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How can I forgive my mother for losing some of my most treasured items?
October 13, 2009 7:45 AM   Subscribe

How can I forgive my mother for losing some of my most treasured items? This may sound like a stupid/trivial problem but it's really eating away at me inside.

This has been bothering me for months. I spent the past year studying abroad in Denmark. While I was gone, my mother went through all of my things in my room back at home, rearranging everything. If I had known better I would have told her not to do this, but I was so focused on being abroad that I didn't think about it. Plus, I didn't think she'd move anything that was super important to me.

I came back home, readjusted to life in the states. Working on finishing up school so I can get a job and move out soon (I'm nearly 27).

The only toys that I wanted to keep are these little pretty kitty & puppy dolls (made by mattel, they don't make 'em anymore) along with a collection of other small little animals and figurines. There's nothing valuable about them intrinsically, the main value comes from the fact that I played with them almost exclusively throughout my entire childhood. I had a little "club" with them growing up. I kept them in a special case in my closet. As I got older I of course stopped playing with them, but I always kept them in that special case and would look back on them fondly. I planned to keep them as long as I lived. My mother knew how important they were to me.

Now most of my other toys have been given away or I could care less about. Those are the ONLY toys I wanted to keep. About a month ago I was looking for something else in my room, since my mom had rearranged everything, and I happened to look inside that special case and saw that all of my pretty kitties and other figures had been removed. My mother put computer equipment in there instead.

When i confronted my mother about it, of course she conveniently "forgot" where she put them or even if she moved them at all. She insists she didn't throw them away or take them out of the house but I've scaled the entire place and haven't found them.

The worst thing is she gets super offended if I ask about them. She apologized (even if it didn't sound all that sincere) and I accepted her apology but it still bothers me. I want them back or at least I want to know what happened to them. But she's made me out to be the enemy, who is out to get her and who is unappreciative. I told her I understand that she was just trying to be nice by rearranging my stuff, but goddammit, why did she think she was entitled to just move things around without asking me first? I'm mad at myself for not telling her to stay out of my room while I was gone.

2 weeks ago we had a loooong conversation about this after I reminded her about searching for them, where she basically said, "I only have 46 years left on the planet. I've already apologized. I'm not going to be held accountable for this any more. What else do you want me to do? If you bring this up again we're not having a relationship. So why don't you just tell me every little thing you're mad at me about so you don't have to be mad at me any more." I proceeded to tell her everything and she even wrote them down. She then told me the problems she had with me and I wrote those down. I go over that list and I make an effort to work on those things AND on myself in general.

My mom didn't keep her list of problems I had with her, instead she wanted to tear her list up. I could be wrong, but in her mind, I think she thinks I'M the one with the problems. So basically, I work on myself and admit all of my faults, and she sees herself as a golden goddess who can do no wrong. She can commit an offense toward me and STILL make herself out to be a victim if I confront her. Furthermore, she's complained in the past when people moved or disregarded HER stuff; or have wronged her in general. Why the double-standard?

Sometimes this whole issue doesn't bother me, but other days it eats me up inside. I can't bring it up with my mother because in her mind it's over.

And what's done is done. I can't get my things back. I'll have to accept that. But I'm still upset about it and every time I look at my mother it's hard to pretend to be happy with her. So how do i get over it? How do I forgive her even if I'm so angry at what she did?

I'm in therapy for the first time in my life (no one in my family knows I've been going). Therapy is offered free through my school (for which I'm grateful), and it's been helpful. I plan to talk about this next session but it's a week until then and I need to articulate my thoughts on this matter beforehand. Thanks in advance for any suggestions to the questions I posed above.
posted by starpoint to Human Relations (56 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just to clarify -- my mother does NOT own our house nor does she pay any house bills or rent. My grandparents (her parents) own the house. So she was not entitled to go through my things because she's not even the owner of the house. If my GRANDMOTHER went through my stuff (which she never would), I wouldn't like it but it's her house so technically she can do what she wants. My mother doesn't have this excuse.
posted by starpoint at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2009


It would burn me, too. You can probably replace the things you lost by looking on eBay, either under Toys or Dolls/Mattel. You would not believe the number of people doing exactly that and for the same reason, except their mothers usually tossed the toys much sooner.

Is it possible she was trying to make your room nice for when you came home? Yes, that's lame, but you never know.

And, yes, DH is still mildly pissed 20 years on about his mum giving his large scale Lionel train to the collector down the street and doubly pissed that the collector didn't pay her for it as it's worth more than a few dollars.
posted by x46 at 8:00 AM on October 13, 2009


My basic philosophy on life is that I can't change other people, only myself. It's tough because we all have the desire to be in control of our surroundings, particular the people who affect us most. What I've found over the years is that there's really no use expending the energy and frustration and hurt feelings, trying to change what can't be changed. It'll only make me into a miserable, bitter person. Instead, I direct all that effort into bettering myself and minimizing the negative impact I have on others so they won't reciprocate the desire to change me. I guess it's just another way of saying the golden rule, really. And it's a much more productive use of my time.

Thinking of things in these terms won't make things easier at first, but eventually you'll find it to be freeing. I've learned to accept my friends and relatives for who they are, flaws and all, and it's much harder to be angry at them when I absolve myself from the responsibility of running their lives. Que sera sera; what will be, will be. Keep working on that list of self-improvements and stop worrying about the behavior of people outside your control, and your outlook on things will be a lot more positive and healthy in general.

