Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lies My Mother Never Told Me

I was asked to review Kaylie Jones' book Lies My Mother Never Told Me through TLC Book Tours. I had actually seen this book at the library and didn't get it because the kids wanted to GO and so I figured I would just add it to my reserved list but I never got that far. When it came up as an option to review I jumped on it because something about the title pulls at me, you know?

Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A MemoirTo give the quick and dirty synopsis, Kaylie Jones is the daughter of James Jones, who was an award winning author of many novels including his most famous, From Here to Eternity and her mother Gloria who was fiercely intelligent with a mouth to back it up. Unfortunately for Kaylie, her father dies when she is in her teenage years and she is left with her brother and her mother, whom is developing into a raging alcoholic. Kaylie's father asks her on his death bed to basically help her mother not drink herself to death so she lives for decades under this pressure to follow through on his wishes.

The problem is that obviously you can't help someone who doesn't recognize they have a problem and others around them think there isn't a problem. It was until Kaylie realized her own drinking is out of hand and she admits she is an alcoholic that she recognizes her mothers problem. Kaylie really struggles with the criticism she gets from her mom and she is really stifled in her own life because she dreads what she's going to get from her mom because of it.

My favorite passage of the whole book was: "We cathect an object narcissistically..when we experience it not as the center of its own activity but as a part of ourselves. If the object does not behave as we expect or wish, we may at times be immeasurably disappointed or offended." In my mind, I could hear my mother saying "How can you listen to such shit? You have no taste in music." My mother could never say "I don't like strawberries". For her, it was always, "How could you eat strawberries? They are the most disgusting fruit in the world." A parent suffering from narcissistic disturbances sees her child only as a mirror image of herself.... What these mothers had once failed to find in their own mothers they were able to find in their children: someone at their disposal who can be used as an echo, who can be controlled, is completely centered on them, will never desert them, and offers full attention and admiration. But , of course, a child cannot help but be a child. A child grows fussy, sometimes rejecting, sometimes demanding, easily exhausted, and exhausting. My mother had no patience for any of this. She adored me - as she was quick to announce - but she could only tolerate my presence in very small doses."

I had to stop reading for two days just to take it in and digest that. It rocked my world. I couldn't believe that this is normal, really, and that there is a name for it. To turn the personal table around- my mom was one of six kids, she was the only daughter. Her mother made it very clear that she did not like my mom. At all. It's really a bizarre feeling and I can't imagine what my mom felt like. The boys were adored but my mom was treated like a slave. She is very close to her father, probably because her mother abandoned the family when the youngest boys, twins, were only two. My mom had to step into role as care taker for everyone. Growing up my mom assumed this was normal until she had my brother and I and realized it had nothing to do with my mom. It was her mother who had the problem.

My mom and I have had a pretty good relationship for the most part. There have been times where I felt I was treated unfairly simply because I was the oldest and I was a girl. She wanted me to do big things with my life because I was a girl and she knew I'd face adversity simply because of what I was. And I'm glad she pushed me. But growing up, I can say I felt like anything I did wasn't really important. My parents were never the help-at-school type, take our friends to fun things, etc. It was a miracle I was ever able to have sleepovers. At the time I was angry but now I get it. It's just not who they are. I have made some decisions as an adult that my mom disagreed with me on and made it very clear I was making a huge mistake. There have been times where I felt like maybe there was something wrong with me. But as god as my witness- my mom is awesome. I love her to the moon and back and I have no right to complain because I know she did the best she could for us. And still does.

And let's turn it around as me as a parent. I struggle. I'm not even going to lie. I love both of my kids equally but I feel more of a connection to Jackson. Is it because I suffered post partum depression after Olivia for her entire first year? I didn't really bond with her for the first year of her life- I was mostly crying and praying I could make it all stop. Is it because I was going through a rough time in my marriage while pregnant to Jackson? I clung to that baby like he was my lifeline. I don't know. But I know that each and every day I struggle. The non stop crying, the arguing, the fighting over the blue marker when we have 6 others on the table, the fact I never get to sit down and be old Sara? All of it plus more makes me think MAYBE I wasn't meant to be a mom. THIS is the stuff they should tell you. You should have to go through a rigorous testing to be able to have a baby. It's serious and the demands put on you are like no other. Make no mistake- one baby is easy. EASY. Put more than one kid in the mix and suddenly everything is a battle. It's hard and god help me, I don't know if I would do it again. And that? Terrifies me. And keeps me up some nights. I don't know what that makes me but I know I try to be the absolute best mom I can be. Because they deserve it.

I could go for HOURS on this but I won't. I want you to get this book. If you've ever had a relationship with a parent that has been strained- please, please, please read this book. It will help you more than you know.


Annah said...

OH yeah, I NEED THIS BOOK. Mail please! LMAO

thotlady said...

Parent-child relationships are very, very complicated. And I found that it doesn't always get easier as the child becomes an adult. The when the parent starts getting geriatric, the roles can easily be reversed.

Ruth said...

I don't have a good relationship with my mom. Never have. I try to be a good daughter and call, but I always end up feeling sad and disappointed when I hang up because I will never have the type of bond I wish we did.
As for having kids, I couldn't handle more than one. Mine has gone through so many health problems and I am glad I didn't have to try to take care of another while going through everything with my daughter.
Good for anyone that can handle having more than one.
I know I couldn't do it.
I just don't have the patience.

Kaylie Jones said...

Sara -- I am delighted with your review, especially with your personal take on the book and your openness about your own relationship with your mother. The passage you quoted from my book is from Alice Miller's 1982 edition of her groundbreaking book, PRISONERS OF CHILDHOOD: The Drama of the Gifted Child, which she has since revised, and I do not recommend the latest edition.
The comments on your review indicate that we're not the only ones who have issues with our mothers. But in our society, it is absolutely taboo to admit to such a thing. I would be delighted to answer any questions about my memoir, if your readers care to ask them.



trish said...

Without getting into the issues I have with my mom, I'll just say that this is a great review. I'm so glad it made you think, and it really seemed to hit home with you! Thanks for being on this tour!