My friend told me about spending a birthday with her granddaughter on her 16th birthday. She told me that the girl told her of her mother’s betrayal, telling the girl’s Tai Kwando teacher, the mother’s co-teacher and secret lover, that the girl said his teaching technique was faulty. The mother told her boyfriend and the boyfriend then attacked the daughter for a variety of unrelated things. Clearly to the girl, it was punishment following the mother’s betrayal.
As a result, the girl was not speaking to her mother except for necessary directives and the mother seemed not to notice. The girl, an adoptee, asked by her mother years ago if she as regarded as her mother, answered one half. Mom immediately said that they could hunt down the girl’s mother in Guatemala if she wanted. Mom was totally unthinking, probably unconsciously and deliberately so, that the girl found her to be one half a parent because she acted in a half-parent way. Telling her boyfriend what her daughter said about him was a perfect example.
I asked my friend what did she say to her granddaughter when she heard the story. She said, “I was silent.” I heard a warning note in her voice, a “don’t go there” and wondered why. She was being half a grandmother the way her daughter was half a mother.
I dared to ask why she said nothing in return to her granddaughter’s disclosure. She said I don’t want to say bad things about my daughter. She said it in a haughty way, part of her Buddhist training to only support love. I wanted to say more but she clearly did not want to hear it. So, I will say what I did not say to her and then some, here.
She had a vituperative demanding mother who required worship. She was designated the caretaker of her younger brothers. No one thanked her for it and she quickly learned to keep her mouth shut, particularly since her father was even worse and had no interest in her at all. Keep an A average and get out of my way when I leave to be with my friends at the airport (he had a tiny plane) bought from his teacher’s and minister’s salary. Family came last if at all.
Fear underlay her silence although she painted it with the color of goodness. Sometimes, what we tell ourselves about how wonderful we are is merely a cover up. She exemplified the silence that her granddaughter was using towards her mother, a kind of unstated non-endorsement. She was supporting the same kind of alienation she had from Mom and Dad in childhood. She was covering up her own overly indulgent behavior she always had toward her daughter, giving her the support no matter what she never got from her Mother and creating a self-centered spoiled brat. It is this brat part of the girl’s mother who did not think to ask what makes me only one half a mother to you, my daughter.
My friend needs to tell her granddaughter to tell her mother about her hurt feelings at the mother’s passing on the girl’s secret to her lover. Yes, the mother’s feelings might be hurt. It might be hard for her to consider that something she is doing is causing a problem. But do remember that the mother’s upset and subsequent (hopeful) examination of her motivation as well as thoughtless if not ill-intentioned doing, feeling sorry and apologizing will bring mother and daughter closer.
It is always better to air grievances so that trust is reestablished. There is nothing better than knowing you can always talk about it.