Fomenting Rebellion

Husband and I  have a friend in town who we have been helping with her garden.  I will call her Kay.  She is in her early 60’s, has never married, and lives with her 90 year old mother.  Kay is a college graduate. She has held teaching jobs in small communities in our region, but mainly lived at home.

Kay has lived  under her mother’s power and control her whole life. Her mother is failing now, and in poor health, and yet still tries to boss Kay. They have an enormous vegetable garden and many flower beds impractically designed by her mother, that Kay is expected to keep the way her mother wants.  All the gardening must be done the way her mother expects, and she better not spend too much money on anything,  or water more than every two weeks. Her mother never taught her to garden, however.  (I should also add that she and her mother are devout Baptists and leading lights in the area WCTU. )

Kay has stopped asking her mother how to keep up the flower beds, and takes our advice regarding soil preparation,  plant varieties, soaker hoses, and equipment. She bought twelve bags of peat moss without her mother’s permission and had Little Nick come with his tiller to work it into the vegetable garden. (Little  Nick is 3 ft tall, about 60 years old, and as mean as a snake. He has gardening equipment especially adapted for his height.)  She put down soaker hoses, and waters when the plants need it. She even bought a wheel barrow.

I see gardening as a way for Kay to have a quiet revolution and become liberated from her mother.  I know at a certain level that she has allowed her mother to treat her this way, but it is hard to get yourself out of  situations like this that have gone on for so long. We are making sure she doesn’t become too dependent on us. We also put her in touch with the Regional Aging Services coordinator to discuss Power of Attorney  and care taker support. I don’t think I will ever be able to take her out for a drink, but those twelve bags of peat moss are a real positive sign.

Who have you known who was overcontolled by someone else?  What other rebellious advice would you have for our friend?

46 thoughts on “Fomenting Rebellion”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Uff Da. This is a topic close to my experience. I had that mother, only I started the rebellion upon entering life, unlike your friend Kay. Early on, when my father was healthy, he was able to mediate my mother’s behavior and give aid and comfort. After he became ill, and less mobile, he was not able to this, but by then I was old enough to actively resist. Things went on from there, but I won’t go on. It was hard. We were fortunate to have some family friends, and my aunt and uncle who stepped in a lot. It was gratifying a generation later when my son responded to Mom the same way I did, “Get away and leave me alone.” When I came home from the hospital after cancer surgery in 1990, I found a string strung across the door to his room with a note saying, “Stay Out, Grandma.” I took a picture.

    The weird thing is that then 12 years ago when Mom began to struggle with memory, she felt no control over herself. She then handed her children her life to run and became completely passive. She won’t even brush her teeth or change her clothing unless one of us lays out the clothing. No middle ground. We have been making her life decisions since then. The nice part was that in her passivity, she will say things like,”I just have the best children.” This in contrast to the constant criticism that accompanied the high control. The first time she said that I replied without thinking, “Damn right you do. And you never appreciated it.”

    So. There.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I have been giggling about that all morning. Especially because I spent a lot of time pondering my run away from home. I never did it because I just could not leave my dad.

        Once I told mom that she missed her calling as a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. She was Shocked and Offended, and told me “I am not like that.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. …and that that was the first thought that occurred to her mother. Not that she’d had an accident or been waylaid but that she’d run away. It’s like the thought of losing control over her was more distressing than the thought of a mishap.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Entering my teenage years, my dad and I did not get along very well. Seems like I was either doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing or not doing something I was supposed to do. I remember a lot of yelling but not the details. It was a tense time. My rebellion was mostly to stay away from him whenever possible. It didn’t really get better until I moved away to college. After that, we were able to maintain a cordial but superficial relationship and we did stuff such as golf together. But I can’t say that we had a close relationship. When he developed significant medical issues near the end of this life, I was the one who was relied on to help – my older sister lived too far away and my younger sister couldn’t get time off of work. I did what needed to be done more out of a sense of duty than anything else. Now, 20 years later, I wish it could have been different but don’t see how that would have happened.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. My big rebellion against my parents wasn’t very big compared to other stories we’ve already heard and will probably hear today. When I was in high school and making the preparations for college, I didn’t want to go anywhere else but Carlton. So despite the fact that my parents got me a application after application to colleges all over the place (including all of the Ivy League schools on the East Coast where my father really wanted me to go), I put them in a drawer and I only applied to Carleton. And I didn’t even apply early admission because I farted around and didn’t get the required tests taken on time. This made my parents absolutely insane and when my mother discovered all of the unused applications in a drawer in my room, they grounded me. And this resulted in me running away from home – gone for about a week. They never apologized. I never apologized.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I stayed with a friend of mine, In fact it was her mother that sat me down after a week and said “you’ve got to talk to your folks and you got to go home.” Yes I did end up going to Carleton although I eventuslly left after 2 1/2 years. I am not sure I would have been good at any college or university at that stage. Just wasn’t sure what the education was for and how it was benefiting me.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. You probably did the right thing by leaving, vs. I used to be an academic adviser, someone who helped kids graduate. It was clear that a significant number of my advisees had no sense of direction and a weak commitment to schoolwork. Some admitted they were only in college because their parents expected them to be. I was a little bit radical with such kids. Rather than hanging around in a poor mood racking up Cs and Ds, I thought they should leave college until they grew up and developed a sense of direction. When kids did that and came back, they had great attitudes and did outstanding work.


