When Fiction Helps You Realize You’re Being an Idiot

Growing up, my mom and I were always pretty close.  We confided in each other and for the most part, I felt like I could tell her everything.  This continued into college when my mom worked at my school (protip: having a parent work at your school can get you a fat discount) where I also later worked.  I would often visit her and we would complain about our respective jobs and encourage each other to persevere through our various trials.  When she stopped working, we saw each other in person significantly less, so she tried to supplement this with regular phone calls which, for some reason, bothered me.  Well, I know the reason, it felt like she was checking up on me because she expected me to be failing at life.  Or because she was overly eager to hear news about non-existent love life.  In the first instance, it seemed like a distinct lack of trust in my ability to be a successful, productive adult which I felt like I was doing rather well.  In the second, I felt like I was disappointing her with my singleness.  The chaffing feeling caused by these regular phone calls increased when I finally came out to my parents and I now had the added bonus of knowing that my mom was in constant fear I’d go full gay and end up in a pride parade or something.  Eventually, I asked her, in no uncertain terms, to stop calling me so much.  I know this is a terrible thing for a child to tell their mother and, while I tried to do it as nicely as possible, I know I still hurt her.

Cut to a few years later, I’m listening to Marilynne Robinson’s book, Home, and agonizing over Old Bowden’s feelings towards his son Jack.  He constantly worries about his son and, no matter how many times Jack fails, his father is still there loving him and wishing the best for him.  I found myself wishing that I had a parent like that and it finally dawned on me that I do and I pushed her away.  What I saw as her being overbearing and not trusting me was actually just her showing me love and attention and while, at some level, I knew this to be the case, all I could see was how it affected me and what I felt about it.  One major difference between my relationship with my mom and Jack’s relationship with his father is that Jack, objectively, made some pretty huge mistakes in his life so it makes sense for his father to worry about him and to question his choices and actions.  Conversely, I’ve pretty well avoided making moral or ethical mistakes in my life (not to brag or anything) and have chosen to keep all my bad decisions squarely in the realm of indecision and lack of effort (go me!)  Anyway, to sum it all up, I was a jerk to my mom and I need to find some way to invite her to be a bigger part of my life again.

2 thoughts on “When Fiction Helps You Realize You’re Being an Idiot

  1. Does your Mom read your blog? Just show her this post. That’s my oversimplified solution.

    (I currently feel kind of like a backwards “Ask Amy” advice column. Instead of people coming to me, I go to them. Take it as you wish…)

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