My mother doesn’t understand me. In fact most of my family doesn’t either. Don’t misunderstand – they love me. I have no doubt of that at all, but they often seemed bemused by me. It’s as though I’m a changeling dropped into their lap and they’re not sure what to make of me. I’m more introverted and less social than my siblings. I’ve never felt having a large circle of friends and acquaintances was important while my sister and brother seem to befriend almost everyone they meet. I also don’t’ believe I’m alone in this sensation. I’m sure lots of folks out there have felt their family did not understand them. In fact I have no doubt that at various points in time my siblings have been positive that I don’t understand them either; and they’d be right.
So why am I bringing this up? It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I recently had an experience where I shared what I considered to be an interesting insight with my mother and she snorted at me! Yes, she snorted at me! At that moment I realized that while my mother loves me and remembers who I was as a child but she rarely understood my motivations or thoughts and beliefs. To her credit, I’m sure she tried but I was not the most forthcoming child. Add to this three more children, a demanding and needy husband and a job that required a lot of overtime and my mother didn’t have a lot of time on her hands to dedicate to getting me to open up. It was easier to just let me alone as long as I didn’t get in trouble, and I was rarely in that kind of trouble.
Over the years I have come to believe that I make my mother uncomfortable. Over the years we’ve had conversations during which she revealed that for many years I intimidated her. She felt I judged her and found her wanting. She’s right – I was judgmental because I could not understand why my mother tolerated the abuse she received from my father. I suppose it speaks volumes for my mother that although she did not understand me, she did manage to raise me to be strong enough not to put up with that kind of abuse myself. She also loved me enough to tolerate my intolerable arrogance and judgmental attitude. We have managed to forge a very good, solid, supportive relationship over the last few years. Once I realized that many of the issues that troubled our relationship were as much mine as hers. This was another minor epiphany for me.
I am offering this to others out there who have had troubled relationships with family members; those who often felt misunderstood and alienated from them. Remember that sometimes our memories are faulty and that we tend to view such situations from our own, self-serving perspectives. Instead of clinging to our conviction that we were right and our relatives are don’t love us because they didn’t understand us, try looking at things differently. Be a bit more open-minded and honest with yourself; accept that some of this might be on you too. Of course I’m not talking about abusive family relationships – those are often broken beyond repair. I’m talking about more typical family dysfunction that can be overcome by some honestly, open-mindedness and love on both sides. Maybe you’re not quite the changeling you’ve believed yourself to be.