"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." ~ Robert Frost (American Poet)
I will start this post out by saying that my mother is an amazing woman. If I ever needed anything (outside of, let's say, unconditional acceptance), she would be there for me in an instant. I never want to take away from that fact when I write about my mother, as it is possible (may be even likely) that I may write about her in a negative light at times. I am a daughter, therefore, a well-developed dysfunctional relationship exists as it does in most (if not every) mother-daughter relationship - one where the foundation has been carefully laid and ripped up repeatedly. I am hesitant to even attempt to write about my mother as she, and our relationship, is so complex that I doubt I can give the stories any justice. I know that I cannot represent her "side of the story" accurately or adequately, as I am not a mother and have no idea what it would be like to raise a child - particularly a child like me. Actually, that's inaccurate - I was a beautiful child; ages 15-23 were "interesting." What strikes me as particularly interesting, actually...hilarious...is how fundamentally different I am from my mother, the differences being so astounding that I often question where I came from (I don't bear an overt resemblance to my father's personality either). So, although I will proceed with caution out of a level of respect, I will simultaneously throw aside my prudence for the sake of what has to be considered hilarity for my own sanity to remain intact.
My mother operates on a system of black and white thinking that is integral to the very essence of her understanding of who she is as a human being. She functions without exploring the greyer sides of life and, although some of this is generational, some of it is a part of her personality that she is very comfortable living within. More comfortable than, let's say, if she was to start some sentences with, "well, I suppose if I considered that factor, my opinion might change." That is unlikely to occur. I am the complete opposite of this. When considering most things, I exist in the "grey" to the point where it might be irritating to others. I consider everything. A good example of this would be the experience of me watching the show COPS, where I sit and consider everything that might have happened to the "criminal" to make him or her behave way they are do and, often, I sympathize with their plight and side with the "bad guys." I can often be heard saying, "no one wakes up one day and decides that they want to be a prostitute/crack head." I genuinely believe that is true. However, to people like my mother, its black and white - being a prostitute or a crack head is wrong, it's illegal, and it's immoral. End of story. This makes for interesting conversation in my household when I dare to broach any subject that can be considered controversial.
Example One: Gay marriage.
Here's a doozey that I will admit my mother has made small progress on over the past couple of years. I will start out by saying that my mother loves gay men and would love to be a hag; although, I wonder if she feels this way because it's the fashionable thing to do. Interestingly enough, she has very little time for lesbians and I imagine this comes from her belief that lesbians all like to do yard work, wear plaid, and drink beer (out of the bottle, oh my!). Gay men like to shop and gossip and tell you how fabulous you really are....so, apparently they are okay.
Regardless, when "the gays" started asserting that they wanted equal marriage rights, my mother struggled significantly. The idea that same-sex couples wanted a marriage was simply preposterous to my mother....PREPOSTEROUS I SAY! Why, why was this preposterous, you might ask? Well, for the same reason that a lot of people her age struggled with this concept. It was how she explained her perspective that was...hilariously awful. My mother spouted the same argument heard across the planet...a marriage is a commitment to god, a union in front of god, between a man and a woman. And that was that; no grey area here. God doesn't approve of the "gay lifestyle" making a union in front of god even more exorbitant to her. Her theory was this: If we let "the gays" get married, what's next? The next thing you know, people will want to marry their dogs and we'll have to let them because we let "the gays" get married.
What? No really, what???? The only thing I will say on this is something that will clarify just how dissimilar my mother and I are. If people wanted to marry their dogs, without having sex with them or doing anything else that would harm them, I would understand. I love my dog so much that I could pop her little head off. I would consider marrying her....we're married now for Christ sakes. We live together, we snuggle, we bring each other joy and love, we are protective over each other, we don't judge each other. That is like a marriage....only way happier.
Example Two: Marijuana.
