Every day, I try my best to be patient with Kaia, to explain things to her as I had never experienced as a child growing up. I try to spend quality time with her and talk to her, sing and play with her, and play games to make her laugh and smile. I hope that I can be the mother that I never had — one who loves unconditionally and always makes that clear, and never compares or constantly criticizes. I want her to trust me and know that she can tell me anything. I want her to always believe I have her best interests at heart, even when we disagree.
A lot of these thoughts go through my mind every day, even just for seconds at a time, because I don’t want to replicate the relationship I have with my own mother. My mom has gone through her own tumultuous upbringing and surviving the Vietnam / American War. She had a mother who rejected her because she was a girl, denied her an education, and gave her scraps off her older brothers’ plates for food. She dealt with a nasty mother-in-law who treated her like a slave, and a husband who mirrored his mother’s attitude towards her, his own wife. She rarely had it easy in her younger years. And unfortunately, she’s held a lot of that resentment and anger in her forever, which meant that she took a lot of her frustration out on Ed and me. She deeply distrusts pretty much everyone, and sadly, that even includes me, her only living child. And so, to keep herself going, she likes to concoct false narratives in her head of what must be true and run with them; they are the “facts” of her life that apparently only Jehovah knows and has shared with her (it’s always fun when people weaponize religion, isn’t it?).
It had been a couple weeks since I last called, though I text her almost every day with photos and videos of Kaia (which never get a response; it’s like texting and sending files into a black hole). I called a couple times the last several days, yet no one answered; most of the time, it would ring once or twice and go straight to voice mail. I texted her to let her know I called a few times; no response. I called on Wednesday evening while I went to pick up Kaia, and she was NOT happy with me when she answered.
Mom: What’s going on?
Me: What? What do you mean?
Mom: You know what I mean.
Me: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Mom: You haven’t called in a long time (I tried to interject and tell her I called multiples times and even texted to tell her in the last several days; she responds by insinuating I’m lying even though her phone is crap, and she doesn’t really know how to use it). You know, I haven’t worked since 2001. I don’t have much money, just enough. I know you don’t say it, but I know the reason you don’t call is because you’re angry that I don’t send money to Kaia. I haven’t worked; what money do I have to give?
I could immediately feel my blood start to boil. It’s always fun when the people who are supposed to be closest to you, your parents, know exactly how to blurt out complete bullshit and lies to spike your blood pressure.
I genuinely don’t know what makes her think, based on anything I’ve ever said or done in my entire life, that I’m some money-obsessed gold digger who just wants her or anyone else in my life simply for their money. I have never asked for money, nor have I ever said anything about wanting it from her. I’m sure part of the reason she thinks this is that she’s still bitter that my parents paid for my college education, but you know what — what else were they going to spend their money on? They live like paupers now, in a house that’s completely falling apart, and always have; she clearly thinks she’s poor and is barely scraping by, even though she and my dad each collect a pension and a Social Security check each month, have rental income actively coming in, many investments, and are sitting on multiple pieces of Bay Area property that they could easily sell if they wanted to.
“It really hurts me that you would think that all I think about is money, and that’s the reason I don’t call that often,” I said to her. “If you truly believe that, your mind is disgusting! DISGUSTING!”
“I don’t want to fight!” she responded curtly. “I don’t have the energy! I have to take care of myself. My health not too good. Jehovah knows what is true. Maybe I am wrong. But Jehovah knows and sees all.”
My mom has been saying her health “not too good” for the last twelve years, since the year before Ed died to guilt trip us constantly. She’s always saying she could die tomorrow. She also loves to say that I want her to die. She said it quite a number of times the last time I was home in August 2022 while I was tied to a breast pump, and Kaia was playing on the floor alongside me (talk about positive energy). I genuinely believe that my mom is so sadistic that she probably wishes she had a terminal illness just so that she could loom that over me and manipulate everyone around her to do what she wants.
I told her I didn’t have time for this stupid conversation and had go to, and hung up before I got into the daycare to get Kaia. The funny thing was – just hours earlier, I was working on a collection of framed and canvas photos of Kaia to send to her.
“I don’t know why you bother sending her these things,” Chris grumbled when I told him about the order. “She’s never grateful for anything you do.”
He’s right. And while I’ve completely come to terms that I am not responsible for my parents’ unhappiness, a part of me still wants to give them forms of temporary joy, whether that’s true a video or photo of Kaia, or food or flowers delivered. They always find a way to criticize all those, too, and sometimes, they don’t even say a simple “thank you.” But at the end of the day, it’s all futile. We are all adults who have a roof over our heads, financial security, and no worries of being in a war-torn country (anymore, at least, for my mom). Given these privileges, it’s our choice to be happy. And if they choose not to be happy, then that is 100 percent on them, and I don’t have to participate in their sick mess.