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Does Your Mama Love the Drama? 5 Keys to Help You Get Along with a Drama Queen

Posted May 27 2009 11:40pm

“I could go at any time,” my mother used to say.

Problem was, she started saying it about 15 years before she died!

My mother, like many others loved to create drama.

We were at odds. My “job” as her caregiver  was to make sure she was safe and receiving good care. If I gave into her escapades, the delicate balance of our lives could unravel. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are two diseases that are best handled with consistency and as much as my mother wanted to run the show and perhaps get in the running for the Oscars, I couldn’t afford to lose focus.

And it’s not just women who like to ham it up–I know a few dads out there who can really do a number on their loved ones.

I admit, a little flair for the dramatic is cute and fun…but it can become a bone of contention. For some, it’s about control and manipulation–and it can be exhausting for those who already have such a full plate to then deal with an emotional volcano.

My mother had a full arsenal:

“I’m falling, help someone! I’m falling!”

(Mother, you’re not falling–and I can’t come running every time you yell my name).

“If you do this one thing for me, I’ll never ask you to do another thing as long as I live.”

(Boy, if I had a nickel for every time she said that).

“I just wish the good Lord would take me.”

(Really? Because honestly, you’re doing everything you can to stay alive).

I got to where I could laugh most of the time (under my breath). There really wasn’t an emergency, and I learned to save my energies for the “big” events. I figured out that while my mother’s physical abilities were beginning to wane, she was still sharp enough to be bored. She wanted my attention–not always because she loved me–and certainly not because she wanted to ask me about my day or what was going on in my life.

No, my mom wanted me to talk to her, interact with her, care for her –and all that is good and much of it was necessary–but my mom had a difficult time understanding that I also had a husband, children, and other interests  and needs (to bathe, sleep and eat).

5 Keys to Help You Get Along with Your Drama Mama (or Daddy):

  • Take a moment to observe: what’s this about? Are they bored? Scared? Angry? Feeling Misplaced? Is there some way you can meet that need or reassure?
  • Don’t get sucked in. After you recognize that this type of behavior is happening over and over, then stay calm. Don’t let their emotions latch onto you. Let them vent, but see it as just that. As much as they try to get a rise out of you, they need you to stay level headed and make good decisions.
  • Get a sense of humor. Can you dispel the moment with a bit of wit or mild sarcasm? Don’t get into a word-match, but keeping it all in perspective means you can enjoy their moods (like not getting worked up with a 2 year-old, it won’t do you any good). Besides, this makes great stories to tell later–so enjoy the drama when you can.
  • Do a bit of reverse psychology: act like you  take them serious. Threaten to go to the ER, or call hospice or the local mortician–the old “I could go at any minute” isn’t as funny when you tell them you’ll call the local funeral home and give them a heads-up (facetious, I know…but sometimes it works).
  • Divert. Change the subject. Ask a question. Ask their advice. Walk out of the room. They can’t very well do their antics for long if there’s no audience.

Which tactic will work? Try them all and see what they respond to–see what brings you a bit of relief.

If you’ve got a Sarah Bernhardt on your hands (silent screen actress), then do what you can to live in harmony and try every tactic you can to ease the strain, but know that they’re not going to stop being their adorable selves. Some of it you’re just going to have to live with.

That’s why God made wine. To make the good days better. To make the rough days tolerable.

~ Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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