Don’t call us, we’ll call you

April 7, 2011

Thesis Thursday: “Conflict of interest”

One of the things that I see often in the lives of these men is a crucial moment in which they were rejected by their mothers.  It happened with Jordan (remember him from here and here), although it took me some time to decode what he was really telling me.  I asked him about why he moved from Michigan with his mom and he replied,

Conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest?  What do you mean?

Situations, certain situations arose at the time. So . . . then I was right there, so she couldn’t choose both sides.

And so, did you end up deciding to go live with your dad?

Uh uh. No, she made me.

Oh, I see . . .

I didn’t want to. Cause I knew if I stayed with him I’d end up doing what I‘m doing now. Too strict.

He was pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing, but piecing together from other parts of the interview: his mom had a new man in her life and he had conflict with him.  So his mom chose the boyfriend and sent him back to live with his father.  I’m speculating at this point, but I got the impression from other things he said that it was particularly difficult for him that his sister was allowed to stay with his mom while he was shipped off to live with his dad.

For all Jordan’s verbosity, he never said much more about his relationship with his mother.  There was a certain protectiveness about his family experiences, so we moved on to other topics.  But Rob — maybe my absolute favorite (even though I say that a lot) — had more to say about his mother, that paints a picture of what he, Jordan, and a lot of others experience following their parents’ divorce or break-up.

Rob’s was a convoluted tale of being passed from family member to family member to state care to juvenile detention, but I’ll pick up the story at the point he was again being taken into state custody (DCFS typically means Department of Child and Family Services) because his alcoholic and drug-abusing father was going to jail:

Anyways, the DCFS system got involved with me and they were like well, you got to go live back with your mom. And my mom said, Nah, I’m not taking him back, take him to jail.

Once he introduced the topic of his mom, it seemed to get him thinking about the past and the step-dad who drove a wedge between them:

You know, uh, [pause, sigh . . . seemingly in frustration] ah man, it still drives me crazy all these years later, but I just wouldn’t, I wouldn’t let nobody tell my kids to do stuff, I wouldn’t let nobody tell my kids what to do, man. I couldn’t be with, no other woman. They have to understand it’s my kids first, I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. Anyways, he wanted to discipline us, you know, so, that’s why me and my older brother took off, because this guy ain’t gonna step in here. You know my old man was a cross-country truck driver and a alcoholic when he was home so we’re not used to that whole thing anyways. But I guess my younger brother being probably 5 or so when he came into the picture, he was able to go along with everything and he calls my step-dad, dad and he won’t have nothing to do with my old man.  So . . . I mean, now I talk to my step-dad, but I didn’t believe in like, um, physical punishment, you know, and whenever I was trying to clean my act up, I was writing stuff for AA and I put all the stuff in there and somehow my mom found it and she went to the rules they have. If you were bleeding, you deserved it, and that still disgusts me because I have my own kids, and I think you know, if a woman put their hands on my kids, that’d be it, you don’t have no right to try to touch them. Okay I can see from a woman with a man saying look I have three boys, I need your help disciplining them. But that’s borderline abuse if your kids are bleeding. That’s how I know I’m not crazy, I’m telling you.

Sadly, I could give you a lot more anecdotes about these men and their mothers and the new boyfriends or step-dads that they felt severed that parental relationship.  I don’t sit here and judge these mothers; there is no doubt they have their own sad stories to tell.  But I think a lot about parental rejection . . . how even when you have a loving, intact family, your parents will hurt you.  Perhaps some small comment or offhanded remark may make you feel rejected for a day or an hour or a moment.  And it stings because we innately feel that our parents are supposed to be our protective place. And then I think about Rob who, in his 30s, is still trying to understand why his mother would let someone treat him that way, would let him go to juvy rather than take him in.  He’s trying hard to come to terms with something that on its face, from his experience as a parent, just. doesn’t. make. sense.

Sometimes after I’ve grappled with these stories for a while, I just stop and go give my baby girl a hug.  It feels like the best I can do for them.



  1. I love your thesis posts. These are all so interesting to me, especially since I have a young nephew who has an interesting temperament

    Comment by Emily T — April 7, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  2. I love all your thesis musings, but this one was particularly interesting to me because of all the crap my husband went through with his mom. Yes, his dad was crazy and that brought about lots of horrible things, but the repeated rejection and abandonment from his mother was definitely among the most horrifying for him. And it’s true, if you dig deeper and find out the stories of the offender (the parents), you will feel bad for them, too. Oh the sad stories people have to tell! Breaks my heart.

    Comment by Jenn Morrill — April 8, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

  3. Sadly I can relate a little too closely with these stories. Yikes. There is enough selfishness in the world. What we need are the basics, loyalty, compassion, forgiveness, etc.

    Comment by Audrey — April 17, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

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