Sorry to hear about the lost stuff. Just remember it's not the end of the world. Don't burn any bridges over it.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:03 AM on October 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


To my read, this has very little to do with your mother losing or getting rid of your stuff -- you said yourself it was an accident, and yes it was uncool but it's important to move on since you probably can't actually fix this problem -- and a lto more with her strange, to me, reaction to you being upset about this.

Put another way, sometimes it helps to model what a decent response would look like. Something along the lines of "Oh I'm sorry, I thought I was helping you out, my apologies" And then look at what you got "If you bring this up again we're not having a relationship." This is not the way people who care about each other talk to each other. I don't mean to say that your mom doesn't care about you, but that she's behaving oddly and sometimes it helps to have someone say "it's not you, it's them" and this is what I am saying now. Mothers don't threaten children with the dissolution of the relationship under normal circumstances. The whole "make a list" thing is pretty weird to my mind too.

So, moving forward, I think it's okay to sort of move past the missing kitties but pay a ltitle bit of attention to how the interaction with your Mom went [badly] and how you're going to move forward getting along wth her in the future because that's still an open question and, to my mind, an important one. She can't lose your stuff again, but are you sure she's staying out of your room? Are you sure you guys have decent boundaries about personal property? Are you sure your mom is treating you like a full-fledged adult?

It's easy to say "oh your mom is mentally ill...." without knowing what's going on, but I'd prefer to just mention that something about her reactions doesn't seem right to me. Whether that's because in the telling you included certain things and din't include others, or whether she really is someone who doesn't have a grip on how to treat people is maybe up in the air. You getting therapy is a good start. One of the problems sometimes with dealing with people who really are a little off is that you can't logically reason with them or negortiate with them. If your mom is going to always see herself as the victim you may not be able to legically explain to her that that is not the case, but you can temper and tailor your reactions so that you're not as hurt by her responses.

I have a similarly problematic mom and I've had to really dial back both the time I spend with her and the time we spend having conversations about our "relationship" because to her a relationship is like two drowning people strapped to each other both trying to survive and to me a relationship is something that people who want to have one work on with each other from a position of mutual respct. Because I do not agree with the way she views our relationship, i do not see the need to have endless discussions about how she thinks it should be. We still hang out and see each other, but I feel like I have to do it a lot more on my terms because I think her terms are crazy and not acceptable to me. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on October 13, 2009 [18 favorites]


Would you be mad if the house had burnt down and your items had been destroyed? Would you be able to let it go then that, through no fault of your own, they are gone and not coming back? Now, I know your house didn't burn down, but your treasures are just as gone.

So, the question comes down to forgiving your mother for going through your stuff. You say she apologized and you accepted her apology. However, if you're still having long conversations about it, then you really have not accepted her apology. Did she do it? Yes, she most likely did. Did she do it out of malice? If not, then pull up your big girl pants, really accept her apology and let the issue go. There is nothing you can do to get the items back. If it was done out of malice, that's a whole different issue.

Why is there a double-standard? Because she's human and didn't equate your little kitties with her treasures. She may not have realized the significance of these items to you or known that you were saving them for a reason. She may have thought that they were merely little toys that could be passed on. Her defensiveness may be a result of her embarrassment and discomfort over the situation. It may also be a result of you not accepting her apology and having such a strong reaction to her (mistake?) actions.
posted by onhazier at 8:09 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whenever I am having feelings similar to this, I try to look at the specific trigger in the context of the big picture: Life is too short to hold onto these things. Put your anger and other energies into things that contribute positively to your life, other people's lives. When you are your mother's age, your grandmother's age, older, and you look back on your life, what do you want to see? A long period of anger and resentment about this, or something else? It's just not worth it. It takes up a lot of energy to be angry. Now, that doesn't mean you have to forget that this ever happened, but it can be such a relief to let go. You can, however, set up boundaries with your mom about your things, other areas where she crosses your personal limits, etc, moving forward.
posted by anya32 at 8:10 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


These things are precious "possessions": Time. Family. Friends. Kids.

"Little pretty kitty & puppy dolls" may be a nice reminder of a pleasant memory, but the memory exists, whether or not the dolls do.

Seems a shame to damage an important relationship over a relatively trivial possession.

Sounds like you really need to get out on your own.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:10 AM on October 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


It sounds to me like this issue around the dolls is just a convenient focus for some significant problems that you have relating with your mother. Specifically, the issue that you laid about regarding her expectation that your relationship be maintained by you making adjustments in your behavior, by you accepting fault for every miscommunication, and, most troublingly, by you accepting her dictum on what is and is not significant or important. It shows that she doesn't consider you to be an adult, or even a fully realized individual.

It seems to me that it might be helpful to you to examine this situation as part of a pattern. Discuss it with your therapist, a lot. And then start working on boundaries. If she's not willing to put in work (work on herself, that is, rather than work on a list of things that you need to do better) to improve her relationship with you, then it is entirely reasonable that you stop trying to form yourself into the person she wants you to be, and start working on being the person that you want to be. On preview, what I mean about boundaries is essentially what Jessamyn had to say.
posted by amelioration at 8:12 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have any real advice except that I do sympathize. Mother/daughter relationships can be difficult. And not being a mother myself, I only get the perspective as an adult daughter.

The mother has to learn to deal with and respect their daughter as an adult with feelings, opinions, thoughts, dreams and wishes of her own. I can only imagine that's sort of hard to do after parenting this person for so long.

In turn, the daughter has to realize their mother is just a human being with flaws, problems, dreams and heartache like everyone else walking the planet.

