Monday, 30 September 2013


I have to comment on this letter because it is doing the rounds on FuckBase and it is a piece of disturbing insanity.  It is sentimental and sounds really nice.  That is obvious, if it didn't appeal it wouldn't be doing the rounds, but there are one or two serious problems.  Here is the letter for your delectation.


"My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love.

I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter."

- Unknown,

If you think there is anything reasonable about this letter perhaps you will discover something about psychology by reading the following observations and criticism.  If you think this letter is appalling but can't explain why then the following might help.  If you think it's appalling and know why, the following may be interesting and may offer support to your relatively rare perception.

Why is a mother asking, almost begging, a daughter to be patient and understand her getting old?  Why is the mother asking for understanding from a daughter who she clearly doesn't understand except in prejudicial anticipation of her being impatient and non-understanding?  Why would you ask someone to be patient except that you were expecting them not to be?

One thing we know about children is that they learn from example.  It is well understood in psychology that telling children what to do teaches them how to tell people what to do.  Bullying begets bullying.  Love begets love.  The mother quite clearly has been impatient and non-understanding and feels anxious and a need to ask her daughter not to be like that.

If there were any doubt about that perception of the meaning of these words the letter goes on to confirm it.  The second paragraph makes an obvious and glaring mistake, or rather reveals the hidden truth.  To paraphrase it says "If I repeat myself don't criticise..." and one expects it to say "remember when you were young I didn't criticise you when you repeated yourself" but in fact it doesn't say that it says "remember when I kept repeating things when you were young."  It is laughably a little worse "... until you were so bored you fell asleep!"  This is a tragic letter and already the mother is pleading with the daughter "Please don't treat me like I treated you."

"When I don't want to take a bath, don't be mad and don't embarrass me."  This is really getting bad!  Why would anyone get angry and embarrass someone for not having a bath?  Of course if you could answer that then you probably know - it's because that is their own attitude to themselves and there is only one place that came from and that is their childhood.  It is clearly the expectation and suggests almost conclusively that it has always been the attitude of the writer and therefore the way she treated her daughter.  But like the second paragraph this one makes explicit that the mother didn't treat the daughter the way she now wants to be treated.  The allusion is to the equation "Don't hassle me I didn't hassle you." and in the most subtle way the wording is altered to confuse the brain into assuming that is what is being said.  But revisit the actual words and what it says (paraphrased for illustration) is "Don't hassle me like I hassled you."  What it says (verbatim) is "don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower".  Like a lot of abuse the abuser thinks it is fun and when they retell the story it sounds like fun.  There is complex trickery going on here.  The ambivalence is allowing for the interpretation that the 'chasing' (running after) and 'deception' (excuses)' was fun.  It is ambivalent because these things can be fun.  But clearly the writer is concerned that the child will not be 'fun' and tries to persuade them that they had 'fun' when she was little.  Why?  Why would you need to 'remind' your daughter that you had fun?  Do you think she forgot?

The next chunk is a total disaster.  A lot could be said but the phrase "don't look at me that way" indicates a lot.  First of all the letter was talking to the daughter about a possible future circumstance and now refers to a current event.  Of course that 'current event' is in the mind of the writer but it is clearly being experienced in the mind of the writer as they write.  So the writer 'knows' how her daughter will look at her and there are only two ways to 'know' that; one is prejudicially and the other is from experience.  Given that, if the mother has the relationship with her daughter to which she alludes, she should have a good idea of what her daughters reaction will be then either she is unfairly ascribing negativity to her daughter or fairly ascribing negativity.  Either way it doesn't reflect well on the mother.  She is either being unfair now or was unfair in the past.  Of course, people being what they are, it is likely to be both.  So the mother is pleading "Please don't be intolerant..." and goes on to explain how she taught her daughter how to eat "appropriately", how to get dressed, how to comb her hair and how to deal with life's issues.  This is possibly a case where one has to combine what one has learnt from the letter so far to make sense of what is being said at this point.  The suggestion that the mother "patiently taught" all these things is in the light of the mother pleading with the daughter not to be intolerant.  It seems strange to refer to bringing up a child as "teaching" them how to eat and dress but be that as it may the constant need to justify why the child should treat the mother reasonably is reeking of fear.  It does bring to mind the phrase "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

The prejudice is rife in this letter and now the writer says "don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant".  Then a really weird thing happens; the mother says something which may, in some profound sense, be true.  The mother says "Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you."  It begs the question why is the mother having to tell the daughter that?

