Life imitating hell, and turning it all around

by Jennifer on April 8, 2008

Have you ever had one of those days when you’ve made an ass of yourself (and maybe even a couple of other people), and after trying to clean up that mess, you’re cranky, and tired and overwhelmed? The laundry is miles high. You can’t find a single clean spoon in the kitchen. Boy tells Girl, “Shake the can of soda before you open it!” and she does. Girl dumps 3/4 of a bottle of shampoo on her head, and you shouldn’t be upset because she’s washing her hair all by herself. (But you are.) And you haven’t shaved your legs in two days, because who cares? (time for a Super Wash, for sure)

That was my day, but my good humor is restored, even in spite of this little bonus:

My mother emailed me today. Yeah, you read it right. I thought it might have been related to the spam bonanza from yesterday, but it doesn’t seem so. She forwarded to me (and about a dozen others) a story about a kid named Shay who was challenged with mental and physical disabilities. But one day he and his dad were walking by the ballpark, and the teams invited him to play, and they let him score a run, and it made his whole year, and his family’s year, too. And then, God bless him, he died that winter. A touching story, yes.* At the end, there was a big moral-of-the-story paragraph or two, about being nice to people and changing the world, blah blah blah.

Which, I suppose, includes not disowning your children. But I didn’t read the fine print.

I couldn’t stop myself. “Did you mean to send this to me?” I wrote back. Eight whole words, when WTF? would have worked just as well.

She wrote back.

Yes, Jennifer, I did. You act surprised. The story of Shay’s Day has made the rounds of the internet several times, and I usually shed a tear or two, and then delete it without forwarding. But it’s time for the back-biting, nit-picking and secrecy that pervades this family to end. “Shay’s Day” points out quite well there are things more important than winning…that if we’d all choose to treat one another with respect and kindness, the world would be a much better place.

Ya think?

The Dalai Lama has got nothing on my mother.

The good news is that I feel impervious to this sort of thing now, whatever she’s up to, and I couldn’t have said that a couple of years ago.

And because it’s not weighing me down, this craziness, I’m going to leave you with a song that makes me happy every time I hear it. Dance it out, folks. That’s my plan.

*Edited to say: Now that I have confirmation that the story is true, I just want to say that my problem isn’t with the story itself, but with her use of it to manipulate.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Ducky April 8, 2008 at 2:25 am

You’re not going to believe this.

Not only is the story true, a friend of mine made a short film about it. I’ve seen it.

But what the hell does that story have to do with the family? Or her, as the Chief Backbiter, Nitpicker, and Secret-Keeper Extraordinaire (well, except when the other mother shoves her out of the way to do the honors)?

cce April 8, 2008 at 3:10 am

I love that you’re rocking out the bad stuff. I’m right there with you…had my own shit day yesterday and I’m glad for the musical upbeat this a.m.

Mrs. Chili April 8, 2008 at 3:33 am


Oooh, Girlfriend. I don’t want to be the one who points out that this could all end very, very badly, but I’ve got some first hand experience with this sort of thing. Go carefully (if you choose to go at all). I’m not convinced that a single internet forward (however touching it may be) can inspire a complete recovery, but I can tell from the tone of this post that you already know that….

Madge April 8, 2008 at 3:43 am

i love that you are feeling impervious to this. that’s exactly how you should be feeling. watch your back baby, watch your back.

Nicole P April 8, 2008 at 4:15 am

Oh dear, that is so sad about your mother. I quickly read over the back posts. If it makes you feel any better, you are not alone. I am estranged from my mother as well. Sometimes it is better that way.

Mary Alice April 8, 2008 at 4:41 am

Big breath. Blow out. What I have found is that forgiveness isn’t really for other person, so much as it is for you yourself. Maybe that’s where your mom is.

Brenda April 8, 2008 at 5:15 am

Yeah, I’m back…..with a vengeance!

I am so glad you are cynical and skeptical about this tender e-mail from your mother. I know I am, but I know that until a few short years ago, had it come from my grandmother, I’d have WANTED to believe and probably thrown myself down for another good trampling.

What I see in her words is that she’s still blaming YOU for the absolute SHIT in her life, and also the same that she’s put you through.

And who the hell is SHE to decide when it stops!? Actually, she IS the one who should decide, but it has to start with HER, the author of it, not YOU. (Loved Ducky’s comment along these lines.)