To my mother, marijuana and crack are virtually the same thing. I hear that for Americans (no offense intended) the marijuana perspective is similar, but, we aren't Americans...we are Canadians. And a lot of Canadians smoke pot and our Canadian laws regulating the consumption of marijuana are pretty lax. For those of you who don't know Canadian law, if you get stopped with less than a certain amount of marijuana on you, you'll likely get a fine that will not involve legal charges or a criminal record. You have an equal chance that the police officer will just take it from you (with no fines) and, after his shift that night, will likely smoke it in front of his TV to relax. That's just how it is. Once a year in Canada people sit on Parliament Hill and smoke pot all day. For those who don't know, Parliament Hill would be the Canadian version of the White House. I wouldn't go so far to say that smoking pot is the Canadian way...but, it's part of our backdrop whether we like it or not. This is also preposterous to my mother.
It all starts with pot.....marijuana is a gateway drug. Smoking marijuana goes against every fibre of my being. If you smoke marijuana, you will become addicted to it. I need to mention here that my mother believes if you use any mind altering substances, you are likely an addict. Except her...she enjoys wine and because she indulges in it casually, she does not have a problem. And, she doesn't...but neither does many of the people she surmises do have a problem - which is almost everyone. If a person is a crack head and quits doing that but still smokes pot, they mise well continue being a crack head because they are still using drugs. It's like those people who stop drinking booze because they're an alcoholic and then start drinking non-alcoholic beer. You can conclude from this that mom doesn't believe in the harm reduction approach, of which I am a huge fan.
My sister is a fairly conservative person and has never indulged in marijuana smoking and even she understands that pot smoking is part of the Canadian landscape. We often joke about how if Mom ever smoked pot, she'd realize what all of the fuss is about, would likely become a major pothead and, consequently, RELAX a little. My perspective is this - the government, a long long time ago, legalized the wrong thing. Alcohol should be illegal and pot should be legal. May be that's a little black and white thinking of my own. Here's some Canadian statistics for you:
In 2009, 89000 impaired driving offences occurred in Canada and, of those, 2% were drug-related (meaning 98% involved alcohol). This figure includes 154 incidents of impaired operation of a vehicle causing death and 890 incidents of impaired operation causing bodily harm.
In 2010, among Canadians 15 years and older, the prevalence of past-year cannabis use decreased from 14.1% in 2004 to 10.7%. The prevalence of past-year cannabis use decreased, among youth aged 15 to 24 years, from 37.0% in 2004 to 25.1% in 2010.
In 2009-2012, the prevalence of heavy frequent drinking among youth 15 to 24 years of age, was approximately three times higher than the rate for adults 25 years and older (9.4% versus 3.3%). Heavy infrequent drinking increased among adults, from 2.4% in 2009 to 3.3% in 2010. This was likely driven by an increase in heavy infrequent drinking among males from 3.8% in 2009 to 5.6% in 2010. Light frequent drinking increased among females from 25.4% in 2009 to 28.2% in 2010.
In 2010, 14.6% of Canadians reported experiencing at least one harm in their lifetime as a result of their alcohol use. 2.1% of Canadians 15 years and older reported experiencing at least one harm in the past year due to their illicit drug use (all illicit drug use, not just marijuana). Among current users the reported rate of past year harm has also not changed since 2004.
You can draw your own conclusions from these stats, but I will say this: the potheads I know are responsible, professional adults that smoke regularly and their biggest issue revolves around the potential for laziness. The alcoholics I know who drink regularly are a mess. Period.
Example Three: (What I Consider to Be) Basic Human Rights for Incarcerated Individuals.
They should spend their days digging a hole and then filling it back in...then they'd be tired and prison violence would decrease. They should be shot and then their families should be billed for the bullet, like in Japan. Bread and water....that is all they should be given to eat...they lost their right to nutritious food when they broke the law. There is no racial profiling in the United States...black people really do commit more crimes. Canada should adopt the caning laws that exist in Singapore.....people in Singapore get caned for chewing gum because it's illegal....I wish chewing gum was illegal here.