I think it's difficult for both parties to just see the other as "adult human being" instead of mired in the relationship of parent and child.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:14 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except in rare instances, at some level, your parents never forget that they used to wipe your butt when you were squalling and red. This leads parents to take their children not entirely seriously — they spent a decade or so brushing past your concerns about the monster under your bed or the fact that you wanted the blue one. This does not change if you obtain advanced degrees, get a big house, get married, or anything else. Every parent throws away things that are mere junk to them but memories to you. Despite fleeting and perhaps absent moments of pride in your accomplishment, you're still a dumb kid to them because that was their experience with you for the first n years of your life. Your belongings and concerns will forever be "kid stuff." That's where this is coming from.

Where is this going? Buy your lost items back, as best you can remember and afford, then put a lock on your door. As to respect, short of doing to her what she's done to you (a crude shortcut for all of its effectiveness; most people do not get the concerns of others until you place them into a similar situation), you probably will not get it.
posted by adipocere at 8:17 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, it's probably time for you to strike out on your own if you can. Spread your wings. Get out of the nest. I think it will benefit you greatly.

I am glad you are in therapy. It is such a smart move on your part.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:18 AM on October 13, 2009


The list of problems you had with your mom? She tore them up because she has accepted herself for who she is. The things she wrote down about you? You kept them because you are still under the impression that you can somehow 'work on yourself.'

She made a mistake, she apologized. But you're the one who is angry. You. Anger comes out of resistance. Until you can fully accept that those things are gone and never coming back, you will be angry. Yes, they're gone.

The other thing is, how long have you been back? Sounds a lot like culture shock to me. As a former study abroad student, I can tell you, it takes months and months before you fully readjust. This episode sounds like it came directly out of your own disorientation.

Being abroad for even just a year changes you. Deeply. Those things you wanted to hold on to, those were associated with the old you. Aching for them to come back sounds a lot like a desire to go back. You should embrace all the things that affected you while abroad and look forward.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2009


She sounds crazy and manipulative. Pull back from her.
posted by bunny hugger at 8:27 AM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


You confronted her, she said she doesn't know where they are, she apologized. What do you want at this point? Do you want her to apologize again? How many times? Do you want her to replace the toys? Do you want her to feel awful about what she did? My point is that, at this point, it seems you've gotten what you're going to get from your mother regarding this situation.

You forgive her by deciding to let this go for the sake of your own sanity, regardless of how well or poorly your mother conveyed her apologies. You spent a year in Denmark without these mementos and were fine: it's just stuff. It sucks that you don't have them anymore, it sucks that your mom did what she did, but in the end, not physically possessing these toys doesn't diminish your childhood memories of them.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:28 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


If it helps, you will get over losing them.

And you'll be living away from your mother soon.

8-10 months from now you'll probably not recognise the person that wrote this question.
posted by fire&wings at 8:31 AM on October 13, 2009


I can't get my things back. I'll have to accept that. But I'm still upset about it and every time I look at my mother it's hard to pretend to be happy with her. So how do i get over it? How do I forgive her even if I'm so angry at what she did?

I disagree with the people who have said that losing your childhood toys isn't a big deal, if it has made you as upset as it has, then for you at least losing them was a big deal and there's no objective way to say it wasn't. I know it feels terrible to lose something that's important to you, but eventually you really do have to accept it. You have to get to the point that you are actually okay with the fact that it is lost and you won't get it back. Until you do that, it will eat away at you even if you forgive the person that caused it.

As far as forgiving people goes, I tend to forgive everyone for pretty much anything. It's not worth holding a grudge against anyone in my opinion, because thinking that way only hurts me and doesn't work toward doing anything useful. I do change my behavior to try to prevent those kinds of things from happening though. Sometimes (rarely) that means cutting off all contact with the person, but that's obviously not an option in your case. You could make a mental note to not trust her with your personal property though. When you move out, you'll have a lot less of those kinds of things to worry about, too.

And expressing your feelings, boundaries, and expectations is definitely a good thing to do, but it sounds like you've already done that in this case and there's not much more that you can reasonably expect to accomplish by rehashing it with her again. At some point you have to accept people for who they are (including the flaws) and just adjust your own actions around them. Bad things happen in any relationship, and the key to staying sane throw all of it is to just work through problems when they come up and then focus on moving on with your life.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:37 AM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Are you more angry at her lack of acknowledgment of just how important this is to you? And how maybe she didn't respect your space and your feelings?

Adipocere makes a good point - to some degree it does seem hard for parents to reconcile you as a grownup with you as their child. Maybe that's part of it, and it also sounds like she really just doesn't get it. Either way, I think you know that your anger and hurt here have got more behind them than just this incident.

As to how to move on, I think you make the choice to move on, and accept hey, this is my mom and I love her even though she really fucking pisses me off sometimes and she just does.not.get.it., and whether or not mom thinks she needs to do any work on herself here are some things *I* can do to make this relationship more pleasant for me.

Sometimes part of significant relationships is just making it work. Accepting that there are aspects you don't like, acknowledging that you can't change anyone else but yourself, and moving towards making peace with that.

(I'm making the big assumption that we're talking about mom-kid growing pains and associated frustrations, transitioning to living with mom after a year of freedom abroad, etc. If there's a much bigger issue, a toxic pattern or actual malice, then maybe you take a closer look at the dynamic and it involves more work and tougher choices.)

