Interview with Constance: “They wanted to hear what was in my heart.”

I envision Constance growing up in a home full of calm, a completely different experience than the one I had.  It’s something that I long to model, as well as the engaged listening.

What’s your age? 

I’m knocking at 40’s door.

Are both of your parents living?


What’s their marital status?


How many siblings do you have? 


How often do you see your parents? 

A few times a month

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

Mom: As a child- working together (chores/garden work), school activities/sports, church activities (she was often the choir director or youth sponsor), running errands together (we spent a lot of time talking in the car.)  Now- talking (we talk almost every day on the phone), attending my own children’s events, (if she’s at my house) doing chores together.

Dad: As a child- tennis, basketball, running in the morning, listening to classical music together, helping him at church with his ministry.  Now- going on field trips with my kids and me, helping out with my small business, my children’s basketball games (sitting next to him is the best seat in the house), going to history movies or museum exhibits together.

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

Mom- 10

Dad- 10

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

I actually prefer them separate if I can get it.  My mom can be very dominant, and my dad is content just to sit back and listen.  I feel like it’s harder to spend time with him when my mom is around.  But together, I still enjoy their company.

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

I’ve never felt unloved or unaccepted.  Sure, I’ve done some stupid things in life, but they’ve let me own those.  They are interested not in what I do, but who I am.  I don’t feel like I have to achieve anything or reach certain goals to know that they are proud of me.  They don’t try to define me.  They have given me a rich heritage of faith, and we talk often about what the Lord is doing in our lives.

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

I think that sometimes, because we are so close, my mom tries to get me to be her go-between in raising issues with my dad or sisters.  Usually it is something health related like, “You should tell your dad that he needs to see a doctor about….”

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?

The positive.

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

My mom and dad never checked out as parents.  They keep in regular contact with me and ask specific questions about what is going on in my life and what concerns me.  I know that they pray for me.  They never complain or act put out about my kids (there are 7 of them) or tell me how to raise them (though I do get the occasional suggestions.)  They live a distance away (about an hour) and make a huge effort to travel to see us on a regular basis.  “We just thought we’d stop by for a visit”  is the phrase.

What do you appreciate most about their parenting?

They have set the best example I know of honoring their own parents.  They cared for each of their ailing parents a total of 22 years under their own roof.  It was a physical, emotional and financial sacrifice, but they modeled it for me in a way that speaks volumes.  Experiencing that in both my childhood and adulthood, makes me sit up and appreciate them as parents. I’m proud of them.

I appreciate that they have always listened.  Though we haven’t always agreed, they made it clear that they wanted to hear what was in my heart.  I could express it and they love me all the more.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I do wish that my dad had been more accessible growing up.  He worked a lot and had many responsibilities at home and church.  I loved being near him as a child, but don’t think I began having conversations with him until late high school.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

My oldest sister and I were not close while we lived at home, largely because of her difficult relationship with my mom at the time.  Over the years we have become close friends.  My two younger sisters and I are close as well.  We spend time together weekly and can rely on each other with regularity.

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

I think we all have our own story to tell about mom and dad.  They did a fantastic job as seeing us as individuals, so each of our relationships is different.  None of us have ever been estranged from our parents, but there have been some definite moments of rebellion and conflict that were not resolved overnight. I think we would all agree that as adults, we consider our parents to be our friends who we enjoy spending time with.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

My dad- Seeing him break down and cry for the first time.  It was when he told us that his father had passed away.  We all lived in the same house, so as children we felt as though we had lost a parent, too.   I was nine at the time and remember watching my dad walk through the grieving process with strength and realizing that he had just lost his best friend.

My mom- Being with my mom when her mother died (six years ago).  It took several days for her to pass and we spent those days providing for her needs.  We spent many quiet, solemn hours together and I heard stories about my mother’s difficult and painful childhood that were new to me.  It gave me a different perspective into her as a person and made so grateful that God changed her life and chose me to be her daughter.

Together- In Junior High and High School, my parents would often let me lay in their bed with them in the dark and just talk, and talk, and talk about anything I wanted.   All the drama, disappointments, dreams….  they just listened and then let me trot off to my own bed.  Being a mom of teens now, I know that those were defining moments, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you feel about them?

Nothing comes to mind.

I’ll be doing this for the next few days.

