Although the phrase “keeping your own counsel” may be a bit formal, it simply means to keep some aspects of your life private. Mother and our stepmother Beatrice never chose to abide by this rule and over-shared many stories about their lives, their kids and other parts of their family. And what they over-shared was not always truthful stories, I might add. In fact, more often than not both Mother and Stepmother embellished, exaggerated, or just made crap up. They were both completely unfamiliar with the term Too Much Information.
Now our dad on the other hand knew exactly how important it was to keep his own counsel. He always told us that if you shared ugly comments or berated each other, it only made you look bad. Discussing negative aspects of one’s life was frowned on by Dad and he made sure to tell us positive things about our “life adventures”.
Being able to just sit and listen was not high on Mother’s or our stepmother Beatrice’s list of attributes. Both of them over-talked, over-shared, and were over-bearing. The focus of conversation was always them and their woes. They believed they were entertaining and that everyone thought they were the life of the party. Believe me, they were far from it.
Mother and Stepmother both specialized in sharing horrible (and often untrue) anecdotes about their kids. It is puzzling that a mother would denigrate their own children and, by so doing, their reputations. But both of these women seemed to take a perverse pleasure in making a male child of theirs sound like Charlie Manson and a female child of theirs sound like Lizzie Borden. Sometimes when we were together and ran into someone who stepmother Beatrice had over-shared with, they were surprised we didn’t have three heads with horns growing out of the top and spewed forth liquid froth. When they engaged us in conversation and we appeared normal, they were shocked.
Ah-ha! Another piece of the puzzle.
Living life with two dysfunctional mother figures was never a piece of cake. And we each have our own scars from the battles. The good news is we are survivors, mentally healthy and find ourselves to be, in our opinion and in the opinion of others, pretty damned good human beings!