Little Women

I picked up a paperback copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women at a thrift store recently.  I thought I’d keep it around for my girls’ reading list next year. After all, fourth grade is when I read Little Women. Or, rather, fourth grade is when I didn’t quite finish Little Women.  I am a voracious reader and I always finish any book that I start, so not finishing Little Women in fourth grade has loomed as a failure. Now that I’m a grown-up, I read the introduction to every book.  This introduction was very interesting and I assumed I would finish this time victoriously.  Not so. This book is exhausting!  Of course it is– a book about four young girls is bound to be wordy and hyper! That must be why I didn’t finish it 28 years ago in Mrs. Yarbrough’s class.  I remember lounging on the living room sofa on grey chilly days, covered in an afghan trying to read this classic.  I can’t tell you at what point I gave up, I’ve always known that I have.  But, I want to read it before my girls get their chance next year.  I think it’s teaching me to cherish those precious girls.  I have such sweet 8 year-old daughters who are growing so quickly I can hardly keep up. This book reminds me to enjoy being a mother to girls.

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?
37
Are both of your parents living?
Yes, my Dad is 70, my mom is 66.
What’s their marital status?
Married
How many siblings do you have?
Four
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.

Scarcity and Abundance Models

I’m researching these two paradigms and the theories about how they make people think and behave.  Stay tuned . . . I am one and my husband is the other. I am looking for a source (a book, a journal article) on how those paradigms affect marriage and parenting.  Feel free to email your thoughts to me. —transparentsyblog@gmail.com–

–Zipporah

INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH: “Once, when reading a psychology text regarding psychopaths, I felt like I was reading of my childhood.”

This interview is so sad because of Hannah’s mother’s choices–to indulge an abusive father (and probably husband) rather than protect her children.  It’s good to read that Hannah has emerged into a momma bear for her own children and hasn’t perpetuated the cycle of abuse and denial.

What’s your age?

34

Are both of your parents living?

Yes

What’s their marital status?

Married

How many siblings do you have?

Two

How often do you see your parents?

Once a month.

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

Holidays, birthdays.

On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?

Dad- 1; Mom- 7; together- 2

Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit?

Absolutely.

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

Dad- I can think of 6-7 times between the ages of 4 and 18 that my Dad invited me to spend time with him in some sort of recreation (a 4-wheeler ride, hitting golf balls, riding a four wheeler, going on a snowmobile ride, and riding with him in his logging truck) and I have still good memories of those times.  When I was very little, I was proud of my father because he was strong and handsome.  I knew people were afraid of him, and I think that made me secure.  I thought he knew everything and could do anything.

Mom- I believe my Mother did the best she could do in her circumstances to raise me to have more opportunities and a life different than the one she led. Most importantly, she prayed for me and with me.  She read her Bible everyday and still does.  It’s like she’s in a different world in Psalms.  She made heaven real to me, and I’m convinced we will both spend eternity there.  She showed me how to serve others and the importance of sharing the things we have with those don’t have.  She taught me how to work hard, but was also willing to sit up late at night and type a research paper for me in high school when I really should have been typing it.  She scrimped and saved so that I could take piano lessons for 13 years.  She made me an intricate part of her life, being together everyday either going walking, driving, cross-country skiing, or huckleberry picking.  She made big deals out of birthdays and every holiday during the year.  We had entirely green meals on St. Patrick’s Day. We ate red food on Valentine’s.  Christmas cookies came in about a dozen different shapes and flavors every year.  I was the envy of my friends when it came to Mothers.  Looking back, however, I see that there isn’t much middle ground in her parenting.  It was either outstandingly sacrificial or desperately wretched.  The positive aspects of our relationship are things that I try to keep going with my own children- spending time with them, playing games, reading books, taking walks, riding bikes.  I think lasting relationships can be built on these things.

