Archived Story

Giving the kids the guilt trip is a mom’s job

Published 10:18am Monday, February 4, 2013

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf

I recently saw the movie “Guilt Trip” starring Barbra Streisand. I made the unfortunate mistake of taking my husband along with me. Why was that a mistake?

Julie Seedorf

In the movie, Barbra is a mother of an adult son. Without revealing the context of the movie, though the title might give you a hint, I saw Barbara playing me!

The minute it started I knew I should chase my husband out of the theater. I was so glad my kids were nowhere in the building, and I will make sure they never see that movie. I didn’t want them to recognize that the character in the movie was me! I would never live this movie down.

Guilt has driven my life. I feel guilty when I do something. I feel guilty when I don’t do something. I feel guilty when I know there is nothing to do. I think it was passed down to me from my mother. I always felt guilty even when I didn’t do anything.

I could never take a lie detector test because even if I were innocent I would be found guilty because I feel guilty answering the questions no matter how I answered them.

Growing up, I could be guilted into doing something I didn’t want to do in my family very easily. My mom just had a way about her and I inherited it. The problem with laying a guilt trip on my kids is that it doesn’t work. They don’t allow it. I have tried as hard as I can.

“You’re not coming home for dinner? Your father is really going to miss you. He needed help lifting his golf clubs. Now he won’t be able to go golfing and you know how he enjoys his golf game.”

“We have to spend Christmas all alone?” Of course I am saying this with a sobbing voice. “You never know how much longer we are all going to be here. You are the only family I have left. I was an only child, you know, and I don’t have brothers and sisters to spend the holiday with. I was counting on you.”

“You’re not taking us on vacation. We were all packed. We arranged for someone to check our house. The cats are already at the cat sitter.”

Those are silly examples because right now I can’t think of real case scenarios but I know have tried them all when I have tried to get my family to do things for me.

I wondered how many people I knew watching the movie thought that Barbra was me. She couldn’t have been modeled after them because no one else can use the guilt trip as good as I do on my family. The more I saw me, the more I sunk lower and lower into my chair.

I love movies. My favorite move was “The Way We Were.” Maybe I just love Barbra but I also fell in love with Robert Redford in that movie, too. Usually I don’t see myself mirrored in a movie. But this time it hit me smack-dab in the face. I wonder how many other mothers saw themselves up on the screen, too.

I am always in denial about my off-the-wall behavior when it comes to my kids. Usually we can’t understand why other people see us in certain ways. I don’t ever see myself on “Dr. Phil,” but I see other people that I know being reflected on his program. Isn’t that human nature?

That is the way we are. We see other people in movies and books, but if it mimics our behavior we can’t accept our little idiosyncrasies about ourselves.

The movie ended and I quickly put on my jacket ready to run out of the theater, but I held myself back not wanting anyone to suspect that I had a light-bulb moment and knew I had to change. I give my husband credit; he didn’t say a word, but I could tell what he was thinking. I am a mind reader you know.

You know what they say about light-bulb moments? I don’t. My light-bulb moment left me soon after I left the theater.

I had a family member flying into the wild blue yonder. This person had to call me before they left; they had instructions to text me when they got to the airport with more instructions to text me when they arrived at their destination, with more instructions to take a photo to know they weren’t green from the airplane ride.

Yes, guilting my children is still alive and well in my life. May I pass that trait down to my children so my grandchildren will have something to remember me by.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net.