I have found myself reading a lot of books about dysfunctional mothers lately.
Among them are “Please Let’s Don’t Go to the Dogs Tonight” by Alexandra Fuller, “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls, and “We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante” by Eve Pell.
I don’t understand my attraction to the works.
Into this genre falls “With or Without You,” a new book by Domenica Ruta.
Ruta’s story is based on her mother, Kathi, about whom she writes “My mother was a creature that needed to lick her fingers and touch an open wire every once in a while. She required this kind of jolt. It was the only way she could be sure she was alive.”
How very sad.
I think part of the appeal of these books is almost everyone I know had somewhat dysfunctional families growing up. At least, a lot of my friends now admit they did.
Some friends were raised in a two-parent home with times that sounded like the Cleavers, but further admissions have revealed that they, too, had secrets all their own.
My own mother was prone to bouts of depression, due partly I surmise to her sad childhood. Her father was a gangster in Washington, D.C., and her mother married several times. And although she was raised by strict, but loving aunts, I feel she never truly felt at home.
She did find solace by having a large family, but raising eight children with limited means took its toll in others ways. And while I remember most times were happy, there were some fragile spells tossed in there too.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I am so appreciative of the relationship I have with my children now.
While us Baby Boomers were raised by The Greatest Generation, many swept their personal problems under the carpet, so to speak, to remain there. But for the most part, we were raised with rules and conventions and routine and did what was expected of us.
If our relationships with our parents made us feel repressed or even abandoned like authors above, we had access to psychotherapy pioneered by Sigmund Freud and innumerable self-help books to help us sort out our feelings.
Like him or not, Dr. Phil can be mainstreamed into your home daily using what I call “bathtub” psychology to help you face life’s tough dilemmas.
A friend admitted recently her life hadn’t been as rosy as it appeared to be, and I asked her “How did you get through all that?”
“I went to a counselor every week,” she said.
I write this because I’ve been thinking about how all these tools have enabled us to be stronger, more confident people who are able to provide our own children with some substantial roots.
Nothing fills me with more pride than when one of my children calls me for advice and the crowning glories are when they write me notes saying, "thank you for having raised me the way you did,” which I am humbled to say come often.
I feel further pride when the sons-in-law call my husband, Tommy, for counsel from him too.
I say often my mantra is, “All of life is exchanging one set of problems for another set.” a
Even though I was not given all the material things I wanted as a child, I am fortunate to have had the unconditional love of parents who did everything within their means to guide me through.
‘Til next week.