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

Dad- My relationship with my father has prompted me to search my own soul, to find characteristics which would prove to be destructive, and to try and change those things about myself.  I have come to realize that my father is a psychopath.  Once, when reading a psychology text regarding psychopaths, I felt like I was reading of my childhood.  If my dad was home, there was tension.  Everyone walked on eggshells trying not to set him off.  He was abusive to everyone in some way.  I was probably the one he directed his anger and abuse at least of all.  Like I mentioned above, when I was very young, I felt safe around him because he could protect me from danger, but by the time I was in 6th – 7th grade, I realized he was most dangerous person around me.  I developed hatred for him that would last for two decades.

Mom- The negative part of my mother’s parenting is that she has always refused to leave my father.   I used to accept her staying with him and even leaving me with him at times.  I thought she probably feared for her life and the life of all us kids.  But, when I had a child of my own, my feelings completely changed.  I protect my son like a bear.  I can’t imagine staying with a man like my father.  I’ve seen what happens and I don’t trust that people change.  Becoming a mother has driven a wedge between me and my own mother.  At moments, when I think her own life was too hard, she would leave for days or weeks at a time.  I try to dwell on the ways in which she provided for me and encouraged me, but at the end of the day she’s still with my father and I feel like she’s chosen him over her children and grandchildren.

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?

Dad- negative

Mom- positive without my father near, negative if he is

If negative, what are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?

My relationship with my father will never be good.  I have finally come to a point in my life in which I genuinely care about the state of his soul, but I do not want to be around him.

What do you wish they had done differently?

Where do I start?

How well do you relate to your siblings?

I get along well with my brother, we have very similar views of our childhoods and have dealt with them similarly.  We talk freely about the issues we have with our parents.  It is difficult for me to relate to my sister.  She was abused more than my brother and I, and yet she spends more time with my parents than we do.  She told me once that she didn’t think Mom knew what was going on when she was younger, about the abuse, and that she didn’t think she could have survived if she thought Mom knew.  I’m not sure I agree with her; I think Mom knows what is going on but chooses to live in a reality of her own making.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents? 

I think my brother does, I am not sure what my sister honestly thinks of them.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents? 

Dad- finding out he had abused my sister.

Mom- her reaction to finding out that I found out my Dad had abused my sister.  I asked her why she ever left me alone with him, and she said it was ok, she knew he would never do that to me because I had a strong personality.  That changed my relationship with her forever.  I never again felt protected, but out on my own.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

My mother used to come and visit and stay with me separately.  However, about 4 years ago, she quit visiting without my father.  Our relationship has not been as good since that time.

My father has mellowed with time.  He doesn’t get as angry as he used to, and he is trying to make amends for many of the wrongs he imposed on the family.  But, I can’t trust him.  We will never have a close relationship.

I have often thought about what life would be like with different parents.  Would I enjoy going home for the holidays and having my parents come to visit?  What would it be like to be close to my parents, to treasure their advice, desire to spend time with them?  I will never know those answers, but I hope that as my own children grow up, I can be the kind of parent I’ve longed to have.

It’s the Thought . . .

Today is my son’s fourth birthday, and as usual, I have indicated quite strongly that no gifts are expected at his little party.  He’ll get several from us that he can open. In the past, I’ve tried to curb the gift influx by asking people to make a donation toward a gift of two goats for a family in a remote village.  Fail.  Someone always brings a gift, anyway.  The last couple of years, I have requested no toys, but if someone is really motivated to spend money on my already over-priveleged children, gift certificates to local ice-cream parlors or such eateries are appreciated. Partial win.  Most people like this idea, but we still get the odd gift.  Some of them have been pretty darn cool, like underwater cameras or an unusual book, such as the entire Narnia series in Español.

