Monday, August 2, 2010

The Guilt Trip - A Mother's Legacy to her Daughter

"Do you have plans tonight?" my mother asked me one Friday night when I was 15 years old.

"Yeah...I was going to go hang out with Wanda and Wendy," I replied, know exactly what was coming.


"Well, if you have no real plans, I was hoping to go out tonight." Mom liked to go to Bingo.

"But it's Friday night, Mom, and I've been in all week.  So, I was kinda looking forward to getting out." I said, knowing that she was going to accuse me of "backtalking" her.

"Fine.  Go out then.  I'll stay home...again." she offered, staring at the television.

"No, Mom...You go out, I'll stay home with Lenny," I conceded. 

I have a brother who is 10 years younger, so growing up I spent a lot of time caring for him, helping him with homework, preparing his breakfast before school, babysitting, etc.

"No, really. Go out Kelly.  I don't mind.  I'll stay home."

All of a sudden, instead of pleading to go out, I'd be begging her to let me stay home.  Oh yes; she's that good.

Needless to say, I'd stay home, and Mom went out the door each time this situation arose knowing that her manipulation with guilt produced desirable results each and every time.

Today, I'm 41.  My mom lives alone, because her living with me just wasn't working for me.  And today, the guilt trip is still her preferred method of getting me to volunteer to do things I hadn't planned on doing.

Take today, for instance...My phone rings and once I looked at the call display, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, I guess I'm going to be running out today.

"Hello," I said, with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.

"Hi," Mom replied, sounding all sick and miserable.  "What are your plans for the day?"

"Not much, I was just going to do my thing on the computer." (I've learned to never ask why she is asking, or how she's feeling.)


"Kelly, I was feeling so good this morning. I really was, so I got dressed and ready to go do some grocery shopping, but then I started to have stomach problems.  It's been a couple of hours now and it's not getting any better."

"Oh, really?" I say, again with a lack of enthusiasm.

"I was really hoping to get out today because I'm out of everything.  But that's okay, I've gone a lot longer than this without food before. I can drink black coffee and make these few cigarettes last until I'm feeling better and can get out."

You know what happens next, right? I offer to drop everything I'm doing to go get what she needs.  Now I know you may be thinking that any daughter would gladly inconvenience herself to make sure her mama has what she needs.  And I agree with that - in normal relationships.  The thing is, my mother hasn't been out of her apartment in weeks.  This phone call happens about twice a week.  She has it made.

But the wonderful thing about my mother is that she has never asked me to do anything for her.  I always volunteer. The sad thing is, I always volunteer because my mother is very skilled with "the guilt trip."

It's a legacy that she's leaving me.  I have a 14 year old son.  A few months ago he asked me to please never buy him clothes from Walmart; his friends at school make fun of him. So, when it came time to replace his worn out skater shoes, he asked me for a particular brand that all the kids were wearing. I gave him a limit of $50, but after looking around the stores with him, it was evident that we weren't getting the shoes he wanted for less than $100. 

I caught myself using my mother's technique when I said, "I'll buy them for you but I'm going to have to wait to get those orthotics I desperately need.  But that's okay; I've gone this long without them - I can wait another month or two."  What did I just say?

My son replied with, "No, Mom.  That's okay.  You need the money for your orthotics.  I'll wait until you can afford it."  I immediately suspected that I had passed on the "guilt trip" gene to the next generation, but one look in his eyes put me at ease.  He was genuinely sincere and selfless.

Needless to say, he got his skater shoes, and I got piece of mind knowing that my legacy to him is still to be determined.

I'll talk at ya tomorrow.



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kelly .. gosh I can understand your feelings .. I really cannot deal with those sort of people. My mother thank goodness was never like that - and is not now - despite being bedridden for 4+ years .. I count myself lucky - there are other things .. but life is life .. manipulation is too awful. Sounds like you've 'done good' .. very good with your son.

I'm sorry to hear your mother passed on at the end of last year .. with thoughts and keep the happy memories of her dear to your heart .. Hilary

bearledunn said...

Jordon has always been a wonderful little man!
As soon as I read this, I guess he would say that!
Good love him xxoo

J.L. Campbell said...

The good thing in all of this is the fact that you caught on early to what you were doing and decided on another course of action. :D

Stratoz said...

wonderful post. Wisdom sometimes shows up after we say things, like when you almost guilt tripped your son. Have a great weekend.