        2. I remember one girl who left school to take one of the more desirable jobs available at the time, clerking at Daytons. She was excited to have an income and independence. About a year of that was enough to show her what the rest of her life would look like without a college degree. She came back to the U with a new sense of purpose.


  4. Family dynamics are always so interesting. I’ve known a lot of people that are so nice and kind and I see the home they’ve come from and can’t help but wonder how they turned out so “normal”.

    It was hard working with my Dad after I got married and moved to the farm. He was trying to let me ‘be in charge’ but he sure had a lot of answers! And it’s unfortunate the times he yelled at me stick in my head more than the compliments.
    It took a really long time for me to stop asking ‘Is this what Dad would do?’ out of a sense of was I doing it right, vs. would Dad have an easier, better way of doing something.
    Working with family can be pretty tough. Takes a lot of discussion and clarifications and we didn’t know how to do that. And Dad’s Dad didn’t like the things he did either. Guess maybe it’s inherited. We all worked on our own so much; we were all our own bosses. And then had a hard time adjusting.

    Bless you for your help with Kay. I hope things work out for her and mom.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s only after you get older and have enough distance, either in terms of time or place, that you’re able to see the baggage that your parents brought to their marriage and parenthood. Neither or my parents had a clue what a healthy, happy marriage looked like, nor did either of them have a safe and happy childhood. I think this is true for a lot of people.

      When you grow up as I did, and you define your future life goals more in terms of what you don’t want, as opposed to pursuing the possibility of your dreams, it makes a big difference.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. I know there is some control story that will hopefully surface later. I didn’t have issues with my folks, but my sister did – I was gone to Iowa State so didn’t get in on much of it.

    I love that “Kay” is flexing her control muscles – must feel great.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have trouble imagining a relationship like the one between Kay and her mother, though my first landladies in Cheyenne, Kate and Ann Garvin, was very similar. Kate was a librarian, in her fifties, and never married. Her mother, Ann, ruled the roost, but I had the sense that there was genuine affection between them, although there was no question who the boss was. As it turned out, Ann outlived Kate, who was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from a funeral she attended on behalf of her mother.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was not sure what it meant at first then had no time to think about it–is it Women’s Christian Temperance Union?

      If that is it, yes I am surprised.


      1. Yes. We have a couple of families in towns west of here who have several Little People family members. I am sorry to say that the local public school mascot here is The Dickinson Midgets.


        1. When I had my vasectomy, the doctor who did the procedure was very short. I was awake but under the influence of valium or something similar. Throughout the procedure I kept making short jokes. Probably not a good idea under the circumstances. Fortunately the doctor was the bigger man.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Hans played ping-pong, or as those who are serious about the game prefer to call it, table tennis, for a number of years. One of the regular players was a little person, Mitch Seidenfeld, who was an incredible player.

          An unassuming man, short in stature, was sometimes underestimated by challengers, a mistake they only made once. He was simply a force to be reckoned with in table tennis. Probably still is. He held all kinds of championships and is in the US Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

          Liked by 4 people

  7. The way Kay’s mom dominated Kay reminds me of a pattern I associate with the 19th century. Unmarried women were (I think) often shoehorned into the role of caretaker for elderly parents. Is that right, Bill?


      1. I’m sure Social Security has altered thinking about that. There is more consensus now that government has a role to play in protecting older people in need. It used to be common that unmarried women were obliged to care for one or two parents. Or so I think. Bill might correct me.


        1. Steve, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rosalie Sorrels’ recording named “Report from Grimes Creek.” In it she talks about her mother who was a librarian and a book seller in Pocatello, Idaho. A woman deeply devoted to reading and learning. It’s a mostly spoken word record with a few songs interspersed, one of my all time favorite recordings. One of the readings that Rosalie presents is one of her mother’s journal entries wherein she describes what Social Security means to her. Here’s a clip to Rosalie reading part of it during an interview, though I think it leaves out the most poignant part of the entry. I love this record:


  8. As I reflect, I was basically allowed to do whatever I wanted to do growing up. I never did anything outrageous, though. I was highly irritated by my mother and treated her, an anxious and gentle soul, like crud when I was in Grades 8-11. We eventually got past all that, and were on the best of terms for most of my adult life.

    Liked by 2 people

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