“I’m terrified that I failed as a mother.”
She doesn’t look me in the eye. Instead, she looks slightly off to the side at my mini, indoor, water fountain. I find the constant rhythm of babbling water to be soothing and comforting. Perhaps she finds the sight of it does the same for her.
“That is an exceptionally common fear.” I smile at her reassuringly. She briefly meets my eyes. “I might even say the fear of failure is the most common fear.”
“But it’s more than that.”
“If I failed my kid, I ruined his life.” Her hazel eyes shine with unshed tears. She bends over her knees and digs her manicured hands into her dyed-blonde hair.
I pause. “Will you elaborate on that for me?”
“I,” she took a deep breath. “I let him down. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being the mother he needed. Maybe I never was, and because of that he wasn’t guided on what to do.”
“Mhm.” I nod along while writing more notes down.
“And now, he doesn’t trust me. He doesn’t tell me anything about his life anymore.” The tears were now slipping down her face. “So I continue to be a failure.”
I sit back a little and allow myself to show compassion. “It’s impossible not to make some mistakes as a parent, but trying alone means you are not a failure.”
She smiles, but it lack vivacity. “I try to do the wrong things.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was so focused on how we looked on the outside, I didn’t notice how broken we were on the inside.”
“I see.” I check the time. “Perhaps we can pick this up next week, Jessica?”
“Yes, thanks Becca.” She wipes her eyes and smiles as we walk out.
I speak to the receptionist as we approach the front desk. “Kate? Would you mind helping Mrs. Hayward set up her next appointment?”
* * *
“You have a new client starting today.” Kate smiles at me as though she knows something no one else does.
“Oh, really?” I decide to humor her. “Do you know who it is?”
“No, but I bet you do.”
I quirk an eyebrow at her and go into my office. Turning on my water fountain, and opening the top window blinds to let the natural light in, I settle in for my day of therapy. It isn’t until four in the afternoon that I realize what was so entertaining to Kate. I walk out to the front, call his name, and point him to the couch in my office.
Taking my own seat, I pull out the new client paperwork. “Jared, is it?”
“Mhm.” I school my face into a neutral expression. “And, how did you connect with us?”
“My fiancé.” He shrugs. “She thought it would be helpful for us, for me, to work through some things.”
“I see. What are you here to see me for?”
“I feel like she let me down.”
I clear my throat as inconspicuously as possible. “Why do you think that?”
“She always seemed so focussed on making us look good to everyone else, but it just feels like she never paid attention to me other than that.”
“I’m … sorry to hear that.” I squirm in my chair. “I imagine that was a very difficult way to grow up.”
“But this isn’t just how I grew up, she’s still that way.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Like, just last night, we were at the house and she was just interrogating us about the details of the wedding.” He groans in frustration and runs a hand through his hair.
“That doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.”
“It’s just … it’s what flowers we’re choosing, and what colors we’re doing, all this … all this …”
“Superficial?” That seems harsh.
“Yes, exactly.” He throws his hands up. “How am I supposed to have a conversation about marriage when she acts like that?”
“That’s a perfectly reasonable question.”
* * *
“Benjamin? Please, come in.” We both settle in and I pull out the new client paperwork.
“Please, call me Ben.”
“How did you connect with us?”
“Your wife recommended you to me?” My eyes widen in surprise. Why on Earth?
“No, no.” He rubs his neck abashedly. “She recommended I do therapy, but I found the place myself. I should’ve been more clear.”
“That’s alright.” For heaven’s sake! “Are you here to discuss familial matters?”
“No, well, kind of.”
“I have a great relationship with my wife and my son, and they have a great relationship with each other.”
“I see.” Is he serious? I jot down some notes. “So, what’s wrong then?”
“It’s the dishes.”
“The … dishes?”
“They’re never put away right!”
“That’s very unfortunate.” I clear my throat and adjust myself in my chair. “Have you ever brought this up?”
“Of course! But no one seems to care as much as I do.” He almost sulks as he leans back and crosses his arms.
“I’m sure that’s not true. Maybe you should try explaining why the dishes need to be put away in a certain way.”
“Yeah, alright.” He perks up. “I’ll try that.”
“Wonderful. Do you think we’re at a good place to pause and pick up next week?”
* * *
“I’m trying so hard, but he just seems so uninterested!” Jessica slumps against the chair. “What else can I possibly do?”
“Have you tried just talking to him?”
“I mean about how you’re feeling.” I switch my crossed legs and glance to the side. What am I doing?
“Oh, right, of course.” She thinks for a second. “I’ve tried, I think. But he doesn’t want to hear it.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I was asking about their wedding plans, he’s getting married, but he barely responded at all.”
“Mhm.” How do I explain this?
“It’s like he’s not even listening to a word I’m saying!”
“What do I do?”
“Try looking at it from his side. Maybe you’ll realize why he seems so disconnected.”
* * *
“Is your mother as frustrating as mine?” Jared exclaims then folds his arms in irritation.
“I think everyone struggles with their mother.” I smile reassuringly. “Can you explain the situation?”
“She keeps forcing herself on me.” He grumbles in exasperation. “It’s like she thinks we’re connecting, but I have no idea where she’s coming from.”
“She went dress shopping with my fiancé, and Bella, my fiancé, told me she just complained about the dress not being elaborate enough.”
“Your mother does seem to have expensive taste.” I nod my head in agreement.
“Oh! Um, nothing.” You can’t say stuff like that! “Give her a chance. She may be trying, in her own way, and the best thing you can do is try to acknowledge that.”
* * *
“I talked to them about the dishes.” Ben settles into the couch.
“How did they respond?”
“Really well actually.” He smiles, looking relieved.
“That’s great. Are there any other problems going on at home?”
“Socks?” I raise an eyebrow questioningly.
“They’re everywhere! It’s like she just flings them off when she gets home and never bothers to put them away.”
“What do I do?”
I sigh inaudibly. What is with this guy?
* * *
“He’s so mad with me now.”
“What happened, Jessica?”
“I told them they should change venues to something better, but I guess they like the ‘rustic’ feel.” She practically rolls her eyes. “It doesn’t seem entirely appropriate to me.”
This isn’t your wedding. “I see. Perhaps you should take a step back from the situation.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is your son’s and his fiancé’s day. He may have a different vision for their wedding day than you do, and you should allow for that.”
* * *
“She’s gone too far this time!” Jared practically yells. “She told us to change venues because the one we chose wasn’t ‘big enough.’ Can you believe that?”
Yes. “You have every right to be frustrated.”
“She wants to be in charge of everything.”
“It’s our day, you know?”
“We should have it the way we want it.”
“I agree.” I begin taking notes. “Your mother’s taking it too far.”
“Do you already know about this?”
“What? No, no.” I look up in surprise. “Of course not, Mr. Hayward. How would I?”