When moms turn childish.

“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” – Ferrell Sims

I wanted to eat all day yesterday and I couldn’t figure out why. Then it hit me.


First some background: I am an only child and my mom and I do a lot of vacationing together. When it comes to planning, my mom – who is 71 years old, in perfect health, and has more energy than I do – will play the “I can’t work the computer” card, which is total bullshit.

I end up doing all the footwork: researching the venues, making the calls, and presenting her with options, which she then criticizes.

To say this pisses me off is an understatement.

My mom also has the habit of ordering me around, which I really, really hate. I could go on about the dynamics that have fueled a bazillion food binges I won’t.

I understand that the role of long-suffering adult child is one I’ve taken on gladly, not wanting to make waves but most importantly not having the confidence I could take care of myself without her.

I’ve had enough.

I have slowly been taking positive action to change these lifelong, destructive dynamics. I am thinking of my future there. As my mom and I move into the second and last parts of our lives together, I want to establish a different kind of experience with her, one in which I’m less codependent.

Thanksgiving .. or is it?

So, this week my mom and I had a “thing” via text and it upset me. My cousin Paul is supposed to host Thanksgiving in Palm Springs and texted me saying he was considering canceling because of a recent COVID spike in his area.

My mom and I have already booked our rooms and I asked her if they were refundable. She forwarded me the confirmation email and by reading it, I saw the good news that we could cancel up to 24 hours before the booking.

I texted her this information, to which she replied, “You better call to make sure there are no hidden fees!”

This pissed me off.

For two reasons:

  • One, I don’t appreciate being ordered around, and
  • Two, there’s no reason why she couldn’t call.

I took a breath and asked if would call when she had a minute to which she responded, “I’ll try.”

I wanted to text back a dozen sarcastic replies, such as “I’ve seen you use a phone” or “I don’t work for you” but I didn’t.

Later that evening, I sent my mom a separate, unrelated text.

No reply.

Unless I am misreading this situation, my mom is throwing a fit. She is pouting and punishing me. And it works. I feel guilty and want to call the hotel to please her.

And then binge my brains out.

In this particular instance, I have held my ground and have not caved in to her implied demand, but these instances are rare. It’s no accident that I have gained over 30 pounds in the past year: under every pound is a boatload of feelings with guilt, fear and shame being top among them.

My mother can be like a willful child throwing embarrassing public fits when she doesn’t get her way. She will bully me to do what she wants and then switch to the silent treatment when I refuse.

And I have eaten and eaten and EATEN over this my whole life. I am afraid I am being a bad daughter. It always comes down to that and the terror of not having her in my life because it means I won’t survive.

Back to that only child thing.

Being the only daughter of a troubled young woman – my mom was 19 when she had me – has been the source of a very intense, very primal internal struggle.

My mother was very unhappy during my childhood and often took out her frustrations on me by alternately yelling, berating and ignoring me.

Fortunately, Mom’s mellowed with age but that hungry, panicked kid is still inside me and when she pulls shit like this, I get triggered. I go back into “kid mode” and think, “Oh my God! If my mom abandons me, I’ll die!”

This is where self-soothing and positive self-talk comes in. I’ve been working hard to stay in today, remind myself that mom is not going to abandon me over a text, and most importantly …

She’ll get over it.

I haven’t texted her since she ignored me and I don’t plan to. I’m going to let this play itself out and keep myself calm. 

Thank God I didn’t eat over this. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years on the planet: The only one I can change is myself.

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