DEAR ABBY: My mother recently confessed to me that in my senior year of high school, she sabotaged my chance to go to my dream school (with a nearly full scholarship) because she didn't approve of my wanting to go to art school. I missed my orientation because she "got the date wrong" and then told me the school refused to reschedule. The truth is she never contacted them and let them think I was a no-show. Stupid child that I was, I believed her.
Abby, I can't begin to describe what an impact this has had on my life. She has used that incident as "proof" that I didn't know how to make good decisions. Every time we talked, she'd remind me that everything I was doing -- my friends, my relationships, my hobbies -- was a mistake, a waste of time or both. Finally, to preserve my sanity, I had to cut off contact with her, but my confidence and self-worth have never fully recovered.
Now, nearly 20 years later (after a very rocky, unstable reconciliation), she has confessed that she torched my dream on purpose. She said she was sorry, but immediately followed it up by saying she knows a few out-of-work graphic designers, and I should be grateful to have a stable job.
She refuses to go to counseling for any reason, and talking to her doesn't help. She deflects by talking about how bad I'm making her feel. I don't know what to do with my hurt feelings; the damage is done. But all that old pain is fresh again in a new, awful context, and I now dread to think of what she may want to be "honest" about next. Am I being too harsh? Must I just suck it up and let it go? -- COULD-BE ARTIST IN TENNESSEE
DEAR COULD-BE ARTIST: You are not being too harsh, and you should not suck it up! You now understand that your mother, who seems to have an obsessive need to control, isn't someone to be trusted. Because she can't be depended upon to do what's right for you (as most mothers are), you will have to emotionally emancipate from her. Counseling can help you to work through your pain and disappointment and reach that goal more quickly than if you try doing it on your own, and that's what I advise. You have my sympathy. Your mother's parenting technique was terrible.
P.S. It's never too late. You can get back on your path by going to art school now.