Lucky for me, the kids’ stuff is first on the agenda. I CAN get rid of my kids extra stuff and they WON’T grow up to hate me for it.  If they do, I’ll listen!  I’ll even serve them a warm cuppa while they complain about the time I got rid of half of their stuffed animals.  They’ll still have fifty left when I’m finished and I need some zen around here!

Emergency Preparedness Plan

Our region was under threat of tornadoes this week, and we had an open invitation to rush to our neighbor’s basement in case of imminent danger.  I have a real go-getter girl who is always thinking ahead.  At some point, while donning a headlamp and preparing to save everyone’s life–serving dinner before the storms hit, baking bread, getting a makeshift storm shelter set up in the kids’ closet, stocking it with water and food–my daughter informed she had assembled necessary supplies in the event that we had to run for our lives.  FIVE backpacks of toys, stuffed animals, who knows what else, AND her weaving loom!  My husband has reminded me that this was precious; it was quite overwhelming and exasperating in the moment.  However, it’s been a good reminder for me to stop and appreciate the ways that each of my children are wired.  I have since thanked her for her presence of mind in a moment of crisis.

Interview with Penny: “I remember verbatim every time my dad said he was sorry.”

This interview reflects my hunch that the best thing we can give our kids is our acknowledgement of our failures.  I hope I say “I’m sorry,” to my children enough.  

Whats’ your age?


Are both of your parents living? 


What’s their marital status?  

They are married.

How many siblings do you have?

Two, a brother and a sister.

How often do you see your parents? 

They’ve moved a lot in the past ten years. Right now, twice a year.

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

Dad and I typically talk intensively.  He’s a thinker, a professor.  We share books. He was my speech and debate coach in high school.

Mom’s crafty.  We might share patterns, music interests.  We’re both moms, so we share mothering experiences.  My kids are her only grandchildren.  And cooking—we both love to cook.

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

It’s changed over time.  He’s changed after some extra education.  Right now it’s about a three, when in the past it was an eight or nine.  He’s changed theologically and politically and is very different from me now, so there are just things that we can’t discuss anymore.  And that’s kind of the only thing you do with your dad. He now sees me as his stay-at-home brainwashed daughter.  Also, my mom is very domineering and he’s always wanted our respect.  This higher education now is his way to do that.  He doesn’t understand respect outside of agreement.

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

That’s complicated.  Maybe a five, and that’s hopeful.  I think our relationship is getting better, and I think it’s because of me.  As a mom, I’m getting a more compassionate view of her.  After you become a mom, it’s easy to see how ugly you can be without sleep, etc.  She’s always been closer to my sister, and I’ve always known that.  I’m not combative though, so I bottle it up and I don’t confront her.

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

Yes, because they fight.  I think it’s usually better with them separately.  It changes things.  It could be better, could be worse.  They don’t have the best relationship; they love each other but don’t relate to each other in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs.

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

For the most part, we are an open family and we don’t play a lot of games.  No social games.  Things could get ugly, but they got dealt with.  My mom tells you what she thinks.  Dad can have diarrhea of the mouth.  We also have autism-spectrum issues, but the good part is there is no worry about what other people are thinking.  They are comfortable.  They are the only people I can really let my hair down around, outside of my husband and kids.

What about the negative?

I’m the oldest, and parents put more pressure on the oldest.  I do the same thing with my kids.  In our family, I played the role of the one who had it all together.  More was expected of me.  I was responsible for babysitting after school even at eight since we had hard financial times.  I became the homestead and now they all center around my family.  I have to remember that I’m not in charge and it makes for weird family dynamics.  It’s nothing for me to have a brand-new baby and do all the work for Thanksgiving.  My mother would like to be in that phase, but hasn’t for a variety of reasons.  I would imagine that’s strange for them.

Being transparent gets hard.  If I need something, it’s not instinct for them to step in.  There’s no understanding of hints, so I need to be direct with them.  I think my mother struggles with depression.

Honestly, which weighs more?

The positive.  I think it’s grace and forgiveness.  All parties involved want to love each other and want to be doing a good job.  We’re all struggling with our own issues, but in the past couple of years I think things have gotten much better.  Even with my dad, he needs my respect.  Loving and respecting him could produce change, but if it doesn’t, then it’s not my responsibility.

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

Their transparency of their own failures.  I remember verbatim every time my dad has said he’s sorry to me.  It’s not a lot, but that means more to me than anything else he could ever do.  Seeing my mom trying to build bridges between the two of us.  It makes me more hopeful about change.

