Monday, 16 July 2007

What goes around...

I remember what it was like to be twelve/thirteen and being made to go somewhere I really didn't want to go to. I can still recall that sense of sullen resentment at being dragged to a classical concert/christmas carols/an adult party/some stranger's house for 'drinks' - whatever my mother had on her calendar - when I would much rather be with my friends, or at the very least indulging in pursuits appropriate for my age.

I must have sat on hundreds chairs, in living rooms all over London, listening to my mother chat to one or other of her friends (all of whom, she would insist, had been 'very good' to us - as if that should make me want to be there) mentally
willing her to finish her (seemingly) trivial conversation and get up to leave. I would stare at her hard to try to make her stand up and go to the door, but naturally she would carry on regardless, oblivious to my presence - let alone my thoughts. Sometimes, tantalisingly, she would get up as if to leave, only to sit down again as a new topic of conversation was broached.

I'm not sure why she took me along on these occasions - presumably I couldn't be left at home - or else she genuinely, but misguidedly, thought I would enjoy myself. What I have never been able to understand is that she didn't seem to recognise, or even acknowledge, that the things which she enjoyed and wanted to do, might not be my idea of fun. If I put on a 'face' or acted 'surly' I would be lectured on how I should enjoy myself, be happy, be grateful etc. And then she would get upset because I had 'spoiled' her enjoyment.

These memories are vivid, because she hasn't changed. She still gets cross or upset if I dare to suggest that what she likes to do, read, eat, believe is not my cup of tea. I think it thoroughly true to say, that this is one of the many but key
issues I have with my mother. And yet, this weekend, to my shame and horror, I did exactly the same to my own daughter.

It was the day of the music festival. I had to be there early to perform in my Rock Choir. It was a big occasion for us oldies - opening act on the main stage, headlined by Madness. We were excited. In my enthusiasm, I'd bought my husband a ticket for the day and the kids got in free.

The performance went well. Surprisingly, there was a big crowd already gathered to watch us amateurs. I spotted my family coming into the festival, but couldn't see where they were sitting. Loads of family and friends of choir members had gathered near the stage, waving, grinning, pointing and supporting, but mine was nowhere to be seen. I spent a lot of time scanning the crowd to locate them - for some reason, I felt I needed to make eye contact, to feel they were with me - but I never saw them.

The performance went well, we gave it our all and we all left on a serious high. When I finally found my family, my hyper-raised spirits were immediately shot down. They had been sitting far away at the back, my husband looked annoyed and there were black looks all around. My daughter clearly didn't want to be there - or anywhere near me in actual fact. She hadn't wanted to come closer to the stage (someone might 'see' her watching a cheesy Rock Choir) and apparently hadn't 'allowed' my husband to even tap a foot or nod his head during the performance, for fear of looking uncool.

I felt hurt and furious. This was the one and probably only time I would ever do anything like this and my daughter had spoilt everyone's enjoyment by her nascent teenage self-consciousness. I had to take off my choir top (embarrassing!!) and she tried to make me promise not to move when the next band came on. 'LOOSEN UP!' I spat, 'I'm here to enjoy myself and I'm damned if you're going to spoil that for me!'

She spent most of the day sitting on the ground, staring at the ground and it seriously wound me up. My son constantly whinged about buying something and my husband was at the end of his rope. All around us there were families really enjoying themselves, but mine all looked as though someone had died. Clearly they would rather be anywhere else and with anyone else. I started to have a go at my daughter for 'spoiling it' and humiliatingly, tears started to gather and drop, despite my best efforts to control them. My husband then pointed out that he hadn't really wanted to stay on at the festival, he'd assumed we would leave soon after my performance. He also said that I was acting just like my mother.

With the hot/cold shiver of realisation, I made myself face the truth. Oh GOD! He was right. Just because I'd wanted to be there I'd assumed everyone else did - just like my mother. And when it was clear that they didn't want to be there - I got upset with them - just like my mother.

As they say, the truth can hurt. I never thought my daughter would feel as embarrassed to be with me as I had been with my mum. I mean my mum really WAS embarrassing and she really DID have a vastly different taste in music/things than me. But taking myself back into my twelve-year-old skin, I began to realise that it's embarrassing to be with your mum at that age full stop - whatever she is like. OF COURSE my daughter feels mortified, she's TWELVE.

It's hard, it really is, but I have to face facts. I'm a mother of a soon-to-be-teenager. Though I truly thought it would be different for me, it won't be. Somehow, I'm going to have to get used to it or else I really will turn into my mum.


Motheratlarge said...

Poor you. Sounds really frustrating and disappointing. My mother-in-law behaved like this at my wedding - and she doesn't have the excuse of being 12. I could have cried, but I was too proud. Since having my daughter sometimes I have this out-of-body experience in which I feel like I AM my mother. You sound like you have a lot of insight into the emotions you're going through.

Mid-lifer said...

Thanks motheratlarge. I sometimes have the out-of-body experience when I can't believe I AM a mother - I still feel about 25!

But, as my ex-step-mother, now my father's carer (yup, it's complicated) says: midlife (and having teenage kids) is just another phase of life and I'm trying to understand, if not embrace it.

Omega Mum said...

Welcome to blog world. I'd say only one thing about your picture and it's nothing to do with the aesthetic qualities. How many indiscretions are you planning to reveal and will anyone who can identify you be reading them? I find the anonymity of my blog delightful.

beta mum said...

My oldest is only 8, and I'm not even allowed to TALK to him if someone else is passing us on the pavement.
I dread to think how he'll be in five years.

Mid-lifer said...

Well omega mum...I don't look like that now..which is a relief I'd say. Not sure who would recognise me, but point taken...hmmmmmmmm (scans for less-incriminating photos)

Mid-lifer said...

Beta mum: My 9 year old boy is the same. There is an upside to this. Singing in the street/acting 'whacky' or overly cheery wavey mum is the best threat to use when you wish to instill decent behaviour.

Viz If you don't stop xxx I'll start waving and grinning at strangers/ give you a kiss in public - or whatever is considered the most heinous.

debio said...

You are not alone, mid-lifer. I am definitely my daughter's (aged 12, too) greatest embarrassment, especially at school events.

But, I must confess, I even sound like my mother on occasions, using the same phrases and employing the same facial expressions - and my daughter thinks she's embarrassed?!

Drunk Mummy said...

I have already turned into my mother!
I feel it is my solemn duty to embarrass my kids - it will give them some horror stories to snigger about with their friends when they are older.
Besides, when I was young, the most embarrassing parents were those who thought they were 'like best mates' with their children. We just thought they were idiots.