#731: Backseat drivers and boundaries and bridges-too-far

Hi Captain,

I need to know if my boundaries are reasonable when dealing with my legally blind mother. She needs extra help while my dad is in the hospital. My job has mainly been to drive her around and help her with things she can’t see.

I have two things that make that complicated. I’m on antibiotics for a deep cut in my foot and the pills make me dizzy. I also cannot multitask and go crazy when someone “navigates” (backseat drives).

The dizziness means I can’t accompany her on lengthy errands without needing to sit somewhere cool. She’s been extremely dismissive of this.

She is also dismissive of my need to drive without distractions. She ended up walking home yesterday after I stopped the car for the second time that day to tell her to either stop backseat driving or get out.

Maybe I’m a bad driver, but I just cannot deal. It creates a dangerous situation. I think on some level she’s attached to “navigating” because she wants to be independent. Maybe she feels she’s been replaced by the faulty gps on my phone. In my defense, I always get where I’m going. I feel for her, but it’s too much. My siblings and dad just cope better than I do, I guess.

I wrote her a note reiterating my limitations and went out for the morning. I’m here for 6 more days. I predict major guilt-tripping from siblings and dad. Should i just politely reiterate boundaries and be prepared for silence and hostility? Are there any other tools to deal with this situation?

Dear Letter Writer,

“Mom, I can’t drive you while I’m on this medication, sorry. I’m too dizzy. You’ll have to ask someone else,” is a reasonable boundary.

“Mom, I can’t drive you. The way you backseat drive is distracting, and I don’t feel safe with you in the car,” has the advantage of being true. It probably won’t make your case to her, since if she’s behaving that way she doesn’t think it’s a real issue, so it’s up to you if you want to raise the “you’re being a jerk, mom” issue  or if you want to blame it on your own medication, i.e. “Nope, too dizzy, can’t operate heavy equipment. ”

“Mom, after the awfulness of (the day I kicked you out of car), I’m just gonna say no to driving you places.” Legit. I would honestly be surprised if she asked you to do it again after that, but one never knows

“Mom! Stop talking! You are distracting me and that is unsafe!” (yell!) or “Stop backseat-driving or I am going to pull the car over and I guess we’ll sit for a while enjoying the scenery of this fine parking lot,” isn’t ideal because she is not likely to get her to be quiet (the opposite, in fact), but have it up your sleeve if you do end up driving her again. I can’t drive with distractions, especially not with someone jabbering at me, so I feel you on how anxiety-making and scary it is to feel like you can’t concentrate. Pulling over until you feel safe is better than the alternative. Speaking of the alternative:

A scene from the Sean Connery movie A Bridge Too Far. It's covered with burning cars and tanks and rubble.

A scene from the Sean Connery movie A Bridge Too Far. The bridge is covered with burning cars and tanks and rubble.

Kicking a blind woman out of the car to walk home is a bridge too far. Like one of those childhood things, “Stop fighting with your sister or you can both walk home/Or I’m turning this car right around and we won’t go to Mount Splashmore” are things parents say, but leaving someone who is vulnerable to walk along the shoulder of a road isn’t something good parents do because it’s absurdly dangerous. Many blind people can and do get around just fine, and your mom can both be legally blind AND be acting like a jerk when she backseat drives, still, I am hoping against hope that y’all live in a place with sidewalks and that she wasn’t that far away from home and it was a familiar route for her. Get her and yourself home safely. Refuse to drive in the future.

If you learn one thing this week, learn that it’s better to say no to driving your mom at all than it is to saying yes to driving her with a bunch of conditions that she won’t respect and that you can’t enforce without danger to her and to yourself. You tried. If this were workable, it would have worked without getting to the point that it did when she walked home. This isn’t about politeness or modeling good boundaries or avoiding guilt trips from family. This is is unworkable, so, stop. Like, maybe-cut-your-trip-short stop.

I don’t know how long your dad is going to be laid up, but looking into what local taxi/transport companies and/or social services that provide transport to elderly and disabled folks are around is something you can do to legitimately help your parents. Friends of theirs. Neighbor college students home from the summer. Anyone but you.

126 comments
  1. sara said:

    I would focus on what you CAN do to help your Mom in this situation. Obviously the driving is not working out, but can you relieve some of the burden of having a spouse in the hospital by:
    –doing cooking/cleaning
    –filling up her freezer with meals
    –making sure the yard is taken care of
    –helping sort therough medical bills/paperwork
    –researching rides for seniors, as Jennifer outlines, and then accompanying her on errands to help out? (Say, call an Uber if you’ve got Uber in your area, but still go with her to help with tasks at the other end.)
    –going and doing the errands for her without her in the car — for example, have her dictate a shopping list and then you go do the grocery shopping for her, taking whatever breaks you need to sit.
    –for social events like church, book club, her volunteering shift, etc. (whatever she has to be physically there for), be the one to give carpool possibilities a call and arrange a ride for her

    It sounds like you have less than a week left on this trip, so I wouldn’t worry as much about whether all of these things are 100% ideal (that is, you going and doing every errand for her isn’t sustainable in the long term, but is probably workable for six days).

    Good luck!

  2. Jae said:

    LW, you have a medical condition (medication induced) that very possibly disables you from driving, even when alone in the car. Since you can be the only judge of that, I won’t guilt-trip you if you drive alone but you are certainly validated to let blind mom know that, sorry, you can’t drive her. You tried, didn’t work, please ask Siblings. THEY don’t have a medical condition right now. If you want to avoid Siblings’ guilt tripping, You can try and avoid driving on your own as well. A simple “sorry, I can’t drive. At all.” is a very clear statement and might stop all the reproachful looks.

    If you want to mitigate further, you can offer to do other stuff while they drive mom around. Laundry, cooking, washing up. All things one can do when a bit dizzy and not endanger anyone. And it shows yo care.

    I do not fully agree with the Captain about “kicking mom out of the car”. There are rules in a car because a car can be a dangerous weapon. You don’t grab the wheel, scream, or annoy the driver so accidents can happen. Rules were laid out, LW said “you stop this or you walk” and mom chose to open the door, get out and walk. Well, she’s a grown up woman and she knows best what she can handle. Apparently she could handle walking home better than shutting up. It really depends on the situation, but it’s better than driving her against a lamp post because LW can’t focus.

    Apart from that, yes, boundaries. So much.

    • aebhel said:

      I agree. I think that when you’re being a dangerous distraction to the driver, sometimes there is no better option than to have to walk/arrange your own transportation from that point. From the sounds of the letter, LW gave her mother the option of continuing to ride without backseat driving, and her mother chose not to take that option.

      This is something that could honestly go either way depending on the circumstances. Without more context, I’m not willing to say that LW was 100% in the wrong (that said, she needs to avoid that situation repeating itself in the future).

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Yep. “You choose, Mother” is a valid option here, I think. I do. Besides, I am not sure there’s a functional difference between “we’ll hang out here and enjoy the parking lot scenery” and “stop talking, or walk.” Unless LW bodily hauled her mom out of the car and left her at the side of the road. Really, in terms of what LW can do, both of those options mean “this car does not go anywhere while you are distracting me.” If asking mom to stop talking doesn’t “make” mom quit, I don’t think suggesting walking is going to “make” her get out of the car, either.

      Mom isn’t a child. She can make choices, too.

      • The difference, as I see it, is that telling her that if she doesn’t shut up she’ll have to get out and walk is two choices. Telling her that if she doesn’t shut up, the car will stay put until she does is three: she can shut up, she can get out and walk home, or she can sit there in the car venting her steam for as long as it takes and THEN shut up and be driven home.

        Since the shutting up at that moment isn’t happening, and the walking home is unsafe, having a third option to offer (which does NOT include the OP driving while distracted, as well as dizzy) is a Good Thing.

    • wondering said:

      I’ll grant that my partner is not legally blind, but he is a horrific back seat driver. Even if he doesn’t say anything, his body language will be distracting (bracing himself on the dash when he thinks I should break (which seriously, if the airbag does deploy, he’s going to get his arms broken), constantly shoulder checking, flinching when other drivers do things he thinks they shouldn’t, etc). To be clear, I have not been in a car accident in 27 years so I think it is fair to say that I am not an unsafe driver. I have also been driving a decade longer than he, and even taught him to drive as he didn’t get his license until he was 30. If we travel anywhere together, 95% of the time I’m driving, especially if it is a strange vehicle or city.

      We’ve discussed this many times. He has stopped verbally backseat driving but seems unable to stop the body twitches. He carries bus change whenever we go out because he believes that eventually he will annoy me so much I kick him out of the car, just like LW.

      Anyway, what I guess I’m saying is that even with a ton of desire to change, he can’t stop his responses. I think it is wrapped up in anxiety and control issues. Hopefully, LW’s mom isn’t struggling with the same thing.

      • wondering said:

        Ah, *brake*! I swear I can spell.

      • Leonine said:

        Hi, wondering. 🙂 I don’t know if you’re a lady person, but as you know, this kind of thing is unbelievably gendered. I’ve gotten this noise* from dudes of every stripe (except my husband, who dislikes driving and knows I’m a better driver than he is). Have you brought this up to him as a gender thing? Like, “Partner, do you act like this when you’re riding with a dude? Would you flinch and jerk around if Joe were driving? Because if not, I think you need to look in the mirror on this.” YMMV, but in my experience, reframing the issue so they can see the larger context and asking them to analyze their behavior objectively can help them see the problem and start to build new habits.

        * Almost more annoying than the shoulder checking? When they exclaim, in tones of surprise, “Hey, you’re a good driver!” Dude, I’m trying to drive here, so don’t make me roll my eyes.

        • wondering said:

          Oh god yes, like when you do a perfect parallel park and some old man on the sidewalk says “I’ve never seen a woman park so well!”

          I am a woman and my partner is a guy, but I can’t remember the last time he rode in a car that wasn’t mine or wasn’t his when I was with him, so I don’t have a basis of comparison on whether it is gender linked or not.

          • unagi said:

            Interesting. I wonder, wondering, if you could think of a pretext for a ride in a male driver’s car, with you in the back seat, before you broach the topic. I think you’d go a lot further in the discussion of ‘this seems like a gendered thing’ when adding a dollop of ‘ you really should extend to me the same courtesy you show to strangers’..

          • Jamie said:

            Just yesterday I parallel-parked in a small space on a trafficky street. I slid right into the space (one of my kids says I am Super Parallel Parker — Peter by day, Super Parallel by night) and three men on the sidewalk applauded when I got out. “Good job, Mommy,” said one of them. What does a person even say in that situation?