What do you wish they had done differently?

Growing up, less now than then, they were isolated and we were, too.  They were embarrassed about the state of their house and marriage. They didn’t want to open up to people, but they needed other parents to come along side of them.  My mom needed other women, but she was intimidated.

What do you most appreciate about their parenting? 

They were thoughtful.  They did things because they thought it was the best thing to do.  There was a parenting book my dad read that was awful, but he was very consistent.  They were sincere.  If they felt that something was the right thing to do, they genuinely tried to do it.  They loved us.  Even if it was the wrong thing to do, we knew the motivation.

How well do you relate to your siblings? 

Pretty well now.  Things are comfortable.  My sister and I have had a historically tense relationship.  She struggled with ADD and had difficulty in her relationships.  She has hard feelings toward me.  Even though my mom relates to her better, I was her right hand lady.  My brother was really young as was everything the youngest is.  We get along now pretty well, but he’s very different from me in regard to beliefs. But we navigate that better now.

Do they share your same reflections about your parents?

Similar, but not the same.  We are all either on the outs or ins with my parents, and right now he’s on the ins and my sister is on the outs.

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

When we moved to Florida, it was tense.  We were living in a townhouse with an iron spiral staircase that went up to my sister’s and my room.  She said something really taunting to me while we were on the stairs, and I pushed her down the stairs.  She was hurt, but not broken.  I was nine, and my dad came and spanked me.  He spanked me in anger.  He still brings that incident up and talks about me like I was horrible.  We had just moved across the country and were under a lot of emotional stress and my sister was very difficult at the time.  This taught me that I was not allowed to be a kid.  I was held to a higher standard than my siblings.  It was a hard year and everyone was stressed, but I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes.

Has anything happened in recent history to change your relationship?

Just being a parent myself has helped me see how difficult parenting is and no one does it perfectly.  It helps me to be more gracious.  AND they’ve apologized for a lot of things.  That helps.

The Queen of Mean

The grown ups were right about discipline.  It doesn’t hurt our kids nearly as much as it hurts us.  I kept my kids home from a party tonight because they broke a clear rule that I have set.  A party they’ve looked forward to all week.  I try to think of this as a vaccination–a little pain to prevent a lot of future heartache.  If my children cannot understand and respect my own boundaries, then they’ll never learn to abide within any of life’s boundaries. Their adult lives will be train wrecks. My heart hurts now, but later I’ll be thanking myself. One day, they will too.

Interview with Ohana: “He wasn’t a mean drunk. Mostly, he just passed out.”

