Dear Carolyn: For decades my mother has basically ignored me and my children, or treated us unfairly in comparison to my siblings. Years of therapy have helped me understand that this is not because I am a horrid person, and I work hard to be extremely kind and loving to my own family.
The problem is my mother constantly brags, to anyone who will listen, about how much she has done for us and how she has helped us out in times of need, when this is far from accurate. For example, after a recent major surgery she visited for about 10 minutes, heated up a can of soup for me and left. Her story, however, has her staying for days slaving over my every need.
She has given my siblings tens of thousands of dollars, but a one-time loan to me years ago, paid back with mandatory interest, is now claimed in her revisionist history to anyone in earshot, as a generous gift.
The list of these incidents is endless, and I feel compelled to correct her inaccuracies and set the record straight; my children and friends tell me I should not let these lies continue, especially as I resent them. Do I have the right to set the record straight? – J.
The “right to,” yes, of course; that’s indisputable. What concerns me is whether there would be any point to it.
What you describe is someone either blind to who she really is, highly invested in being the hero in her every narrative – or, so poisonously, both. Notifying such people of their failings tends only to renew their motivation to tout their own heroics – and, of course, your wretchedness by comparison.
If that doesn’t sound like a rockin’ good time, or if you don’t think the catharsis or self-affirmation of speaking your truth will be worth it, then skip the record-straightening.
There’s a more productive alternative available to you, anyway.
It’s right there in your letter, between the lines, when you say your mom “brags” to “anyone who will listen,” or tells “her story,” or “claim(s) … to anyone in earshot,” and your supply of such anecdotes “is endless.” Do you see it? The common denominator?
You’re there to hear all these things.
And while it often doesn’t feel this way when it comes to family, being around your mother is a choice, and therefore it’s something you can also choose not to do. Had enough with your mom’s self-aggrandizing lies at your expense? Then stop being around to hear or hear about them. Magic.