          • Paulina said:

            Since he didn’t learn to drive until he was 30, and you drive most of the time when you’re together, he may simply be uncomfortable with driving in general, and extra-uncomfortable when the driver is more aggressive than he is (which can easily be the case if he’s less used to driving than you are). I still flinch a bit when my sister drives me, and occasionally brace; I try not to, because my brain knows she’s completely in control and is massively more experienced than I am (and well taken about the airbag, thank you wondering), but my own driving reflexes know that I would have braked more slowly and they are expecting a different movement than I’m getting.

            The LW’s mom, being legally blind, would have much fewer clues as to what car motion to expect, and may find the difference from what she’s used to to be extremely unsettling. Why things are different (her husband is in the hospital) could also be a factor for anxiety.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            “The LW’s mom, being legally blind, would have much fewer clues as to what car motion to expect, and may find the difference from what she’s used to to be extremely unsettling”

            I touched on this upthread, but I’m going to repeat myself. “Legally blind” =/= “guide dog, white stick, completely black, sightless void”. People like that, without the ability to even tell the difference between light and dark, are a small minority. Most of us can see well enough to live perfectly average lives.

            This bit really sticks out though:

            The LW’s mom, being legally blind, would have much fewer clues as to what car motion to expect

            Um… That makes it sound like a) she’s never been in a car, b) has never driven and, again, c) is totally sightless and always has been. I could drive. I’d actually bought my first car, and was restarting driving practise for the first time in about eight years. I was really bloody good at it too, until the day I woke up to find that my optic neuritis was now present in both eyes, and was worsening. Just like the majority of legally blind people my visual impairments are acquired, not congenital

            It may feel different being driven by someone other than her SO, but shrieking at someone who’s going out of their way to help, despite sickness and injury, is churlish and irresponsible. LW should stay off the road, and her mother should stop hectoring and criticising the person who’s trying to help

          • Mookie said:

            “Good job, Mommy,” said one of them. What does a person even say in that situation?

            Jamie, say nothing. Get out a hankie, spit on it, and make like you’re going to wipe the dribble off their mouth. That’s what “mommies” do, after all.

        • ThatGirl said:

          This may well be a gendered thing to some degree – I haven’t driven with a whole lotta men in the car – but I’m here to admit that I’m a lady person who has done the attempted braking-as-passenger and occasional flinch while my husband (or sometimes other people) drive.

          I really try not to, especially with husband, who is a very safe driver. But sometimes I do it compulsively, because I’m feeling anxious about the drivers around us, not because I don’t trust him.

          And sometimes it’s because my brother in law is driving a little like a maniac.

          • unlurking said:

            Yup, here to say that I react with flinches sometimes as a passenger, and I know it is totally distracting and obnoxious, and also that it is indeed about anxiety and control. I try to mitigate it with focusing on breathing deeply.

          • jdrives said:

            Also a lady person with the Passenger Seat Flinchies. Totally related to anxiety, and why I drive 99% of the time.

          • mehting said:

            Thirded. As a lady-person. Whenever possible I try to ride in the backseat so I can’t see where we’re going. On good days I can control it. On bad anxiety days…not so much. This is unfortunate since I also think I am an unsafe driver when my anxiety reaches a certain pitch, (I step on the gas too hard) so I sometimes end up doing it to kind friends and family people generously helping me out and offering to bake them thank you for helping, sorry I’m so twitchy about it, I deeply appreciate your kindness goodies

          • I’m biologically female. Being a passenger while my ex-boyfriend was driving usually wound up with much flinching, wincing, and the occasionally, “What the [excessively long string of curses] do you think you’re doing?!” Needless to say, I did 95% of the driving when we were together.

            Oddly enough, however, my dad, who taught me how to drive, has some…interesting behaviors while on the road at times. Yet the most I’ve ever done while in the car with him was casually remark, “Dad, you know you’re in the left lane going 45 in a 55 zone, right?” So I do kind of wonder if for me, at least, it is about the power dynamic and struggles to maintain it in certain contexts.

        • emilyb said:

          I always thought that this sort of dynamic was a bit gendered, but not because of a guy having crappy attitudes about a woman driving,but because of who the default driver usually is. There is this sort of social default that men are the ones who drive, so in a lot of family/relationship dynamics the guys are not use to being passengers, especially in the family car.

          My Dad use to this. He had no problem if he was getting a ride from someone else (regardless of gender), but he could not handle being a passenger in either of the family cars, but especially in his car. As a teenager learning to drive I hated his back sit driving so much, that I insisted on getting my lessons from Mom, despite that fact her car had a weird clutch sequence that use to scare the crap out of me.

          • TootsNYC said:

            Yeah, i think it’s often a trust issue. Sometimes that’s gendered; sometimes it’s generational; sometimes it’s both. A parent might be programmed to not think of their kids as capable drivers. Or programmed to think of one kid in particular as “not capable” or “permanently in need of correction or direction.” And that can be gendered, or maybe not.

            Addressing that issue (“Mom, do you think I’m completely in capable?” or maybe even, “Mom, if I go the wrong way, what’s the worst that will happen? We’ll be a few minutes late. Getting lost, even w/ a GPS, is not the world’s worst thing.”)

        • RedinSC said:

          lady person here as well…my boss is the WORST driver ever. But he’s also not been in an accident (and he’s mid 50s). I’m not trying to be snarky Wondering, but he thinks he’s a great driver. And all of us at work warn new people…don’t let Bossman drive! He’s one of the only people I do the break check on. I drove with him once, and from them on, I say I can drive while you prep for the meeting.

          So, just going to say, accident free isn’t a predictor of good driving. However, I tried really, really hard to not flinch and such when I was in the car with him. So it could be your BF is just nervous in car or just nervous when you’re driving. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder (or passenger).

          • wondering said:

            I’ll grant you that accident free may not be the only predictor, at least in the case of your boss, but since I drive 95% of the time and he never objects when we take my car or tries for an excuse to take his car instead, I don’t think he actually believes I’m a terrible driver. Plus he NEVER volunteers to drive in a strange car or strange city, it always has to be me.

        • Ganymede said:

          Just for squirms, re “Hey, you’re a good driver!” – I’ve had (after a nifty gear-change and manoevre):

          “You’re quite a good little driver, aren’t you Gany” – from a slightly younger male colleague.

          Me (in my dreams): “And you’re quite a good little passenger, Rob”. Alas I think I only managed a withering look, but I was a lot younger then.

          • Carolyn said:

            I used to drive a reallyreallyreally big pickup truck and I got some genuine compliments and a few “pretty good for a girl” compliments. The genuine compliments (“You parked that thing like it was a Volkswagen!”) got a smile and a nod, and the backhanded compliments got a snotty reply (“I’ve never seen a woman handle a truck so well!” “Why thank yeeeeeeew – is that your roundabout way of asking me for some driving tips? It’s not hard to drive something big – I bet I could show you!”)

        • Gendered so much! My BF used to do this on occasion. I admit that my particular commute has made me much more of an asshole driver than I used to be (where asshole drive = basically an aggressive driver, which is unusual for a driver in most places of Iowa). The comments were quite bad for a while as he was a school bus driver, and therefore had to pay painstaking attention to his driving or risk losing his job or getting a pay dock. I finally told him to shut up about it, as a condition of him accepting my offer to drive is that he knows what he is getting into, and if he doesn’t like it, he can drive. But a friend who is a delivery driver is a quite similarly aggressive driver as I am, and no snide comments get made.

          So now, what happens is if he makes a snide comment, I don’t talk to him the rest of the drive (“you’re so worried about my driving, I should focus.”) and turn the music up (conveniently, what he considers as loud music is kind of quiet for me 😀 ). It was delightful how quickly it stopped happening after that. His compromises were taking naps on longer drives, and holding the “oh shit” handle when awake. It annoyed me at first, but way better than snide comments!

      • Eureka said:

        My mother does this. She has a lot of control issues related to driving vs being a passenger. So many times, if there are a number of us going someplace, we just give her the keys no matter whose car it is and we all are more relaxed.

        If for some reason she can’t drive (long trip, fuzzy from medication, etc.), she sits in the back and takes a nap.

        I myself am not a great driver. I tend to get distracted by conversation, the radio, the weather, or just my own random thoughts, and my wolf takes this into account. Before we get into the car, he’ll ask me about the planned route–even if we’re just going across town. If it looks like I’m going to miss a turn he’ll say something briefly, and then wait for me to correct. Sometimes he’s wrong, but we have a pact that I never hold that against him and he doesn’t hold it against me if I miss the turn anyway. We also have a code phrase that means “Slow down or you’re going to run that light or stop sign.” Again, I may have already noticed the light or sign–but not always and I’m quite grateful when he warns me. The key is that he never betrays any anxiety or anger, or makes me feel bad about the mistake that I didn’t make. (Though occasionally, when the car stops, he lets out this long breath…)

      • onyx said:

        I deal with this sometimes; SO gets panic attacks and thinks I drive too fast (he usually goes under the speed limit) and tail cars in front of me too closely. But he also understands that flipping out or distracting me with his own movements isn’t helping. The only time he backseat drives is for the tailgating thing (which I admit I do), but it’s polite and so I back off a little. Maybe get your man to therapy? If it truly is uncontrollable, it’s a pretty serious issue in his life that is potentially interfering with his ability to function. Especially if he carries bus change. Though I can’t decide is that sounds passive aggressive or not.

      • I am the World’s Top Backseat Driver and I had no idea how annoying (and potentially v dangerous) it could be for other people until I started dating my husband, who blessedly is the Universal Pinnacle of Patience. He laid out for me why what I was doing was so crappy, which actually gave me the acknowledgment/permission/freedom I’ve needed for ~15 years of driving-age-ness to just straight up tell people that I am a shitty passenger and would prefer to drive, TYSM. I loathe not being in control of a vehicle and/or not being in control of whether/how I can leave a location at my convenience (bingo, manifestation of anxiety/control issues). Nowadays I’m just honest about it and everybody is far happier. Also I drive everydamnwhere and it’s great.

        • Fierce Passion said:

          I have been in 10 accidents in my life (none of which I was driving in), and 1 of them involved loss of life, and 1 just broken bones. In most of those accidents, the driver wasn’t at fault either. As a result I am a TERRIBLE passenger, but I tend to stuff it down unless someone is doing something way off the chart (like my ex, Voldermort, who used to read hir email while driving 70mph), and then I’m all with the flinching. I know it’s distracting to the driver but I have ISSUES! And like I said, if it’s at the point that I’m flinching or gasping, it’s because the driver is behaving unsafely (or some asshole just missed us).

          • panda flannel said:

            Ditto. I have been in so many horrible, freak car accidents with other people driving (though with no loss of life, thankfully) that it is extremely hard for me to control my reactions if I feel unsafe in a car. It’s not like “I think you’re doing this wrong,” it’s “I am afraid I am going to die.”