I don't know if this would work for you, and it's hard as hell to do, but I have started trying to "write the other side" when I am particularly frustrated and angry. I started doing this, appropriately enough, with my mom. It's just for me, and sometimes I end up still really angry and frustrated, but sometimes I have a little better understanding and I approach situations in the future with a spirit that has taken that into account and allows for some leeway. I know it sounds kind of BS-y, and why should you have to be the one to do all this, but in the end you're doing it for yourself, to preserve your peace and happiness and to make your life happier, and if you get there then I am not sure it matters so much if she wants to work on her list of stuff or not.
posted by KAS at 8:44 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's hard to let go because you don't believe she just "lost" them, right? Your mom sounds like my mom, and you sound like me about ten years ago. If that had been my mother, she would've told me she "lost" them or didn't remember what she did, but in truth she would've given them away and I'd find out later. She would've been vague and defensive about it, as you describe your mother. It would have upset me immensely.

The thing is, she probably just made a mistake. She didn't realize that they were important to you, and when you asked about them it struck her that she'd messed up. So she got defensive. She said that she was going to cut ties with you if you asked about it, which sounds like panic, to me.

I agree with everyone that says that you need to let this go, but I just want you to know that I get it. Parents (especially the dysfunctional ones) make us crazy, and they make us the craziest when we're not quite free of them, when every little thing they do to demonstrate their (emotional or otherwise) power over us makes us feel like reality just got all wavy. Still, though, all you can control is yourself in this situation. You can't change her. You've either got to accept her for what she is--your mother, but also someone who can hurt you--or you've got to walk away. The first is harder than the second. I think it's the better path, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. You start by deciding to let something like this go and keeping your mouth shut when you want to bring it up. You will regret it in ten years if you harp on it. Work on seeing what's worthwhile in her, starting now.
posted by hought20 at 8:45 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My mother did a similar thing. Got rid of all me and my brother's "junk", including thousands of trading cards, magazines, comic books, memorabilia, concert tickets and so on. The value, monetarily, in the thousands, and personally just as high. I have nothing left of my childhood. Was I mad at my mom? Sure I was, but you know what? I miss my mom more than I miss all the other "stuff". In other words, what's done is done, and you will get over it, with time.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:46 AM on October 13, 2009


I kind of can't believe you took the bait and told her everything you'd ever been mad at her about. I don't really think that's how people solve problems.
posted by liketitanic at 8:50 AM on October 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


"...why don't you just tell me every little thing you're mad at me about so you don't have to be mad at me any more." I proceeded to tell her everything and she even wrote them down. She then told me the problems she had with me and I wrote those down.

That's a lot to bite off in even a good relationship, let alone one that's already strained. It's not her job to be the mother you wish she was. It's not your job to be the daughter she wishes you were. Why beat each other over the heads with your laundry lists? It's not nice. It's not helpful.

It's perfectly reasonable for you to want her to understand your feelings. But she heard you out, and apologized. You "accepted" the apology, yet you can't let go of it. As she asked: what, exactly, do you want her to do? It sounds as if she feels powerless to satisfy you. Are you making an explicit request, or just telling her how unhappy you are with her?

In any case, you forgive her by realizing that she's struggling too. That might be easier to accomplish if you could have a decent conversation wherein you are kind to each other. Read up on active listening. Practice listening to her point of view without constantly challenging it or obsessing over double standards. If you're lucky, she might reciprocate. If she doesn't, well -- you're planning to move soon anyhow.
posted by jon1270 at 9:00 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


These things are precious "possessions": Time. Family. Friends. Kids.
"Little pretty kitty & puppy dolls" may be a nice reminder of a pleasant memory, but the memory exists, whether or not the dolls do.


But if I understand the original post well, this is exactly the point: It is all about family hurting kid taking away traces of time, in an irrational act (at least as it's presented here), not satisfactorily resolved. I'd be mad too.
posted by Namlit at 9:01 AM on October 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm glad to see that you're going to speak to the therapist about this. Hopefully getting your thoughts out here will help you articulate your feelings when you go for your next visit. You know, of course, that the anger and resentment that you feel towards your mother goes way beyond this one issue, and that it's not at all about the kitties in the box, it's about you feeling that she doesn't value you and doesn't care how you feel. You cannot change your mother, you can only change how you react to her. Hopefully the therapist will give you some coping techniques. Good luck.
posted by iconomy at 9:06 AM on October 13, 2009


If you bring this up again we're not having a relationship.

What kind of manipulative BS is this? She's not your mommy anymore? What is she going to leave you crying outside the grocery store?

Tossing the childhood stuff was a bad choice on her part. Threats like the one above suggest she's got bigger issues going on. There are some other parts of your question that make me think we're not dealing with the most emotionally healthy parent here.

Let is go for your own good. Why give someone like your mom that kind of hold on your mental state?
posted by 26.2 at 9:11 AM on October 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I could have written this.

Over the years, my mother has thrown away, or lost, tons of mine and my sister's belongings. For example, when I was twelve, I asked her for a portfolio to keep my artwork in. I had dozens of drawings in there, done between the ages of 10 and 15. When I was 15, it mysteriously disappeared from my closet. Our fight over it (and the fights we've had since it's come up since), have been almost identical to what you describe.

Heck, my adult sister was recently between jobs and lived at home for a few weeks before going on vacation. She left a new wireless router on my mom's computer. That disappeared. My mother insisted she didn't know what happened to it, even as she gave my sister a credit card to let her buy a new one. And you know what? That new router lasted a day before my mother started to threaten to take it off her computer because "she didn't like it."