I love these stories from people twenty or more years my senior.  I hope they will keep coming. Ohana speaks openly about her father’s drinking problem and how that affected her family.  After losing her father at eighteen, Ohana had many years with her mother before her death.  Read her story below.
What’s your age?  
Are both of your parents living?   
No, both are deceased.  Daddy in 1963 and Mother in 2001.
What was their marital status?  
Married,  45 years.
How many siblings do you have? 
Four. Two brothers and two sisters.
What are some of the ways you spent time with your parents?
When they were alive, we were together every week. After my father passed away, I spent a great deal of time with Mother.  In her last 10 years, she needed a caregiver and then was in the nursing home.  I was very involved in her daily life and visited with her daily in the nursing home.
On a scale of one to ten, how much did you enjoy their company?
Eight for both.  Mother and Daddy had a very good sense of humor and a good connection to family.
Did spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit? 
Absolutely. Conversations between my mother and I were different if Pop were in the room.
What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?
The relationship with my mother was that of a friend more often than not.  Pop was definitely a “parent.”  But I was so young, 18, when he passed away; we never had the chance to develop a friendship.
What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?
In Mother’s later years, I was more the adult and she the child.  When I was younger, Mother was so busy raising the five of us, there was little time for in individual relationship.  But, she certainly did the best she could. As for my father, he was an alcoholic, so times were very stressful. We never knew if Pop would come home sober or drunk.  Fortunately, even when he was drunk, he was not an angry or “mean” drunk.  Mostly, he just passed out.
Which is weightier, the positive or negative? 
Oh, the negative. Although I loved my father, I wish even today that he had not been an alcoholic.  It has made me a little over the edge about drinking.  My husband and I didn’t drink at all until our kids became adults.
What are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?
Because my father died so young, there was never the chance to develop a full relationship with him.  And, seeing the pain that his addiction caused, my siblings and I each made a heartfelt decision not to have alcohol an issue in our adult lives. Even with all the problems within our family caused by Pop’s drinking, my siblings and I pulled together as a family to see each other through the difficult times.
What do you appreciate most about their parenting? 
Their love for each other.  Even during the bad times (Pop’s binges), there was never any question that they loved each other. Whatever the problems were, they would handle them together.
What do you wish they had done differently? 
Obviously, I wish there had not been the alcohol issue with my father.  Because of his drinking, there was always a money issue.  I can remember Pop spending the last five dollars he and Mother had between them for some “stick-built” outdoor furniture as a gift to her. He thought he was doing something wonderful; she was a little more than pissed!  We ate a lot of rice and beans for the next week.  As far as Mother, I am not sure she could have done anything different. I fully believe she did the very best for us that she could have.
How well do you relate to your siblings? 
I am the youngest of the five.  We are all pretty close, but I have had several of them say that I am the “glue” that holds us together.  I don’t know if that is true. But if it is, not only is it a huge honor, it is also a pretty big weight on my shoulders.  One of my brothers probably would not be on my Facebook friend list if he were not my brother.  Although I love him, I really don’t have anything in common with him and quite frankly, don’t really like him and his family.  Yikes, I can’t believe I actually admitted that to someone.
Do you think they share the same reflections? 
I think the 3 sisters do, my older brother. . . not so much.  My other brother, I couldn’t really say.
Can you share a defining moment with your parents?
A defining moment with my father. . . when I was baptized.  I knew then that he loved me more than anything.  He was there with me and my mother was not.  That really hurt.  But when my husband and girls and I were in a head-on collision, Mother quit her job and moved us in with her so she could take care of us for 3 months.  I knew then that her love was unconditional.  She literally gave up her life to take care of us. I have always felt a great sense of appreciation for her sacrifice.
Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child? 
Not so much in recent history, but the chance to answer these questions has certainly made me remember some things in my life .  I do know that I always felt loved and was always taken care of to the best of their ability.

It’s Going to Cost Me (and Them)

I read this on Simple Mom.  It’s a comment on Tsh Oxenreider’s post about her reflections on middle eastern hospitality:

I love to entertain and have people over. I am not one of those people with a clean, organized, and tidy home. I grew up with a mom who was always cleaning, organizing, and always exhausted. I love her for the things she taught me, but there was a cost too. We didn’t get enough “Mom” as we needed. I didn’t want to do that to my own kids. I try to keep it balanced, but it is hard. I think it’s a constant battle. I find when my house gets out of control, my moods often get that way too.

“. . . there was a cost, too. We didn’t get enough ‘Mom’ as we needed.”

I’m afraid that I am setting up my kids for that cost.  I’d like to hear your thoughts, experiences, and advice.  Thanks.

Interview with annalise: “dad was my hero.”

Annalise shares her admiration for her father and her struggle with his untimely death as well as her feelings about her mother and stepmother.

What’s your age:


Are both of your parents living?

No.  My father died and my mother and stepmother are living.

Marital Status of Parents:


Number of Siblings:


How often do you see your parents?

My birth mother, three times per year

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

Shopping, cooking, most of the time listening to her, supporting her through hard times.

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

Birth mother-7

Stepmother—around a 6 or 7.  We are completely different people, and I’m not as accepted as her natural children, my half-siblings.

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

About an 8. He had drug addiction issues. When he was sober, it was a 10, When he was high, a 4.

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

I enjoyed them more one on one.

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

Dad’s custody battle for me created a bond because we fought to be with one another.  Whatever I needed, unconditional love, wisdom, he was there for me with anything.

My birth mother is strong, even though she thinks she’s weak. She’s tried to have a stable family life, but it hasn’t worked.  She loves her family, though. She remembers everyone’s birthday and sends a card.

My stepmom is very take charge and makes things happen. She’s compassionate, but a diva.

What about the negative?

The addiction issue got in the way with Dad. When under the influence, he made horrible decisions and said hurtful things.

My stepmom was manipulative and controlling.

I am burdened for Mom constantly. I want to help, but realize that if our situation were reversed, she wouldn’t know how to help me.

Honestly, which weighs more in your mind? The positive or the negative?

With Dad, it’s positive. He was my hero.

For my natural mother, it’s positive, because I have a parent.  Someone on the earth who helped raise me and is around.  I value that she is my living biological parent.