The bit about a helping hand sounds almost reasonable but I am left wondering why it has to be presented as a deal.  Why wouldn't the daughter want to help?  Why does she have to be persuaded by the equation 'do it for me because I did it for you'?

The next bit is the only bit in the entire letter that sounded reasonable.  Given that this is supposed to be a letter about a loving relationship the mother says "don't be sad".  It is the first indication of the mother seeming to care how the daughter feels.  The tragic irony is that the mother doesn't go on to say anything about how it has all been worthwhile but rather asks for more 'understanding' from the daughter.

And the last paragraph, if it stood alone, is really nice.

But overall this letter is the most sickly sweet sentimental gluey manipulation I have read in a long time.  The serious problem with this letter is that it illustrates that some people cannot tell the difference between loving someone else for who they are and 'needing to be loved'.


  1. I think you have torn this apart with perhaps some very vailid good points but did it need to be done? I also think you are wrong in some cases. I see this as referring to what life may have changed in her daughter, because although she may have been brought up in a good way life can certainly knock sense out of you. To me it is asking for someone who can't ask maybe with dementia or similar, it's a reminder of how roles can change, I need to be reminded myself sometimes to be patient with my daughter, parenting is not as simple and rosey as you seem to paint a picture here.

    1. Thank you for that intelligent and thoughtful comment. I kind of agree with you insofar as life can be complicated and 'things' change. I felt it was desirable to tear the letter apart primarily because of the strange imbalance we seem to exhibit in our culture; That is of the 'authority' not being held to the same scrutiny and values as the 'subjects'. Having spent a great deal of my life figuring out what is going on with people's minds it is clear that we reveal an awful lot in what we actually say as opposed to what is supposed to be understood by what we say. I don't think I paint parenting as simple or rosy but I do try to clarify some of the dynamics. It may sound a little grandiose but part of my concern is with how we collectively allow politicians (and everyone else in authority) to get away with things which they are dictating others should refrain from. And it all seems to cascade from the way we bring up children - well it would really. So we have to stop this ridiculous culture of expecting certain behaviour from children without first making sure we can, and do, behave that way. It is too easy to blame a child for being rude or troublesome rather than understand why they are reacting in that way. One of the worst cases is the idealisation of the 'parent' (and particularly the 'mother') as if all parents come out of the same mould. Anyway - I know parenting is not all rosy - I have the wounds to prove it (but that is my problem - not the child's ;) ).

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    3. I don't know if you are old enough to be dealing with an elderly, ageing parent or not. I will only say this, if you get the opportunity to be the caretaker of your mother or father, especially to the time of their passing - you won't look at it quite the same way. All of the rational "psychology" that your are looking through now will pass away and your emotional responses will overwhelm you faster than you can process. All criticism will fade away and hopefully you won't have too many regrets for not having been more patient and especially more caring towards your parent. Don't let your analytical mind rob you of your humanity.

  2. I am disgusted by this review. You must be someone who has no experience with this population as you have made some very superficial comments about the daughter and claim they are based on her upbringing. You have viewed this piece from a "psychological" perspective which really carries no weight. I am a healthcare professional that works with families of clients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. I have my masters in psychology and public health. Clearly you have never actually experienced this and I hope you never have to, but it can be very easy for caregivers to become impatient or arrogant due to lack of knowledge or just plain scared. Please be more thoughtful next time you post.

  3. Reading your review I thought, duh, how out-of-touch this writer is. The point is NOT a literal mother "begging" a daughter. The words should be considered lyrics to be shared with OTHERS as a wake-up call--not a reprimand!