I also loved Nicole P’s comment that “sometimes it’s better that way.” Estrangement that is. Yes, it is. And it bugs me that there are so many in this world that try to make you feel like it’s YOUR fault that you’re protecticing yourself and your family.

Yes, I believe in forgiveness, but I don’t believe in sticking myself out over and OVER for another pounding. And you have children. There is NO need for them to go through any of that. If nothing else (and there is MUCH else), you are being all and more of the mother she wasn’t by protecting your children from her insincerity and genuine meanness.

I can’t help referring to the “tear or two” she’s shed every time she’s read that story. First of all, I’m accustomed to imitation tears on demand, and just the way it came out made me think of the many times I’ve witnessed them (sometimes in your presence) from some other matriarchal-type person we know. And then I have to think….. if she really has tears to shed, maybe it should be over what she’s done to you. In the past and now. What she’s continued all along. What she’s put you though. That she has closed off all ties to you. Those things would be worthy of her tears. But alas, I’m guessing there haven’t been many for those things.

In a nutshell, if she were really sincere about things changing, she would at the very least APOLOGIZE for at least one specific thing and admit wrong and beg you to forgive her. I don’t see one shred of that.

Thanks for the lively morning song. I’m thinking you put it there for the brief glimpse there was of cowboy boots!

Autumn April 8, 2008 at 5:44 am

I have dealt with being the one blamed for things out of my control (because when you’re a kid, you have no choice but to follow the adults decisions.) I have dealt with this sort of email, letter, etc., from a few people-with some I am now in contact with and some I still don’t talk to. It has to be mutual, this ending of things. But it also has to be honest, and it doesn’t strike me as such.
Maybe I’m wrong- I don’t know enough to truly judge (even though I have, from what I’ve read.) Mending fences can be healing, but so can burning the hell out of a bridge and never looking back.

Kellan April 8, 2008 at 6:18 am

I know you will tread carefully – I wish you luck and love. Take care – Kellan

Daryl E April 8, 2008 at 6:59 am

I searched in the hope of being able to say ‘its fake’ but nada .. I see from the comment up top that it is true ..

Makes no difference in the end she did what she did and she has to live with it. Gawd knows you have and worked through it enough to not reply bite me to her email.

Melissa April 8, 2008 at 7:36 am

I think we’re related. Isn’t it too funny how self-righteous they become when the think they “get it?” To quote the genius penguin from Madagascar, “Smile and wave, folks, just smile and wave.” Works for me–been doing it since ’92.

the mama bird diaries April 8, 2008 at 7:53 am

I got that email about Shay as well and wondered if it was true.

My 16 month-old and I just rocked out to that song. She is shouting, “more, more, more.”

Jenn @ Juggling Life April 8, 2008 at 8:26 am

Mary Alice is wise; listen to her.

we_be_toys April 8, 2008 at 8:41 am

Muthahs! Yeah, I think that pretty much sums it up.

Its like they have radar and know exactly when you are having the worst time of it, and thats when they call you, or email you some manipulative crap. I’m glad your sister said manipulate first, because that was my first reaction, but I didn’t want to be out of line.

Crank up the tunes so you can’t hear the phone, and dance to your own tune, baby!

Julie Pippert April 8, 2008 at 8:47 am

I got how you meant it as a problem. Sigh. That’s rough. In fact, it was rough on top of rough. What a time for you! I think it’s going around.

Yeah dance it out.

Suzanne April 8, 2008 at 9:41 am

I’m glad you are treading carefully here. The backbiting and nitpicking must end? Really? You were how old when all of it started? It sounds like she’s putting the mantle of blame on a KID.

I’ve been having a craptastic week as week, so the song definitely helps bring the mood around.

Hugs to you, hang in there…

Hatchet April 8, 2008 at 10:08 am


I’d have to say I’m in the “Cut all ties and tell them to jump off a bridge” school of philosophy, myself. No one needs that kind of pain in their life, least of all someone who has suffered as a direct result of her mother’s actions.

Besides, if she really has had a change of heart, that email would have started off with the magical words “I’m so sorry…” and she wouldn’t have needed a sappy story (though true) as a trigger. And the fact that she forwarded it to several people at once is another strike against her in my book.

I’m sorry Jennifer.

Jennifer Harvey April 8, 2008 at 10:23 am

I’m replying to everyone’s comments individually today, but I’ll tell you…I’ve got that song on a pretty constant loop right now! Fortunately, I’ve spotted the Dead End sign (re: my mother), and I’m going very fast in the other direction. Thanks everyone.

