Keeping Mum

It’s a source of very real, ongoing sadness to me that I find my mother quite so dull, and that we are unable to have adult conversations.  Adult conversations in the sense that they ebb and flow, there is momentum, related questions follow off the back of the last thing said, interest is paid.  For all my moans about my brother, we can at least converse.

My mother traditionally complains that I am quiet and don’t say much.  This was her one line when I once upon a time seriously tried to address it.  The truth is that when I do speak about anything: work, friends, where I’ve been or what I’ve done – there is never a follow-up question, never a search for more depth.  Never a “so what exactly are you doing?”  “What are you working on?”  “What are your colleagues like?”  “Might it lead to you doing more things like this?”

Such questions, it appears, never seem to occur to her.  There will be a half-second pause after a nominal amount of volunteered information.  A pause in which she may be trying to think of questions (but I don’t think she is), and there then follows an altogether different topic, such as a new lawnmower.  This is a steadfast rule and never an exception.  Although she might vary it occasionally by doing that thing where people frame whatever it is you’ve just said in relation to themself, even if the connection is extremely loose.

I think I’m used to the stunted, stilted conversations, and sometimes they are better than others.  Yet it never fails to disappoint and hang heavy.

Talk with my father is only mildly better, thanks to a handful of shared interest, his vague engagement with normal man things: football, business, current affairs, politics, cars.  But this still doesn’t give us massive conversational fuel, just five-minutes-in-a-pub-with-a-bloke-you-don’t-really-know-that-well sort of fuel.  Literally five minutes and then the pauses and the brain-dredging for questions begins.

Someone on Twitter said my Tweets about my parents made them uncomfortable, which in turn made me uncomfortable.  Why did it make them uncomfortable?  I don’t like myself for finding my mother and her tales of new lawnmowers insanely boring.  But that’s all she has to say.  I can see why it might make me look like a disrespectful prick, after all they’ve done for me etc. but the tweets are an instant reactionary expression of frustration – perhaps one which can’t easily be identified with by people who have better, more functional relationships with their parents, people who can talk to their parents like fellow adults.

And maybe if I’m brutally honest, excluding the middle class material things you inevitably end up taking for granted because everyone in your bubble has them, I struggle to see what they’ve done for me.  Much of our relationship feels like empty stunted words and obligation.

Having said all that, this was deeply uncomfortable to write – a blog post as virtual shrink, if ever I wrote one (and there’s plenty of those here) – and I would want to throw myself off a tall building if they found it.  However, as I only recently pointed my mother towards her Facebook news feed after finding she’d been staring plaintively at her profile page for two years wondering why she never saw anything, I’ll rest easy on that count for the moment.


2 Responses to Keeping Mum

  1. Redbookish says:

    Thoughtful and interesting post. You’re admirably analytical (in a good way) about the issue. It’s a good first step to trying to do something about it. Me: I wish my mother would do MORE small talk, and cease trying to psychoanalyse me and every other family member in casual conversation! Grass-greener-etc etc

  2. swashbuckled says:

    Thanks. Not sure I’d class as small talk, which still requires some degree of reciprocation. If I were to phone, screaming about being in the midst of an earthquake or hurricane, Mum would likely talk about how it’s drizzling where she is.

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