            That said, it is pretty much only when someone actually is driving recklessly, or in the snow—but I just do not be a passenger in cars in the snow anymore because my reaction is so extreme and unpleasant for all involved.

          • Michelle said:

            I haven’t been in a lot of car accidents, but I was in one recently (no loss of life and it wasn’t the driver in my car who was at fault, but I was seriously injured) and ever since then I have been an absolutely horrible passenger. It was very difficult for the first month, as I couldn’t drive myself and I had a lot of doctor’s appointments.

            Now, though, I just insist on driving everywhere. It’s a lot easier to do that than to try to explain that me freaking out in the passenger seat isn’t their fault, it’s all the other drivers out there.

          • I was in a car accident last winter. No loss of life or limb, thankfully, unless you count my poor totaled station wagon. The other driver’s insurance company couldn’t find a way to pin any of the blame on me, which has actually made me even MORE controlling and worked-up in certain driving situations–if there had been any way that I could have avoided that accident by any means besides going on a different road or going on that road at another time, I might not tense up every time I see someone crouched at a cross intersection, looking to get across my side of a road. The fact that I can’t control what other drivers are doing, though, has probably contributed to my desire to walk as many places as I can, even if they’re in the next town over. :/

        • naath said:

          I’m not a driver, and I don’t feel qualified to comment on anyone’s driving ever (I sometimes provide actual directions, if asked to do so), but if someone pulled out their phone whilst driving I’d be demanding that they pull over and let me out of the damn car.

      • Person with high anxiety here. And, yeah, since I’ve started driving I flinch a lot more then I used to. Because I’m actually paying attention to the road. Even if I know there’s only like a 1% change of an accident in a particular situation. So now I just close my eyes, if I can’t read.

      • Gurlzone said:

        I was a very controlling person in general and a terrible backseat driver for decades. I would slam on that imaginary brakes, tell drivers how to manage traffic lights, where to turn, when to slow down or speed up, etc. Then one day about fifteen years ago – I don’t remember how or why – I suddenly had the realization that I HAD NO CONTROL OVER THE CAR. No matter what I said or how emphatically I moved my body, I could not control the movement of the car because I was not the driver. That was the end of my backseat driving (except for an occasional, “Watch out!” when the driver is literally about to hit something). I recently rode over a thousand miles with someone who turned out to be a maniac at the wheel, going 85 mph while tailgating the entire trip and I didn’t say a word until he pulled out his phone and started texting, too! So there is hope if someone has the capacity to accept the reality of having no control.

      • Katamari said:

        I just want to add that I do the flinching thing too (I’m a girl, partner is a guy). I get more anxious in cars than most people possibly due to the fact that I was in a bad car accident when I was young. I think this is a different situation to “back seat driving” (which I interpret as actually giving instructions to the driver) because it’s an automatic response that I can only control to some extent with a lot of effort, slow breathing etc. I wouldn’t lump it in with passengers who just refuse to shut up when the driver asks them to nicely.

      • No Longer In Academia said:

        I’m a woman with no anxiety, and I’m also a braker/flincher. I’m better than I was, because I know how annoying it is and I’ve worked on stopping it, but it still happens.. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that driving is a very deeply ingrained skill. There’s a lot of stuff that happens automatically and subconsciously, and the associated processing is still happening whether I’m in the driving seat or the passenger seat. I see a situation ahead that needs braking, and my foot heads for the pedal that isn’t there before the idea ‘we should slow down’ has actually shown up in my conscious mind.

      • TootsNYC said:

        Can he sit in the back seat so you can’t see him?

    • MadDissector said:

      Think of this as an extension of the “medical condition” argument. LW, you’re getting antibiotics because of a cut IN YOUR FOOT, and it has to have been recent if you’re still on antibiotics. How easy is it for you to drive with such a cut? I mean, if you have an automatic car and the cut is in the left foot, it should not bother so much, but nevertheless! Additionally to the dizziness, you must be at least in slight discomfort! That should be enough for your mother to consider that you’re not fit to drive.

      I told in another thread how I reacted once to my whole family giving me hints while I was driving (I stopped the car and said that I would go home on my own and leave them in the car). I agree with the Captain that “kicking” you mother out of the car is extreme, but I would recommend you to do what I did. Warn her that you will leave the car instead. In this scenario she can comfortably wait inside the car, while you regain your peace of spirit/clear your head/wait for a sibling. Or just stop, because you’re at your limit, and request that one of your siblings comes and saves the day. I am sorry that your mother is so dismissive how you feel. I mean, you’re the owner of your body and therefore people should take you earnestly if you say that you’re not feeling well. Sometimes, shocking is the only option that works. I have a morbid sense of humour, and in your shoes (with my own mother there, which by the way is also visually incapacitated) I would just say something in the lines of “either I stop now the car and upset you, or I continue driving, in worst case scenario I kill us both, and we share eternity together, with me reminding you every second of it that I TOLD YOU IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN”.

    • thebearpelt said:

      I do understand the Capt’s point, though, about the mom walking home. Being a woman or someone presenting as feminine walking home alone can be dangerous. Being disabled makes her more likely to be harassed, unfortunately. In that situation, I probably would have continued to either drive nearby her to keep an eye on her or would have called her a taxi.

      However, it’s also possible that mom would have turned down a taxi. Sometimes folks are stubborn. Or that she got out and walked home when the LW didn’t mean it literally, and then refused to get back in the car. These are things I would put squarely on the mom’s shoulders, then, since you likely can’t force her BACK INTO a vehicle.

      • Or it is entirely possible that it’s actually a pretty safe neighbourhood to walk around, regardless of your gender presentation and/or disability. Not to whizz on your parade, but I used to live in one of those. Tiny village, kind of place where everybody said hello to you, and there was surprisingly little traffic. Average was like… 55 or something in my area so there was a lot of canes, walking frames, and assorted mobility scooters. I’d not have any concern about kicking someone out of the car in a place like that, if they’re capable of walking and have reasonable mental capacity.

        It could have been either, I suppose, until the OP clarifies!

      • sara said:

        I think this really depends on both the neighborhood and the individual. I have a friend who’s legally blind in that she can’t drive, but is perfectly capable of walking alone in most neighborhoods, and would be pretty offended if anyone suggested she were not (or followed her a car just in case!!). And yeah, she sometimes experiences street harassment, like most women, but does not let this be a reason that she can never leave her house alone. Of course it’s possible that OP let her completely-unable-to-see-anything mother get out of the car in a completely unfamiliar and highly dangerous neighborhood and then abandoned her, but I think we can give some benefit of the doubt here (and after all, Mom did apparently make it home okay). If anything, I think the assumption we should be making here is that Mom is a fully functional adult human who is perfectly capable of judging whether she feels safe walking alone in her neighborhood.

        • K. said:

          +1

          I said this in my own comment waaay below, but yes. Being legally blind doesn’t mean being unable to walk places.

          I know my friend wouldn’t appreciate not being allowed to walk alone. And good luck getting her to stop ice skating, while you’re at it. 🙂

          • Big Pink Box said:

            Yeah, this. I’m legally blind and when I could walk, I did. I had a job to get to, a commute that involved 3 changes of transport, and then a mile and a half walk. Once I get back out into the world I’ll be piloting my electrocripwagon (English really needs Germanic compound words!) by myself. There’s a huge spectrum of visual impairments that go from ‘blind’ to ‘BLIIIND!!!!’, and the majority of people with VIs have sight, only a small minority are totally sightless.

            Another thing about VIs is that you can’t see them, they don’t usually mark you out as disabled in the same way that musculoskeletal problems, or certain neurological conditions do. I could “pass” completely unless my nystagmus was particularly bad, and summertime was great because I could slap on some sunnies and blend in with the “normals”! My colleagues didn’t know about it, nor did fellow students, dates, anyone who met me post eye-fubar, or anyone I knew beforehand who I didn’t choose to disclose to.

            LW – Self care is your top priority ATM. Tell mum you’re too out of it to drive safely (which is true), that you will do whatever else you can to help, and that heaping guilt and attitude on you will increase the stress for both of you.

        • TootsNYC said:

          She’s “legally blind” enough that she can backseat drive! So she has to be able to navigate, at the very least. Else what would she have to say? I guess “you’re going too fast!” or “you took that turn too fast” or “you stopped too suddenly.” You can tell that sort of thing physically.

    • Lizzy said:

      I agree. LW did not FORCE their mom out of the car. They explained the options — riding in the car while not backseat driving (a very reasonable and practical request), or not riding in the car. Their mom — a grown woman, not a child — chose option #2.

      The exception would be if LW were driving in a dangerous manner, e.g. wildly speeding, texting while driving, failing to check blind spots, etc. If Mom actually feels unsafe then yes, she should speak up about that. But if LW is driving responsibly and Mom is distracting them, then Mom is the one creating a situation that is hazardous to both of them. Cars are big powerful machines moving at speeds humans are not evolutionarily designed to travel at. You don’t fuck with the people operating those things just because they’re not taking your favorite route to the grocery store.

    • There’s not enough context for me to say whether it was a bad move on LW’s part. I willl say that if someone has to exit the vehicle and walk home, it’s a GIANT sign that the two of you can’t drive together. Maybe LW’s mom genuinely felt safer walking, or maybe it was a passive aggressive attempt for your sympathy*.

      Actually, since this is such a common problem with parents of small kids, one tactic is to pull over, get out, and check the tires. When you’re done, calmly say “Is it safe for me to drive now without backseat driving?” At the outset of a new trip, you can say “Mom, the last time I drove, you really upset me by backseat driving. Since I don’t want you to feel unsafe, as soon as you start talking about my driving, I’ll take you right home, and you can get a cab.” If she’s really unsafe, pull over to the nearest Target/Costco/diner/gas station and say “Sorry, this is the end of the line. You can get a cab from here. Do you want me to wait with you?” This avoids a lot of the safety issues of just having her get out and walk home.

      My mom was my grandma’s designated driver, because other siblings “weren’t available”, so it’s good to have a few backup plans. My mom has some long term health problems and takes medications that make her tired/dizzy/nauseated and her rule was “I take my medicine in the midafternoon, and I’m better in the morning. So if you need a ride from me, try to work stuff out so it’s before 2 o’clock. I don’t know if that’s viable for you, maybe you take your meds 3x a day, or in the morning, but that could help. I know my mom loves being the go to chauffeur because she gets to do fun things with people she loves, but you could spend time with your mom by calling a cab, picking her up, and paying the tab might be feasible. I hope your dad and you feel better soon.

      * My grandma pulls stunts while my dad’s in the car, and he hulks out. In some cases, it would be safer if he made her walk two blocks to her house.

  3. misspiggy said:

    With the completely unfair benefits of hindsight and not being personally involved, it might have been better for the LW to stop the car and offer to call a taxi for the mother, if mother wasn’t able to keep quiet. LW might want to apologise and say s/he wishes s/he’d thought of that. But there’s not really much else to offer.

