I am fortunate to have siblings. Sometimes we exchange views about our parents, as children do. And I happen to know that our two, who are at university, exchange opinions about me and their mum!
I always thought the problem was my dad, not my mum. My dad had many old-fashioned habits (he was born in 1910) and he died when we were young. My mother has remarried happily.
Perhaps, with shades of Oedipus in one of those Greek tragedies, I tended to be critical of my dad and defend my mum. I was surprised therefore when one of my brothers talked about how we had both been affected by the bossiness of our mum. What was this? Yet I could not disagree with him. Now I was on the lookout for it, I saw a perfect example on a walk to the beach.
On arriving, my mother said, “Now, which way shall we go?” As with most beaches, there were two options, left or right, as we were not planning to get wet. Thinking it was a genuine choice she was giving me, I said, “Right”, which seemed nicer to me and I headed off. To my surprise, she ignored my reply and said, “I think we should go left, it’s much nicer that way. Come on.”
I was beginning to see what my brother had been talking about. Growing up, and even now as an adult, I had struggled to have my own ideas and make my own choices, especially when anywhere near my mother. Now I could see why. My choices would almost always get overridden with a better idea from mum, so there was little point in deciding for myself. Not that she was remotely aware she was doing it.
There was something satisfying about seeing the issue for myself so clearly on the beach that day. I did point out to her the contradiction in how she had behaved. Bless her, I’m still not sure she understood. However, the important thing was probably that I could now recognise the influence clearly, and I felt more free to make my own decisions.