A few days ago, I received a phone call from my brother, who ranted and raged for forty-five minutes over our mother. He was going to move out (for the second time) and find a rental property with his fiancée. This was met with fierce opposition, and a massive argument ensued. My brother complained that at thirty, he shouldn’t need his mother’s approval for anything and that he was a grown man. BUT, being the grown ass man that he claimed to be, he needed me to talk some sense into our mother.
I bet you’re thinking why he doesn’t just grow a pair and do it, right? ‘Cos that’s the first thing that came to mind and I was itching to blurt out. If only it was that simple. Let me back up and explain how dysfunctional my family is.
Our mother is extremely superstitious, suffers from undiagnosed anxiety and has a fragile ego that rivals Trump. Most of her “predictions” and beliefs are based on conspiracies and hearsay. Remember Y2K? Our mother fiercely believed that once the clocked ticked over to the year 2000, the world would self-combust. At her insistence, we prepped like Doomsdayers for that event. Canned corned beef was a staple in our family for years following that prediction. I can’t stand the smell of corned beef anymore.
As for our mother’s anxiety, matters are made worse from the loss of employment due to the pandemic and excessive screen time on YouTube watching some dude spouting conspiracy theories about WW3. She admits to sleep problems, obsessive rumination and heart palpitations but won’t seek medical help. Without her coöperation, it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know it’s going to be a bloody end but are helpless to stop it.
Is it any surprise that my brother’s intention to move out has caused our mother to react so poorly? Her internal anxiety is at a constant heightened state fuelled by feelings of the lack of control and concerns for the uncertainties of world political and economic issues.
It doesn’t help that she truly believes if Trump is re-elected, the world will end as we know it. So she insists that my brother not move out until mid next year. Why then? Who really knows. And if WW3 did happen, how is living at home going to stop the bombs?
In our mother’s mind, controlling her surrounding situation and son are her attempts to simply elevate some anxiety. It doesn’t matter that her reasons are ludicrous.
Threats of no-show to weddings and disowning, tears and tantrums were unleashed.
In fairness, my brother hasn’t helped the situation either. Instead of moving out like I did at eighteen and paving his own path, he stayed at home and let his mother baby him. It has been too easy for him.
At the ripe old age of thirty, his mother still clears the dirty dishes from his bedroom without any prompting. His clothes are washed, dry cleaned and folded away. Food is readily available with his mother only barely refraining from trying to spoon feed him. Is it any wonder that she sees him as a kid?
“You want to be treated like an adult? Act like one! Do your own damn laundry! Cook your own meals! Clean your dishes! Stop acting like a lazy teenager and pick up after yourself. You want some respect? Grow up and stop relying on mum for everything.”
That was the gist of my advice to him. Was I too harsh? Probably, but I was sick of everyone complaining to me. I have two unruly kids to deal with and don’t need two unruly adults added to my heap of responsibilities.
I did offer some further advice.
“You have one mum, and this problem is a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Think of the ramifications of both parties cutting ties. Do you want that for you and your future children? Calm down and go speak to her like an adult.”
I told him to consider things from our mother’s point of view and understand her fears of being an empty nester – the loss of her identity and purpose and anxiety for his safety. I explained to him how a person suffering anxiety could feel increased stress from lack of control and how they might react. I pleaded with him to find a better way to respond to our mother instead of lashing out. Fighting fire with fire wasn’t going to help anyone and someone needed to be the bigger person. Sometimes it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
My brother wasn’t the only person to bear the brunt of my brutal honesty.
“You are stifling him with your mothering. Don’t you want him to grow into an independent man capable of caring for himself and his family? How is you waiting on him hand and foot helping? Think back to when you were a newly wed, did you appreciate living under the same roof as your overbearing mother-in-law?”
As anticipated, our mother didn’t appreciate my blunt assessment and likened it to character assassination. Hurt and offended, our mother suggested that I wouldn’t understand her feelings until my children wanted to move out. Why do parents do that? It’s so bloody patronising.
Maybe I don’t completely understand the depth of her feelings but I highly doubt I’ll react the same way. Aren’t you supposed to be happy when you’re children become independent and capable adults? Isn’t the end goal of parenting to have them move out so you can rent out their rooms and supplement your retirement? Kidding.
Anyway, the phone calls have ceased. My brother finally grew a pair and sat our parents down for a serious adult conversation. They’ve come to terms with it, and he’s moving out by the end of the year.
If my thirty-year-old kid had a decent paying job, a fiancée and could finance multiple investment properties, I would be shoving them out of my door.
Can you imagine anything worse than walking through your door and accidentally coming upon your kid and his/her partner ‘aggressively snuggling’? Actually, there is something more traumatising than that – them walking in on you…
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