seat and my mother said, "This is Mrs. Robinson, say 'hi' to her," not only did I refuse to speak, but I refused my mother's attempt to hug me, as I sat in the middle of the front seat. I sat closer to my father, and my mother kept saying she didn't know why I was "being like that".
Looking back from where I am today, I can tell you that I wasn't angry at the woman. I was angry at my mother for not knowing what I'd been hoping would happen when, after I'd missed her so much, she brought a stranger into the car and was acting as if I was supposed to treat that lady nicely (like a special guest in the car). I suppose I'd expected her to know how much I'd missed her (three-year-old children tend to be very, very, attached to their parents and other close adults; in fact, they're almost kind of " in love with" the close adults in their life).
So, they brought Mrs. Robinson home, and my mother apologized to her for how I'd acted.
I loved both my parents the same way, but unless a child hasn't spent the usual "bonding months/years" with a mother, how children feel toward their mother is different - no matter how much they love their father. That coming-home day meant absolutely SO much to me, that I was angry because my mother a) didn't seem to know that, and b) didn't seem to think it was as special as I'd seen it. I wasn't a little kid who needed attention for me. I had plenty of that. At three (probably close to four, because there were Winter coats involved, and my birthday is Spring), I had just imagined, hoped for, and assumed we'd have some kind of little celebration for this very special, and happy, day.
We went home to have our lunch before my father had to return to work. I think I started to talk again as people started asking things like "What do you want for lunch?". Even then, though, I thought my father should have stayed home for the rest of the afternoon on that - again - day that felt so special to me.
My father hadn't know that my mother was going to spring Mrs. Robinson on him (and me), so he couldn't tell me the night before (in which case I might not have gone to bed so excited about the day I just assumed we'd be having). I was embarrassed at my having imagined such a big deal being made (once I saw that nobody else saw the event as a big deal), so I felt silly (and if I use a more adult term to describe how I felt as well, I felt like a fool). I wasn't able to tell my mother about all the plans I'd imagined, because I was too embarrassed. I'm not sure, at that age, I even knew that I had any right to imagine such plans or to expect more from my mother.
In the car, when my mother had said (in frustration) to my father, "She won't even talk to me," my father said, "She'll be alright." I don't think either of them knew what I was angry at or why. They just (most likely, and based on things they said) seemed to assume that my having been separated from my mother was "the thing". It wasn't the actual separation at all, of course. It was the reunion that was the problem.
Throughout my childhood, when I'd had something bothering me and wasn't able to answer my mother when she'd ask what it was; my mother would say to me, "I'm not a mind-reader. I can't fix it if you don't tell me what the problem is." I can't, of course, speak for all children - on the child that I was at one time - but my thinking was kind of, "If you don't already know then you aren't the person who knows how to fix it anyway."
My mother was a great mother - one of the most loving and thoughtful and understanding mothers a kid could have. She just wasn't quite the "mind-reader" I needed her to be sometimes, when I knew that what I had to say would have hurt her feelings or otherwise sounded "horrible" (at least to a young child).
To this day, I sometimes try to figure out why it was my mother handled that situation as poorly as she did. Did she have too little self-esteem and not realize how much her children loved her? Did she not remember being a young child and how she felt about the mother she'd always said she loved so much? Was she - like so many other adults - guilty of grossly underestimating how much awfully young children are capable of thinking about and/or feeling? Did she - like so many other adults - see other adults as more important than her own child/children, mainly because children are little and adults are big?
I'll never know for sure, because I never explained to my mother - no matter how grown-up I ever got to be - exactly why it was I was so completely shocked and disappointed at what she'd done to my plans for such a special day - especially since that special day was about how much I'd loved her and missed her, and how happy I thought we'd all be to be together again.
Posted by ME Whelan at 12:37 PM