Sea Change –

In the 90’s Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser co-starred in the sit-com Mad About You. It wasn’t like I was a huge fan but there is a scene that sticks out as memorable because it was so true and so funny to me. Hunt’s character is lamenting the fact her mother is coming to visit and how stressful it will be because her mom really knows how to push her buttons. Reiser’s character says something to the effect, “Sweetheart, of course she knows how to push your buttons, she’s the one who installed them.” – insert laugh track.

My mother still pushes my buttons. And, to be fair I push hers. To most of my friend’s my mom is viewed as funny, sincere, smart – even wise. I get that she is all that but she also makes me nuts. And – I her. She is my Debbie Reynolds and I am her Albert Brooks from the 1996 Brooks directed film, Mother – which if you haven’t seen it you should.

Since T. though there has been a profound change in the nature of our relationship. Don’t get me wrong – we still argue and we still make each nuts. The change is we both absolutely love the same person with such intensity that that love makes us aligned in a way we never have been. Also, who we are to each has been re-defined. My mom is a grandmother now and I am a mother now.

The first four months T. lived with us I had to take him to weekly-supervised visits with his biological mother at the Department of Health and Human Services building. I would drop him off with a caseworker who waited in the lobby and pick him up 90 minutes later or an hour later or 45 minutes later – or, whenever his mother got tired of hanging out with him. He was technically in re-unification status and there was a chance he could be taken away from us.

I started calling my mom to pass the time before I went back to get him. Sometimes we talked about where he was and sometimes we just talked about anything else but that.

The relationship my mom has with T. is very different than my relationship with her. They are buddies – almost weirdly peer-like. They get each other. They laugh a lot. They have little jokes. They think the other is perfect. They do not disappoint each other.

And – I know I will never have that relationship with my son because I am the mother.

Most of the time I was growing up my mom worked and then came home and cooked and cleaned for 5 other people. She had two kids that didn’t just get sick but were sick kids. She worried about money. She was tired.

I had never really thought about how any of that changed her until T.

This entry was posted in Adopting, By Notatypicalmom, Foster care, Parenting by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at CNN, Psychology Today online, The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: Email:

4 thoughts on “Sea Change –

  1. Hi Kari,

    Great stuff.

    I rarely got along with my mom unless we were driving somewhere in the car and she would let me free associate until I fell asleep.

    She died before I could tell her what a wonderful, absolutely stellar grandmother she was. In your column today you said it loud and clear to your mom which makes me feel better.

    Your columns honor moms everywhere, of all stripes, from benign-neglect-moms like me to hovercraft moms like my sister. And awesome grandmas like your mom and mine.

    Please keep writing,

    Libby xoxoxox

  2. Mom’s are impossible. I say so, as a mom. I already drive my kids nuts & I am sure I still will be when they are 45! Hopefully they’ll be able to appreciate the ‘insanity’ when they have kids of their own!

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