Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Mother's Guilt

As I titled this post, I realized that one could interpret it to mean the guilt that a mother constantly feels with regard to her children. You know, the guilt that keeps us up at night with thoughts such as, "Should I really have let S have two pieces of chocolate cake today?", or "I shouldn't have yelled at S when she refused to get into her car seat today. I am a horrible mother", or "Crap! I forgot to put sunscreen on the baby today." Every mother has these thoughts. And it's a topic worthy of a post. But, it's not the kind of guilt that I am writing about now. Instead, I mean the guilt that a mother foists onto her children. Particularly her adult children. Her adult female children. Who live 3,000 miles away. And have produced the only grandchild in the family.

Yes, I have fallen victim once again to the guilt trip. And, it's not just any guilt trip, but it's the Italian Mother Guilt Trip (IMGT). For some reason, Italian mothers are excellent practicioners of the guilt trip, rivaled only by the Jewish mother. And my mom is no exception. Here is how the conversation went last night...

Mom (with a very practiced nonchalant tone): "Ah, I was wondering were you planning to come home this summer to visit?"

Me (anticipating this question for the past three months): "Well, Mom, I wasn't really planning on it since your house is up for sale. It doesn't really make sense to travel back to NJ to visit you if you're not going to be there."

Mom: "Oh, we'll still be here."

Me (scrambling for another excuse): "Well, I am not sure. I mean, we're taking this vacation in August and R can't take any more vacation."

Mom (with her first blow): "Oh, well I thought we could go to the beach. I mean, I was going to sell the beach house this summer but held off because I thought you or your sister would come home for a visit. R doesn't have to come. You can come out with just S."

Me: "Well, maybe I'll come home in September. I have to see. You know, it's really tough to travel with a two-year old alone."

Mom (with the second part of her one-two punch): "I was thinking that if you came at the end of July, I could fly back to California with you and be there for S's birthday. That way you wouldn't have to fly home alone either."

Me (struggling now): "Well, I'll think about it."

Mom (with the knockout punch): "It's just that I know your grandmother would like to see S and you know I just don't know when she's going to get the chance to see her again. You just never know what could happen. Who knows how much longer your grandmother has. She's keeps asking when she's going to get to see S again."

Me (reeling with realization that I am now getting both the IMGT as well as the IGGT (Italian Grandmother Guilt Trip) by transference): "Um, okay."

I was powerless to resist. I never had a chance. So today I bought S and I two roundtrip tickets to go back to NJ in July to visit my parents and of course my grandmother.


ninepounddictator said...

I would laugh at this, only because I have a jewish family who is always guilting me into everything. from watching with eagle eyes to what food I'm eating on the plate they made for wondering if I'll be coming to visit them at their cottage this summer...and then they pull out the whol baby thing and argh...let's just say I know where your'e coming from!

im_in_chains said...

Wow, I can totally relate to this. For the last however many years I've refused to feel guilty and in its place is anger; anger at my mother for trying to guilt trip me and anger at myself for not pulling her up about it.

I also experience what you have described, where you can sense the guilt trip coming but once the blow is delivered, I reel from the shock of it (even though I expected it) and I never know how to appropriately respond, so I either give in or stay quiet hence increasing my anger at myself.

It's so difficult!