My mom, like yours, also likes to rearrange furniture. She also reacts extremely defensively to anything that she perceives as criticism, often with guilt-saturated statements like "I only have 46 years left on the planet" (how does she know? WTF?). And so I feel like I can say with a fair degree of certainty that this isn't a trifling matter, and this isn't about stuff. It's about boundaries and control. Your mother is trying to control your space by rearranging furniture, by deciding which belongings are important enough to keep or worthless enough to discard. And you're an adult, and deserve better than that.

However, you can't force those changes on your mother. I speak from experience: the only way to avoid these things is to live in your own space, and to keep things you value out of your mother's reach. My relationship with my mother has gotten much, much better since moving away from home. Now I know where things are. Now I don't have to feel worried and insecure that the things I value are going to inexplicably disappear. Recently my mother visited and started rearranging furniture when I was out of the room. But because it was, definitively, my space, I could say to her, "Mom, that's unacceptable. Please move my things back where they were or leave." And you know what? It worked. We didn't even have a fight!

Boundaries--even physical boundaries--that allow you to assert yourself as the adult that you are are amazing things. But until you set them down yourself (and you can't expect your mother to create them), it's just going to be the same old argument.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 AM on October 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh, and looking through your previous posts, this just confirms it. Please, move out. It will do wonders for both your life and your relationship with your mother.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2009


Get over yourself. It's just toys. Are you really willing to throw away your relationship with your mother over some toys?

Let it go. Move on.
posted by Bonzai at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing here is that you know damn well that her tossing the toys out was deeply symbolic, but she's refusing to admit to it so you can't come to grips with her over what she did. You've got to accept there may be no way to resolve this in an adult manner with her: throwing away somebody's toys is a fundamentally childlike act and was probably an urge that came out of her subconscious in your absence. Flag and move on.
posted by zadcat at 9:35 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Looking at the same post that PhoBWanKenobi links to above, I'm guessing this move was a way for your mother to exert some control over you during the time that you were off living your life against her wishes. It was petty of her, which is probably why she's so defensive about it, and I think you're sensing this is so based on the fact that you can't make yourself let it go.

The only person threatening to end the relationship over this issue is the mother. SHE'S the one in the wrong in this instance. Definitely discuss this with your therapist, and try to figure out a way to bring it up with your mother that tells her that you recognize her manipulation, and you're not going to respond to it in the way she wants you to, and that it won't be tolerated again.

Then find a way to move out. Your relationship with her will be better for it.
posted by scarykarrey at 9:40 AM on October 13, 2009


Your relationship with your mom sounds similar to mine, except with us it was my high school prom dresses (inexplicably missing from her house, I think she sent them to the Goodwill). My take on the situation is that your mom is having a hard time cutting the apron strings and still wants to have some sort of control over you. She might feel in some way that you and your posessions are her property.

I'd try hard to forgive her and let the situation go or it is going to eat away at you. Take it as a warning that she will go through your personal belongings and do what she wants with them. All of your belongings and childhood mementos should be out of the house where she lives, even if this means getting a storage unit. Start looking on ebay for replacement toys.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:41 AM on October 13, 2009


Pho is on to something with the posting history.

I'm guessing, and absolutely correct me here. I am surmising your mom has 46 years on the planet (not left on the planet as you stated)? Meaning she's 46 years old or thereabouts. So she had you pretty early at 19 or 20? Was she able to pursue things in life like college or travel on her own? Does she have other children? Friends? Interests and pursuits she enjoys? O

I sort of wonder if she's stifling/manipulating you because if you go out on your own, if you branch out, she's got nothing of her own life. She's raised a child or children since she was a kid herself, really.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:44 AM on October 13, 2009


Someone damaged a treasured stereo of mine once. I centered all my feelings of resentment and loss on the broken thing for a while. Then went on ebay and bought a replacement. Buying the replacement meant I had basically the same thing, which evoked the same memories and represented the same time of my life to me. It also allowed me to separate my feelings of anger to the person who damaged my thing from the sense of loss of the thing itself (because having a replacement largely eliminated the sense of loss), and deal with the anger separately. With time, the anger and bitterness faded, largely because the impact the action had on my life was lessened, after all, I had my stereo just the same as before.

There's way more emotional stuff going on here than your toys. However, do consider picking up identical toys off ebay or something, just to salve your wounds and be reunited with your little friends. They obviously meant a lot to you - so why not go out there and get 'em back?
posted by lorrer at 10:02 AM on October 13, 2009


My mom does similar passive-aggressive shit, partly because she belongs to a generation of women who feel deeply uncomfortable either seeking therapy or expressing aggression openly.

Your mom may have targeted your toys on purpose, however unconsciously, but realize that even if the motivation behind an act like disposing of your most cherished childhood possessions is screamingly clear to you, if she is unwilling to acknowledge or confess it, the conversation is going nowhere.

It's great you're in therapy and confronting your issues head-on, but don't underestimate how much more difficult it can be for people of our moms' age to do that. We are young, our moms are old. It's hard to realize just how much they stand to lose by honestly confronting their problems, failures and unhappinesses this late in life.

Meanwhile, rise above it, get strong, try to love your mom as much as is consistent with being a sane adult yourself, and start rebuilding your collection of kitties and puppies. That is what the internet is for!
posted by stuck on an island at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, maybe this is one...? Can't help with the other small figurines, but maybe if you even get a couple of figurines back it'll help. Just careful that you focus your happy memories on them, rather than focusing painful mom-memories on them. That might be hard to escape but hopefully the happy memories will win out over time, and as you get distance from your mom.
posted by lorrer at 10:08 AM on October 13, 2009


My husband's late mother did the same thing with his treasures - photos, trophies, letter jacket, all that stuff was tossed when he was in the Army overseas. He would have liked to have shown our kids and grandkid those things but has had to come to terms with them being gone.

