Something happened with VP Ma’am also that was enlightening. Lately, I have noticed she has become really angry quite suddenly. She was angry yesterday she was hungry, and they weren’t serving lunch yet. She was angry on Friday they were not calling us into the high school’s Multipurpose Hall to sit down and take tea. She was angry on Saturday that they had called us out for a bonfire and the bonfire had not been lit and it was cold. She was angry in these situations when her basic needs were not being met, and she was angry like a small child is angry only she is an adult and it did not get expressed that way.

So she was angry they weren’t giving us lunch and she said that and a little bit later, she began to ask me about C. She asked if she cooks for me when she comes down. There is something normal about her view of C and our relationship and something not normal about it. She asked if C cooks for me or if she does my laundry. C does not. C comes to my house and pretty much just cries or has some other intense emotion, and I soothe it. Occasionally, there is time left over after that for an activity of some kind. She has come exactly once where this did not happen at all, and she seemed to be normal and adult. It seems to be extremely difficult to explain this to anyone. I think it is partly difficult to explain because I expect her to behave the way she is behaving. It seems like what a child with an attachment disorder would do. We work on the attachment, and I soothe the feelings related to attachment, but in Country X and with most people outside of this little tiny world of people dealing with attachment issues, no one has any idea what the fuck I am talking about. I spend all of my time in this world, really—the kids in my class with attachment problems are generally the ones who can’t learn and can’t behave, and they take a lot of my attention. It’s hard to step out of it and start to imagine how to explain it to someone who has no idea of it. When I try to explain what happens between me and C, it always comes out very odd, like it’s missing huge chunks of what it would take to make sense.

When VP Ma’am asks if C cooks for me, it’s very hard to know how to respond. It’s hard to know how to explain I have no desire to be cooked for. I don’t want a mommy, and when I am do, C is not the mommy I would like to show up and take care ofme. It’s also hard to explain how for a Westerner, that’s a mommy job. Your teenage child does not come home and cook for you on holidays. To ask for that is pure selfishness. It is also vaguely insulting. I mean, I am almost 43—not 83. I think I can still hobble around well enough to get dinner on for two people.

I have frequently strayed from a Western mindset, but that one is likely to remain. And C knows me, and she probably knows that. Implicitly, I am pretty sure she knows I do not want her to cook for me and I do not want her to do my laundry.

I think it suits her, because C wants a mommy. C comes home to me, and she wants what I want to give her. Your child comes home from boarding school and you want to baby them, and C comes home from boarding school and wants to be babied and we are both pretty content. Either she wants to be babied or she wants her independence encouraged, and I do both. I cook for her or give her money and she either sits and plays on her phone or cries or scampers off somewhere else to do the things she wants to do—shopping or visiting her other relatives.

I tell VP Ma’am that I wouldn’t allow C to do my laundry and I don’t want her to cook for me, and this does not seem to register. She says something about, “When you feel that closeness.” Well, when you feel that closeness, you pay some attention to what the other person wants. Which is not, in my case, to have a maid.

It’s very strange, and I feel very hurt by it, in a very strange way. I cannot really fathom why VP Ma’am can’t sort this. It’s not our relationship. I really do not want C to do my work for me.

VP Ma’am goes on for a while, saying something about how I don’t take much chili and C can go and buy chili for me. VP Ma’am has never noticed that I do not find Country X food particularly spicy. It is fairly mild compared to other kinds of foods I might eat in the US. I do not sit and eat raw chilis because that is a great way to get typhoid. Anyway, at the moment, I have about 2 kilos of fresh and dried chilis in my house. So that’s annoying. But it’s more annoying that she can’t seem to hear that I do not want C to cook for me.

The thing is I don’t think she intends me to have any of those reactions. But I do think she is attacking me. She seems to do this. She wants to piss me off and she criticizes C, because that is the person closest to my heart. It happened when I asked National Language Ma’am to call C’s mom, because National Language Ma’am is calm and kind and understanding a lot of the time, and she kind of knows C’s parents, and VP Ma’am is panicky and catastrophizes and has been telling me she has a bad heart. Anyway, I think in retrospect this upset her and it upset her that C misbehaved when VP Ma’am had been a part of bringing her here. So then in one of the most stressful situations that I have been in through my adult life, and she intentionally attacked me via C.

