On leaving the nest

Dear Coquette,

My mother homeschooled me, but had no idea what she was doing. As a result, I never had any education, period, and no social skills because we lived in the middle of nowhere with no kids my age and she didn’t get along with any other moms. I didn’t realize what a problem this was until I got to college, and now have zero study skills and no self-esteem. I feel like I don’t even deserve to be here because of my cop-out upbringing. She was absent and mentally unstable, and I was left to my own devices and learned nothing that would help me in the real world. That’s my past, which is my responsibility to work on, but what I haven’t been able to do is forgive my mother. She takes credit for all of my successes and then blocks me out when I try to explain how much her decisions screwed me up. I know it’s in the past and nothing can be done; I just want her to even feel a little bit bad, to even acknowledge that she messed up. I’m prepared to work on all my issues alone, it would just be better if my mom was there to help me. Is this selfish of me? Should I just soldier on without her?

Your mother did what she thought was best for you at the time. Is she a bit of a nutball for sequestering you throughout your adolescence? Probably. Did she screw you up? Sure. All parents screw up their kids, but you’re a lot less screwed up than you think.

You’re in college now. Everyone is freaked out by their lack of study skills and self-esteem. Everyone is going through bouts of existential angst and crushing anxiety. Yes, everyone. That’s just the way it goes. You’ve got no choice but to buck up and get over it.

Start by recognizing that what you’re experiencing are very normal freshman anxieties, and while it’s perfectly understandable for you to project all that crap onto your mother, you need to realize that she’s just a very convenient scapegoat.

No doubt your mom is half a lunatic, and yes, you had quite the unconventional upbringing, but so what? Those were the cards you were dealt. Wanting your mother to feel bad about it is a waste of negative emotion, and if she did, I promise it wouldn’t feel as gratifying as you think it would.

You need to forgive your mother, and you need to get cozy with the reality that you’re not a kid anymore. You’re on your own now. The training wheels are off, and that can be a little scary at first. That’s OK, though. It’s supposed to go down like this. Coming to terms with your parents’ flaws is that first big step down the path of contemporary American adulthood.

The whole point of going off to college is for you to learn how to cope without your mom there to help you. She’ll always be your mother, but you still have to soldier on without her.


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