This is going to sound really bitchy–in general, I hate presents.  The only thing I hate more is a surprise present.  If you’ve been reading my somewhat irregular Sunday posts, you know I struggle to keep possessions to a minimum.  It’s the rare person who can find an all-around useful gift for me.  That black patent-leather wallet that my awesome friend gave me for Christmas–you know who you are–THAT was the perfect surprise gift, especially since I adore anything that comes in “shiny black.”  My husband informed me tonight that I have a surprise coming soon, but I appreciate that he gave me a heads up.  He’s been married to me for 17 years, so I think that he knows how to pick ’em.

The gifts that mean the most are the ones that can be used up, such as a nice food or toiletry item. Time with a friend having coffee or through a handmade gift is the most valuable.  Plants are awesome, although I have sadly allowed many of them to die.  Kids’ gifts are a whole ‘nother thing.  Partly, I don’t want to add more stuff to my house.  Partly, my kids don’t need anything and millions of other children worldwide do.  Partly, and here’s the bitchy part, I don’t want to be involuntarily overrun by someone else’s bad taste.  I’m picky. Even when it comes to my kids’ stuff.  I know what I value and what I don’t.  More importantly, my kids need to know that just because they like something, it doesn’t mean it owns a spot in our house. Really, if you are out and about and see something on a store shelf that reminds you of any of us, please do the following: SAY A PRAYER FOR US AND PUT IT BACK ON THE SHELF!!!

(Unless you are at the car dealership and see a lovely 7-seater SUV in shiny black that would look smashing on me.  Love you, Babe!)

Throwing Out, Growing Up (better than the reverse)

Here is my Sunday post on Monday.  We’ve been cleaning out the garage some more.  My husband and I were watching a Hoarders episode the other night and he mentioned that it might be good it to show our girls.  He thought it might give them a better understanding of why we don’t allow them to keep everything they’ve ever loved.  The episode I showed them focused partially on a child who had started to hoard.  The girls were definitely affected by the glimpses into lives of those people.  For our whole family, it is a good, strong reminder of how we could turn out if we don’t restrain ourselves.

On a similar note, I found this on YouTube today:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y15dxUZN3s&feature=relmfu

I have always admired those who can make small square footage work so efficiently.  Granted, our family is twice the size of this one, but it makes me wonder what’s possible.  We’ve recently decided not to enlarge our 2500 SF home into a 3500 SF home (Go, us!)  I don’t think I’d miniaturize our life permanently, but it does encourage thoughts of our family living overseas one day.

INTERVIEW WITH OLIVIA: “We were in the same house, but we didn’t see a demonstrated relationship.”

It was very interesting to interview another woman whose mother has Borderline Personality Disorder.  I could relate to a lot of it, especially the part about her mother hijacking conversations when she couldn’t relate to them.

What’s your age?

34

Are both of your parents living?

Yes

What’s their marital status?

They’ve been divorced since I was 15.

How many siblings do you have?

Two younger brothers.  We are close in age with less than 4 years total among us.

How often do you see your parents?

Mom, 2 each year. Dad, 4 times.

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

Really, since my daughter was born, they tend to come down for a weekend or we go up there for a big holiday.  We spend time at home cooking, catching up, or things related to my daughter.  My stepfather is the school social worker and he helps to manage my mother who has Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.  She has variable energy for things.  If she wants to do it, we all have to go, but if shes doesn’t, we’re all stuck at home.  So, the thing in common to do is cook.  We can talk about books, but if it’s not in common, she hijacks it.  There is never a question about me or how I’m doing, but if there is, it’s a gesture to talk about she is doing.

After my parents got divorced and then, my dad came out.  He and his partner have been together for 12 years.  His partner is younger and closer to me in age.  My dad sometimes has the abilty to have an emotional conversation.  His partner can always do that.  My mother, never.

On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?

Mom:  Before my daughter, a 1.  I spent time with her because I thought it was what I was supposed to do to be a good daughter.  The time was spent taking care of her, so I hated it, but it was the obligatory check-in.  Since my daughter, a 4.  My mom is very childlike in her mental illness, so she and my daughter interact in a way that I never did with her.