ByJane April 8, 2008 at 10:36 am

What I started out to say is, isn’t it amazing how –oh, wait, Melissa said what I started out to say. You have struck a chord here, obviously. Mothers and daughters–man, that is the subject for a lifetime!

Akelamalu April 8, 2008 at 10:54 am

She’s just trying to yank your chain I take it? 🙁

flutter April 8, 2008 at 11:59 am

I’ve always found trying to bite someone on the back is very difficult, she’s right. That shit’s gotta stop ;p

david mcmahon April 8, 2008 at 12:45 pm

So, who mopped up the contents of the can that was vigorously shaken before being opened?

Mrs. G. April 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm

You might explain to your mother that one inspirational antecdote (that has been played to death even though it is true) might be a wee bit lacking in explaining her need to deny your existence days ago. Protect you and your family-she makes me (granted I’m a stranger) weary.

Sandy (Momisodes) April 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Girl, you are my hero for letting this roll off your sleeve and rockin it out. Love it! My MIL is quite the manipulator as well and loves to forward these kinds of things to me (never my husband). Delete. Immediately. I’m not as good as you about it though.

I’m sorry she’s acting this way.

Landon April 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Your mother is just stunning – mind boggling.

What Brenda said… ditto.

Amanda April 8, 2008 at 3:26 pm

I hardly get emails from my mother. My father on the other hand, is constantly forwarding me forwarded joke emails. Not manipulative but clogging my Inbox!

Crazycath April 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm

And how does “I don’t have a daughter called Jennifer” fit in with this?

There is a long, long, long way to go.

You are wise to be cynical. Just don’t let it turn to bitterness now. Not after everything else. You are too good to be bitter.
If she is genuine then she will keep trying. If not, she’ll give up too easy. I think we know which to expect.

Especially given her last email to you before this. Sheesh!

Loved the song.

Hatchet April 8, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I’ve got an award for you (I feel like such a nerd! As if admitting to playing D&D, video games and watching sci-fi movies weren’t nerdy enough already….) on my blog, if you would be so kind as to drop by!

a. beaverhausen April 8, 2008 at 10:31 pm

I get where you’re coming from. Totally. My mom doesn’t know how to use the internet, so she can’t send me stuff like that. However, it is important to be nice. Trust me on this. My son’s good friend was such a person. Nice to everyone. And then he killed himself last night. You never know.

Lisa April 9, 2008 at 5:24 am

I am so sorry you have to deal with her 🙁
I am betting she is narcissistic.

Coco April 9, 2008 at 7:49 am

My mom loves to send me those e-mails. Normally her guilt isn’t quite so razor-edged, however. Your mom sounds like she could teach a Passive-Aggressive Seminar, though mine could certainly student teach for her. 😉

It’s always amazing to me how time and distance seem to soften the edges around the pain people caused those they were supposed to protect. And instead of regret and sorrow, they seem to view those wrongs as not so bad, not their fault, not what we remember them as.

It pretty much sucks.

Candy April 9, 2008 at 11:31 am

I’ve just sat here for an hour, devouring every word of this story. It seems unbelievable, and yet I know in my heart it isn’t. It aches for a child so confused and feeling hopeless. What a tribute to your strength that you have come so far away from that place.

HRH April 9, 2008 at 11:32 am

I am dancing off the energy I would use to punch her if I could. I do love this song. In fact it is a favorite of ours when we rock the nirvana with Rock Band.

JCK April 9, 2008 at 11:56 am

When all else fails dance. You have the patience of a saint. Glad you have this blog to put it all down.

Manic Mommy April 9, 2008 at 6:40 pm

I spend 30+ years trying to be rational with an irrational person. Take it for what it’s worth: not a lot.

Love that song.

Red Flashlight April 11, 2008 at 9:47 am

Here’s my question – why do we try to establish healthy relationships with toxic people?

Why can’t we just leave them alone?

Seriously. We, the abyss-walkers, are the least qualified to have positive relationships with people like that. Let someone else take care of them. I’d rather take care of the people who can actually use my help.

Emily R April 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Since having kids, I have become more and more confused by parents (and especially mothers) who can think to put anything above their children. You would think I would understand MORE than most people, but I think I understand LESS. Your mother mystifies me.

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