Television Reviews : 'Mother Told Me'

"How can you be so stupid!" If you've ever heard yourself saying words like those to your child, today's "ABC Afterschool Special," "Things My Mother Told Me" (airing at 3 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), should be a family affair.

Abuse comes in many forms, as this wrenching Christian Broadcasting Network production shows. Chris Whitesell's teleplay, produced and directed by Susan Rohrer, is about good people in pain.

Beth Howland plays a bitter, divorced career woman who has chosen eldest daughter Julia (Katherine Kahmhi) as scapegoat for all her stresses and strains.

Julia, a quiet, self-effacing teen, goes to school, tends her favored younger sister Katie (Ita DeMarco), fixes dinner and does all the household chores, but she can't please her fault-finding mother.

Mom even blames Julia for making her yell, shouting, "I wish you'd never been born!"

Kahmhi and Howland are well-matched, emphatically bringing the message home: A parent doesn't have to strike a child to inflict life-long injury.

Kahmhi movingly shows the grief and bewilderment of a child who blames herself for not being lovable. Howland's face shatteringly reflects the anguish and confusion of a mother who's unable to break a pattern, a heritage from her own abusive mother.

Julia's successful audition for a school movie project gives her a spurt of confidence--enough to realize she's not as bad as her mother has made her believe.

"Words can sting as much as any belt," says a sympathetic teacher, steering Julia to an abuse hot-line, the first step toward a new beginning for mother and daughter.

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