How many times have you said or heard this phrase? Don’t tell Grandma! I grew up under the echo of Momma saying that about her mother, and as my sisters started their own families, it reverberated into their families as well. Momma meant not to involve Maw-Maw in many of the daily dramas because it would ultimately mean more work for her. Sisters no doubt had the same objectives. But for me, Maw-Maw was my confidante and comrade and when she wasn’t around, it was Mamma.
I’ve always told Momma everything. My sisters, on the other hand, have always opted to “protect” Momma by keeping their personal matters to themselves. It’s easier, they say, than dealing with all her questions and then her concerns.
Not me. I’m out there for all the world to see and Momma has the first set of eyes and the first set of ears for all my victories and troubles and all my thoughts and emotions. It would be easy to pull one over on her because she has always been preoccupied with the things in her own life, but I have always laid my stuff out in front of her and demanded that she deal with it. She has complied in a complicated dance that is unique to the two of us. Maybe this isn’t natural, I don’t really know, but it is at the core of the dynamics that make up our relationship. It was difficult for me in early adulthood to break free and find my own way in the world; I spent my first bout in counseling learning about symbiotic relationships: that’s Momma and me. Then I moved to the other side of the earth to learn to live without her. I gained independence and found my place in the world there in that foreign land, but the emotional bonds between Momma and me persisted. I don’t know how to live without her. And I don’t know how to not tell her things.
If my sisters are protecting her, is my tell-all practice not protecting her? My sisters always contend that Momma can’t handle the woes of her children; I am of the belief that she can. Maybe it’s not about whether or not Momma can handle it, but rather whether or not we can handle it. She does ask a lot of questions and of course, she shows her concerns and worries. But that is her part in the dance. Though I may not always like her reaction, I can’t dance without the partner. Besides, I don’t think her worries are excessive and the questions, well, they help me to figure things out as I deal with them. (I admit that reluctantly.) I’ve come to the conclusion that that this brutal honesty that Momma and I have is one of the characteristics of our relationship. It’s ours.
This piece in the relationship is now starting to crumble. Her reactions are not fulfilling to me and my stories are now more difficult for her to comprehend. It seems we are tripping over our own feet as we dance. Clumsy. Awkward. Holding together the dynamics as the pieces hang suspended in space somewhere just beyond our reach, we circle round and round and round… The daily drama is ours, symbiotically woven into the tell-all style we cling to because it’s what we do.
Don’t tell Grandma? I’m not sure I can do that.