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the pith helmet

     I'm relatively intelligent. And I know some pretty smart people too. So I figure that it's about time that I share that intelligence with the rest of the world. Do you have a question? Sure you do! So ask it here!

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Published on 12/30/2000

Lauren asks:
I need help! My mom is being a real whacko. We were in the car, coming home from three days of me being away. She was complaining about my grandad not wanting to take care of our possible new dog one moment, and then yelling at me about not getting a summer job. I want to get one, but she thinks I'm too young and not mature enough. So I argue with her a little and then decide to give up and not talk. She leaves well enough alone for about FIVE MINUTES until she spoke up again. By then I was getting mad and getting a headache. She lightens up for a minute and looks at me and says, "You don't like me very much do you?" I was still headachy so I guess I must have looked serious when I said, "No." Then she asked why and I said, "Coz you're my mom." You know how that goes. You hate your mom while you're a teen and then you grow out of it. Well she got and indignant look and went to her side of the car. A few minutes later I heard a sniff and looked over and she was crying! Bawling on the highway! My goodness, I was KIDDING! I told her so, and she said I didn't look like I was, and so I just sighed and didn't say anything else. She would just yell at me or cry more. So we got home about a half an hour ago and she hasn't spoken to me since. She went in her room for about twenty minutes and came out and won't even look at me. I'm not pushing it or anything, because I think it would be great if she would just not talk to me ever again. At least until I move out. Only four years left... What I really want to know is what I did wrong, what I should have done, and what I can do to make it up. I mean, I may not like her, but I don't want her to hate me very much.

Well let me first say that the notion of "only four years left" can be a very dangerous one in the forming of your perceptions of the world. If you are living at home, I can only imagine that you are either finishing up middle school or just starting high school. In either case, if all goes well, you have a long life ahead of you. If your answer to the problem at this stage of your life is to just wait a little bit longer, then the answer to any problem in the next stage of your life will be, once again, just wait a little bit longer. Don't like high school, just wait until college. Don't like college, just wait until full-time employment. Don't like that, just wait to the next job, or retirement, or what have you.

Next thing you know you'll be sucking your oatmeal through a straw and wondering where your life has gone.

I can certainly understand your frustration with your parents. Having recently re-entered the household of my childhood as part of a transitory period of my life I can say for certain that parents exist to annoy. It is their sworn duty to make your life awkward and bothersome. On the other hand, they do tend to also be human beings with feelings of their own and problems and such. That should be the groundwork upon which you build your relationship with your parents.

You ask what you did wrong in this situation, and I think that the only appropriate answer there was that you told your mother that you did not like her. Despite it being said in moderate jest it must have still stuck a chord. She was left to wonder what it could have been that she had done wrong in raising you. She, perhaps, felt like a failure. Like she had skipped class one day during parenting school and all of a sudden there was this pop quiz and she just blew it. Except that there is no parenting school and she had to learn it all as she went.

So the answer is that you probably should not have told her that you didn't like her very much. But it was said in a moment of heated tempers, and it is understandable that these words tumbled out of your mouth (and here I give you the benefit of the doubt that you really do not have your mother as much as are just a typical teenager who is completely fed up with not having any sort of independence). So what should you have done next? Apologizing probably would have been appropriate, though sometimes that does not particularly work, even when said in all sincerity. So the only thing you can do is let it sit for a while, and then go and give your mother a hug.

Woah. Physical contact? Yes. A situation like this warrants more than a half-hearted muttering of "I'm sorry." It requires a full-out admission of defeat for this particular battle. That is not to say that either party is correct in the dispute. Oh no. What it means is that you are adult enough to admit to some amount of guilt. Once this particular situation has been cleared up, the playing field has been leveled once again for the summer job discussion.

I really need someone to send me in some sillier questions. These are starting to tax my brain. Best of luck with your mom.


Well, if your family is anything like mine, you can
just do nothing at all. Your parents will quickly
start to pretend that nothing has happened and your
life will go on in the same repetitive haze as it was
before. Yay, not talking about emotions!
Posted by Joel on 12-31-2000 12:34


my mom is the same way. keep on trucking.
Posted by jenna on 01-02-2001 16:36


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