Do Not Lose Your Temper, Do Not Lose Your Temper

It’s a silent mantra that I repeat to myself when I’m around my mother. “Do not lose your temper. Do not lose your temper. Do not lose your temper. Do not lose your temper.” It requires an extraordinary amount of self control on my part to not snap at her. Almost everything she does and says drives me nuts. Admittedly, I’m overly sensitive and not very patient towards her. Hence the mantra.

Growing up, my mom was my hero. I was so proud of her, of her strength, her sheer grit, her survival instincts, her ability to provide for us better than any first generation immigrant mother that I knew. She was awesome, and I knew without a doubt that she loved me. Not everyone can say that about their mom. Throughout my life she was one of my best friends. I confided in her and trusted her opinion.

Then she went through menopause, moved in with us, and got all weird and crazy. I honestly don’t remember her being as much of a nag as she is now. She can’t ever refrain from commenting on what I’m doing to tell me how to do it, whether it’s sweeping the floor, drizzling soy sauce on my daughter’s rice, or washing my face. I just want to shout at her, “I’M 35 YEARS OLD GODDAMMIT!!! I FUCKING KNOW HOW TO SWEEP/DRIZZLE SOY SAUCE/WASH MY FACE!!!!!!!! STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!!!!!!!!!!” It’s maddening to have your mother hovering over your shoulder, giving you instructions while you’re making instant noodles or frying an egg. I’ve been making a concerted effort to hold my tongue, settling instead for sullen shrugs.

Two things that bother me the most are her negativity and compulsions that border on pathological obsessions. Being around her is kind of a buzzkill. She’s always complaining about something, either about herself or someone else. She has chronic insomnia, indigestion, and heartburn, symptoms that are all related to each other but for which she won’t follow any sustained course of treatment, preferring instead to just bemoan her ailing health and prophesy her early demise. My flippancy might seem cruel, but after months and years of badgering her about her health and forcing her to see a doctor and fill her prescriptions, my concern has morphed into frustration. Everything is always gloom and doom with her, when it doesn’t have to be. She also has a habit of seeing the worst in everyone and thinking the worst of everything. And because I’ve always been in the habit of valuing her opinion, once she plants an idea in my head, it takes root and becomes hard to yank out. On more than a few occasions she’s ruined an experience or a person for me by broadcasting her negative opinions. It’s hard for me to like someone that my mother doesn’t like, even if her reasons for not liking that person are completely ridiculous and irrational. She still has so much power and influence over me, which is precisely why I get so riled up by her. If I could stop caring about her opinion, I could stop caring whether she had a negative one.

I don’t know at which point my mom started being so obsessive compulsive. She will verbalize something that sounds like a suggestion. Except you realize it’s not a suggestion because she will mention it over and over and over again, every five minutes, until her “suggestion,” which is actually a rabid compulsion, is addressed. She doesn’t make suggestions; she makes demands that are disguised as suggestions. One of her compulsions is force-feeding my kids. All the expert advice and literature I’ve read indicates that it’s bad to force feed kids. I’m against it, and I’ve explained to my mother countless times why it’s bad for kids, physically and psychologically. And yet we go through the same tortuous routine at almost every meal. Just as we’re about to sit down to eat, she “suggests” that we feed the kids. I tell her practically EVERY SINGLE DAY that we’ll eat first and take care of the kids after we’re done eating. First of all, the food is too hot to start feeding them right away, and secondly, it’s stupid to try to feed an unwilling child at the same time as you’re trying to feed yourself. Stupid, inefficient, and unnecessary. No matter — she’ll keep suggesting, “Should we try to feed the kids this? Should we try to feed the kids that? How about this? How about that? How about this? How about that?” She’ll inevitably end up trying to feed the kids while she’s eating, and they’ll inevitably start crying and screaming that it’s too hot or refuse to eat and we’ll have to endure the distracting and very unpleasant spectacle of watching my mother juggle three eaters, two of whom do not want to be eating. It’s torture for all parties involved and it’s torture to watch. She’s quick to lose her temper and start yelling when the kids don’t want to eat, which is the majority of the time. The sounds of shrill scolding and whining children definitely detract from my enjoyment of the meal. And she has it in her head that our kids can and should eat as much as we do. If they manage to finish their bowls, she’ll scoop more, and force feed them until they cry or gag. That’s not how I want my kids to experience food. If they’ve already been eating for an hour and it’s going to take another hour for them to finish their food, I’m all for throwing in the towel. They don’t need those last few bites of rice. They’ll live. It’s not worth sacrificing the time or sanity, and it’s not healthy to make them eat more than they reasonably can. I can tell my mother these things until I’m blue in the face but when mealtimes arrive, she reverts back to her demented fixation on getting them to eat until they want to throw up. She’s also a terrible listener; constantly jumping to conclusions, cutting you off, or not paying attention at all.

For these and other reasons it seems easier to take care of the kids without her interference. It seems easier to relax and enjoy myself in general without her interference. Her presence puts me on edge; I’m practically bristling with annoyance when she’s around. It’s hard for me to be around someone who’s impatient and incapable of chilling out. More and more I find that I crave peace and serenity; I want to be surrounded by calmness. I don’t want to fight and I don’t want to hear fighting. Tom tells me that my mom is never going to change her behavior, so it’s up to me to change mine. It’s hard because I’m just as quick-tempered as she is. I have to let things roll off my back. It’s easier for me to let something go once I vent about it. Good thing I have a husband and a blog.

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A former corporate attorney who is now happily retired and does whatever she wants.

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