I have spent a lifetime hearing these phrases. It astounds me that I turned out so good....seriously, it really does. Is the one about Japan even true?
If you knew me more intimately, you would know how impossible it was for me to live under the same roof with someone who looked at life and people in this way. The only people in this world that I believe should may be be shot is pedophiles and that is because I honestly do not believe that they can be "cured." I feel that I've done the research enough to qualify my opinion on this as I worked in a relapse prevention program for pedophiles while completing my bachelor of social work degree. I'm not saying that some of these individuals do not feel remorse for what they have done because it was my experience that some of them genuinely do. But, in terms of them stopping harming children.....I'm not so sure about that one. So, to me, if you harm a child and you cannot be helped and, therefore, you will continue to harm children when not contained in the walls of a prison....well, you gotta go. That is my personal opinion so I will not apologize to those who have a different one.
In my grey-world, and as noted in my description of my inability to watch COPS, I feel that people arrive at certain places in life due to circumstances that are often out of their control - initially at least. In working with kids and seeing the damage that is done to them, I am not shocked that the world is becoming filled with people who are engaging in criminal activity. Quite honestly, I am surprised it isn't worse. You cannot do the things that are being done to children and expect them to grow up and be okay. Everyone starts out as a child...an infant....and what happens in those first 3-5 years of life has a large role in shaping who an individual is. This is basic, to me. This doesn't even speak to the other aspects of society that shape individuals, such as racism, sexism, bigotry and hate. I also believe this: if you lock a person in a cage, they will become an animal. That is common sense, to me.
Example Four: (What I Consider to Be) Basic Human Rights for All Individuals.
My mother believes that the government should be able to sterilize people. I am not naive enough to think that there aren't others who share in this opinion (as well as the opinions discussed above), in fact I am fully aware that many people believe in this concept. I used to work at a drop-in centre for local individuals living in poverty or who were homeless; I was a crisis counsellor there. I remember telling my mother about one of the community members who had birthed 8 children, all of which were apprehended at the hospital and placed directly into care. Sterilize her....immediately! Conversely, my first thought was, wow - this woman must be in so much emotional pain, or feel no pain at all due to her life experience. Wow, I cannot imagine that. Wow, we need to figure out a way to help this woman. But, that's me. Not just the me that was trained to think that way via my education; the me that existed before that and after that and now and forever.
My mother wants to approach Muslim women and tear off their hijabs and tell them that they are free! And she loves the newly developed laws that are spreading across Europe and the UK, banning women from wearing their traditional head scarves. Not because she wants Muslim women to be free, per se (however she understands the word free to be applied in this context) but more because she doesn't want the hijab worn in Canada....or anywhere in North America....or, more accurately, anywhere outside of what would be considered "Muslim countries." Obviously, she believes in the when in Rome mentality. Similarly, any conversations about religion should be avoided at all times in my household. My fall from the grace of god and the catholic church was/is hard on my mother....she feels bad for me because I no longer believe. She also feels that I should believe just in case I am wrong about my understanding of heaven and hell. I think I'm willing to gamble on that one.
Because I have been forced to live with these ideals my entire life, they have become almost funny to me. And because I am so fundamentally different, I have spent countless hours attempting to help my mother see the error in her logic. It's taken me until the last couple years to finally see that this is an exercise in futility, as the likelihood of her changing is close to the likelihood that I will, let's say, become a nun or something like that. That doesn't mean that every once in awhile, my inner oppositional child doesn't rear her ugly head and engage in sarcastic arguments with my mother. Yes, that still happens more than I care to admit. Because I love my mother, I have tried to understand her perspective on things given her limited life experience, her generation, and all that business. I can say truthfully that she often will not step outside of her comfort zone to attempt to understand my perspectives. She's amusing though.....I will give her that.
I think the above describes the real reason we need siblings. If nothing else, my sister is the only other person on the planet who truly understands what it is like to live a life with mom. I am so grateful for that.