    I don’t really understand why the siblings seemed OK with LW being chauffeur when there were these issues – sounds like driving Mum was the last thing the LW should have been asked to do, even if no one else was available. Errands could have been run by the LW alone, neighbours and the Internet could have been brought in – I don’t get it.

  4. entendante said:

    Putting my professional hat on here, if you decide to go with the “find outside help” advice (which seems like very sound advice indeed), and you’re in the U.S., an excellent first step is to touch base with the ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Consortium – or Center, depending where you are) that serves your mother’s city/town. It’s kind of a one-stop-shopping resource for local nonprofits and government agencies that specialize in elder services and disability services (the unofficial motto is “no wrong door”), and they can walk you, your mother, and the rest of the family through not only transportation options but in-home services and caregiver supports. Full disclosure, one of the things I do for work is coordinate our local ADRC (I work at a disability organization, but the rest of our members are elder-services folks), and I find that they’re an unfortunately well-kept secret.

    You can search for your local ADRC here: http://www.adrc-tae.acl.gov/tiki-index.php?page=ADRCLocator

    • espritdecorps said:

      Thank you!

  5. Has your mother been legally blind for a long time? Or is this a relatively new condition? Also, are you the youngest of your siblings?

    It sounds to me a little bit like your Mom may also be having trouble feeling dependent on you specifically. It’s one thing to be a little bit dependent on your partner, that’s sort of what partnership is for. But being dependent on your CHILDREN is something that not all of parents handle particularly well at first. And if she’s used to riding with your siblings, well this is now a new situation and every kid is different.

    It can also be hard for parents when their children assert boundaries at all. But in this situation not only are you asserting boundaries, you are doing it while taking on a care taking role. I’m not surprised that she got out and walked honestly. She’s trying to maintain some control and independence, and you are taking that away from her. (And you are doing this for reasons that are PERFECTLY LOGICAL but sometimes logic and THE FEELS are oil and water.)

    I’m pointing this out because it might be helpful to have a little insight into how your mom is feeling about this situation and why she is reacting the way she is. It’s possible that your Dad and your siblings tolerate things better, but it’s also possible that their relationships are completely different.

    I’m not saying your boundaries are wrong. But whether they are wrong or right, sometimes HOW you approach a situation can make a big difference, especially when you are dealing with parents. Of course, some parents are never going to respect your boundaries no matter what, and you probably know if that is the case with your parents. But when a person is already struggling with giving up their independence, and feeling older and vulnerable, silencing them can be very very hurtful.

    It might be helpful to try to approach this situation from less of a “ME DRIVE YOU SIT AND SHUT UP” perspective, and more of a “We need to get these things done for you as a team” way? Is there a way she can feel like she is contributing while you are driving? Can you have her read news articles to you to help you stay focused? Or hold your GPS? Are there errands you can run for her? (And it is important that doing things FOR her needs to be phrased in a “Helping her out because she is stressed about your Dad way” and not “Let me do this thing without you so I don’t have to deal with your disability” way.)

    I think asking her for help and understanding with your issue too is also reasonable. What I think is key is asking for some understanding, but also in a way that still enables you to help out. You can’t drive right now, and lots of standing and walking aren’t great. Are there some organizational projects around the house you could help out with? Or could you do some moral support things?

    You know your situation and your Mom the best, so you have to consider what’s going to go over best with her. Ultimately, no, I don’t see your boundaries as being unreasonable, but, sometimes it isn’t about reason. Sometimes everyone is stressed and upset, and boundaries seem like silencing, or not wanting to help.

    • unagi said:

      Totally agree with shinobi. Loss of independence is unbearably painful for everyone, and most likely the mom is stressed out of her mind not only because she worries about the dad, but because she’s feeling unhinged about falling to the care of those irresponsible idiot children she’s saddled with :-). So, LW, it’s likely that you’re getting the very worst of her behavior right now. But you should really try to approach all this with a large dose of compassion.

      That said, allowing things that upsetting/dangerous to slide in the car is setting a bad precedent, and some gentle setting of boundaries is essential. When something really bad happens to your father, further down the line, you do not want to have to deal with someone who’s used to getting her way mostly by screaming. And I can’t help think that demonstrating to her that boundaries exist, by setting your own, may be helpful in the long run by showing her she can set some of her own. Maybe you can inject some of that in the discussion to come, such as ‘mom, is there anything specific that you think i should do differently when you are in the car? the point here is for me to help, not to terrorize you, but we need to agree on mutual behavior before we both risk our lives again’.

      I learned to drive before my mother did. And we ended up in a similar situation, she was really wigging me out by doing things like grabbing my arm and screaming in my ear, for instance to alert me to the presence of a stop sign I was already braking for. One day I pulled the car over the side of the road too. But then I got out, put my thumb out, and looked convincing for a bit while she thought things over, finally letting myself be talked back into the car for a silent ride back home. Things never got that bad again, at least not dangerous, we established that freaking out the driver was bad for everyone’s health, there was never any touching or actual screaming again. And in her defense she was subjected to a lot of dangerous driving from her husband, from before I ever ended up behind a wheel, so her anxiety was in some ways purely justified. But also she didn’t behave toward her husband like she did with me.. punishing the better driver for another’s behavior isn’t right. Incidentally, could your mom be also anxious about your dad’s driving, have you checked how that’s going these days?

      While I agree with the Captain that you probably could have handled the situation a bit cooler, like calling a taxi for your mom, I just want you to know you aren’t the only one to get to that point. I very much hope that your get-out-and-walk incident has the same good results than mine did..

  6. Rowan said:

    Sometimes in these kind of situations it helps to name the underlying emotions and motivations that are going on out loud. Something like: “Mom, I get that it’s probably difficult to have to get rides from your children. I can imagine how hard it is to lose an important part of your independence. But I really need to be able to drive without distractions like someone else trying to navigate.”

    Also, are there other areas you (or she) can find where she could become *more* independent? Maybe having more outlets for self-determination other than the car would help.

  7. boutet said:

    My mother used to kick me and my brother out of the car for “fighting” (he would hurt me and I would cry) and make us walk down the street behind the car. I might have been 7 at the time this started happening, maybe younger. This doesn’t contribute anything to the letter response, it just came back to me very strongly while reading the response.

    • marithlizard said:

      Many sympathies, boutet – I’m right there with you, remembering standing on the side of I-95 telling myself they would surely come back for me sooner or later. I still remember what a revelation it was when I realized in my mid-teens that I could just refuse to get out and she would back down eventually.

  8. charmed.omega said:

    Captain,
    I just want to join some of the other commenters in arguing that LW was not unreasonable to kick their unsafe-to-drive-with mother out of the car. I will trust that LW made a reasonable judgement call about how safe their mother would be, and there’s no reason to assume that vision too bad to drive equates with vision too bad to walk places. There are plenty of blind people who do walk places, plus it sounds from LW’s letter that their mother has some visual input (guessed from LW’s use of the term “legally blind”).

    • arkadyrose said:

      I concur – “legally blind” covers a surprisingly-broad spectrum of ability. My father is legally blind – this means he can’t drive any more, but he’s still perfectly capable of walking places by himself. He can cross a busy street just fine. I would suggest that not only did LW make a reasonable judgement call about how safe their mother would be, but that LW’s mother also made a perfectly reasonable judgement call based on her knowledge of her own ability to get herself home safely.

      • Yup, I wanted to make a similar comment. I have a friend who is legally blind in the sense that she cannot drive a vehicle, but she can see just fine for walking, cooking, reading (as long as the print isn’t tiny), and most other daily activities. But seriously, I knew her for a long time before I realized she was legally blind because you can’t tell from regular interactions that she has a sight impairment. That’s not to say her disability isn’t real or doesn’t affect her life, but, for example, it wasn’t in any way dangerous for her to walk home because of her vision. It’s totally possible that the LW’s mother’s condition is similar.

      • VG said:

        I thought the same thing. Also, the mother is an adult and very likely has a phone (not guaranteed, but most people do these days) and she could have called a cab or one of the LW’s siblings if she didn’t want to walk/didn’t feel safe walking.

      • LemonEucalyptus said:

        Yes, legally blind doesn’t necessarily mean totally blind. Here is a good website that discusses terms like legally blind and low vision: http://www.visionaware.org/info/your-eye-condition/eye-health/low-vision/low-vision-terms-and-descriptions/1235

        One definition of legal blindness in the U.S. is visual acuity no better than 20/100 with best correction. My vision without any correction is worse than 20/200 (I can’t make out the giant E at the top of a vision chart), but I am very capable of walking several miles home or catching a bus across town without my glasses. Another definition relates to visual field; a person is legally blind if they have a visual field of less than 20 degrees (tunnel vision).

        We don’t know what level of vision LW’s mother has, but if she felt comfortable getting out of the car and walking herself home, then I don’t think it is fair to jump on LW for endangering her mother.

        • LemonEucalyptus said:

          Oops, that visual acuity criterion is supposed to be “no better than 20/200 with best correction.”

          • Yeeks. I didn’t realize that it took so little to be legally blind! I’m about 20/400 without my glasses, so I guess if I walk around without them, I’ll get a sense for what it’s like… and I’ve done that many times, without having the slightest trouble navigating ordinary walking routes, including crossing busy streets.

        • Yeah, I was “legally blind” for much of my childhood (I put it in quotes because I was so young it literally did not affect my life because I was pre-literate and also not driving…only because I couldn’t reach the pedals (okay I was 4)) and I could *see* plenty well to get around. Had I been tall enough to drive, I wouldn’t have been able to do that because things whizzing by at 70mph were beyond my ability to focus on, but walking speed was no problem.

          I could see well enough to get around except that I had severe double vision, and thus I could see well enough to get around twice which meant I tended to walk into walls just to the left of the doorway. And then I would get angry that the door moved. My parents were really mad at my first pediatrician for missing the obvious lazy eye. (We finally figured out that what was causing most of my vision impairment was actually an infection and got that cleared up after a year and a half of steroids and I’m now much better, still have that double vision but now it’s a very clear second image that I just know isn’t real. No! Don’t reach for that left fork. That left fork is a lie.- My life.)

          • Mel Reams said:

            Possibly off topic but do I ever feel your parents’ anger at that first pediatrician. I’m mildly near sighted and it’s much worse in my right eye than my left so my depth perception is kind of terrible. I had eye exams in elementary school and everything and somehow they totally failed to figure out that the reason I couldn’t catch wasn’t because I was just uncoordinated and/or dumb, it was that I literally couldn’t tell precisely where the stupid ball was. Thanks jerks for being crappy at your jobs 😦 I didn’t learn that my uneven near sightedness was the real problem until my early teens, by which point I’d decided that I would never willingly play a team sport ever again. Not that I’m bitter 🙂

        • TootsNYC said:

          And her vision has to be good enough that she backseat-drives because the GPS is faulty (i.e., navigation, or “turn here!” or “this is not the right road.”)

