The Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas Past ~ Part 2
How come I could NEVER find the right gift for my Mother? I never seemed to be able to make her happy. My Christmas gifts as well as any other gifts I found for her never had the desired effect one wants when giving a gift to someone.
There was always this disappointment she showed when she opened a gift from me. Her face would fall. She would look uncomfortable. She wouldn’t say much about whatever I had chosen for her. I agonized over what I would get her, and then I worried about it until the day I gave it to her. I dreaded her reaction. I guess I was hoping that her face would light up. I was hoping for approval.
I got so that I HATED thinking about what she might like for a gift and what I should get her. There was so much anxiety around gift giving that I couldn’t actually concentrate on the celebration itself. There was so much “obligation” around all these events that I didn’t understand back then.
My mother never made it easy for me by pointing out or mentioning a specific gift she wanted. It was as if my “guessing what the right gift would be to get for her” was part of what would make her happy. It was a though if she “told” me what she wanted, that would ruin it. In order for the gift to be “special”, I had to come up with the idea on my own, or be a mind reader.
My mother collects Royal Doulton Figurines. Not the cheap kind either. The ones she likes cost upwards of $250.00 each. One year I decided to get her one. It was a lot of money but I really wanted to make her happy.
It worked. She loved it. FINALLY I had done something right after YEARS of giving her a disappointing gift and feeling like I had let my mom down. Her face lit up! She approved! It was an exhilarating feeling of success for me!
There was only one other time I recall where my mother was pleased with me choice of gift for her. It was when I sent her a huge amount of roses to correspond with the number of years she had reached on her birthday. (I can’t remember which birthday, but I know it was over 60)
When I began my journey out of the foggy darkness, I realized that my Mother sees gifts as a reflection of “love” or a measurement of love. Gifts “prove” her value. If the giver spends a lot then the giver recognizes her value. Gifts define her. It isn’t the thought that counts in her mind. In addition to that, it’s not only about money and the monetary value of the gift but how well the giver has “guessed” what would please her. When the relationship is dysfunctional however, it is really hard to guess the right gift.
It seems as though according to her belief system, the gift actually “proves” her worth. The gift proves the givers love and understanding of her.
There is another side of this picture. My mother didn’t give gifts to me in the same way she wanted to receive them for herself. Once again this is an example of how controlling and manipulative people live by two different sets of rules. The rules that apply to her, and the rules that apply to others. I always say that narcissistic, controlling and manipulative people don’t ‘love’ by the same rules that they demand love. If my gifts to her defined my love for her and her worth in my eyes then I thought it would stand to reason that the same was true for her when she gave a gift to me.
When it came to me and the gifts that my mother would choose for me, the gifts always seemed practical or convenient. She hated those kinds of gifts for herself, but she bought them for me. It seems odd to me that she would buy me gifts that would have disappointed her; gifts that would have “defined her” as less than worthy of a major splurge gift.
In the fog of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship, I could not sort this out.
If my gifts to my mother defined or proved my love for her and made a statement TO her about HER worth in my eyes then it would stand to reason that the same was true for her when she gave a gift to me.
Today I realize that her gifts to me were in fact another way of keeping me defined as less valuable than she was. Upon closer examination, if my gifts defined my love for her and her worth in my eyes, than judging by the gifts she chose for me, it would stand to reason the same belief actually WAS true for her. In truth, she was giving me gifts according to her own belief system. She believed that I was not worthy of thought and consideration in the way that I had to prove she was worthy of thought and consideration.
Her double standard (in her view) wasn’t odd at all. It was actually a truth leak about the way she regarded me as “less” than herself.
And in some dysfunctional families, this devaluing belief system is reflected differently for each child! In other words, one child gets the best and most expensive gift imaginable while the other child gets socks.
I don’t miss any of that stuff anymore. I don’t miss the anxiety of choosing a gift for her; I don’t miss bracing myself for the reaction from her; I don’t miss her disappointment or her false definition of love that wrapped around the whole Mothers day, birthday, and Christmas gift giving thing.
It took me years to get over my fear of giving the wrong gift. It took me years to get over my fear of opening gifts too. I was so afraid that I would react the way that my mother did, I was more focused on my reaction to a gift than I was ON the gift itself! Once I found the truth at the roots of those fears, each passing year has become easier. I don’t buy gifts OR give gifts out of obligation anymore. I don’t believe gifts are a measurement of love. And since my definition of love has been redefined and I know what LOVE is and what LOVE is not, I don’t live under those two different sets of rules anymore either.
I welcome your comments. Please feel free to share.
Happy Holidays everyone; Bright blessings, hugs and squishes to all;
Related Posts ~Part one to this post ~ Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Being Alone
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