They had met at the local club. Mom was so excited. He showered her with attention, adoration and gifts. Especially roses. He was everything mom was missing in dad. Whenever they spent time together, he made her feel like a queen. If for some reason, they couldn't see each other for a while, he would hide the roses for her in the woods right behind our house, so that she'd always reassured that he always thought of her.
The Parentification of a Child
In case mom was too busy to pick up her rose, guess whom she appointed to do it for her? Right, it was me. I might have been around twelve years old at the time. Not only did I have to go and get her roses, I had to sit with her and listen to every detail she outlined about their relationship. His gentle kisses, the way he made her laugh, how he fufilled her every wish.
Did you recognize that everything I just told you about our conversation, was about her? This relationship served on purpuse, and one purpose only: to help my mother feel better abour herself. And so did all of her relationships. Even the one with her own child. Our relationship was about her feelings, her needs, her desires, her fears, her distorted perception of what she thought the truth was. She reversed the roles of mother and child. In the psychological field the term used for this pattern is called parentification. In short, this is child abuse. A child should not be made a parent's little confidant or best friend. Just imagine the burden put on the kid. Let alone the safe harbor the child gets robbed of.
Of course I did not realize this in my childhood or even adolscense. When mommy needed me to listen to her, I was thrilled. First of all, this was almost the only positive attention I got from her. This was my intimate time with my mother. At those moments, I felt closest to her. Therefore, her confiding in me, making me her ally against dad and the world, was something special. I must have been special somehow if she trusted me with keeping her secrets, right? I just recently read in a book, that the borderline waif does not realize the impact of her abusive behaviour onto her children. Being consumed by her own helplessness and pain, she always seeks relief and reassurance in relationships. She honestly has no emotional capacities to care for her kids.
How about dad? Coincidentally, my therapist asked me about my father just yesterday. Well, I don't feel anything toward him. I never did. At least nothing affectionate. I do not remember one single day, on which my dad was interested in mom or me. My father was cold, demeaning, very critical, distant and authoritarian. He judged every single person by their looks, intellect or functionality, including his own daughter. Feelings were foreign territory for him. Caring and supporting his child must have been unthinkably burdensome to him. Thank goodness, he wasn't around much. Secretly I wished, he would've just disappeared and never come back. Then finally, mom could've been happy. Dad was too full of himself to even be interested in mom having affairs. What a fool he was.
The Break Up
One day, after all of this was going on for months, mom broke up with dad. She decided that she wanted to be with her lover. Dad seemed to be completely untouched by this. Why would he be? Dad was the most indifferent human being on the planet I had ever known. I watched him insulting and shoving her around as though she was some bothersome object. People probably were only objects from his point of view. My father is a textbook narcissist. Anyway, dad did not love my mother. I had in secret always questioned his capability of loving. Even when I was very young. Somehow I guess, I could sense the emptiness inside of him. In fact, mom had often told me, that real love doesn't exist. At least not in real life. But maybe this time it'd turn out differently for her? Maybe her new love was different?
Shortly after mom had broken up with dad, she announced that she was going to go on a trip with her new lover. Dad did still lived with us at the time. I stayed home and didn't think too much of it.
The crazy thing happened in the aftermath, when mom came back home after the trip. I remember her standing in our old-fashioned kitchen with tears streaming down her cheeks, stating histrionically that the three of us were a family and that nothing should ever come between us.
Wait. What did just happen? I thought her new boyfriend was the most amazing guy in the world? I thought dad was finally going to move out and we'd be happy? None of this made any sense! Sitting in our kitchen in coplete bewilderment, I was unable to respond. Mom played the victim, kept on crying for a while and dad just shrugged and went on with life as though nothing had happened.
A few hours later, my mother told me that during intercourse her lover had these weird looks on his face which she disliked. She described it in vivid detail what I'd like to spare you from. Remember: I was twelve years old at the time.
It wasn't until my thirties that I realized how sick all this was. What kind of mother would create such a chaos and then make her own daughter her ally in this insane mess? Well, a borderline mother does. As a child I wanted to please mom. I wanted her to be happy. She never was. Somehow I thought I was responsible for her misery. That it was my fault, because I couldn't save her from pain. Today I know, this was the burden she had out onto me. Mom never will be happy, if she doesn't work on herself. No one can help a borderline to feel better. The individual has to admitt, that she herself needs to change. And for that matter, so do I.
Rescuing the Borderline reinforces her Pathology
Have you ever heard of a quote stating that children would be easier to handle if they came with a user manual? Well, how about we invent this one for borderline parents? If anyone told me that attempting to rescue mom was going to reinforce her pathology, I would've never even tried. Attempting to solve the borderline mother's problems for her only weakens her. What she really needs is getting the appropriate help to help herself. Borderlines, too, can learn from mistakes and do better next time as a consequence.
Well, that ship sailed for me. I have already written about our major blow up last summer which ended in me yelling at her. Ever since I have been the ungrateful and bad kid. Of course, I'm aware that yelling is never okay. Period.
My mother refuses to speak to me since the day our fight happened. And that's okay. If you try too hard to rescue, help, take away the pain and to be there for her, you lose yourself in her problems. Because it only reinforces her helplessness, you are at risk of drowning in her pain. This can result in you losing your temper toward your mother, like I did. I absolutely own my part in this. The first thing I needed to do, was to put the burden down. No more rescuing. I was about to bleed out.
Of course, lacking the appropriate role models, I didn't have all the information I just gave you for around 30 years of my life. Neither did my mother. Nevertheless, we need to grow up. It's time. The same recources are available to all of us. At least to those of us who are privileged enough to live in the western parts of the world. If you are struggeling, please get the help you need. Find a good therapist, a self help group (I know, I repeat myself), read informative books or talk to a friend. If you feel utterly alone, please reach out to me! I would love to hear from you!
Thanks again for reading! I am sending hugs to all of you!
Till next time...