Family Bonding As Outlaws


Sometimes my mother would act strangely.

I remember when she told me that she remembered when my tiny behind could fit entirely into her hand, and that for that reason she did not have to listen to anything I said.  I did not follow the logic, but since I certainly could not remember when my behind was that small, she had me.

It seems that wherever I go, whatever clinical situation I have found myself in, my female colleagues on the staff eventually start talking about mothers and daughters.

The following statistic is not from valid research mind you – just from casual observation – but every mother wants to have a daughter just like her.This does not happen, as I patiently explained to my mother, because of the DNA getting all jumbled up through something called genetic recombination. I would probably have a daughter who was as charming as Great Aunt Gussie, the woman who had stolen the family inheritance and had not been known to be particularly polite in polite society either.

Butch Cassidy and his Hole In The Wall gang

Probably the most famous outlaw gang in history -- Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

The fact that mothers and daughters are genetically different is only one reason moms just never get someone “just like” them. Mothers and daughters grow up in different eras. A woman of my mother’s era may feel that her professional options were limited — teacher or nurse, maybe, but these were generally some sort of “skill builders” until Mr. Right came along.

My mother told me that her mother wanted to do something vaguely medical, even had some kind of an interest in laboratory analysis.  But she ended up being some kind of a religious philanthropist, starting Jewish institutions.  Nice, but not hands-on caring for other people, if that is where your passion is.

There are other differences, in family and upbringing, that are too great to describe.  Here is a superficial if not-otherwise bad article on this from our friends at Good Housekeeping and Web MD.

But wait, there’s more.  Consider the 32-year-old woman with allegedly healthy five and seven year old children at home, who said she was wildly depressed because her mother did not visit, did not come around at all, and could not seem to have a good, happy relationship with her.

I asked her the obvious question.  What kind of activities did she enjoy with her mother? I tried not to jump when I heard the response.

“Armed Robbery.”

Now I had not expected that, to put it mildly.  Almost all that I knew about women criminals came from quasi-mythological women — sometimes health professionals — women who thought what they were doing was euthanasia, when it was really serial killing.  Most of them specialized in men.

The most important thing that I learned from the notorious case of Aileen Wuornos was that the state of Florida limited the cost of the last meal to $20, and that you got a cup of coffee if you declined it.

More common things like fraud, I found a few mother-daughter teams, like these “care-givers.”

How to deal with my armed robbers? Look, let’s face it, I was up the creek here — no research, no road map. I had to listen to her talk, try to see what she had planned.

They separate relatives in the penitentiary. I should have guessed that one. Mother was a pothead.  I actually hear this one with tremendous frequency.  We have a whole generation of people who have been brought up by people who think that drugs are normal.  There are lots of these folks. Getting them off drugs must take pliers or a crowbar or something I don’t use.

That’s an entirely different field from mine – and from my observations – a wildly unsuccessful one.

I started with basics.  I told her it was okay to be different from her mother.  She said she had a “rap sheet as long as (your) arm, all things that she did to be “part of the family.” Yeah – if the family name is “Manson.”

Of course those murderers were not a real family — just surrogates, pretending to be a family, to be close or something.

We tried to talk individual vs. family.  This was a good, nurturing woman who actually put her kids with a babysitter when she went out for a robbery.  That is one definition of “responsible parenting.”

Separation and individuation are normally early stages in development. Could she see herself as separate from her family?  Yes, a bit.

I told her that my mother always said I never made any sense to her. How she wished she could have stood back and helped me care for grand children I was supposed to provide her — something she could teach me.

She had never quite accepted that I learned things she would never know. Maybe she was afraid her little girl would advance ahead of her — learning more, being more. I got at least a half smile from her. We daughters of mothers — sometimes we just have to move ahead and be our own people, in order to survive.

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