When my mum stopped by today, I noticed her car was making a funny noise. She agreed it didn’t sound right, and then described a few other odd things it had done today. As I listened to the list of symptoms, it suddenly made sense to me and I knew, more or less, what was going wrong with her car. I was pretty chuffed with myself for putting it all together because, really, I don’t know a thing about cars.
My pride aside, she rang my dad for instructions. He’s been a mechanic ever since he built his first motorcycle back when he was still too young for his driver’s license. He’d know what it was for sure and what needed to be done.
My mum described the symptoms again, and then relayed my diagnosis, with me feeding the words into her other ear. There was a long silence as my dad spoke, and then she went back out to the car to give him a reading off of one dial or another. I went back into the kitchen to finish making the tea.
When she came back in later and stood holding her steaming cup to warm her chilly fingers, I asked her if my dad had been impressed by my diagnosis. I certainly was — it had turned out that I was right. “Oh yes!” she enthused, her face lighting up. “He was very impressed!”
It felt good to hear and I was pleased. But… no. Something in the way she’d replied just hadn’t convinced me. It is one of the biggest problems my mother and I have always had: she, so keen to make or keep everyone happy, often says what she thinks others want to hear, regardless of whether the facts or her own feelings agree. And we all take that into account and so none of us ever take what she says fully at face-value. And, because she does it so naturally — without even being conscious of it — I think she assumes we all do it as well, and so she never fully believes anything we say either. It leads to a ludicrous situation in which everyone is second-guessing (upon second-guessing upon second-guessing) everyone else and no one ever knows if anyone is truly speaking their mind. I find it exhausting, confusing… and so wasteful: I have a closet full of clothes that she has given to me as gifts even though I told her in the shop that I didn’t like them, because she knew I “did want them really.”
I tackled this head on. “Mum, did he really say that?” I asked.
“Yes!” Then, “Well… no.” She looked sheepish, and I smiled at her.
“Did you just lie to me? To make me feel better?”
“Well… Well, only because he should have! It was very clever of you! And I’m sure he would have been impressed if he hadn’t been so worried about the car… He was preoccupied…”
This was ridiculous. I am staring down the barrel of 40 and she was protecting me from the perceived disappointment of an excited five year old. I appreciate the kind intentions but… please. I gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Mum, please don’t lie to me.”
“No… Yes… I mean, Ok.”
But I know she will. She’s a hopeless case. And more than anything on this earth, she just wants us all to be happy all the time.