    • Courtney said:

      Saying to someone, “Stop backseat driving or get out of the car” isn’t kicking them out of the car. It’s asking them to choose between backseat driving and walking. If the backseat driver makes the choice to walk rather than refrain from backseat driving, that’s not on the driver.

      • crooked bird said:

        I agree. I don’t think the LW can necessarily be blamed. I mean, we don’t know exactly how the incident went down, but the wording we do have certainly makes it sound like the mom made a choice between backseat driving and walking, or (I imagine) simply walked out in anger when her daughter told her to make that choice.

        But I think the Captain’s point that the incident means the situation’s unworkable still stands. High emotions in a moving vehicle lead to hard words and it escalates to someone walking home (in a situation where for whatever reason it wasn’t originally considered OK for her to just walk places.) That’s a bad outcome; it doesn’t matter who’s at fault, it’s a very bad outcome and since nothing about the situation seems to have changed it’s at risk of happening again.

        If I were the LW, I would go with this as my argument. “Seriously, Dad? You want to put us in a car together again after what happened the other day? Do you know why I got like that? I was dizzy and confused and Mom was making it worse and I was afraid I was going to crash the car. You want to call a few taxis, or risk losing both of us a few more times this week?”

        Speaking of which, when the Captain followed “Let’s consider the alternative:” with that picture, at first I thought she meant the picture WAS the alternative and she was going to talk about, you know, death. Which I guess she did, some, but I want to say it louder: a very big issue in this situation is that IT WOULD BE GOOD IF NOBODY DIED BECAUSE OF THIS. Seriously, untimely death by car is so commonplace in our culture that we seem to be numb to the danger, but good Lord. You are still taking your life in your hands, and other people’s lives too, every time you get behind the wheel. Don’t ever let anyone coerce you into driving in a situation that makes you feel unsafe and not in control of your handling of the car. Guilt trips and errands are NOT WORTH DYING FOR.

        • “Don’t ever let anyone coerce you into driving in a situation that makes you feel unsafe and not in control of your handling of the car. Guilt trips and errands are NOT WORTH DYING FOR.”

          +100000000

  9. My town offers very little in services for anyone, but they do have a surprisingly efficient free shuttle available for elderly, blind and/or otherwise disabled folks. The only drawback is that there are days when the shuttle receives more requests than usual and there is an unpleasantly long wait for service. I hope there is a similar service available in your area. (IIRC, she asked her primary care physician about options and he was the one who suggested the shuttle to her.) She lived very close to our two major hospitals where she would have doctors’ appointments, but the shuttle also took her to the grocery store occasionally.

    (Failing that, how close are you to a bus stop, and can your mom see well enough to navigate getting on and off the correct busses at the correct stops? That is also an option, and one you can explore while you’re visiting. It may be one task too many for a stressed-out and very independent parent with a lot on her plate, but doing the research into it could potentially help a lot!)

    If the primary tasks requiring driving are grocery-related, you may be lucky enough to have a grocery delivery service in your town. It’s worth looking into! Elderly folks often can get the service for free by contacting the grocery store manager. In my area, there is no grocery delivery for non-elderly or disabled people, but grocery stores do deliver nearby to those folks. We also have (a rather expensive, admittedly) delivery service that can pick up nice restaurant meals (anything from tacos and / or burgers to sushi and / or complete steak dinners) and even mix and match restaurants (for a charge of $5 per additional restaurant, IIRC), so that may be an option for extra-busy days or days when your mom won’t have the energy, time or spoons to cook something.

    You are handling your boundaries as well as you can, AFAICT. Kudos to you.

  10. Mayati said:

    LW, I want to touch on how your mom doesn’t respect that you need to sit in a cool place when you’re feeling dizzy. It hurts when a parent doesn’t understand that a disability, injury, or other medical need is a real thing, or when they think it’s just “not that bad” and you should be able to suck it up for their convenience. But your mom is not a good judge of how real your symptoms are and how much you really do need to sit down somewhere while she grocery shops or whatever. That need is real. You shouldn’t have to risk exhaustion, falling injuries, confusion, and other exacerbations just for the sake of…toughing it out for toughing it out’s own sake. Listen to your body. Temporary side effects like these are still actual disabilities while you have them.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything you can say to your mom that will make her understand that. A reasonable person would hear “I’m dizzy, I need to sit down” and believe it. Your mom’s minimization of your dizziness — like her minimization of your need to drive in silence, without constant criticism and distraction — is about her, not you. There’s no magic word that will stop her from acting like this. And there’s no magic word that will stop your other family members from blaming you for having your boundaries. If they’re so worried, they can help pay for a taxi or a Lyft or bus fare.

  11. Leonine said:

    Hey, LW. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know how frustrating it is when people don’t take you seriously, and I’m sorry you’re in such a tough situation. I don’t know if this will help, but one thing that has helped me in the past is recognizing that you don’t have to fight. You don’t say whether the kicking-out episode was accompanied by yelling and such, but if it was, I’m sure it was extremely stressful and exhausting. Laying down a boundary is rarely fun, but for me, it got a lot easier when I started thinking about my boundaries as facts, like gravity and the tides. Tides come in, tides go out. They are predictable and inevitable. What’s to fight about? Someone fighting you over your boundaries is as curious as someone fighting you over the tides.

    “What we’re doing isn’t working, because tides. Let’s find a new solution.”
    “I don’t like these tides!”
    “I understand, but tides are a thing. Let’s find a new solution.”
    “Stop there from being tides!”
    “That’s not how it works. Let’s find a new solution.”
    “I DON’T LIKE THESE TIDES!”
    “I understand that you’re frustrated, but this is the way it is. Let’s find a new solution.”
    “ARGLE BARGLE TIDES!!!”
    “I don’t know what to tell you. Let’s talk again when you’re ready to find a new solution.”

    In my experience, engaging in the fight validates the person’s perception that there’s something to fight about. There isn’t. Replace the word “tides” with “boundaries” and the conversation makes the same kind of sense. Because tides.

    • Boundaries as immutable facts, like weather and nature.

      Friggin’ brilliant.

    • This is WONDERFUL.

      Even before you got to ‘argle bargle’ (ha!) it sounded like a script I run with my three-year-old, who is a determined negotiator, always looking for the loophole.

    • jdrives said:

      Putting this into my back pocket for boundary-setting conversations to come!

    • I also like this because some of my most difficult boundaries conversations have been about things I really actually CAN’T change, like the past, how much money I have in the bank and my ability to read minds. And also because I used to live with a cat who would come in out of the rain soaking wet and look at each human in the house and yowl like we were responsible for the downpour and it was kind of hilarious. Now anytime someone is like, “But you should have known I wouldn’t like this!” or “I don’t like that you can’t do ___!” I can just transpose his face on their faces and be like, “I KNOW, CAT. THE RAIN IS SO BAD. WHY DID I TURN ON THE RAIN? THAT WAS VERY MEAN OF ME.”

      • Christen said:

        (We would towel him off after.)

        • I’m sharing this with Mr. Celette, who takes the same sort of “Oh no look what happened that is so weird and unexpected” approach to the faucet when cats get in the sink. He says it’s a fact of nature that water comes from faucets, I think there might be some human agency there. It’s an ongoing debate.

      • marithlizard said:

        This is awesome. The next time I can’t help but complain to someone about something even when I know it’s not fair or changeable, I may do it in the form of “WHY DID YOU TURN ON THE RAIN?” and my best wet cat impression.

        • The look of betrayal my cat gave me when I opened the door to let her out into the snow, even though I had warned her she wouldn’t like it but I just wanted her to shut. up. (Siamese cat.)

      • Elizabeth said:

        A favorite book from my childhood was A Door Into Summer. (I can’t really recommend it now, as an adult, because I can see the horrible gender roles and hebephilia that went over my head as a child. It’s a good book if you ignore those, but that’s a tall order for most of us.) The title referred to an old tomcat who lived in a house in Vermont with nine doors to the outside. In winter, he would insist that his person open every single door, every time, before he would consent to go outside and poop, because he was convinced that one of those doors would not have snow and cold outside it.

        • And my comment about my cat and snow would have been so much better here!

    • Laughing Giraffe said:

      Sometimes it’s not even boundaries, it’s things like the nature of time and space.
      “We want all the marks in by 12:30 on Friday. Students must write their tests on Friday morning and not before. There must be a graded writing assignment each week. The teacher must be directly supervising the students at all times in the classroom.”
      “At least one of those things has got to give.”
      “NO! ALL OF THEM!”

    • I am definitely remembering this metaphor – not only for when I need to set a boundary, but when someone is trying to set a boundary with me. Such as the dear friend who has thus far been literally unable to tell me when his boundaries change – much like tides, they change, and there’s no use being frustrated with the sudden shift of tides.

      To abuse the metaphor a bit further, I look forward to the day I get a proper warning that the tides are changing before I end up facedown in salt water 😛

    • K. said:

      I love this. JADE-less boundary-setting/holding.

    • winter said:

      I like that I can see at least three strategies of “When I say No I feel guilty” in this example dialogue, namely Broken Record, Workable Compromise, (Positive) Assertion … oh and Fogging. (Yes I can recommend that book.)

    • Jack V said:

      I found this explanation so helpful!

      In fact, now I think about it, I think I can usually enforce boundaries very well when I have good reason to suppose the other person is incorrect or unreasonable. If it’s something clearly personal to me, or something where I’m clearly an expert. But when I find it really hard is when the other person _might_ know better than me that a boundary is unreasonable: if it’s something they really need, if it’s someone I’m used to deferring to, if they’re really critical — if they say “this boundary is pointless and harmful”, I try to tell myself that even if I’m right they shouldn’t browbeat boundaries down without explanation, but I try to be alert to times I may have made a mistake, and that makes it hard to maintain a firm un-cracked boundary.

      (Very fortunately, usually with minor things, not major things. I make it a point to think it through calmly before changing my mind whenever I can, even though I can’t always.)

  12. Clarry said:

    I’d guess that it’s not a desire for independence that’s making Mother so obnoxious at the moment; it’s anxiety. Her husband is hospitalized, and she’s going blind. Her child’s driving is one more thing that she can’t control. Could you engage the help of her doctor? It sounds like she can’t help the backseat driving any more than the LW can help the dizziness. Maybe put the backseat driving situation in terms of symptoms and see what the good doctor says.

