(S)Mothering my mother

Where to start? Can’t think of a better place than the beginning. Need to lay the foundation to help us get acquainted better.

Growing up, I thought my parents were the freaking coolest. They threw the best parties. Everybody wanted to come to our house. We had food, alcohol, and the house was always full of laughter. The parties seemed so elegant. They went late into the night and my mom’s cooking skills were envied by everyone in attendance. My older siblings’ friends would constantly talk about how cool our parents were, neighbors talked about how lucky we were to have them as parents, and even my aunts and uncles loved visiting because they knew it would be a “big time”. They were all correct. My parents were really cool. We just kind of missed the part that parents aren’t supposed to be that cool.

I was ten when I realized maybe being the party house 24/7 wasn’t ideal. It was a very specific moment and I will never forget it. It was a Friday afternoon and we just had some friends arrive from out of town. My dad wasn’t home from work yet.  My mom had the house ready, the food was out, and there were drinks everywhere you looked. She just wasn’t around. I welcomed everybody inside and they started snacking on foods and asked me where my mom was. I assumed she was upstairs getting ready but hadn’t been paying attention. I was leaving for camp the next day, my first full week away from home, and was terrified. I hadn’t been paying much attention to what my mom had been doing that afternoon because I had been packing and wondering if I would be able to make any friends.

I showed our company where they were staying. I had picked up a few good hosting skills from my parents. I asked about their trip and their families. I laughed at their corny jokes and assured them we were so happy they were there to visit. Gag. After these pleasantries were exchanged, I went upstairs to look for my mom. Unfortunately, I found her. She was asleep on the bathroom floor. Her pants were unbuttoned and she smelled. I couldn’t remember the last time I had saw her this afternoon. She must have been in here awhile. I saw an empty bottle of vodka near the trash can and walked towards her nervously. I shook her and she stirred and then fell back asleep. Her eyes had that glazed over, deer in the headlights look. A look that infuriates me and terrifies me to this day. That’s when it hit me. Right then. Like a ton of bricks.

You know those movie scenes where it zooms in to the person’s face because they were having flashbacks or déjà vu ? That’s exactly what it felt like. I started thinking about all the times I had to tell friends, guests, or people arriving that my mom was asleep, sick, or busy. Those damn deer eyes. She was usually passed out or desperately needed to be asleep. I bit my lower lip to keep from crying and stood up, frantically thinking of what to do with the guests downstairs. I started to walk away and turned back and looked at her. I knew then that my life was a little different. I stood there looking at her for a moment, angry that she took my childhood from me so quickly. It was like someone had sucked the air out of my lungs. I breathed in and then breathed out heavily and remembered the guests downstairs, couldn’t neglect them. No time to feel sorry for myself. I kicked her in the legs frustrated and she moved slightly but stayed asleep. I shook my head and shook the feelings out. I went downstairs with a big smile on my face.

I told the guests she wasn’t feeling well and they all looked around knowingly. I cringed inside. People already knew and I was late to be in on the secret. I shook it off though and started grabbing beers from the coolers for everyone. My dad walked in the house at this time and smoothed everything out. He was entertaining and loud. He made some jokes about my mom and got the grill started. I started doing everything my mom would normally do. I started making the salad, I set the table, and helped bring my dad the food for the grill. My dad realized that night that I was grown too, as grown as a gawky ten year old can be.

The awkward glances subsided as more people drank and started having a good time. My dad and I got through the night without my mom coming downstairs and without too many pity filled looks. I cried myself to sleep that night and started thinking of all the things I should have been doing over the years to help my dad more (I didn’t realize his coping with alcohol was as much of a problem until later). Around midnight, I got up and made a list of chores I needed to start doing regularly and things I should do next time we have company, which happened all the time. I went to bed with the world on my shoulders but I had a plan. I was going to be the mom my mom couldn’t be. I was old enough, I didn’t need a mom anymore. I mean, I was already ten. Who needs some lady telling you what to do all the time if you knew better?

All week at camp, I started acting more responsible. I started taking care of girls when they were homesick or when the younger kids got hurt.  I had a new role and needed to step up. When I got back from camp, I followed through with my plan. My mom never made my lunch for school again, I started doing my own laundry, and I started paying attention when she would cook. I never wanted guests to arrive again and our house not be ready. I would be ready for them. I became my dad’s surrogate wife when he ever needed one. I did it without complaint for years. I learned to cook, clean, take care of the dog, and host like a boss. Some of these skills were helpful but I lost a part of my childhood that I can never get back. Boohoo right? Who liked their childhood anyway?

Big picture, it never occurred to me that my mom needed help and that was what needed our family’s focus. I inherited my family’s need to look normal from the outside. You know, priorities. So I stepped up and became one of the most enabling characters in my family’s twisted saga. I thought I was the best thing that ever happened to them. My parent’s friends frequently commented on how mature I was, how helpful I was, and how they raised such a wonderful young lady. I used to smile smugly at these comments. They were wrong though. I was the real parent and I was doing a terrible job at raising my own “children” aka my mom and dad.

The real fun started when I got to high school and my parents REALLY started to depend on me. The awkward part is, with my parents not feeling the need to parent me as much, nobody was really supervising me! They weren’t paying attention and I needed someone to say, “Hey act normal for a sec, maybe life would be easier”. Without parental supervision, I became beautifully insane with incredibly awkward social skills. Imagine that? Two alcoholic parents and I had awkward social skills? I know. It surprised me too. My next few posts will highlight my most cringeworthy moments from high school due to my parent’s alcoholism and my lack of knowledge on what was acceptable social behavior.

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-Grumpy Sunshine


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Grumpy Sunshine

About me: Oh boy. The big thing here, my main focus, is that I am the adult child from an alcoholic home. My mother is a straight up, textbook, pain in the butt alcoholic. My dad drinks too much but probably wouldn’t be defined as an alcoholic. Enough about them. This is my about me. I love me. I learned to cope with my parent’s issues through my sense of humor. Sometimes I use it to distance myself, sometimes I use it because the situation really can be funny. I decided to start this blog because I can’t be the only person who appreciates humor in the darkest hours of our lives. And as a wise friend asked me today, why not invest in yourself? I hope you take something from these stories. It could be inspiration to address a family member’s problem, the strength to stand up for yourself, or even if it is just a laugh at my wonderfully awkward upbringing, I hope you get something out of this. My secret wish is that you find hope. Hope is hard to find and can be very dangerous when loving someone with addiction but, God, is it worse when you have none. Here’s hoping this helps someone.