That is what I think.

To continue, she attacked me yesterday and she attacked me when C misbehaved and I think she attacks kids on a fairly regular basis. She gets angry, can’t regulate, and attacks someone in this somewhat subtle way.

It’s confusing at times because she is off the mark. She doesn’t have strong empathy skills, and when she attacked me the day I had to deal with C’s misbehavior, she upset me because I thought of what might have happened to C. I thought of an 18 or 20-year-old asking C, who is 14 and probably had never kissed anyone before, to meet him after hours at a school where I know no one particularly checks on the kids at night. I think she was trying to shame me with C’s behaviour, but she made me insanely worried.

In this situation—the cooking/laundry thing—I guess she thinks I am feeling hurt because C does not look after me the way VP Ma’am would like to be looked after. VP Ma’am is bringing this up to hurt me, even though I do not feel hurt by C’s behaviour. VP Ma’am assumes this is a wound that I am merely hiding from public view, and I make excuses for C to hide my hurt. I don’t know. I know she is attacking me, but it doesn’t make sense how she is doing it.

The thing is my mom did this. I don’t remember this consciously, but I remember it implicitly. She got angry about something else: I am tired, hungry, neglected, forgotten, feeling helpless, whatever, and she looked for something in me that she thought she could use to hurt me.

It’s a terrible feeling. I get this kind of terror in remembering how it felt, to know she was looking at me with an eye to what about me could be used to wound me, and also to know she could wound me in so many different ways it was impossible to predict how. It could be something personal I had shared with her, or a mistake I had made last month, or something I had said two minutes ago, or what I was wearing or anything. Only then I did not make the connection to hungry/tired/thirsty/not getting my needs met.


7 thoughts on “Attacking

  1. Cat's Meow June 4, 2016 / 7:19 am

    VP Ma’am sounds like she would be incredibly stressful to spend time with.

    And waiting for some sort of attack from your mother must have kept you perpetually on the edge with her. I’m sorry.

    • Ashana M June 4, 2016 / 8:09 am

      She is, but she is also one of the few teachers who honestly cares about her work and tries to keep learning and she is open to new ideas. The two women I spend the most time with have that in common.

      It’s becoming more and more clear that although my dad is a much more obvious nightmare, my mom alone would have messed me up something fierce.

      • Cat's Meow June 5, 2016 / 5:57 am

        Yes, it sounds like your mother was not equipped to be a remotely sufficient parent. I’m sorry.

  2. Rachel June 5, 2016 / 2:50 am

    She is definitely off the mark and has her own emotional distress that she cannot regulate. Not that it makes her any less challenging to deal with, but she is definitely suffering inside, to attack you that way and presume to interpret your internal experience and force her perception on you.
    You aren’t interested in using a child for your selfish ends, hard to believe she can’t comprehend that, but it sounds like she can’t.
    I’m sorry you were triggered into that terror from your mother’s behavior – the unexpected, not knowing what is coming or why, it so scary for little kids. Especially pre-verbal, when there really is no explanation other than mom is sick, but when you are 2 years old, you don’t know mom is very sick.

    • Ashana M June 5, 2016 / 6:03 am

      There is something else going on that I don’t really get. She has a granddaughter the same age as C living in the house with her, and the granddaughter never cooks anything. I have never even seen her wash dishes. I am sure she must have to do something around the house, but VP Ma’am’s 30 year old daughter does all of the cooking. It’s not like she thinks 14-year-old girls should cook for their mothers. Other people ask if C cooks for me, but they aren’t as insistent about it, and C does cook when she goes to her uncle’s house. But there is this expectation that C should treat me like a benefactor rather than a mother and she should show a lot of gratitude, but not actual intimacy. Her lack of empathy in these moments leads her to force that perception on me, but it’s not an unusual perception. I still don’t get it though.

      • Rachel June 5, 2016 / 6:09 am

        Hmm, jealousy?

      • Ashana M June 5, 2016 / 6:32 am

        I think culturally there is something I don’t get. VP Ma’am has lots of stuff going on, too, which could involve jealousy, but I know C feels something based on her assumptions about other people’s peoples expectations which is not usually entirely off the mark. I think I do need to decipher it, because C needs help understanding her different responses to my expectations and other people’s expectations. The conflict over it fills her with a lot of shame.

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