  13. Captain Obvious said:

    Not to argue semantics, but just wanted to point out what LW actually wrote:
    “She ended up walking home yesterday after I stopped the car for the second time that day to tell her to either stop backseat driving or get out.”
    LW didn’t specifically indicate that s/he TOLD her mom to get out of the car, but rather she gave her mom two choices, and Mom picked the second option.
    Just sayin’ 😉

    • thebewilderness said:

      We call that an ultimatum. Eff you and out the door, is the way most peeps respond to them.

      • Courtney said:

        Well, yeah, when it’s something like “change who you are, or I’m leaving you.” But seriously? One side of the ultimatum was “stop backseat driving when we are within walking distance from the house.”

        Also, LW said that was the second time that she made the ultimatum.

        From that we know that:

        1) Mom had the ability to stop backseat driving long enough for LW to start driving again after the first ultimatum

        AND

        2) The walk from the location of the 2nd stop was not a real hardship for mom (since she chose differently than she did for the first ultimatum.)

        This reeks of a tantrum to me–seriously manipulative behavior on mom’s part. Mom who has already pooh-poohed LW’s need to rest because she is dizzy from medication for an injury.

        Would any of you be lighting into LW for the ultimatum if mom wasn’t legally blind? Being legally blind does make her more vulnerable than your average manipulative-mom-of-an-LW, but it doesn’t make her any less likely to throw a manipulative tantrum.

        • Leonine said:

          Yeah, I agree. The mom is pushing the LW’s buttons and causing an unsafe situation. The LW, correctly, refuses to drive under these conditions and says, “Either stop backseat driving or get out.” That is very different from, “Get out of the car,” and that’s not what the LW reports that zie said. The reasonable response to what the LW said is to *stop backseat driving*. Getting out is not the reasonable response. It’s the response that lets the mom be the tearful martyr, though. Putting myself in the LW’s shoes, I would not have said “either stop backseat driving or get out” because I’m not sure how far my mom could walk. I’d pull over, park, turn the engine off, and refuse to drive another foot until she agreed to knock it off already. Since that’s not what the LW did, and since the LW doesn’t report that hir mom was injured or put at difficulty, I think we can assume she wasn’t.

  14. chauffeur said:

    LW, I have a legally blind mother whom I drive. I also have a GPS (a dedicated one which is fastened to windscreen or dash; I don’t use the phone as it’s too distracting). I thought my own experiences with this sticky situation might be helpful to you.

    My mother has lived in her community for more than fifty years and she knows where she wants to go and how she wants to get there. She does backseat drive. She has just enough vision to overreact to some stimuli (cross traffic, oncoming turning vehicles) and not enough to understand that I braked just then because of the squirrel/pothole/iron plate in the road. So it’s been a little challenging, but we’ve been doing this for many years now and I’ve arrived at a good place. I used to get a bit annoyed, and now I just go with it. I screen it out. I ignore her. (Also, I slow down. I obey speed limits or go slightly below. Keeping the flow of stimuli slower seems to help control her reactions to them. She’s not flying through a blur.)

    1. Mom hates not driving. Hates losing her independence. I understand this. Allowing Mom to specify the route 95% of the time allows her some feeling of independence and allows her also to travel in familiar paths, which is good for her. So I let her tell me how to go places. If it’s suboptimal, in that it involves five left turns where one right will do, so what. We sit there until it’s safe to turn. She knows all the back roads and she likes using them better than the highways. We go back roads. Letting her choose the route makes her disability less of a burden and allows her to enjoy her knowledge of her area. (My mom has a really good memory for routes and byways. If your mom does not, I can imagine it would get pretty hairy.) My position on this has come to be, I have NO STAKE in what we accomplish on the errands or how it gets done. I’m just the driver.

    2. I don’t like backseat driving, I find it quite annoying and nagging, and I’ve gotten my head to a place where I can accept Mom’s directions by just… abandoning that feeling of control. I’m the chauffeur on those trips. On other trips, outside her zone of perfect familiarity, I do more of the route-choosing and the GPS is very helpful for this as it’s a neutral tool. (I have driven people who treated the GPS like a competitor.) But for stuff where she feels confident and wants to remind me to turn left at the red house, fine. Letting her say that costs me nothing.

    There are two kinds of backseat driving, directions and editorial commentary. Accepting directions is good, and giving directions is good. If your mother’s backseat driving consists largely of editorial, that’s bad, and she has to learn not to do that. Maybe she does that to your father. But she can’t do it to you if you are distractable for whatever reason. It is not safe.

    3. I’m not cool about you tossing your mom out of the car. I do know how things escalate, and at the moment with everyone under pressure (dad in hospital, routines disrupted) I imagine that it’s easy to go haywire. You have to be the adult now. I have expelled a backseat driver from the car, but it was an able-bodied sighted person in a familiar place (walkable city). You both had meltdowns and you cannot let that happen again. Turning around, abandoning the grocery run, and going home, okay, but dumping her, not okay. She chose to get out of the car, sure, because she was one-upping you.

    4. The dizziness from the medication hints that you should not be driving, period. Anyone, including yourself alone.

    5. The stress you feel from driving your mother probably has its roots in other parts of your relationship. It’s possible to leave it outside the car, but only if she cooperates in doing so and behaves like a good passenger. If she isn’t capable of having a conversation about this and responding to your side (I fear she is not, from your other remarks), then you should not drive her.

    I agree with the Captain’s closing remarks. Find a grocery store that delivers, write the number down/bookmark the website, find the local cab/shuttle company’s information, and go home. Today. If anyone gives you a hard time about it, well, they can take time off and drive her themselves, and possibly it will go better with someone not you. If your relationship with her is this bad at the moment, stepping away and giving both of you space will be beneficial.

    If you do leave, do not flounce. No personalities. Stick to a hard line of, “This is not working, because between the side effects of my medication and your distracting behavior in the car, I cannot drive you. It is bad for me and it is very bad for you. For both our sakes, I am going home.” When you talk with siblings or your father about it, stick to that non-negotiable line.

    Best wishes to you.

    • This comment is brilliant

    • lokilaufeysanon said:

      The LW didn’t throw their mother out of the car. They gave her the option of stop backseat driving or walk. Their mother chose to walk. As other commenters have already pointed out, the LW’s mother could be perfectly capable of walking, despite being legally blind.

    • Muffin said:

      I agree with all of this, especially because the emphasis here is on a result that will get everyone into a safe situation. That should be the goal.

  15. h said:

    I think the primary point of CA’s response was that this incident needs to not happen again. The most important bit of all was right here: “If you learn one thing this week, learn that it’s better to say no to driving your mom at all than it is to saying yes to driving her with a bunch of conditions that she won’t respect and that you can’t enforce without danger to her and to yourself. ”

    I second that sentiment 100%. I also agree that many legally blind people are perfectly capable of walking safely, and that when safety issues hit a certain point, it’s better to pull the car over and stop than to continue. Car accidents kill a whole lot of people every year. But regardless of who’s fault it was, regardless of whether the LW could have handled it better or not, that’s in the past. The important thing is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  16. Eureka said:

    LW, where are your siblings in all of this? Obviously they’re close enough to the situation to criticize if you’re expecting pushback–but are they really incapable of doing anything else? Or are they helping in other ways and it’s been the consensus that you = chauffer? Because it seems to me that under the circumstances, you maybe shouldn’t be driving at all, much less with another vulnerable person. Yes, I realize that language is loaded–I’d phrase it exactly that way if you do get the criticism you’re anticipating. If your siblings are reasonable peple who just want everyone to be doing their share while Dad’s in the hospital, they’ll realize that this is simply something that you shouldn’t be dong and adjust plans accordingly. If they’re unreasonable people who just expect you to handle stuff because you’re there and mom said so, well then, you’ll get lots of practice reinforcing your not-at-all unreasonable boundaries.

  17. Snow said:

    I’m kind of dubious about people saying that the OP kicked her mother out of the car. No, she didn’t – she told her mother either to stop trying to control the driving from the passenger seat or leave (after the second time of being told to cut that rubbish out). The OP didn’t drag her mother kicking and screaming from the car and abandon her on the side of the road, blind and incompetent. I believe from the fact that the mother made her own way home that her blindness is not totally arresting i.e she can walk around by herself, just not driving.

    And you know, the mother made that choice. She chose to get out and walk home on her own rather than keeping schtum or finding a different topic of conversation other than “YOU’RE WRONG AND THAT’S THE WRONG TURNING, AND WHO TAUGHT YOU TO USE A BRAKE? A KANGAROO?!” It’s kind of a childish response, tbh.

    I get why it sucked and why it’s not the okay thing to do, but it’s not as bad as people are making out, either.

    People back seat driving is horrible – it’s hard enough to deal with everything on the road and behind you, and throwing someone trying to play “I know better than you” when they have no controls (and in this case, no great vision on the situation) into the mix is just a recipe for disaster.

    The important thing is to follow El Capitan’s advice and figure how to stop this kind of thing happening again.

    • Jen said:

      Yeah, for what it’s worth, I got the impression that the mom made the choice to walk, not the LW, as well. And I’d like to echo the call for the siblings to step up to the plate. Where are they in all this? Have they quit driving the mom for similar reasons? Maybe it’s time for a family gathering and come-to-Jesus meeting about the help they can provide, what their mom expects, and the numbers for Lyft or the like.

  18. Uh… Hello, comment? It’s just… vanished.

    • crooked bird said:

      Sometimes they get stuck in the spam filter and reappear when the Captain has time to go looking through there.

      • Aaaaah. As you can tell – noob around here. Thank you for the heads up!

  19. BeldamSansMerci said:

    LW, I’m not sure I have much useful to add, but I have so, so much empathy. I have a mother who affects me very much in the same way.

    My advice: assuming that this is an ongoing problem, and your mother can’t/won’t change her behaviour, then you need to stop being your mother’s driver. Just stop. Absolutely do not drive her anywhere, unless 1) it is an emergency and 2) there is no other choice than for you to drive her. Other people have already given suggestions on how you can implement this and lessen any guilt you may feel over it – though I’d like to emphasise, you don’t need to feel guilty over setting a boundary that is there not only for your own peace of mind (which is important enough!) but also for the physical safety of yourself, your mother, and anyone else in the near vicinity of the two tonnes of high-speed metal you are piloting.

    I can confidently state that on the whole I am a good driver, a calm driver, and a safe driver (I realise an awful lot of people believe they drive better than they in fact do, but I’ll refrain from the tl;dr of listing my credentials to prove that it’s not pure self-delusion/boastfulness). Some time ago, however, I realised that in the interests of honesty I must amend this statement to: “I am a good driver – so long as my mother is not in the vehicle.” Her long history of ‘helpful’ comments on my driving means that, no matter what she is doing or saying, now just the mere fact of having her in the car sets me so much on edge (in expectation of what she is likely to do or say at any moment) that I become a markedly worse driver. In our case, it’s a reflection of other aspects of our relationship – but recognising that fact unfortunately does not help in the moment that we’re together in the car. I can withstand all other sorts of irritation and distraction with negligible on my driving – but my mother’s presence in the car is one thing I just can’t (safely) deal with.