    1. My point exactly I thought. This is fictional and an idealisation which evidently, from the analysis, is not a reality. The problem arises when this is the thought process of a real person because it evidences the unreal world being constructed to justify or 'explain' reality which, of course, is in fact a fiction. It is also common place and therefore a little disturbing and serves as a mechanism to sustain the Stockholm Syndrome effect of complying with oppression. Interestingly you mention this should be considered a "wake-up call" and I would suggest it is precisely the opposite - a confirmation of the an-aesthetic state in which so many people exist. It seems the 'objections' to this post are based on emotional distress caused by questioning the established cultural sentiments which are themselves oppressive. This is evidently a disturbing issue.

  4. I think you are a fucking idiot and an asshole for this post! Try working with individuals who have dementia and you may change your mind about your ignorant thoughts.

    1. You seem resentful that you have to work with "individuals who have dementia".
      To refer to someone as an individual is somewhat depersonalising.
      You sound like a fucking moron to me.

  5. I was not a good mother, I was physically abused and verbally abused by my father and mother that adopted me. I got pregnant by a boyfriend that became physically and verbally abusive. I was not prepared for motherhood, tried to get an abortion and ended in divorce when my daughter was 4. Her father never wanted anything to do with her but did pay his child support and come to events such as her birthday and some school events. But he would never take her for a day or a few hours. I became a police officer and was very strict but bought my daughter whatever she wanted. I had two relationships with men while she was growing up and she was angry whenever I became involved. She drank and smoked cigarrettes, stole from me, and got pregnant at 15. I made her get an abortion and she has never forgiven me. My current husband of 22 years and I have taken her and her three kids in 10 years out of the 22. We have raised the granddaughter off an on. My daughter has no desire to forgive or be family. I have told her I love her, I have learned how I could have did things differently, but no forgiveness. What do I do

    1. I like that you have picked it apart, and you have excellent points. I absolutely agree that authority should be questioned. Look at where the world is today. I understand the comments from outraged health professionals and I understand their points also. I'm a mental health counselor and have worked with aging populations and children of aging parents. It is just complicated. I believe generational norms have a great deal to do with it. Women from my mother's generation had very specific roles as mothers and housekeepers. Her particular generation was still taught from the generation previous that children should be seen and not heard. Children should obey their parents. Children should not question their parents. If the answer was no, it was because they said so. Times change. We eventually learn from previous generations what works and what doesn't. In more current generations parents are perceived as having more cooperative relationships with their children; allowing and even encouraging questions, making decisions together when practical. I'm currently sandwiched between generations. my mother is elderly and my daughter is a young adult. I had my daughter early and I know I made a lot of mistakes, following in the way I was raised. As we've all become older though, I see a difference. I've worked through many of my grievances with my mother and come to peace with them. Occasionally when I'm with her, I wonder about her thoughts and feelings as she looks back on an encounter I bring up. I have hopes that now, as adults we can talk about what happened in a deeper way. Her immediate response is defense. Her second response is denial. I feel sad for her. My daughter and I, on the other hand, sometimes share our thoughts and feelings about a piece of history, or we don't. It's just not always a bfd. Sometimes just in a thoughtful way, my daughter will bring up a time when she had felt hurt by something I had done and my first response is a kind of horror at looking back and remembering the event and how poorly I had handled it. I tell her I absolutely understand how what I did affected her and I genuinely apologize. She mostly says, "It's ok," and goes back to what she was doing. It's just so healing for me, and I hope for her. I have faith that we're all learning at our own pace and that many of us are headed in a good direction.

    2. To Becky. When people are abused they become distorted. It seems to me that you had a severely damaging childhood and have made significant progress in spite of your expressed 'failures'. Of course it is always hard to know what to do whilst we are 'interpreting' life through a slightly damaged lens. All that is evident to me is that you are doing the right thing being concerned. You have my best wishes.

    3. To Anonymous (4 January 2016):
      Just yes really. I take the health professional's points seriously. I happen to be slightly less than perfect myself. ;) My post was a single perspective considering the philosophical issues and in an actual real life situation such as this I would be completely understanding. Life is so multifaceted and difficult to comprehend. But questioning and adjusting our cultural assumptions just might be a good thing. Thank you for your thoughts.

  6. Too any children ignore their again parents and treat many of them like the alleged daughter in the story above. I have seen examples of this.