So here is the second part of the entry that I posted on Sept. 24, 2010.
Little Sister has lived with us for almost five years. I could write chapters on how difficult it is to deal with an emotionally complex teenager. But I won’t do that on this blog. My mother’s ability to compartmentalize is amazing. While the whole conflict was unfolding, she swore off all of us in the most verbally abusive, brawling, caustic way you can imagine. Every now and then something sets Mommy off, and she sends me a spiteful email or letter, in which she gleefully conveys vicious, scathing gossip about me and attributes it to others, rather transparently. She never identifies these cattier-than-thou women outright, but she usually stirs the pot by claiming that it is someone close to me, who is pretending to be my friend, but really thinks I’m the worst daughter ever to walk the earth. If she’s trying to bait me into checking out who these “traitors” might be, she’ll be disappointed. I don’t believe much of what she attributes to other people, because I know that she’s just trying to wear me down until I cave in and let her walk out on her responsibilities to the child she adopted. I certainly don’t devote much time wondering why a woman who claims to be a Christian makes a hobby of maligning her own daughter, all for very self-serving purposes.
When I was pregnant with Baby, I didn’t tell Mommy about it until my eighth month, because I knew she would start to lay a lot of emotional claims on Baby. I knew she would find a way to make herself the focus of the pregnancy. Sure enough, now that Baby is here and growing up nicely, she is trying to take credit for the baby’s good looks, sweet nature and anything else she can think of. She’s trying to move in on my daughter’s life, while pushing everyone—including me—off to the side. It amazes me that she thinks it’s acceptable to deride Little Sister and me, mock and badmouth us both to whoever will listen, and then expect me to allow her to form a bond with my child. It is beyond presumptuous and damned near diagnosable. Does she think I was brought into this world specifically to be her patsy, then navigate all the complexities of a high-risk pregnancy, all for her greater glory? Moving on.
Mommy is contemptuous toward Little Sister and the more callous family members who worship Mommy and have taken sides with her are just as cold. Little Sister gets ignored on major occasions like birthdays and holidays. She rarely gets cards, and never receives gifts or phone calls. Meanwhile, Mommy will go out of her way to send money and little packages for Baby. Also, Mommy only checks in to get Little Sister’s grades. Mind you, she doesn’t ask whether she is involved in sports or clubs. She just wants the grades. I am suspicious about this, because she seems to be fishing for fodder to berate Little Sister with, and argue that we shouldn’t be sending her to a private school.
That is daily life for us now. We live out a cycle of seeing her lash out in some way, admonishing her to be civil, receiving backlash for our admonishment, and getting the iceberg treatment for several months. Sometimes I wonder what Hubby must be thinking, with several clusters of his wife’s Jamaican family taking sides on the issue, from the island throughout the diaspora. Aside from the ones here in New Jersey and maybe outside of London, who are not as harsh and strident as their more insular kin, my family’s response has been disgraceful. They expected me to turn a blind eye to everything that was going on, and to pardon Mommy’s destructive actions.
Heaven help me if my family ever gets wind of this blog, and its contents. Because here is the other expectation from my clan and culture: Never publicize your family woes. Even if your parents and family elders are being deliberately cruel and oppressive, take the passive, submissive role and suck it up. The unwritten doctrine of parental infallibility says that as long as they put up with you long enough to clothe, feed and shelter you, they can say and do whatever they like. The son or daughter’s role is to be meek and pray that God will supply a wellspring peace to withstand everything that is thrown his or her way. But THAT is the part of my upbringing that I utterly reject, because I’ve learned that my mother had developed a recent habit of blatantly throwing people away. She got away with a lot of it because of her beauty, talent and general longstanding popularity.
I personally have very little hope that Mommy will restore her relationships with me, or with Little Sister, even if she grudgingly grumbles that she “went too far” by dumping Little Sister abroad. Mommy is a very unforgiving person, who believes that Little Sister compromised her health and finances, and deserves whatever suffering comes her way. She tells herself—and several others from our tight-knit community—that the only reason I helped Little Sister was to get revenge on her for what she says was some totally innocuous and completely unavoidable slight on her part. Even others have been swept up in this ridiculous mania and written to me, begging, “for God’s sake” to come clean about whatever so-called grudge I supposedly have against my mother, wipe the slate clean and quit persecuting her. Sometimes I wonder if a mass dose of mood stabilizers is not in order for this crowd.
I hope that woman in Tennessee feels contrite about what she’s done and finds a way to make up for her actions. And I wish the same for Mommy. Both women still have a couple of choices before them. They can either redeem themselves, or use up the rest of their lives in denial about the cruelty and recklessness of their actions. I think my mother should drop her hopes for unconditional sympathy and rebuild her family life as best as she can. Judging by the backlash to that Tennessee woman’s decision, the general public has no sympathy for someone who says they’ve adopted a child, but when they decide that it’s not what they want, just tosses that person away like an old piece of luggage.
If my guess is correct, there are more people in our family who actually crave the old fellowship that we all had in the 1970s and 1980s, and would readily embrace Mommy again if she abandoned her belligerent and hurtful ways. Her future well being, then, is really up to her.