  20. thebewilderness said:

    I think it extremely inappropriate to wait until you are driving in the car to give your blind mother an ultimatum. I sympathize with the situation and understand that you may not have realized how distracting it would be before you left. It is hard to think of a worse choice when you did realize there was a serious problem than “either stop backseat driving or get out.”
    I think that most of us have a negative response to an ultimatum. I suspect LW might react the same way as their mum did when presented with an ultimatum. I think LW needs to go home. It is hard to admit that we cannot live up to unrealistic expectations but it is safer for everyone concerned if we do.

    • K. said:

      She gave her mother two chances to choose between backseat driving and walking home, and I’m not sure that giving someone two options (“let me drive safely or walk”) is the same as a nuclear-option ultimatum.

      She also did this in the moment, as it was happening. I don’t know if she could have predicted it so I don’t think that she deliberately waited for it to happen. I don’t know if this is an “extremely inappropriate” planned set-up or her reacting to her mother’s behavior in the present.

  21. Drew said:

    LW, this is a rough situation, and I completely sympathize. It’s very hard for a child to say, “Mom [or Dad], you need to stop parenting and let me drive.” (It’s equally hard for many parents to stop parenting, FWIW, but that is not an excuse for not trying to do better when they are called on it.)

    I wish that, instead of saying “Shut up or get out,” you had pulled into a handy parking lot to calm down and maybe have a conversation with your mom when you weren’t also trying to drive. I think you’d be getting a lot less grief compounding a very trying situation. What is done is done, however, so let’s talk about strategies moving forward. Choose the one that fits you best or mix and match.

    1. Don’t drive mom anywhere anymore. This is my preference and I think you have a perfect reason: “Mom, it turns out that this antibiotic has stronger effects on me than I realized. I shouldn’t be driving at all, but I REALLY shouldn’t be driving with someone else who could unintentionally distract me. We’ll have to work something else out, either with Sibs or with some family friends.” And for your siblings: “Sibling, I’m willing to risk driving alone because I can focus all my energy on driving. I’m not willing to drive with someone else in the car because that splits my attention and right now, this medication is making it harder for me to concentrate.” I think the key in both of these is your mention of “someone else,” not specifically “Mom.”

    2. Set a rule: if Mom talks to you, you will immediately pull over so you can give her your full attention. This ties into “I really don’t want to be distracted when I drive” and ties it into “Mom, I treat whatever you are saying as important, so I can’t ignore it to drive. And I don’t want to drive while I’m distracted. So I’m going to pull over when you start talking to me so I can listen, and when you’ve said your piece, we can get back on the road.” If that means you stop ten times between your house and the corner store, so be it.

    3. There is no #3…because I think these are the only two realistic options here. You can’t change Mom’s behavior, only your own.

    Good luck and Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • Leonine said:

      The LW didn’t say “Shut up or get out,” though. I am really puzzled by all these reactions. Let’s look at the whole paragraph again:

      “She ended up walking home yesterday after I stopped the car for the second time that day to tell her to either stop backseat driving or get out.”

      The fact that the mother didn’t get out the first time is key. The first time it had happened, earlier that day, the mom had understood that she was not being kicked out, but rather was being asked to stop backseat driving and chose at that time to stop backseat driving. She apparently did not believe that she was actually being kicked out of the car–and in fact was not being kicked out of the car–and she apparently was able that time to control herself enough that the LW felt comfortable resuming the drive. For whatever reason, when it happened again, the mother got out and walked. This really feels like one of two things: either a) the LW really is a terrifying driver, and the mother, genuinely frightened, decided to take her chances on foot, or b) the mother rage-quit the car ride. We don’t have enough information to know which it was, but considering the entire scenario, I think we do have enough information to know that the LW didn’t kick hir mother out of the car.

      TL;DR: I really feel like we need to stop telling the LW that zie shouldn’t have kicked hir mother out of the car, because according to the evidence at our disposal, zie did not kick hir mother out of the car.

      • Drew said:

        This is a fair comment and I should not have been so flippant in my wording. And I’m definitely not trying to pile on to the LW; I apologize for even coming close to doing so.

    • shehasathree said:

      Continually, distractingly criticising != “parenting”, though.
      (I like your #2. It’s specific and concrete.)

  22. Dear LW

    My mother wants things the way she wants them, and during my father’s long illness and decline there were specific forms of help she wanted.

    So she only offered the option of those forms of help.

    But my brother and I usually couldn’t do what she wanted. There were other things we could do, and we did those things (he especially) but it was never (or only rarely) enough.

    It is possible that your mother wants specific things, like her kid driving her, and has framed the current bad time so you and your sibs haven’t had a chance to back up and look at what you can offer.

    I was never (I mean, over the course of more than 15 years) able to give my mother what she demanded. Eventually though, after many years, I was able to offer her help that was helpful

    I believe that if you offer her, for example, cab service on her schedule, and accompanying her shopping (via cab) you may get a more positive result.

    If I haven’t made it clear, you and your family have my sympathy. You, as a beleaguered child of a mother in extremis, you have my empathy. I feel that.

    I feel “but he’s my father and he’s ill and all I am is my mother’s servant!” That’s hard LW.

    On a happier note, get out of being her chauffeur. And good cess to you all

  23. Caraval said:

    No one has mentioned the best argument for LW’s not driving her mother: that it is actually ILLEGAL. At least in the states, anything that impairs your driving (and being very very dizzy definitely counts) is illegal to take and drive. People overlook it the same way they do being “buzzed”, but if a cop pulled LW over, she’d be in trouble. That includes antibiotics.

    So next time anyone in the family brings it up, just tell them a variation on “can’t, it’s illegal.” “But you did befoooooore?” “Well, now I know it’s illegal.” “Aren’t I/mom more important than a ticket?” “How would you feel if you/mom were in the car when I got pulled over and the car got impounded/I was arrested?”

    I have medical issues and medication that mean I frequently am not legally safe to drive, and I have never gotten being the potential humiliation question. And if somehow they do, you should feel free to tell everyone who inquires why you’ve cut off all care-giving ties with your family that they wanted you to potentially kill people.

    • Caraval said:

      Beyond the question, I mean

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Excellent point!

  24. waxwings said:

    While I think most of us agree that ultimatums aren’t the best option (hence why, y’know, the LW wrote in to ask for advice about the better option!), I think a lot of us are reacting with frustration to the “wow you shouldn’t have kicked your mom out of the car” because it was Mom’s choice and also the whole “how could you abandon your POOR BLIND HELPLESS MOTHER” slant to it comes off as really… condescending?

    People with disabilities can judge what safe options are for them! (My own legally blind dad can’t drive, but can totally walk miles and miles safely around our decently sized town. I, with a physical disability, can also judge if I’d rather just walk home and would be /incredibly/ insulted if someone told me that another person was responsible for stopping me.)

    This response also totally distracts from the actual situation. Like, the LW was clearly not happy with the outcome! They are not unaware of the untenability of saying “please stop or feel free to walk home”!

    That said, LW, I feel your pain. I agree that you should bow out of driving your mother – “Talking distracts me and that’s unsafe, especially when this medication makes me dizzy. I just don’t feel safe driving and endangering us both – Is there something else I can do to help you?” is another option. By asking the question (or making an alternative offer!), you avoid the “you don’t want to heeeeeelp” response from Mom, Dad, or siblings. If they do it anyway, you can respond with “I want to help, which is why I am/am willing to do X, but I can’t drive safely right now,” ad infinitum. If they don’t respond respectfully, you can always bow out with something like “This injury is hitting me harder than I thought – I need to stay home and get better” and just keep repeating that: “I’m sorry I couldn’t help Mom out, I was just way to sick to be of any help.”

    And good luck to you, LW! That’s a difficult, frustrating situation all around, and you deserve to have your boundaries respected.

    • TO_Ont said:

      Yeah, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest it was unsafe for the mother to walk, or that she doesn’t routinely walk, let alone that she wasn’t mentally competent enough to judge that for herself.

      Even most ‘fully’ blind people can get around perfectly fine on foot with proper training and tools, but more importantly, they can judge for themselves perfectly well if they have the skills and ability and tools to do that or not! And ‘legally blind’ is a term generally only used when someone is at the bare minimum of visual impairement where they can legally be called blind. More along the lines of very fuzzy vision, trouble reading, not recognizing a face until you’re super close, etc. Not generally ‘use a guide dog or cane’.

      I took for granted, personally, that mom is getting rides because the places she wants to go are too far to walk, or because she’s doing errands that need a car (large grocery run), not because she somehow can’t walk places.

      I totally think the LW should completely stop driving their mom at all, though, because the level of stress and conflict implied by stopping the car and someone walking home is not something that’s acceptable and safe in a moving car. It’s not just LW and the mom, it’s every one else on the road.

      FWIW, if the LW is dizzy from antibiotics it’s unlikely they should be driving at all. It’s not just their own safety, it’s the safety of others as well.

  25. K. said:

    Ugh. I’m sorry, LW. I think it would be fair and understandable to refuse to drive her again, but I know that you might face some guilt-tripping or a tantrum if you do this. With six days left, you don’t have to think of long-term difficulties to avoid, but neither does your mother. Captain’s advice is great for this.

    I have another suggestion, that unfortunately isn’t free. If your mother could afford Lyft, Uber, or something similar, could you arrange that for her? Or would someone else in the family be willing to drive her? I think that as long as you’re her only choice for transportation, it will be difficult for you to get a break or say no altogether. And she will continue backseat driving as long as she thinks you can’t say no.

    I’d also like to add – not to you, LW, but as a general comment – that being unable to see well enough to drive doesn’t mean she’s unable to walk places safely. Visual impairments really vary a lot between “can’t drive” and “unable to navigate independently.” (If they didn’t, someone should break the news to a childhood friend of mine.)

  26. Rose Fox said:

    Hey LW, lots of people have already said lots of smart things. I just wanted to add that both injuries and antibiotics can affect mood and cognition. When I take antibiotics, I either drop into mopey depression or become a RAGEFUL RAGEBEAST. Pain is notorious for shortening people’s tempers, and the pure physical outrage of a significant injury can do likewise. So your anger and impatience with your mother and her backseatery may be amplified right now, and that is an extra double super reason to not be driving her anywhere until you are done healing up.

