INTERVIEW WITH MARIA: “Being THERE is not enough for me and how I want to relate to my children.”

Maria’s interview reminds me to stay engaged with my children, no matter how tired I am or how different from me my kids may be.  I have one daughter who is so different from me that I am in danger of admiring her from afar rather than asking her to reveal more about herself.  I may never really understand what makes her tick, but I’d rather hear her ticking up close than from across a wide valley.
What’s your age?
Are both of your parents living?
Yes, my Dad is 70, my mom is 66.
What’s their marital status?
How many siblings do you have?
How often do you see your parents?
About three to four times a year.
What are some of the ways you spend time together?
Talk, eat, shop, drink wine (with my mom), go to a baseball game. They both love baseball. Sometimes my mom will join me on a leisurely walk, but they are both not very healthy so we don’t exercise together.
On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy their company?
10 being the highest, I’d say a solid 10.
Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit?
Yes, absolutely. As stated, they are both not pursuers of health, but my Dad especially. He is very overweight and doesn’t do much anymore. So, when they are together, we do a lot less exploring. My mom and I can go anywhere and do anything together. When they are together, they often end up bickering sometimes, too. That can be difficult, because my time with them is precious and I don’t want to spend it playing referee.
What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them? 
My dad- It is a little harder for me to find the positive aspects of my relationship with my dad, because he is very socially estranged from everyone. Honestly, most of my life I have always had to dig to find the positives. So, he has always been fun to talk baseball with and theology, politics, news. He used to be a disc jockey for 20 years so he likes to talk shop about all of those things. I try to find the common ground with him and stay on topics that I know are going to be interesting to him. I guess I would say that I am thankful he was faithful to my mom for 42 years, he provided for his family all that time. He was not physically abusive. And he could be really funny and quick-witted when he was engaged in life.
My mom is one of my heroes. I have watched her care for her own mother, my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s for the last seven years of her life. She sacrificed everything to give my grandmother a peaceful home in her last days. She is kind to strangers, gives to the poor, and truly is a Saint in my book. She adopted my youngest brother when I was 18 and she was 48. She raised all of her 5 children to love people, music, God, and each other.  We always have fun together and now that I am a mother of four, more than ever before I appreciate her parental advice.
What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?
My dad, like I stated before, was socially estranged. By that, I mean he wasn’t engaged for most of my childhood… always seemed to be at work and when he was home I felt like he didn’t really enjoy having kids. As a young adult he had a nervous breakdown and so he was always very anxious and it was sometimes like walking on egg shells when he was home. I think he started to realize that we were just being kids and that it was he who had the problem, so he would hibernate in his room a lot and still does to this day. It’s sad to even type that, but it’s true. Somewhere along the way, I made peace with this and learned to appreciate the positive and not focus on the negative, so it’s hard to bring it back up.
My mom can sometimes not be a very good listener. She has ADHD and often interrupts when I’m talking to her. I can tell she’s not really listening or she’s just thinking about what to say next. But she will catch herself when she does this and so that helps.
Which is weightier, the positive or negative?
Wow, great question. With My Dad I think the negatives outweigh the positives; my mom, the positives outweigh the negatives.
If positive, what are some of the aspects that contributed to a healthy relationship as adults?
I respect my mom for how she has lived her life. She has been an incredible mother, a faithful wife, and an all around, really good person. It’s amazing to see how self-sacrificing she is.
If negative, what are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?  
With my dad, because he was so checked out in childhood, it’s harder now as an adult to not look back with resentment for the fact that he didn’t engage with me as a young person.
What do you appreciate most about their parenting?
I appreciated that they didn’t move us all over the place. They stayed in the same town that was close to family through out all of our childhoods. They also remained faithfully married after 42 years that is just astounding to me. They tried the best they could to make special dates with each of us five children. They always provided for us. They were never, ever physically abusive. My mom was very encouraging and affirming of everything that I wanted to try. On a very tight budget they provided family vacations, traditions, and many great memories.
What do you wish they had done differently?
I wish sometimes that they were healthier or encouraged health and exercise. I wish that my dad would have been able to spend more time with me and not be so rigid about life in general.
How well do you relate to your siblings?
Very well. We are very close.
Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents?
Probably my older sister and I have the most in common as far as our view of mom and dad. I am second born to the five kids so the younger three I think might have somewhat of a different take on Mom and Dad.
Can you share a defining moment with your parents?
When I was a young girl, I really wanted a cabbage patch doll. They were always sold out in every store, but my dad caught wind of one store that might have some and said we had to go really early to get in line to get one. I remember thinking as a young girl that although my dad might not have said much, and was probably convinced by my mom to take me out on this special father daughter date, he was THERE. He was always THERE. If I needed him he would come out of his cave. This is true to this day. If I need him he’s THERE. But just being THERE is not enough for me and how I want to relate to my children.
Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?
Nothing that I can think of.

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