It’s also positive for my stepmother. She’s going to get what she wants in life at any cost, and sometimes she fights that hard for her kids.

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

I was never embarrassed of my dad, even when he tried to be goofy.  He included me in the things he loved to do because he loved to share them with me.  Once, when I was grounded for 3 months, he decided that Saturday nights would be our time to learn to cook stir-fry.

My step-mom would drive me and my friends to roll our friends’ yards.  She brought the toilet paper, hot dogs for barking dogs, etc.  I also remember her consoling the boyfriends that I broke up with.

Mom and I cooked together and she went to everything I did: games where I cheered, dance recitals, modeling competitions.  She did the best she could.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I wish Mom had let me be me.  She enrolled me in things that weren’t my choice, such as modeling, etc.  I wanted to make more of my own choices.

I wish that Dad had forgiven his parents for the way they screwed up.  He came from a farm family, everyone worked hard, but he felt singled out.  He worked hard to be on top, but found that it was not what he thought it would be.  I wish he had forgiven them and let go and not lived his life trying to prove something to them.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Growing up, we were super close.  I was the momma hen. Now, I don’t share the same beliefs with many of them, and family dynamics prevent us from spending a lot of time together.  Who we are makes it hard.

Do they share your same reflections?

I would assume that their perspective is very similar. I see a lot of repetition.

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

I remember Mom being forcefully held by my stepfather and yelling for me to call 911.  It made me feel like there was a weakness that couldn’t be overcome.  I wondered “What is this supposed to look like?”  Also, yelling at me using scripture in a hurtful way.

When my father was fighting for custody of me, my stepmom was away at treatment facility. She wrote me a letter telling me that it wasn’t all about me and that if I didn’t want to live with them, I could let her know and she would take down all her pictures of me.

I was engaged to my husband, and Dad didn’t like him.  We wanted to get married in college, and I got pregnant.  I was always the good girl.  I called my stepmom over and told her.  She was a great mediator and tried to talk to my dad.  I thought Dad was going to kill my fiancé.  But, he called me and said, “Well, if you are going to be a parent, you are going to have start getting up early.  Especially if it’s going to be a beautiful grandbaby of mine.”  It was grace.

Has anything happened since to change your relationship?

I’m still trying to help my mom.  She needs someone to fight for her, but I don’t believe women are weak.  I make her make the decision to help herself.

When Dad passed away, it was a dark moment in my life.  He took his life, and  just before that, I had a dream that turned out to be exactly what happened.  I’m in a good place now, though.  I know where he is.

It’s about the same with my stepmom. I had to let go of my resentment over how my father passed away.

Interview with Todd from Tulsa: “a mix of fun and hell”

In these interviews, it’s been refreshing to see the honesty that’s laid out on the table.  Here, genuine interest and willingness to discuss ideas are missing in the relationship Todd’s parents had with him.  He’s working hard to be an improvement on that for his kids.

What’s your age?


Are both of your parents living? 

My father died a few years ago.

What was their marital status?


How many siblings do you have?

Four brothers: two step, one half, one full.

How often do you see your parents? 

Every other month

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

I see Mom (and stepfather) inside the context of family visits, particularly her visiting my children or attending one of their events.  Or, they come over for a meal on the weekend.

As a kid, I had a mix of fun and hell with my dad and stepmom because I never knew what to expect. Was someone going to yell at me?  Did I show up and have to do chores that I didn’t have to do at home?  I learned a lot; I owe it to my dad that I can tinker with things.  Some of the other things I learned was a love for the outdoors, camping, fishing. I enjoyed fishing; I don’t now because I’m not very good at it, but I’m glad I learned to do it.  Same with hunting.  As an adult, I didn’t spend a lot of time with my dad.  When he was alive, he may have come to the house for dinner and he may have attended an event for the kids.  I played golf with him two or three times.

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

Dad, a 5.  I didn’t have a lot in common with him.  He was a dirty old man in a lot of ways and I found his behavior embarrassing.  His behavior and mine were so different, I wasn’t sure how we could look related.  We valued different things. He didn’t care what other people thought.

Mom, a 4.  She has become more and more opinionated and a stick in the mud.  She’s boring.  The extent of her visits are her interjecting her opinions about stuff.  Theology, politics.  The last three or four years, she doesn’t know what to do with me because I’ve “gone off the deep end.” I don’t share her opinions.  I went from being the golden kid to the one who has flown the coup.  Since that has happened, there is this unspoken distance.  I don’t always feel that way, but I often do.