Dad:  In an almost unhealthy way, we were best friends growing up.  I was his sidekick and he treated me like a little adult.  I’d run with him starting at 5 or 6.  He has a PhD in English literature, and when I started reading early, we’d have all these intellectual discussions.  But the goodness of our relationship was contingent upon my doing what he wanted me to do.  When I was in high school and started making different decisions, things became a bit stressful.  Now, I enjoy him as a 7.

Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit? 

Nobody really spent time with them as a unit, my brothers nor I.  We were in the same house, but we didn’t see a demonstrated relationship.

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

Mom:  I don’t feel that I have to be as perfect around my mom as my dad.  My mom is really passionate about geneology and family history, so I learn a lot of stories from her that I wouldn’t otherwise.  Helping my mom deal with her issues makes me more empathic to my patients and develop patience.  I practice medicine a little differently because I take time to understand each person as a whole emotionally.

Dad:  It’s hard to say. His love wasn’t completely unconditional.  He would be there for you if you did what he wanted, but if you wanted to choose differently, he wasn’t.  I think he was so personally unhappy and had a tendency to be narcissistic.  But is less now than he used to be.  He has a lot of valuable insight to offer, but it’s still a bit touchy if it’s something you know he doesn’t want to hear.  Very intellectual.

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

Mom’s jealousy.  One time she told our neighbor that my dad was having some kind of relationship with me.

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?

Currently, I still think talking to my mom is a chore that I have to do.  We talk every two weeks.  I do the assessment of her current psychiatric status to see if she needs her meds adjusted before she goes out to spend $50,000.  So, negative.

Dad, positive.  When he comes into town, he’s really focused on my daughter.  We’ll have conversations on the front porch while she naps.  Conversations that I actually get something positive from.

What are some of the aspects that contributed to a healthy relationship as adults? 

He’s able to listen and more able to take me where I am instead of shutting down if it’s not a conversation that he wants to have at that moment.  More supportive.

If negative, what are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults? 

The unpredictable moods and the constant self-centeredness.  Any time I spend with her, I still feel like I’m five years old and at her mercy.

What do you appreciate most about their parenting?

Mom was so fun.  She’s a teacher, and in the summers she would take off and use her child-like nature to plan a curriculum and summer experience for my brothers and me.  It was crazy, but we didn’t know any better.  I was 10 or 11 when that fun wore off. I noticed other moms in the neighborhood didn’t want to spend time with her, and she had snide remarks about “other women.”  She was really pretty and thin growing up and she learned over time to get a lot of attention from men.  We’d be a the neighborhood pool and she’d be in the skimpiest bikini flirting with men.  She had a few suicide attempts and would set it up so my dad or I would find her.

My dad was really responsible.  Thank goodness he made sure the house was clean, we had meals on the table, and bills were paid.  Our rooms were clean, our homework was done.  I did all the cooking and took care of my brothers.

What do you wish they had done differently?

They both did the best they could, but neither was cut out to be a parent with three small kids in rapid succession.  They had a very dysfunctional relationship themselves.  They both could have gotten some counseling on issues from their upbringing.  Maybe they should have separated earlier in life.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Pretty well.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents?

Yes.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

This is fairly recent.  My mom wanted to host Christmas for everyone.  She is not a very good cook or event planner.  Easily stressed and overwhelmed.  I offered to do all kinds of things I would normally do since I grew up cooking in that house.  She declined.  My grandmother was in town.  My mom reached a point of such anxiousness and was off schedule. My grandmother wound up doing most of the work and while my mother sat down with a glass of wine.  When the meal was served, she hopped up and took credit for it all.  She asked me to make coffee and publicly declared the meal as a failure because she didn’t like the coffee that I made.  She spilled lasagna on the table and blamed it on my grandmother.

My dad has been asking me for years about my marriage and when I announced to him that I was getting divorced, he was worried about being embarrassed for himself.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

Having my daughter.  At first, it was stressful with my mom because she had a vision of what she was going to do—come down and take care of all the cooking and cleaning—she thought she was capable of that.  We had a falling out after 2 weeks.  She knew what she wanted to be, but couldn’t.  It got better when my daughter was a year or so and she could sit and interact with her.

