Auntie SparkNotes: My Mom Won't Stop Texting My Friends
I'm having a bit of a problem with my mother. I know she loves me and just wants the best for me, but lately she has gone a wee bit overboard. She texts/IMs/Facebook messages almost all of my friends on a regular basis to "check up" on me. (I go to boarding school and don't live at home.) She asks my friends personal questions about me and gets them to report my comings and goings, who I am hanging out with, and so on. She also texts me several times a day asking what I am doing and with whom as well. Auntie, she has no reason not to trust me. I have great grades and I have never lied to her about doing bad things.
This problem gets worse.
Over the summer, I had a male friend who I hung out with a lot. Let's call him "Ricky". Things started off great, we would hang out and go to the movies and so on. However, Ricky started getting really jerky. He would treat me like I was stupid for not liking the things he liked and make nasty comments about the clothes I wore. He also pressured me to do sexual things with him, things I told him repeatedly I did not want to do. He would laugh it off as a joke each time, but he would always ask again. Needless to say, I stopped hanging out with him.
Unfortunately, my mom started texting him. He convinced her that I had stopped hanging out with him for no reason and that I was being really mean to him. She took his word over mine. She started trying to force me to hang out with him, and when I didn't want to, she would get very angry and emotional, calling me a "cold bitch". She continues to text him and regularly rehashes the same tired argument about him.
Auntie, every time I talk to her about texting my friends, she gets really defensive, saying that she has the right to talk to whoever she wants. How do I get her to understand that it's not normal and she needs to stop doing it so often? Also, how do I get her to understand that Ricky was a jerk? I've told her time and time again, but she always believes him over me.
Wow. What's up with moms this week? They speak for you in college interviews! They want to be your roommate! And now, they're having creepy, inappropriate, traitorous relationships with that guy you dumped! HIDE YOUR MOMS, YOU GUYS. Something weird is going on.
And as for this, Sparkler, I admit: at first, I wondered if it might be possible that your mom feels utterly cut off from your life and texts your friends because it's her only avenue to information about what you're up to (albeit a totally messed up avenue that nobody should ever drive on; whatever her reasons, what she's doing is decidedly uncouth.). And if that were the case, then your next step would be to kindly, calmly ask her why she pumps your friends for information when she knows it makes you unhappy, and you've never given her any reason not to trust you.
Which, by all means, you're welcome to try. But now that I've read the whole thing—including the whiplash-inducing penultimate paragraph—I have my doubts that this is fixable. Because all things considered, it seems that your mom is so immature, and so much like a teenager herself, that she feels competitive with you, and cool and validated by her "relationships" with your friends... and that, like a classic teenage frenemy, she gets a certain sadistic satisfaction from siding with the guy you had every reason to want out of your life.
And if you're thinking that this is [bleep]ed up beyond belief, you are not wrong.
Which is why, though it breaks my heart to do it, the next thing I'm going to tell you is this: don't expect much, and don't expect change. You already know that a reasonable approach doesn't work with your mom. And though I'm sure your she loves you, she also shows every sign of being blind to appropriate boundaries, incapable of self-examination, and thoroughly, callously uninterested in your feelings. A woman who calls her own daughter a "cold bitch" for avoiding a guy who hurt her, and who doesn't see the enormous wrongness of pumping her friends for info on her personal life, isn't likely to change her ways no matter how rational the argument for doing so. And when it comes to getting her to understand that she's being invasive and awful... I'm sorry, sweet pea, but you won't. You can't. You will drive yourself crazy trying.
What you can do, however, is work with what you've got—and set and enforce boundaries to the best of your abilities. Start by asking your friends to respond to her messages with a standard, polite non-answer that directs her back to you—"I don't know. You should ask [your name] about that."—and to ignore her (or block her) if she presses them.
And when she does come to you, be transparent and truthful, but firm; tell her what you feel you can, but draw the line at giving her information you know she'll use to hurt you. You have the right to share your life on your terms, in a way that's comfortable. For instance, if she's really so interested in your social goings-on, you can talk on the phone twice a week and tell her everything you've been up to—rather than answering in real time to multiple daily texts that make you feel like you're being interrogated. And if she feels that she can't handle having you out of sight without texting you and everyone you know to check up on you... well, this is a good time to remind her that you've never given her a reason not to trust you, but also, you're at boarding school. She sent you there; she should know that distance is part of the deal. And that reminds me: your dad? Is he around? Because if so, and even if he and your mom aren't together, he should know that his co-parent is going off the rails.
That's how you'll deal with the day-to-day, and hopefully how you'll stay sane until you're out on your own. But when it comes to Ricky—and to your mom's choice to believe his version of events—there will be no such wiggle room. Tell your mom that you've told her what happened and why you've cut ties with him, and that as far as you're concerned, there's nothing more to discuss. If she brings it up, change the subject. If she pushes, remind her that she's out of bounds. And if she keeps pushing, tell her this conversation is over and leave the room or hang up the phone. And yes, this is a really tough thing to do as a high school student—and yes, I usually give this particular advice to adults (or near-adults) who don't have to worry about being punished for their noncompliance—but the fact is, your position (away at school, and on the moral high ground) gives you an edge.
Or in other words, there's the smallest of small favors in the fact that your mom can only push this issue so far before she'll have to say, out loud and in front of someone else, "I'm haranguing and harassing my daughter because she won't hang out with a guy who insulted and pressured her."
And one last thing: if this continues, don't be afraid to ask for help from the people in charge. Dealing with crazy parents is part of your school's job, and no doubt, they have a lot of practice. So if the barrage of messages continues, you might also want to consider alerting your administration to the fact that your mother is disrupting your ability to study—and harassing other students, to boot. And if she won't drop the subject of Ricky, then telling someone about it—an advisor, a school psychologist, a teacher you're close to—is good insurance should things get worse.
Best of luck to you. Let us know how it goes.
Do you relate to this craziness? Share your stories in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.