Interview with Nick: “The Pathologies of my parents”

I’ve known Nick a long time and am pretty close to his family.  Unconditional acceptance and love, mysterious disapproval, and openness (or lack of it) are big themes here.  –Zipporah

Interviewee’s Age:

39

Are both of your parents living? 

My mother is alive, but my father recently passed away.

Marital Status of Parents: 

Married

Number of Siblings: 

Three

How often did/do you see your parents?

Two to three times each year

What are some of the ways you spent/spend time together?

(Dad:)  As a child–Sailing, playing basketball, playing cards, driving cross-country; as an adult–playing cards, hanging out with my children together, hiking, kayaking, little work projects

(Mom:)  As a child–driving me places, around the dinner table.  As an adult–in the context  of group and family settings.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you enjoy your father’s company? 

Ten

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your mother’s company? 

Three

 Does spending time with them together affect the dynamic of the visit?

Yes.

 What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

(Dad:)We enjoyed each other a lot.  We could just spend hours comfortable together

(Mom:) I enjoyed her often in the presence of my father.  We share a common faith, my mom is artistic, so I can talk to her about aesthetic things (music, theatre, beauty) that I couldn’t discuss with my father.

What about the negative?

(Dad:)There was an awkwardness about some decisions that he made in life and a feeling that I couldn’t talk to him about that.  He was not as open or accessible in the midst of my mother or professional contacts–in their presence.

(Mom:)Lack of flexibility, grumpy, distant, irritated.  Living in fear and worry of the deeper layers of my mother being revealed, bursts of anger and frustration.  As a child, I felt subservient to her whims, but as an adult, I fear being sucked back into this tension and how it will affect my own family.

Honestly, which weighs more?

(Dad:) The positive.

(Mom:) The negative.

If the relationship is positive, what are one or two of the most important aspects of their parenting that contributed to a healthy relationship?  

(Dad:) He enjoyed me.  I felt unconditionally loved and accepted.

If the relationship is negative, what are one or two of the most important factors that contributed to a fractured relationship?

(Mom:) An inability to please her.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I wish my dad had held my mom accountable for her behavior.  I wish with Mom there were acceptance, transparency, love without conditions, the ability to bring up any topic that I want to with her.

What do you most appreciate about their parenting?

My father taught me to love the outdoors and love work, physical activity.  Mom influenced me artistically. Both had some influence in my faith.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

My brother and I relate on a superficial level.  My first sister is very distant, but the only we are the two family members that could speak about the pathologies of my parents and understand each other because we grew up amidst it.  As for my other sister, from my perspective, I’m on guard against her tendencies to use me.

Do they share your same reflections?  

My brother would share the same reflections on my father and mother.  My first sister would share my feelings about my mother.  My youngest sister only thought my parents as vehicles for her own needs.

Can you share an example of a defining moment with your parents?

(Dad:) While hiking in Maine with my children, my dad and I talked about everything, even awkward, difficult topics.  With ease and enjoyment of each other.

(Mom:) The summer I was engaged to my wife and I was in Maine, my parents said it was okay for my friends and I to stay in the family’s vacation cabin for the summer after I graduated college.  I told them I was planning to leave early to join my fiance, but realized that I had made a commitment to my friends.  My parents said it was okay, but then a year afterward, my mother had an attitude of utter anger, contempt and accusation without room for discussion or space to tell my side.  I felt lambasted.  That incident personifies how I feel about my relationship with my mom.  There is always some undercurrent of disapproval.

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