    If you are absolutely stuck doing a thing for/with your mother, keep it as short as possible, keep an eye out for the very earliest of early warning signs that you’re starting to lose your temper (they may come earlier than you expect, or come on faster than you expect), and do all the self-care blood-pressure-reducing things you can think of so that you can get through the situation without blowing up. Self-care outside of those stressful situations is important too: read familiar comfortable books or watch familiar comfortable movies, get far more sleep than you think you need (essential for injury recovery), eat and drink things that make you feel good, and so on.

    You’re having a rough time right now–your dad in the hospital, your mom on your case and refusing to accommodate your limitations while demanding that you accommodate hers, your siblings apparently doing not very much, your body subjected to both a significant injury and debilitating treatment. Be good to yourself. Set limits on stressful things. Look for ways to get your mom the help she needs without having to do everything yourself. Obviously you don’t want all the weight of caring for her to go on her shoulders, but that doesn’t mean it has to go on yours.

  27. Ganymede said:

    Can you just play the radio really loudly, or would that also create further problems for you?

    I would love to play the radio in the car when I’m driving my dementia-stricken elderly Dad but it confuses him so I get stuck replying to the same question over and over again, usually a variant of:

    “Where are we then? I’ve never been down _this_ road before” (he always has).

    I have found it helps to just treat it as call-and-response, like a repetitive chorus in a song. He doesn’t object, in fact I think he finds it soothing, that I am just saying the same thing over and over and I can zone into the tasks of driving and not get exasperated. It took a while to work this out but now I just repeat a variant of

    “We’re on the road to Xville, Dad”, or
    “Yes you have Dad, this is just an unfamiliar bit” or
    “Oh all the roads look the same round here Dad”.

    He never stops asking (“What road is this, then?”, “What road is this, then?”, “What road is this, then?”….) and if I tried to correct his assumptions or gave him lots of negatives it would just upset and confuse him. Also, it removes from me that awful stress of trying to correct him, or try to have a proper conversation, which in the earlier days of his dementia used to upset me so much. I just gently sacrifice my side of the conversation and it feels like a great relief.

    Obviously my motivation for adopting this approach is different from the motivation you have in your situation, and your mother doesn’t have dementia, but I just wonder if something like this might be helpful and move you away from the combative approach. I might suggest:

    “Thanks Mom, I’ve got it” repeated ad infinitum to everything that she says. It doesn’t hurt you, it’s low-effort and it’s an effective stonewall. You don’t _have_ to engage.

  28. Twitchy said:

    Nthing that I don’t scorn the LW for the ultimatum. They were in a position with responsibility but no authority; they had to keep their mom safe, but she wouldn’t let them do what they had to to keep her safe. They stopped the car and told her she either needed to stop preventing them from keeping her safe (stop backseat driving so I can concentrate on the road) or take responsibility for her own safety (leave the car and do something else).

    It’s not something you can do with a child or a severely mentally impaired adult, but it sounds like the mom is competent to make her own decisions. She knows how safe she feels walking in that area, and she knows the extent of her own disabilities. And she also knows how much she wants to get the upper hand in this super jerky argument she’s having with her kid, which seems to be the motivating factor here. It’s not LW’s job to keep their mom from throwing a tantrum.

    LW, I don’t know what your relationship with your mom is like. If it’s very warm and supportive generally and this is an anomaly, this advice might not apply. But you could just stop driving her around and let her find her own alternate solution. You offered your help, and she turned you down. You’re not obligated to smooth that over for her.

  29. TO_Ont said:

    I don’t think it really matters whose fault it is, if the mother is being unreasonable and acting badly, or if the LW is, or if they both are. That’s a big side conversation, but it’s basically irrelevant.

    For whatever reason, they can’t drive together without stress and conflict, it just doesn’t work. So they shouldn’t, for their own safety and for the safety of others on the road, they should just not.

  30. The problem I foresee with using the “Can’t drive because meds make me dizzy” excuse is that Mom ALREADY doesn’t respect that the meds make LW dizzy. If she’s not willing to allow that powerful antibiotics mean that LW occasionally needs to rest in the shade, there’s no way it’s going to be accepted currency to get them out of driving duty. Better to stick with “So clearly that doesn’t work. Siblings will have to handle driving from now on and I’ll stick with helping around the house. Pasta okay for dinner?” And then just continue on doing all the other stuff and when driving needs to be done you honestly have no idea why anyone would think YOU’RE going to do it because YOU already tried and it didn’t work and you SAID that it would need to be someone else. You already quit that job, which means it’s not yours anymore, and attempts to guilt you into it can be safely met with confusion because this job now rightfully belongs to your siblings. Or whatever else you worked out because clearly it can’t be you. You’re busy with those other things you do very well and not-stressfully.

    Also, regarding the “you’re too dizzy to drive” thing: LW is the ONLY person present (assuming their doctor is not also an active Awkwardeer) who has the information necessary to make that decision. Getting dizzy when standing for long periods in the heat or sun is very different from being so dizzy all the time that it’s unsafe to drive, and if we’re all about personal agency and responsibility here then that means saying that this LW – who went to a Dr and is doing healthy things to keep themselves healthy – knows what’s best for them. Too many people above telling LW that they shouldn’t be driving at all – not cool!

    • TO_Ont said:

      I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison, because drivers are not just responsible for their own lives, but for the lives of all the other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road. It’s NOT just their own decision or personal choice, and we make laws to reflect that. No one EVER has an actual ‘right’ to drive.
      I think the reason it came up is just because the wording of the letter was a little ambiguous – it sounded a bit like saying they had a lot more trouble with the backseat driving because the medication made them dizzy and made it harder to multitask. Although those may also have been two unrelated problems, and they just can’t multitask ever, and the dizziness is not a kind of dizziness that is relevant to driving.

      But personally, I make no apologies for mentioning it. People are far too willing to drive when impaired (by drugs or tiredness or stress or whatever) and it’s always good to ask yourself whether you should be driving on a given day. Maybe the answer is ‘yes, it’s fine’, but it’s always a good question to ask yourself.

    • TootsNYC said:

      If she’s not willing to allow that powerful antibiotics mean that LW occasionally needs to rest in the shade, there’s no way it’s going to be accepted currency to get them out of driving duty

      But this is like tides. It doesn’t matter whether Mom accepts that the tide is going out of coming it–it’s going to happen. Period.
      So it doesn’t matter that Mom doesn’t accept that the OP shouldn’t drive–the OP is simply never going to go sit in the driver’s seat of the car. And when that doesn’t happen, Mom will have to figure something out.

      Just because someone “insists” doesn’t mean anyone is going to pay attention. The OP may have some negative reactions to deal with, but she/he can choose how to deal with that. My vote is, go lie down and take a nap. After calling a taxi (or other ride solution).

  31. Bubbles said:

    As a kid of two disabled parents, one big insight I had growing up is that disability can actually make it hard to parse other people’s disabilities or illness. We all kind of assume that a disabled person will be empathetic because they know what disability is like, but honestly a disabled person is just as likely to have unsympathetic traits as an able-bodied one.

    What really kicked in for me was when by partially sighted Dad started growing a cataract in his one good eye, it meant he couldn’t do as much for my wheelchair bound mother. The Doctors were also concerned that his retinas were pretty fragile so no heavy lifting, which meant he was advised to avoid lifting or moving her. But goddam did she throw tantrums if she couldn’t have a late night bath after her carer went home( which she didn’t want pre my Dad’s cataract) or randomly moving stuff in the house ( despite the fact my Dad could not see to find it). I never once heard her ask if my Dad was OK, She just could not parse that my Dad was unable to do everything he used to whilst he was awaiting surgery, because she was so used to being in control ( because we always had to work around her disability).

    Once when my Mother had a full on tantrum and started to turn the sith rays on myself and my young sibling; Dad decided to take us to the cinema out of the way ( even though I don’t think he’d get that much fun from it). Before he did he took the kettle and put it out of reach so my Mother didn’t burn herself making tea in a rage. He left a cup and food with her reach.
    When we got home her entire family were there AND then the police, who’d they called because “she’d been denied food or water”. I took my sibling to my room whilst it was all blowing up and the cops came up to check on us. Sibling was hiding under my duvet watching TV and I was sitting with them. They got our side of the story and I think that’s what convinced them Dad wasn’t the Monster my Mother had painted him as. I don’t think my Mother was expecting my Dad to remain a free man, but they pieced together the truth and let us be. My Mother was a total and under Sith, and my Dad could have left her to burn herself with the kettle but he didn’t and then had to deal with a house of angry relatives and cops. That was one hell of an army to call down on my Dad to keep control.

    The story with the car makes me think there’s some similar elements there, your mother wanted control because that’s the only relationship she’s known and I suspect you’ll hear the ” But sheee”s blind” to the tune of ” But faaaaamillly” ( which is a shitty thing to have to deal with). She was not expecting you to actually let her go ( and she wasn’t going to sit in silence). We do things for our disabled family members because we want them to be a part of things, but with any dynamic like that it can be misused. She can not parse you are sick or you can’t cope with backseat demands. The difficult thing then with a disabled parent is that there’s always an element where you can only go so far because they are vulnerable but goddam will they use it against you.

    So yeah I’d agree avoid having her in your car. I’d talk to your siblings and explain clearly that your anti biotics mean you can’t drive her around. Perhaps you could get her groceries yourself or drop them off, or have a sibling come help you..I get why you did what you did, but you can’t let it happen again. That said that doesn’t mean you have to let yourself get bullied either. You need to find a way not to get put in that position again.

    Good luck.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      OMGTHIS!

      Like my mother, who spent the 5 weeks after her back surgery alienating every member of the family. My dad ended up sobbing uncontrollably in my brother’s room, telling him “I’ve had enough, I’m leaving”. My brother (who’s 35) had to cope with her sneakily defying medical advice, then copped Hell when he told her to stop.

      If they did things for her they were ” annoying” and “controlling”, but if they didn’t magically teleport to her side when she shouted, they were ” lazy” and “neglectful”. My bro ended up on the verge of being hospitalised because the stress induced a catastrophic flare up of his bipolar disoeder

      So that’s three out of four. I got an hourly running commentary on how awful it was to be stuck in the house, how bored she was, and how nobody could possibly understand her situation. I have not left this room for years due to a relapse of my neurological disorder, I’m essentially a tamagotchi, or a giant baby. My wife has to care for me 24/7. But no, we had no idea how truly terrible those five weeks were, we couldn’t fathom how awful my dad and brother were at everything.

      My wife went to visit her, and got the whole diatribe again, in person. When she told Darth Mother that she was lucky to have family to care for her, and lucky to have a relatively short period of recovery, DM took the huff and pulled her “but I’m ill!” card

      Four out of four. We’ve only seen here twice since then, because her ingratitude, completely lack of sensitivity and self awareness, and her control freakery have exhausted us. My dad has said he’ll never be doing that again, poor bastard. She was 59, not some feeble old lady, so my poor dad has pretty poor odds of her never needing care again.

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