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Background

I turned 23 yesterday. Last year, my mother forgot my birthday, mostly because she was working in a country in a timezone 6+ hours behind mine and didn't realize it was that late at my place. I was in a really dark place at that time, which mostly explains why I got mad at her for forgetting. I called her in tears and told her she forgot me on an important day, and she profusely apologized for not wishing me my birthday. Couple of times this year, she mentioned the story during family gatherings and told my relatives how ashamed she was for forgetting.

Current situation

I'm no longer in this dark place and she knows I've healed and am happy now. I was waiting for her call yesterday but it didn't happen. I didn't want her to realize day(s) later that she forgot again and felt bad about it so, at 9:30 PM I jokingly texted her:

So, it seems like you forgot which day it is so I'm texting you in order to avoid the crisis we went through last year ^^

To which she responded by immediately calling me, and I could feel she was on the verge of crying. She just left work (which explains why she didn't think about it) and felt terrible for forgetting again, profusely apologized and insinuated throughout the whole call that she is a terrible mother and that I don't deserve her. I felt terrible because the whole point was to avoid her to feel bad. She wasn't used to forgetting my birthday, it's only the second time. I used to make of birthdays (mine, and others') a pretty big deal; I don't anymore, but I don't think she knows about that.
Later on that night she continuously texted me to apologize again, telling me how much she loves me and that I don't deserve her.

What I tried

  • Telling her (both on the phone and by texts) that it was okay, that it was not a big deal and that I loved her. It didn't stop her from sending me more of those messages and I'm afraid she'll try to make up for it by buying me an expensive present that I don't want both because of my own guilt for making her feel that way and because I don't need anything.

Question

I would like my mother to forgive herself for forgetting my birthday and let her know that I don't hold any grudge at her because of it. How to reassure my mother about the fact that forgetting my birthday does not mean I'm mad at her?

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How to reassure my mother about the fact that forgetting my birthday does not mean I'm mad at her?

Crazy thought, but ... don't do anything at all, don't take any intiative. My mom sometimes thinks she's a terrible mom for doing certain things (like pushing me to buy extra nice clothes, while I prefer to wear a plain jeans and sweater). Afterwards, she apologizes and explains such pushing is mainly driven by her not having such nice clothes as a kid and forgetting not every kid may care about these things.

The best way for us to deal with those incidents is to act like they're really not a big incident at all. One of the ways of doing so is for me to accept the apology, and then act like nothing happened in the first place. I've been in your situation too, where I made jokes about something mom did wrong in the past, and it only led to more apologies and a more insecure mom.

Bringing this up (from your side) and reassuring your mom you really aren't mad a second/third time might only make her feel more insecure. Why would you keep bringing it up if it was no big deal? Apparently it's still on your mind, so it must have done something. Are you holding a grudge, and showing it through remarks that you can later brush off as 'just a joke'?

You've already tried reassuring her with words, now it's time to show it with actions.

Accept your moms apologies with good grace, if your mom brings it up again, feel free to reassure her just like you've done now, make remarks pointing out it was nothing, that you weren't all that serious the second time (perhaps apologize for making a joke in bad taste, one that made her more insecure).

Reassure your mom when she seems to need it, perhaps find something she does really well so you can boost her confidence with a compliment or two in the future about the things she does for you that you do appreciate, but don't bring this up yourself again. What you did to reassure your mom at the moment is fine, now it's time to just show your mom that she's apologized enough and you both can move on.

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Explain that your text was a joke

It can be very difficult to convey a joke through text. You said that you tried

Telling her (both on the phone and by texts) that it was okay, that it was not a big deal and that I loved her.

But you never told her that your message was meant as a joke. By saying that it's not a big deal, you imply that it did bother you at least a little. She is already interpreting your text as if you were at least somewhat upset by her forgetting your birthday. You need to make sure that she understands that you were joking and meant nothing by your text.

I've often found myself in the same situation with my finacee where I try to make a joke and it gets interpreted incorrectly. The easiest way to fix the issue is by explaining that I only meant to make a joke. When I do this, we then have a conversation about how it was intended as a joke and why it wasn't interpreted as one. This has the added benefit of preventing the same situation from happening in the future, because we both learn a little bit more about how each other communicates.

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