How to deal with criticism from an aged mother.

Deb asks: Really need help on this. How do I (age 61) not care about what my mom (age 90) thinks about my clothes. I love my clothes, I love where I buy them. I (age 61) have a certain style I wear: Underblouse (long sleeve blouse worn under my) OVERblouse: loose fitting sleeveless top and I only wear pants. I don’t wear skirts, dresses, tank tops or anything slutty. I purchased all my clothes from the three 99 cent stores where I live. And I always get compliments on what I wear from strangers. A few months ago I learned from a childhood friend that seven of our childhood friends passed on. All but one died of cancer. The one that didn’t die from cancer died of an infection that attacked her heart. Then on Sunday, February 19, 2017: I play the piano very well – playing since I was 12 years old. When I play my mom (age 90) knows I am going to play the piano because either I tell her or she is in the living room when I play. This past Sunday she was in her room and I didn’t tell her. I closed the door that separates the bedrooms from the living room/dining room area so I wouldn’t disturb her while she watched a show. Then after I stopped playing I went into her bedroom. I told her I am not playing any more today. She told me she thought the music was on TV, she didn’t realize I was playing. I played the day before that, so I got a little upset thinking she was putting down the other days I played and confronted her about that. So then a little tiff happened and out of the blue she mentioned my stomach issue I am having right now, which didn’t bother me, but she also thru out AIDS. I got mad at the AIDS part, because I knew what she was referring to which was when I found out four months ago that one of my childhood friends died of an infection she said that I shouldn’t buy my pants at the 99 cent stores – I could get AIDS. So when she referred to AIDS on Sunday I knew what she was referring to and I confronted her, and that is when she attacked my clothes. We had some fight. Yesterday I confronted her about what she had said about my clothes, and she told me she really doesn’t remember what she said, at first I called her a liar that she did remember but she claimed she really didn’t. Then when I confronted her one more time yesterday she put down my clothes saying they are dirty, you don’t know who wore the pants, you can get AIDS. We had some fight and I said a lot of horrible things to her. I don’t care if she doesn’t like my clothes, or my sense of style, I just don’t like her to put them down. BTW I hate the way she dresses. She wears jeans with a long sleeve blouse two or three sizes too small, or black pants (in the winter) and only beige or white pants in the summer with a Tee shirt.

Hi Deb –

I have some strong opinions on this issue (none of which have to do with dressing well; we dogs have no sense of style at all, which is why we are happiest running around naked or with just a collar!).  But first I need to explain something about my relationship with Handsome, and really all domesticated dogs’ relationships with their humans.

People say we love our humans.  That puts it far too mildly.  We adore them rapturously, and we also see them as our unquestioned leaders.  We might disobey our people, but that’s like a little child disobeying their parent; we don’t actually think we’re in charge, but we love testing the boundaries of what we can and can’t do.   I don’t know any feeling in the world worse than when I’ve truly hurt or disappointed Handsome.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I’d rather die.

So this is going to sound weird, coming after I’ve said that, but what I really need for you to do, Deb, is to stop caring quite so much about your mom’s opinions.

And there are a few reasons for this.  First, you are mature enough to not care too much about what anyone thinks about how you dress; you’ve earned the right!

Second, parents criticize the way their kids dress all the time, in ways they never would criticize anyone else they know.  It’s hard to break out of the mindset they were in when you were little and might put your pants on backwards with no shirt and mismatched shoes!  So even if you dressed just like her, she’d likely look for a way to improve you.  It’s not a mean or bad thing, but something you don’t need to let in anymore.

But third, and this is the toughest one to say…  She’s 91 years old!  You know very well that no one can contract AIDS from pre-owned clothing, but she might not.  And if she is told that by a reputable source, she might forget the conversation soon after!  Sure we hear about people that age in deep senile dementia, and she’s not that, but memories do get weaker as we age (yes I said we; it’s true for us pups too).  And maybe more importantly, we all tend to get more stubborn with age as well.  So if she had an inclination to believe that about old clothes, she might hold on to that belief even when it’s been proven wrong to her.

Deb you are clearly a devoted and caring daughter, and I would never want to change any of that.  Please stay by her side and give her all the love you’ve got.  But just as Handsome and I can disagree on a number of issues (he’s way too stupid to get upset about hearing squirrels on our roof, for example), you don’t have to accept everything she says.

In fact, while it’s terribly important to listen to her and take her feelings seriously, and it’s great if you can learn some things you didn’t know about her life or your family background, now is the time for you to take charge in this relationship, and be as great a daughter to her in her old age as she was a mother to you when you were young.

And just as she wouldn’t have worried about it if you’d criticized her outfit when you were three, it’s time to stop worrying about what she says about yours at 91.

There’s so much beauty you can find in this relationship; but you’ll have to be strong enough to keep some silliness from ruining it.

Just like with Handsome and me!

All my best,


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