Repeat this mantra: it's just stuff. You'll do fine without it. More important to my mind is to figure out what's going on with your mom, who may be having a severe guilt reaction and is lashing out at you instead of addressing the issue. And then, heave a great big sigh and...move on.

Side note: our son actually dug up a copy of my husband's senior class yearbook and had a letter jacket made for him from his high school for his 60th birthday. Awesome gifts and awesome son!
posted by Lynsey at 10:31 AM on October 13, 2009


Something similar happened to me (my stepmother gave away some children's books that had belonged to my mother - I'm not sure that the kids that got them even enjoyed them, since they were pretty worn, nothing-special children's books from the 1940s). I was hurt when it happened - it's not only the loss of items that may or may not be replaceable, but there's also the idea of someone disrespecting your boundaries by giving away items that belong to you and not to them. Moving on (and moving out...) is probably the only solution, though.
posted by rjs at 10:41 AM on October 13, 2009


She apologized (even if it didn't sound all that sincere) and I accepted her apology but it still bothers me.

Then you didn't really accept her apology, I think. Once you accept an apology, most people consider the discussion about the offense over, and using something that someone apologized for and has had that apology accepted against someone is kind of a shitty thing to do.
posted by xingcat at 10:44 AM on October 13, 2009


Thanks for all of your answers, wow, they are very helpful.

A lot of you suggested that I look on ebay to replace the toys. I thought about that before and didn't want to because I wanted the particular ones I had lost. But on second thought, maybe replacing them wouldn't be a bad idea. I won't be able to get some of the other figurines back, but it might help regardless.

My mother has threatened me with the loss of our relationship every time I tried to set boundaries. She now knows not to mess with my stuff and I don't think she ever will (at least, not while I'm around) but it's frustrating that in her mind, she's allowed to do whatever she wants with other people's stuff/manipulate them as much as she wants, but if anyone does anything to her (even the slightest bit of criticism), she overreacts in a major way. She definitely has some kind of personality disorder and won't own up to it. She can criticize other people left and right but never turns that criticism to herself. It's an "I'm always right and everyone else is wrong and out to get me" thing with her. Is there a name for people like that? Manipulative and oversensitive, for sure.

BUT as many of you said, I guess this is something I can't change. I can't change her or control her, I can only change/control myself. This is part of the reason I'm in therapy and I guess it'll take a lot of time and effort on my part to make my heart match up with my head.

@jerseygirl - My mother meant that she has 46 years LEFT on the planet. She's nearly 53 now. She had me when she was about 26. Got divorced soon after having my brother and moved back in with her parents. Never moved back out. I guess some of her personality issues have to do with the fact that if she loses me or my brother then she'll have only herself to focus on, and maybe that's something she'd rather not do. She did say that all she wanted was to have kids so she rushed the marriage thing, so she has the kids and not much of a life beyond that. Maybe she feels she sacrificed a lot for my brother and me (even though she never had to pay rent, never had to work hard like most single mothers do).

Someone suggested looking at it from her point of view and I think that's also a good idea. I've tried that and I still feel like BS but at least it gives some perspective, I agree.

I do need to get out of the house ASAP and as soon as I finish with school that is my first priority.

I do love my mother and there are things she has done well as a parent but as I'm getting older I'm seeing this side of her that I never noticed when I was younger. I think putting some distance in our relationship will really help in the long run.
posted by starpoint at 10:48 AM on October 13, 2009


@xingcat - I regret accepting her apology then. I mean, when she first appologized I truly felt better, I FELT like it was over.

Then a few weeks passed and I had time to think over it and realized that it was still eating me up inside. I was holding it back and trying to put on a happy face around her when inside I was still angry.
posted by starpoint at 10:51 AM on October 13, 2009


You asked if there's a name for people like your mom. It's possible that she has borderline personality disorder. My mom was diagnosed with BPD, and reading "understanding the borderline mother" was very helpful to me. However, as others have said, you can't change her - just yourself. Telling her "you're borderline! Get treatment!" isn't going to help you any, I would imagine. Similarly, pointing to how she's hurt you in the past or made you this way or that (something I've been guilty of in the past and probably still to an extent) doesn't help you to move on and feel/do better. Which, if you think about it, may be what you've been doing to some extent - seemingly beyond your control, you've been mulling this apparent betrayal around and going in circles emotionally and in terms of thoughts about it. When you look at how you're reacting to this, do you see your mother in yourself? It can be scary to think of that, but it can also be helpful in terms of introspection and learning how you want to live. Learning to release the feelings of betrayal etc. could help you break the cycle of feeling entitlement from the world, as well as breaking a tendency to obsess. You might try to look at this as an opportunity for growth and to learn more about yourself. Seeing it as a valuable opportunity to examine how you react to stress and examine how you want to grow might help make the hurt fade. Also, if you see it as an opportunity and follow up, then it really can be a rewarding experience - thanks to your mother, rather than in spite of her.
posted by lorrer at 11:18 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, consider why you initially didn't want the toys back. I wonder if you didn't subconsciously want them to be forever lost, so that your anger could continue to be justified. You might have needed them to be gone, to be irreplaceable to you, in order to be angry. Again, getting new ones can help separate the feelings of justifiable anger that they were tossed out from the pain of having them gone. The anger can fade. That's a good thing. You don't need the anger because you know what you're going to do soon, which is move out. Anger protects us and tells us when stuff is wrong - so wanting to continue to be angry could be really good for you in terms of prompting you to leave. But if it's not useful, it should be regarded as such, not fought but also not stoked, and allowed to settle down on its own.
posted by lorrer at 11:26 AM on October 13, 2009


Hi.
If my mom did something like this, I would be fuming too. I have a terrible tendancy to have to much stuff with "good associations" that I hate to get rid of and my mom (or, anyone else) can't see the value.