My dad became a lot more supportive when I was pregnant.  Wanted to know how I was feeling wanted to see ultrasound pictures.  He’s always said he looked more forward to grand-parenting than parenting.

Stuff and Nonsense

I missed posting last Sunday because we’ve been cleaning out our two-year monument of shame: our garage. Two years ago, we moved from another house that had a full basement and attic. This current house has almost no storage, save for the garage.  So, you guessed it! It’s been full of extras for that time.  Add to that two southern, humid summers, and you get a whole lot of yuck. My goal is to have it cleared out before my son’s birthday party since the door is now inoperable and I can’t simply hide the mess anymore. Many items have been relocated to our new storage sheds, but a lot of it simply had to go. My life doesn’t have room for it anymore, however you look at that phrase.

Cleaning out has been at once emancipating and excruciating.  I have a painful time separating the significance of my life from my stuff.  And, I’m not talking about stuff that indicates status–most of this stuff was worthless, monetarily speaking.  I’m talking about personal history and how it’s connected to the physical items that were part of that history.  I was surprised to find a box of items that came to me after my mother died.  Most of the items were mine, and I was glad to part with them.  In fact, I felt a lot of contempt for those things and the years that accompanied them. But, it’s still a long process putting them in the garbage. Other things were not so easy to chuck. I felt so much guilt donating or trashing an item that was given to me by a dear grandmotherly figure or an old friend. What does that say about how I felt or now feel about them? If I let go of this item, will I lose this memory and, in effect, lose the significance of it? Will gutting my house of my possessions streamline my personal history into a wasteland of dream-like, blurry, and meaningless memories? Will it reduce me to an empty woman, void of memories, a shell full of shadows, amnesia-tic and irrelevant?

More to come on this topic.

Interview with Joy: “My Parents Did Not Make a Family.”

It’s baffling to hear about a father that was never involved with his daughter.  Never picked her up or gave her affection.  Joy says, “As a kid you were waiting for it to blow up.  Indifference and anger. I don’t even think of my life with my dad.  He’s always been this fringe character.  Present, not absent.”  What a shame.

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your age?

48

Are both of your parents living?

Yes

What’s their marital status? 

Married, living separately for the last six or seven years.  They moved apart at 80 and 78.  They were selling the home I grew up in.  They were alone for a decade.  Dynamics happened from the past–Dad trying to purchase that house for them without her input.  And he did some squirrelly stuff in order to finance it.  After years, it finally blew up, and he decided to do his own thing.  They found that living apart worked. I never saw a lot of love.  They are entwined in a way that’s dysfunctional.  There is mental illness there.

How many siblings do you have? 

Five

How often do you see your parents? 

Not often.  Once every five years.

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

My mom and I have had a complete relationship on the phone.  We are in touch a lot.  I lived up there for 7 months last year while she was hospitalized, and then I helped her move and get settled.

On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?

I can’t imagine enjoying their physical company, being with them. I would call my mother on the phone everyday after school–in high school.  I became a little estranged, I guess.  Dad, never.  He had nothing to do with me, never picked me up, had a lot of rage.  Not someone I wanted to be around. Mom, I kind of fell in love with her up there.  I was grateful for having that much time to get used to something.  It wasn’t easy living with her and her habits.  It was hard for me to not want to change her.  I realize since being back how much I enjoyed her.  She’s just old and kind of goofy.  We watched Real Housewives of New York every night–with my 88 year-old Roman Catholic mother!  It was weird, but I miss that. I was glad I felt love for my mother for the first real time in my life.  I almost moved back.

Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit? 

