The Official Amy Alkon Website

All About Amy
New Columns
Really Old Columns
Goddess Blog
Amy's Book Picks
Amy's Links
Love Letters
The Pink Rambler
Contact Info


Designated Bitter

I'm a 25-year-old new mom, and my husband’s hassling me to let my mother see our baby. I’ve hated her since I was 10. We used to be super-close, but when I was 10, I forgot to call to let her know I'd be home late, and, as a result, she paddled my butt. Humiliating me further, she told my grandma what happened. Soon after, I moved in with my dad, and hardly saw my mom. The last time was when I chewed her out for showing up uninvited at my high school graduation. She's tried to call, but I've refused all contact. I see it as payback: She ended the happiness of my childhood and I want her to suffer for it for the rest of her life. The problem is my husband, who wants to give her a chance. How do I handle this?

--Paddle Sore

Did Mommy also angle the potty the wrong way when you were just a nib? Short you on Fig Newtons in your lunchbox? Cruelly refuse to put you on a bus to a theme park every day instead of to school? Surely, there’s more to your hacking her out of your life for all eternity than “she paddled my butt.” What did she paddle you with, a diving board? And where did she paddle you? With your pants pulled down in front of the entire school assembly?

There’s damage, and then there’s damage. Get over it. Even Bush and Chirac made up, or at least agreed to see each other and shoot the merde. That said, does giving a kid a good paddling teach healthy conflict resolution? Not exactly. Could it lead to unhealthy obsessions -- say, a 25-year-old married woman with the motto “Hating Mommy Is My Life!”? Apparently, yes. Is it especially dim for adults to tell kids hitting is wrong, then drive the point home by whacking them one? Mmm-hmm. And, finally, how about this meteor crater in reasoning? When some big bruiser adult hits some other big bruiser adult, they call the bail bondsman, but when some big bruiser adult hits a little kid, they call it “parenting.” (Clearly, the intellectual output of somebody who got cuffed on the head a lot.)

But, what about the idyllic childhood you’d ordered? Sadly, actual childhood is so rife with injustice that Amnesty International should try to have it outlawed by the U.N.: years of forced labor in exchange for room and board -- much like prison, except you’re related to the warden. Thousands of unreported incidents of abuse -- like when mommies refuse to buy their little girls $200 designer jeans -- supposedly, the price of admission to the in-crowd at school. Oh, the suffering. Oh, get over it already! That’s the thought that must be galloping, day and night, through your husband’s mind. Of course, with your penchant for “payback,” the poor guy must try to keep his mouth shut -- except to request that you pass him food or move out of the way when he’s about to bean you with a heavy object. (This can’t bode well for your chances for marital bliss.)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take great wisdom to have a baby -- just working ovaries. While it probably won’t be long before you’re canonized as an example of parental perfection, the rest of the parents in the world -- your mother included -- are mere mortals who sometimes fly off the handle when their inconsiderate brats misbehave. Fortunately, most of us inconsiderate brats grow up and realize we have better things to do than sit around nursing a mommy grudge. Sometimes, we need a little prodding to realize this -- say, an anger management class or a book like “Control Your Anger Before It Controls You,” by Dr. Albert Ellis.

You’re setting a great example for your daughter -- one which should make it easier for her to cut you off when she grows up -- the perfect payback for cutting her off from her granny! The alternative is so boring -- choosing to show her that even grownups can act like grownups if they try really hard. For you, this would entail considering whether Mommy’s picture really belongs on the wall with the great evildoers throughout history -- or whether it’s just there because you, with typical kid wisdom, put her up between Adolf and Attila when you were 10, and never got around to taking her down. If you’d like to play grownup, you can choose to forgive your mother or just give her a chance. Should she come over with a big oar and demand that you bend over, I’ll be first to advise that you cut her out of your life for good. Chances are, however, she’ll just bring a baby gift and try to hand it to you, not whack you upside the head with it.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.