I think your main problem is that the issue of mom threw ouot your stuff has escalated into a huge relationship ending crusade pitting mother against daughter. Your toys were valuable to you, but your mom is more valuable, so you might need to really forgive your mom for throwing them out.
Maybe she forgot how important they were to you because the last time you spoke about them was a long time ago so she got rid of them thinking they were just taking up space.
Maybe she thought since you did not take them with you when you went away for a year that they were no longer important to you.
Maybe she did do it on purpose, knowing how important they were to you. IF thats the case you especially need to rise above and drop the issue to show her that she can't push your buttons.

Next, of course, is moving out. It's good that you plan on moving out. you probably should have done it 9 years ago. But in the meantime, if you have any more things that you definitely do not want your mother to get rid of it would be smart to invest in a safe for your room or a safe deposit box at the bank.

Now how to deal with lost stuff. I realized (fairly recently) that it wasn't my stuff that was important, but the memories I associated with it. To that end, I have started getting rid of a lot of my old stuff (toys, books, anything not personalized basically). What I do is keep diaries and record my memories of my stuff before I get rid of it. I'll draw or take a picture of the items, jot down some memories associated with them, then get rid of them in some way that someone else can enjoy (goodwill, recycle, etc). Through doing this I have realized that I do not need the phsical things to conjure up the memories I associate with the stuff. All I really need is the picture and short musings about what the items meant to bring back all the memories.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:36 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


You and your mom would be much better off not living in the same place. Your relationship is, to say the least, imperfect.

But you know what?

I've already apologized. I'm not going to be held accountable for this any more. What else do you want me to do?

She is absolutely right about this. It's done. Continuing to dwell on it, nursing a grudge about it, helps no one. What do you want her to do? Because I can't see any possible resolution to this other than you letting go of your anger.
posted by ook at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2009


Also, consider why you initially didn't want the toys back. I wonder if you didn't subconsciously want them to be forever lost, so that your anger could continue to be justified.

I didn't want to buy new toys because they weren't the ACTUAL ones I had when I was a child; therefore they aren't the actual toys I had memories associated with.
posted by starpoint at 12:13 PM on October 13, 2009


why don't you just tell me every little thing you're mad at me about so you don't have to be mad at me any more." I proceeded to tell her everything and she even wrote them down. She then told me the problems she had with me and I wrote those down. I go over that list and I make an effort to work on those things AND on myself in general.

This is insane, and you're both a little nutters for particpating in this. This is not how people resovle problems. This tit-for-tat list of grievances mentality is very immature.

What strikes me is that you're pissed not so much about your space being intruded upon, but by you're toys being thrown away. You're mom wanted to rearrange your stuff "to be nice" or something?

She treats you like a child, and you play along. Move out; it's the only way to improve this situation.
posted by spaltavian at 12:18 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


My mum did this, infact to what I assume to be the same toys (Puppy in my Pocket over here) and I got over it, are you seriously gonna carry your childhood toys round for the rest of your life? Your relationship with your mother is more important than pieces of moulded plastic.
posted by Neonshock at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2009


As sad as it is, for some of us, our toys have such prominent roles in our lives because (as it is quite clear by this post and some of the responses) our mothers lacked being able to fulfill that spot themselves. Telling someone to "get over it" when that's all they may have had is incredibly harsh as these possessions held just as much meaning or more as a pet or person would, and I doubt you would so easily say "get over it" about the loss of those.
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:33 PM on October 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is insane, and you're both a little nutters for particpating in this. This is not how people resovle problems. This tit-for-tat list of grievances mentality is very immature.

I realize that now, but in the moments when it happened I unfortunately went along with it because my mind blanks out whenever I'm confronted. I also thought that maybe she really did want to hear my side for once...but now after looking back on it I think it was more of a guilt trip/manipulative move on her part. I'm one of those people who can't think sharply on my feet, so I easily fall for crap like that. Hindsight is 20/20 and I will never fall for it again.

My mum did this, infact to what I assume to be the same toys (Puppy in my Pocket over here) and I got over it, are you seriously gonna carry your childhood toys round for the rest of your life? Your relationship with your mother is more important than pieces of moulded plastic.
If I could just get over it I would. I'm in therapy and really want to work on this, even if it will take time. I know it seems silly but those were seriously the MAIN toys I played with for YEARS growing up. I created characters around them, I engaged in a lot of imaginative play, so they were more than just toys to me. If they had burned up in a house fire I doubt I would have been as angry as I am now, because a fire is a fire. But my mother took it upon herself to mess around with my stuff and that's why they're lost. Just the fact that my mother would lose THOSE toys while sparing some of the toys I could care less about is what's eating me up inside. The fact that she felt entitled to just come in and rearrange my things without asking me. I can't move out fast enough!
posted by starpoint at 3:01 PM on October 13, 2009


