The maiden wanted pancakes for breakfast on Christmas Day. Something we don’t have very often. She even offered to make them. I said I’d help. We bought the mix. A boxed mix was going to prove challenging enough; we are not ready for made from scratch. Syrup and pre-cooked bacon were also purchased. If the maiden was going to make it, it had to be fairly easy.
Christmas morning arrived. We had cinnamon buns to tide us over while we opened our gifts. After opening gifts, the maiden said she wasn’t hungry enough to make pancakes. I suggested we make them for lunch. Lunch came and went. I suggested that perhaps we could have them the next morning.
Boxing Day arrived. And guess what? She didn’t feel like making pancakes. Now I wasn’t upset. There is a saying we use a lot in the FASD world – expectations are just premeditated resentments. So I try not to expect. The Crone however is another story. She was a little upset on Saturday. But she was a lot upset on Sunday. She directed a few comments at the maiden. As usual, I try my best to referee … but then the comments were directed at me.
I understood the Crone was disappointed. I was as well. But I certainly didn’t take it out on the maiden. This is just a part of who she is. I could have made the pancakes and the breakfast – but that is where I draw the line. I was willing to help. But I was not willing to take it over. I let it go. The Crone couldn’t. She retreated to her room. She came into the main part of the house later in the day. I tried to speak to her but then as is usual, she started to tell me everything that is wrong with me. She went back to her private space.
For supper, I reheated the Chinese Food we had ordered for Christmas. With only the three of us, cooking a large meal does not make sense. I also am not a big meat eater (and I live with two who are) so if I cook, I don’t cook meat, and they aren’t usually interested. We felt a great compromise was ordering in. There was plenty left. The maiden called the Crone … who came to get her dinner, then took it into her room. Whereas we usually eat meals together.
Monday arrived and I was up early as it was a workday. I made and ate my breakfast. The maiden got up before her alarm and came downstairs to announce she was making the pancakes. I asked if she needed help. She said no. But we all know how that played out.
I had to help open the box. I had to tell her the difference between measuring dry and liquids. I confirmed that if it asked for melted butter, she had to add melted butter. I had to confirm which pan to use. I had to suggest when she said it didn’t look like enough, that if need be she could make another batch. I had to let her know it would be a good idea to put the oven on warm to keep the pancakes warm (as she was cooking them one at a time because she couldn’t manage watching more than one). There was also a lot of talking going on …. when she is anxious or doing something that she doesn’t do often, she needs to keep connecting. I was going to be late starting work, but I felt it was important that she meets with the success of having made the pancakes. Even if it was three days later than planned.
She asked if I wanted some. I had already eaten (as I didn’t know she was getting up to make them), but I said I would have one as they smelled good. She split the rest in two – for her and her grandma. When her grandma got up she asked her if she wanted some. Her grandmother said no.
I have written over the years about the vast differences in the personality between me and my mother. And I recognize it can be difficult living with one’s parents as an adult. She moved in with me when I adopted. I own the house. We had part of the house converted into a bedsit, but we share the kitchen and eat meals together. We are three adults living together but there is a family dynamic. And one has a developmental disability.
You would think because we only have each other, we could be kind to each other. I once suggested that it would be helpful if the Crone could give positive feedback now and again to balance the constant negativity or “suggestions”. She says she is not trying to control the maiden, she is trying to teach her. But she is trying to teach her to be like her. And she is using the same ways of typical “parenting” or support. It doesn’t work. It is frustrating, but let it go. However, if someone asks you to be kinder, wouldn’t you think you would try? While at first, I thought maybe she honestly thinks she is being kind by helping, but her response to trying to offer praise – “that isn’t me”.
Now I am sure there are parts of my personality that can be annoying or difficult to be around – particularly when we have been with only each other for the last two years during COVID. But I do try to communicate. I try to repair and apologize if I am wrong or hurt someone. These are things I am constantly working on because they were not modelled for me as a child. I don’t walk around commenting on the Crone’s every move, way of living or offering unsolicited suggestions on how she should change or do something different, but when I do point out something that is affecting me or try to set a boundary, she gets defensive and responds by telling me what is wrong with me.
I do know that when my daughter finally made pancakes after 3 days I was going to recognize her effort by helping her and eating with her. Because that is how we respect each other. It also builds confidence. We don’t build confidence by being angry or upset at them because they disappointed us. Especially if that person has a developmental disability.
I have been saying for a couple years it might be time to move. I probably should not have procrastinated on that because right now with the cost of living, I can’t afford to move. If I do move it will have to be out of Province. But I think I need to develop a plan of action that I can put into place when the time is right. The maiden has said she never wanted to move from where we live. But now I hear her talking about moving. The Crone is ageing, so I am sure there are things going on with that process as well. But she won’t talk to us. She has less patience, is tired and is slowing down. We can accept that. But her frustration and negativity toward us have increased. There is little laughter and joy in the house.
This weekend I was reminded of the support that my daughter requires with tasks. I was proud of myself for not holding rigid expectations but being flexible and available to support and accommodate when the maiden was ready. But the price of pancakes was too high for the Crone and it ended in an upset for her because of premeditated expectations.
It makes me incredibly sad. The maiden moves on and doesn’t hold grudges. However, I wonder how much her self-esteem and confidence are chipped away with each comment by the Crone. I am trying my best to keep her built up. But I’m tired. I also know I am triggered each time because I have watched part of my childhood play out in front of my eyes.
We suggest to caregivers that values clashes cause frustration and are a barrier to success for individuals with FASD. It absolutely is hard work to not hold those expectations. However, as adults without a disability, our job is not to build our loved ones up by knocking them down. It is to accommodate the disability and build them up by reminding them of their strengths.
I know there is intergenerational trauma at work as well. I am trying to end it with me. But it is hard to do that when the person lives with you. I have tried in my own imperfect way to have hard conversations with the Crone. She tells me to stop using my childhood as an excuse, or blame her, yet she says she is who she is because of her generation. She also says she is “too old” to change. She has been saying that for the last 25 years.
I can’t force someone to change. I have put up with it as best as I could because I wanted the relationship with my mother. Our arrangement benefits us both financially. I have talked about selling the house but told her I would likely have to move further north or to a different province because I can’t afford this province. She said if I move anywhere else she isn’t going with me. So then I am stuck. She is the only family I have (except for relatives in England). But the emotional price is becoming too high for me and the maiden. No one is happy. At some point, you have to say enough is enough.
Maybe we will experience a miracle. Otherwise 2022 is going to be about soul-searching and planning. Because something has to change.