Q. Something you said in one of your seminars about family-of-origin work prompted me to go back and look at old childhood pictures. In almost every picture my mother is holding my hand or has her arm around me or I’m sitting beside her or on her lap. I know she loved me but I felt so smothered growing up! I wonder if it was because I was an only child. Actually, I was the youngest of three but my older twin sisters both drowned when I was just a baby.

A. Your being an only child may have contributed to your mother being so protective. There may be other contributors as well. Recently, while chatting with a friend over lunch, the topic of overprotective mothers came up. No surprise, both us agreed that this described our mothers. In the process of comparing notes, we realized that both our mothers had experienced the death of a child. In my friend’s case, her older sibling had died in a hospital of a communicable disease at the same time her mother was in a different facility having just given birth to her. My mother had miscarried a child while I was very young. During our conversation, my friend and I both began to consider the possibility that our perception of overprotectiveness might relate to the fact that both women had lost a child and might simply have been trying to make sure nothing happened to us. It helped me “reframe” the way I have viewed aspects of my childhood.

People do about the best they can at the time with what they know. In the case of our mothers, they were no doubt grieving and perhaps clinging too tightly, trying to do whatever they could to keep us alive and well. You mother had two children die. That must have been completely devastating. At least try the idea on for size and see if it might fit your case, too.