Oh, God yes.  There is no unit.  We didn’t have a dynamic where we hung out together.  My parents did not make a family.  Things were always tense and Dad had no patience for kids.  As a kid you were waiting for it to blow up.  Indifference and anger. I don’t even think of my life with my dad.  He’s always been this fringe character.  Present, not absent.

Which aspects of their parenting have most contributed to a your relationship as adults? 

We really haven’t had an adult relationship.

What do you appreciate most about their parenting?

I’m grateful that Mom sent me to the high school that she did.  I was becoming a real pain in the ass, wanting to hang out with my older brothers that were causing trouble and experimenting with drugs.  It was a good education, a Catholic prep girls’ school.  Really small.  I was a troublemaker, but I was smart.  At least that gave me a great foundation.

What do you wish they had done differently?

Mom married the wrong guy, so she gave me bad advice all my life.  When I was a teenager, her message to me was not to rely on a man for anything, do it yourself.  She was super supportive in my career.  I knew where I was headed.  She’s more connected to my professional work rather than my relationships.  It’s her damage.  I wish she had been aware enough to not inject her politics on my upbringing in that way.  That was so unfair.  I wish she could’ve gotten around her issues.  They didn’t deliberately do much, but I think you have to do some things deliberately.

It could be that I wish my dad were a completely different person.  I wish he wasn’t miserable, but I think he’s chemically different.

How well do you relate to your siblings? 

I relate to my brother with schitzophenia and my brother in Hawaii.  We’re very real and present.  He was very supportive during my time with my mom.  Even if it was just on the phone, he was there for me to vent to, to talk to, he sent me money because I wasn’t working and commuting 60 miles from where I was living to my mom’s hospital.  He helped me with decision-making and emotional distress that erupted with my younger brother.  He stayed in touch.  He knew to call.  I talk on the phone to my other brother, too, a couple of times a month.  He wanted to be part of dinner plans with mom.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents? 

Yeah, they do, in different ways.  It’s because of gender difference.  They have stronger opinions about my father than I do.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

I guess prior to growing up and going to college, Dad was his miserable self and uninvolved with my life in any real way. But, I hadn’t totally turned my back on him being a factor in my life as an adult. When I was in my first job out of college, starting my career with a great company that hired me as an intern when I was still an undergrad, I was living on my own in an apartment and trying to defer my student loans while I got situated. The job was great but my pay was not. I asked my dad if I could list an expense of a car payment to him. I was really nervous that the loan officers might not approve my request and i just wanted to have enough expenses on my application so they would defer. My father would not allow me to list a smalll car payment since it wasn’t really true.

When I was 21 or 22, I was doing my taxes and needed to file not as dependant for the frst time.  My father, who would not help me financially in any way, told me that I could not file that way because he was still claiming me as dependent and the money he got back was more than whatever I would gain. He needed it more than I did, basically. I remember being totally shocked and betrayed and disgusted that my dad would do this to me as I was making my way after college. He didn’t offer to share the money or otherwise make up for it what I would lose. A year later, when I was declaring my self on my taxes, he was a bit more comfortable with stretching truth. I don’t know what he ended up doing that tax year, but the conversation ended with me saying that I wasn’t going to lie on my tax return. I remember distinctly drawing a line in my relationship with him–a moment that went from generalized ambiguity to a choice to disregard him from that point on.

Yelling Fast

I’ve been struggling with my three-year-old this week over his abuse of my car, a sexy black Odyssey named Bianca. I have a friend who refers to me as the “car nazi.”  I don’t like dings, scratches, spills, dents and above all, I don’t like a messy car.  I also have four kids. Twice this week, I’ve found my boy climbing on the hood of my car, and today I discovered he had crash landed my husband’s vintage Star Wars ship on it.  He had to be disciplined, so he didn’t get to help prepare or consume the homemade pretzels we were making for Lent.  Since I wanted to give up yelling for Lent, today was a good day.  Tomorrow, we’ll all be taking a joyride to auto detail shop.  Stay tuned to see if I stick to the “yelling fast.”

%d bloggers like this: