Thursday, July 3, 2014

30 Things Series #21: Describe My Relationship with My Parents

image by Life's Classroom
I continue to write the series, 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me, for him to read someday, but let me tell you, this one and the last are testing my will to go on. How am I supposed to write about these topics knowing full well they're going to cause problems for me? Ugh. Let's just get it over with, so I can move on to better and brighter entries.

My Relationship with My Dad:
He's not my dad. He hasn't been my dad since I was a kid. My parents got divorced when I was 6, but did a lot of separating and reuniting over the years before that. It sucked not knowing if Dad lived with us that day or not. When he lived with us, he was great. Even when they got divorced, he did a good job of coming on Tuesdays and Thursdays (one day for each of us) to take us out on dates with him. We also saw him every other weekend. At one point, we lived with him at my grandparents' house. He was around and we adored him. He did an abrupt about-face when he got remarried and, especially, when they started having kids of their own. Let me be crystal clear here: I do NOT blame or resent my sisters. My dad is responsible for my dad. Those girls are my sisters and I love them, but the timing of their arrival, unfortunately coincides with a painful and confusing time in my life. The oldest of my younger sisters was born and I wasn't invited to be around for a very long time. We never once, after she was born, spent another weekend at their house (not because of choices we made). When they became pregnant with my second sister, my step-mom and sister moved in with her parents in Utah and left my dad behind to sell the house before moving with them. I imagined we might see him every other weekend again. Nope. He would get off work on Friday and drive straight up to Utah and return late Sunday. Every. Single. Weekend. He would tell us, "I need to see my family." Evidently, we were no longer his family, because he sure as hell didn't see us. It never changed after that. Eventually, he moved to Utah, but that was no biggie, since we didn't see him anyway. He once told me, as I was asking him to come to California to see us, "Why do I want to come to California? There's nothing in California for me." Except two kids. Small potatoes, though. I moved up there after high school as a last ditch effort to cling to a relationship I imagined might still be there and, more importantly to me, to develop a relationship with my sisters. Their friends and acquaintances always seemed surprised by my presence. I picked my sisters up at daycare and the provider was shocked, saying, "Wow, they really DO have a sister?! We always thought they were making you up like an imaginary friend!" I asked my dad, "When people ask you how many kids you have, what do you say?" His honest response was, "Three. It's too hard to say that I have three from this marriage and two from another."
As things stand now, at 36 years old, I consider him a friend on the outskirts. He's by no means in the inner circle. He hasn't acknowledged my birthday in probably 15 or 16 years. He does, however, tell me he knows me better than most. How wrong he is. How sadly, woefully wrong. I call him when I need advice on flooring (his profession). I call him when.....nope, that's about it. When I do call him, I hear about my sisters and how amazing they are (they are) and how amazing their friends are even. I hear everything but what I long ago stopped expecting to hear from my father - real words of love and affection for me, the real me, who I really am.
That's my relationship with my dad.

My Relationship with My Step-Mom:
Out of the four relationships, this one is certainly the most strained and distant. I've never felt good enough or just, I don't know, enough-enough for her. Ever since she and my dad had my three half-sisters, she's made it a point to call us step-siblings, as opposed to what we are. It hurts me. She's never made any contact with me of her own volition. She's never spoken a word to my son. At our last family gathering, she didn't even acknowledge my presence. When she and my dad got engaged, my brother and I were told that we were problems - I believe the exact words were, "She doesn't like that I have kids and doesn't like feeling like she's second banana." I lived with she and my dad after college. It was my attempt to develop a relationship with my little sisters, who were so much younger than me and knew me not at all. I can count the number of times she spoke to me on one hand. Earlier that year, I made them a calendar with pictures of my brother and I. When I moved in, I looked for it - it was nowhere, but there was a calendar of my little sisters. The only picture of me in the entire house was shoved in what was called "the deep dark room," which, incidentally and fittingly, became my bedroom. I never socialized enough, went to the right church ward, dated correctly, ate the right foods, exercised properly, took classes early enough...nothing. Seriously, these were all things said to me at some point along with just so much more. My relationship with my step-mom? Non-existent and tense, to say the very least. I'm simply not well liked or approved of and it's taken me more than a quarter of a century to even become this OK with it.

My Relationship with My Step-Dad:
Out of the four relationships, this one is the closest. I'm struggling to write this and the next section, though. I was told much too much about my grandparents when I was much too young and while I believe you'll be far older than I was when I heard all I heard, I still don't want to be the cause of any rift that forms between you and the grandparents to whom you are so close at the time I'm writing this. When you are older, if you wish, I'll delve deeper into the complexities of my relationships with my step-dad and mom. For now, while you are so very close to your Papa and Mammy, understandably so, because they are magnificent and deeply loving grandparents, I think it's most important to know that I am close to your Papa. He's not perfect and I've learned some hard lessons along the road of our relationship in regards to the dangers of putting people on pedestals, but I love him and he loves me. Most importantly, he desperately loves you and you love him right back.

My Relationship with My Mom:
You're smart enough to figure out that this is a caring, but tense relationship. Same goes here as I wrote in your Papa's section. She's the one who has been there through my entire life, so our relationship has the rockiest history just by virtue of having the most opportunity for those rocky moments to crop up. She's made a lot of mistakes and our brief foray into counseling together proved helpful in getting us to rebuild some of the bridges we burned between us. She loves me. I love her, too. We are similar in many ways. I always tell her that I got none of her and my dad's good genes and all of the crappy ones - I'm not athletic like them, but I have a terrible temper like both of them. I don't have their body types, but I do have their tendency to judge. She has so many good qualities and I got precious few of them, but I made dang sure to pick up all the malarkey. That's my problem, I know, but it certainly makes for some interesting interactions when we both demonstrate our poor qualities at the same time. The woman adores you, though. Never could I ask for a better Mammy for you. Dada and I were just talking the other day about what a great job she does at understanding you (obviously, we don't think it's hard to understand you, but you're three and some might) and, if she does have a problem, she always tries to figure it out with questions and context clues. She very rarely just tries to placate you just to get through the conversation. As a result, she gets to know you well and better all the time. This is so important to me - more important than anything else, because YOU are more important to me than anything and anyone else.

The take-away from this for you, sugar pie, should be that:
1) you're loved a million times infinity
2) I'm striving every day to give you a childhood I didn't have and I am so very sorry for any of my shortcomings in this (and every, really) regard
3) people aren't perfect - love them anyway

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