Not Feeling Heard

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Two months ago my mother and I had a big fight. To be precise, two
months ago we talked about all the reasons we had not been getting
along well for years. There was no yelling, but lots of crying. Both of
us emptied our guts and our heads and said a lot of things that we
wanted the other to hear. It didn’t end well and since then we have
been polite when we bumped into each other but made no special
plans to get together. She invited me to an open house last weekend,
and then asked me if we could get together for lunch to celebrate my
birthday (next week). The day she suggested I already had plans with
my aunt and niece. I don’t know if she wanted a foursome, but what
she said was, “You’ve been avoiding me and it’s time to go back to
how things should be.” I don’t want to ruin my birthday, and I can’t
put the cat back in the bag. Accept? Decline? Explain?
Not Feeling Heard


Dear Not Heard:
What you don’t want to, and shouldn’t have to, do is spend your
birthday lunch rehashing everything, especially with spectators. Leave
a reply message saying how lovely it would be for you all to get
together. Give her the particulars that you as birthday girl have the
right to choose: restaurant, time, etc. Don’t respond to her bait. But
do say you’d like to talk about her message after your birthday week is
over. I’d like to think she wouldn’t be rude, but if she brings up
anything awkward at lunch simply say Let’s save that topic for another

After your birthday call your Mom. Stay how meaningful it was for you
to share your deep feelings with her, and how important it was for you
to hear what she had to say. Express how important it is to you not to
go back to a pre-sharing universe, where what was said is ignored.
Say you’re willing to meet with her again, or write her an email if she
needs to read what you want her to hear. But make sure you are very                            clear: the only thing you will not do is go back to polite denial as a way
of relating.