I totally understand your situation. Don't listen to all of the comments that are insensitive to your difficult relationship with your mother. They don't have to live that way, and they don't know what it can be like.
My mother also has no sense of personal space and believes that everything I own belongs to her simply because I am her daughter. Almost all of the toys and books of my childhood were given away to her friends' children when I went to college. I would really like to have those now, especially the books, because I am studying to be a teacher.
Our mothers are crazy-makers. They do the things they want and then cry about it and make mean threats when we bring up the consequences of their actions. They are too old to change. The best you can do for yourself is acknowledge that YES, IT IS OK TO BE MAD AT HER. What she did was wrong. Your problem is legitimate. Now the only way to move on is to protect yourself from future incidents.
As a side note, I have slowly been about to pick up a few of the toys/books that were lost by browsing second hand stores, and it makes me feel more powerful every time I find something. Look, I think, you can't take this away from me. I am an adult and I can find this on my own.
Best of luck to you and I am truly sorry for your physical and emotional losses.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am sorry that your Mother threw out your things in such a cavalier way and further won't even fess up about what she did with them. She "forgot". I agree with everyone else who sees what your Mother did as controlling. The fact that she is so angry about your anger (about it) is quite telling also. She sees herself as having the authority to do a malicious thing like this, and additionally she shouldn't be held accountable because ....after all...they are "just" toys. Why on earth would you have kept them all this time if they weren't important to you? Even I am mad at her for doing this and I am a complete stranger. It sounds like she is the one who should be in therapy!
Truthfully, your anger isn't about the kitties you miss so much..it is more about having a Mother who willfully does something that upsets you this much, but shrugs it off with a half-hearted "sorry". We would much have a Mother who would sincerely feel hurt that she hurt you! YOUR Mother is not phased and more or less tells you that you are not entitled to your feelings. Well, you are. This entire episode no doubt serves as a metaphor for how consistently disrespectful she is toward you...and yeah...you're mad. Rightfully so.
I like the idea of looking on eBay for replacements. It might be a fun project to try to re-establish your "club". What the heck..many people love buying up vintage things like this, it is hardly unusual.
....and time will heal this wound. You are grown up now and you do not "need" your Mother's approval, friendship, advice..etc. You are able to make decisions on your own now. She has done her job..she raised you. Now you must do your job and separate from her. No animal in nature stays with their parents--that is why people want to leave the nest too. It is natural. Your animosity toward her has a lot to do with that also.
posted by naplesyellow at 4:12 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Agree with delicate_dahlias and naplesyellow. Fortunately, most people literally cannot conceive of a mother willfully doing something to hurt her child and then adding on to the pain with guilt trips, prodding to remember past grievances (then dismissed and denied), etc. Unfortunately, this means you will constantly hear variations on, "*gasp!* But she's your mother! She certainly meant well..." every time you grieve some wound she's inflicted on you.

I say this as a mother myself: Being a mother does NOT give you permission to run roughshod over your child because they owe you something. Being a mother means being more solicitous, more kind, more careful with your child's feelings, because you have the power to hurt them more than anyone else in the world ever could.

Unfortunately, I agree with those above who say that you will have to disengage from her. It's clearly not about the toys; it is about her desire to find things that mean something to you and use them to get at you, then play the guilt card. Not okay. She is not going to change, and if you keep hoping against hope that she will treat you the way you feel a mother should, you'll go crazy.
posted by ROTFL at 4:34 PM on October 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


My mother did this to me to, when I was abroad for a year. I was so furious when I got home. To put it in perspective, 3 years later she was dead. It's not important. Let it go.
posted by nax at 4:37 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of you suggested that I look on ebay to replace the toys. I thought about that before and didn't want to because I wanted the particular ones I had lost.

I recently replaced a long-lost loved toy on eBay. A++, would buy again. The funny thing is is that the toy looked exactly the way I remembered it, but seemed so much smaller. Even if you found the exact toy you had played with as a child, there'd probably be a similar disconnect between what you remember and what actually was.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2009


I know a woman who maintained that "birthdays aren't important". Not hers, not her kids', nobody's. For her own kids, she'd buy them the thing they wanted and hand it to them in the store bag. If someone told her, "Today is my birthday," she'd say, "Oh."

One day I found out that no one had ever celebrated her birthday when she was a child. (And her family wasn't poor). I think that left her with an emotional decision: either she wasn't important or birthdays aren't important. So to protect herself, she decided that birthdays are not important.

Your mom had to live with her parents as an adult just like you currently are. I wonder if her mom threw out her treasures?
posted by xo at 8:02 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Agree with delicate_dahlias and naplesyellow. Fortunately, most people literally cannot conceive of a mother willfully doing something to hurt her child and then adding on to the pain with guilt trips, prodding to remember past grievances (then dismissed and denied), etc. Unfortunately, this means you will constantly hear variations on, "*gasp!* But she's your mother! She certainly meant well..." every time you grieve some wound she's inflicted on you.

Listen to these words of wisdom, OP, and let them really sink in. People with normal, loving mothers will never understand what it's like to have one who intentionally goes out of her way to hurt you, who enjoys causing you pain, who violates your boundaries because it makes her feel good to watch you squirm. Lucky them, but their advice on such matters is naive at best, condescending and hurtful at worst.

This is not about the stuff, but you already knew that. Stick with therapy, get a copy of these excellent books, and move out as soon as humanly possible.

My condolences.
posted by balls at 1:32 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Have a good cry about it, and let it go.
posted by Caviar at 3:14 PM on October 14, 2009


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