Mother Daughter Swap

Like millions of Americans, I called my Mother yesterday.

Having tea a few years ago.

“I just called to say Happy Mother’s Day.”

“Thank you. And you too.”

I always find Mother’s Day awkward. Partially because, despite the fact that I am a Mom, I think my mother still sees me as the daughter who needed her all the time. Or the daughter that she wanted to need her all the time.

I’m no longer the daughter my mother knew.

I don’t often write about my family for a number of reasons.  Guilt. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. They all filter my relationship with my family.

Please understand that I am not blaming them, I blame myself. For a long  time I tried to perceive my family differently and to keep my connection with them in the ideal family sense. But I failed.

We all failed.

Yesterday Mom sounded pretty good. She had a positive lilt to her voice which she doesn’t always have. Of course, she was disappointed that my older sister decided to celebrate a friend’s birthday instead of Mother’s Day. But that’s not surprising to anyone, really. My sister’s role in the family is one of the reasons I don’t write very much about the family. It hurts too much. (And don’t worry, she very rarely reads this blog I’m sure. My brother does–you know him from The Odd Ramblings . . ., but I’m sure he understands what I mean.)

Then the conversation took a surprising turn.

“I think I’m retiring in July,” she tells me. “But now everyone’s telling me I shouldn’t retire. First everyone told me I should, now everyone’s telling me I shouldn’t.”

“Who is telling you not to retire?”

“Auntie Sis and one of your Dad’s home care people.” (My Dad has Alzheimer’s and I feel awful that I cannot spend more time with him or help. Another reason I don’t write about them often.)

I hesitated before I responded. I have been encouraging her to retire for a while now, because she complains about being tired all the time and about how she cannot get anything done. But, I know my mother. She’s not the most social being. She is no longer likely to pursue a project or a hobby simply because it interests her. She always has an excuse as to why she cannot do something.

So while a part of me thinks she should retire, another part knows that retirement might lead to fading away.

So this is what I said:

“Mom, I understand what they are saying. If you retire and do nothing, simply fade away, then that’s not a good choice. I know you, and that could happen. But you are the only one who can make the choice. If you can promise yourself to DO SOMETHING when you retire, then you should retire. But I can’t make you do anything, and you have to choose.”

“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of. I have a lot of thinking to do.”

Just like that our relationship changed. For a brief moment, she heard and accepted what I have to say.

It hurts to be so far away from my family, because I cannot help them deal with the changes that come from age and life. But, it also hurts to be near them because I cannot stop the changes anyway.

Each of us have chosen paths in our lives. Now all we can do is live them to the best of our abilities.

I leave you with a video my brother made. Watch closely and you will understand why. His original post of the video is called “Time Passes (a visual poem)“.

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vixter2010
    May 09, 2011 @ 08:16:41

    All relationships change and develop, it’s only natural and sometimes you need certain people more than at other times. I think it was great you could give her advice and she listened, you were both equals. I’m sure you will always be there for your own daughter and that’s what really matters. Happy mothers day!


  2. Taochild
    May 09, 2011 @ 08:29:37

    Like many relationships, families are colored by expectations as well as media defined definitions. The reality is that time changes everything. And when you are dealing with something that could possibly cover all the ages of your life, one of the major things that time will change is perspective. Things remembered as good or bad in times past are filtered through what we value in the present, and rarely were exactly as we remember. Wisdom arrives when we actually allow ourselves to recognize this fact 🙂

    Never got the chance to wish you a happy mother’s day, so belated happy mother’s day!


  3. Tori Nelson
    May 09, 2011 @ 09:41:31

    Isn’t it odd how relationships have a way of totally changing without us noticing. I had a moment like that with my mom, advising her and counseling her like a mother would typically offer to a daughter, and couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about me being the grownup in that conversation.


  4. Hilary Clark
    May 09, 2011 @ 10:26:55

    Amazing post! It took a long time, but I finally feel my mother and I have come to a place of mutual respect and admiration. We’re friends today and that makes me grateful. Thank you for sharing!


    • Lisa
      May 09, 2011 @ 10:33:56

      I don’t know that we have achieved friendship, but at least we are on a slightly different level of communication. I think. Thanks for reading.


