Ready to walk out on controlling mother

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am 33, married with a 4-year-old son. My mother has always been distant and controlling. She shuts down if things don't go her way. She tries to undermine or sabotage family events to exert her control. She also makes bigoted comments and sometimes drinks to excess. She then plays innocent and claims I am attacking her. I learned early on that I will never have a loving mother-daughter bond, but now I don't know if we can even be in the same room. Recently, on a family vacation, my parents took my son and me to a restaurant. We waited 90 minutes for a table. While we were waiting, my son had a little "accident." I decided I would take him home, quickly change his clothes and come back. I told my parents it would take a half-hour and that they should stay and have appetizers, and we would be back. They got up and followed us out. I begged them to stay. They didn't listen. I said I feel they don't respect me or my son. They got defensive. My mother hasn't spoken to me since. The next morning, I packed up my son and left. We were supposed to be there for four more days. Did I overreact, or was I justified in possibly severing my relationship with my mother? My parents planned and paid for this vacation to spend time with their grandson.--Confused Mom

DEAR MOM: Your folks left the restaurant, and you retaliated by leaving forever. The way you describe your mother, this sounds like something she would do. So yes, I think you did overreact to this.

I assume your choice was influenced by a lifetime of feeling off-kilter by your relationship with your folks. They wrote the script that you are now following. The fact that you are now a parent presents opportunities for you to forge a more balanced relationship.

You may gain some insight by reading "Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life" by Susan Forward and Craig Buck (2002, Bantam).