I may have mentioned on several occasions that I’m a bit of a tv hound. During depressed period or times when I’m in a fibro-flare, often the two coincide, playing on each other, or days when I’m so sick with the flu I can’t sit upright, I may watch an entire season of say, Desperate Housewives or Warehouse 13. Don’t judge, the psyche needs what it needs, when it needs it. I don’t have a Netflix account, but what I do have is On Demand and a DVR to record shows. On Demand shows are often programmed to where the fast forward feature has been disabled to prevent viewers from bypassing the commercials, but DVR? Now that is the ideal for those who want to control if they watch a commercial or not.
I don’t generally mind the commercials. I tune them out and do something else for the three to five minutes it takes to get through seven to ten commercials. Sometimes, I’m even captivated by the humor and inanity of some commercials, especially the ones which use incredibly talented actors in interesting ways: an Allstate commercial with Dennis Haysbert’s voice coming out of the mouth of a woman, James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell performing Jenna’s Facebook Friend Request, Samuel L. Jackson espousing the benefits of the Capitol One Quicksilver Credit Card. However, some commercials just weird me out.
Like what I call the “Old Spice Creepy Stalker Mom” commercial.
I posted my response to this commercial on facebook the other day and my new friend, Janice, from crazygoodparent.com, shared how she completely understood the message behind this commercial from her own personal experience.
The thing is, I get it too. All too well. Having a 27 year old son whom I’m so estranged from that he decided to get legally adopted, as an adult, by another family in order to change his name, effectively cutting all legal ties to me, before he got married and started his new life was kind of the ultimate “cutting the apron strings” experience.
He approached me in April 2012 to inform me that he and the other family were investigating and contemplating taking this step. I understood it then and I knew that while part of the underlying motivation may have been to hurt me the way I’d hurt him over the years, that the true motivation had very little to do with me, my wants, my needs, my desires, or my feelings. His decision and theirs was about them, their relationship, the love and care they have for each other, the sense of belonging and family they experienced with each other, the sense of love, safety, and acceptance that he was finally able to receive and internalize because of the relationship he has with them. Things which I have never experienced in my own life as a child or adult and things I didn’t know how to provide for him.
I was happy for him that he finally had that.
I was heartbroken for me that I hadn’t been able to give that to him myself. However, I was also proud of myself for having done what I could to facilitate and encourage that relationship between him and them, so that when he needed it most and I was least capable of being that parent for him, that he got to experience that kind of unconditional and redemptive love.
I told him that he would always be my son and I would always love him and that I was going to do my best to heal and grow so that when he was ready to have a relationship with me, I would be ready and available to be in relationship with him in those ways.
In the almost two years since that conversation, we have had several periods where he has chosen not to have anything to do with me. Throughout it all, we’ve had several stilted phone conversations and guarded, cautious face to face encounters. We’ve also had moments when there was acceptance, love, forgiveness, and happiness between us. Each time one of the latter moments happened, my inner being was flying high in exultation and hope that this would be the breakthrough moment that restored our relationship. Without fail, those moments were soon followed by the periods of rejection and avoidance.
Those periods of rejection and avoidance are the periods when I feel an itching desire to become the creepy stalker mom of my nearly 30 year old son. I get it. I really do.
Here’s the thing: My validation, purpose, and sense of self is not the responsibility or purpose of my son or my other children. It is not his/their job or responsibility to fill my life with meaning by including and inviting me into their lives. Even if everything was perfect between us and we didn’t have the history we have, the child is now an adult, with a wife, a job, a faith community, friends, and new family members which have nothing to do with me or my life. He does not define me or my life and I do not define him or his.
This Old Spice commercial is about enmeshment and the emotional and psychological immaturity of a mother who does not know who she is without the context of her son being the center of her life and her world who craves and needs him to make her the center of his world. It’s an exaggerated and distorted picture of the dysfunction of a woman who believes her only identity and purpose is to mother her son.
As moms our jobs are to figure out who we are as individual people so we can help our children figure out who they are as individual people, in order to prepare and equip them to leave us behind and create their own lives and relationships.