  5. Sandi Ormsby
    May 09, 2011 @ 12:21:32

    Lisa, many of us aren’t close to our families. I forgot to call my mom and will do so after I’ve had my coffee and comment on a few blogs. I have to seriously prepare myself for that conversation.

    Here’s the thing, she didn’t call me either. I get texts from her on my birthday. Our visits have been reduced to her traveling to meet us at my son’s little league game and they immediately leave to go home after…they never spend time with us prior or following the game. She’ll go early and wait for us there.

    She can’t help herself but to criticize my parenting in an off handed way “Well, at Grandma’s house, we sit for dinner. At Grandma’s house, we have rules.” with emphasis on grandma suggesting we don’t have rules at our house…or she directly says things and when I call her on it, she says she’s just kidding and “I forgot, you don’t have a sense of humor. I can’t kid with you.”

    Yet, on an occasion here and there, we’ll have a “break-through” moment where we are friends. Where we chat on the phone together. Where there isn’t judgement on either of our ends. Where we get each others sense of humors and really laugh. Those warm moments, are so precious. I take my time, spending an extra 15 minutes on the phone, to relish that moment. Other days, we hang up within 5 min or just text.

    I say, don’t worry about the things you can’t change, let the guilt go…it is what it is… relish the future moments you do enjoy!

    BEAUTIFUL photo of your mom and she’ll be okay! She’ll make the right decision for her. Whatever she decides you can celebrate with her.

    Lake Forest, CA


    • Lisa
      May 09, 2011 @ 12:56:45

      Trust me Sandi, I know those not so subtle jabs at parenting ability, or appearance, or anything else that do not live up to the ideals of what nobody in the world can do the way she thinks they should be done. I hope and pray I don’t turn into that one day, and have the same relationship with my daughter that I have with my mother now. That would break my heart.


  6. nrhatch
    May 09, 2011 @ 17:15:38

    Beautiful post and loved your brother’s video ~ Enya is the perfect vehicle to express the passage of time.

    I so relate to where you are vis a vis your parents. It’s hard being apart from them . . . and harder to be with them.



  7. the domestic fringe
    May 09, 2011 @ 18:43:19

    Great video by your brother. Family relationships are the hardest. We don’t live near any of our families, but I wish we did for our children’s sake. My grandma had Alzheimer’s and it was very hard on the family. In fact, I don’t think some of my grandma’s children have totally gotten over it yet. She’s been gone for two years now. I don’t know if you’re interested, but the book Still Alice really helped to understand some of what my grandma was dealing with. I wrote a review on it and I’ll include the link. Sometimes it’s too difficult to read when someone in your family is going through it. I get that. Just thought I’d let you know about it.


    • Lisa
      May 09, 2011 @ 19:25:22

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll keep it in mind if I think I can handle it. My emotions about the situation go up and down.


  8. thepetalpusher
    May 10, 2011 @ 05:32:49

    Wonderful post–it made me feel that I am not alone. My sister and I haven’t spoken since October. My mother favors her for many reasons–one being that she had never married. So my mother sees her as an equal, a friend. And then there is me. My father is the sweetest person but goes along with the status quo. Thank god for my brother! Video was great.


  9. Donna Jean
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:14:23

    Mother Daughter Swap has special meaning for me. My mother also has Alzheimer’s Disease. She is like a toddler, albeit a very large one. Sometimes she is a sweet, loving, affection seeking toddler and sometimes she is a stubborn, selfish, temperamental toddler. I feel so guilty expressing these negative thoughts. I am exhausted. I have to remember she never wanted this. She planned on killing herself before it got this bad. There is no calendar telling you this is the last day you will have the executive function necessary to commit suicide. My father was also diagnosed with AD this year. It’s a long slow goodbye.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      May 10, 2011 @ 18:37:04

      No guilt allowed. You have every right to feel exhausted. I understand, and feel guilty myself that I can’t help my family as they deal with these issues. But this is a safe zone for you to say what you need to say. Sending you lots of love Donna.


  10. Donna Jean
    May 11, 2011 @ 17:25:34

    Thank you, Lisa. The night I posted that comment my son and I went to visit “Gramma.” We enjoyed ourselves. Mom laughed so hard she had a coughing fit, three times! We blew bubbles, played catch, and made balloons out of exam gloves. She needs to play. We all need to play!


  11. Trackback: Daughter swap | Propowerctd

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