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

My stepfather can get the same way that she does, but sometimes he makes the visits more pleasurable.

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

With Dad, a love of the outdoors, a strong work ethic, problem solving skills, being able to know about a lot of things, fix things about the house.  He gave me a sense of humor.  He liked to charm people.

I’m thankful for how Mom brought me up in the church with a certain set of values.  I have a deep respect for her for doing all she could for two boys by herself.  She had many opportunities to bad-mouth my father, but she didn’t.  She also cared for my father’s mother (her former mother-in-law) in spite of what people were saying about her.  She’s had to deal with some pretty crappy stuff in her life that were more or less not her fault.  It’s commendable.

What about the negative?

Dad did whatever the hell he wanted, and I think that led to my mom being single with two kids. I think he was selfish and he missed out on what could have been a stronger relationship with his grandchildren.

Mom is too opinionated.  She cannot leave room for other ideas or points of view.  It creates a lot of turmoil for her.  She doesn’t know what to do with it and then that creates a stress in the relationship.  For example, when I transferred my minisitrial standing to another denomination, she did not attend the service that recognized that transfer.

Honestly, which is weightier? 

With dad, it’s the negative.  With Mom, the positive.

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

That she was an adult. She did the things that she should have done as a mother. She was responsible, caring, loving, and teaching.

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

He was just selfish in my estimation.  He was very guarded, too.  When I make the kids do something that they don’t want to do, I explain why.  He demanded respect, he didn’t earn it.  What he got was fear disguised as respect.  With his demand for respect, it did me a disservice because I never learned how to challenge authority until an adult.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I wish my mom had not been as strict with me because I was a good kid.  If you make something taboo, it just makes that thing more appealing.  I wish I’d been exposed to other things, other ideas, other points of view.  For instance, when I was 18, I drove downtown to take a lifeguarding class.  I drove past a beautiful church and realized I’d never seen kids from that church at church camp.  She told me it was a different kind of church and gave a derogatory and dismissing comment about it. I remember that incident and I would have benefited from being exposed to other ideas. My upbringing was pretty sheltered.

I wish my dad had been more open about himself and more supportive.  I played soccer for four years in college and he only came to two games.  We had 18 games per season.  That was shitty.  While I was going to college, he was going to an arthritis specialist two miles from my campus on the same dang road.  He never called to suggest we meet for lunch when he would go his appointments.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Not very well.  I often feel like the black sheep.  I don’t even know what to do with my brothers.  I’m the only one who went to college.  I don’t know how to relate to them and they probably don’t know how to relate to me.

Do they share your same reflections?

My full brother would probably share same thoughts about our dad and some about my mom.

My other half brother has a very high respect for my dad, but his relationship was so much different.  He lived with him, and he came later in my dad’s life.  My dad relaxed a bit with that son.

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

I was in third or fourth grade and faked being sick because I thought my mom would stay home with me.  She got everything ready for me that I needed, but then she went to work.  What I really wanted was to spend time with her.  I realized that I was all alone.

Once, when my dad actually did come to one of my soccer games, he sent my brother down to see if I was going into the game (I wasn’t starting).  It’s like he was checking to see if it were worth coming to at all.  I thought, “You son of a bitch.”  For whatever reason, I didn’t start in this game, but had started the last three games.  If he had been there, he would have seen that.  That’s a shitty father.  That’s not supportive, that’s selfish.

Has anything happened since then to change your relationship?

My dad has passed away.  I think in a lot of ways I have swung back around, due to  my own work and talking with counselors. One of the things I’m learning to do is be myself in spite of what others may think.  I think he would appreciate that.  He took that freedom too far, but for me it’s just the freedom and confidence to be myself.  I think we’d have a tighter bond now.

My transfer of ministerial standing has changed my relationship with my mom.  I don’t feel supported now.

Lessons on Sisterhood from Downton Abbey

I am an only child and I hate it.  I’ve always felt a deep loneliness and longing for a sister.  I prayed for one when I was four or five.  I looked in every closet and under every bed, but I didn’t find her. Sometimes, I think I’m still looking.

Nine years ago, I was blessed with twin girls.  I often remind them how fortunate they are to have each other.  I think it will be a few more years before they understand that. When that time comes, I’d like to show them Downton Abbey.  The relationships between Mary and Edith sadden me. From the beginning, it seems that Edith despises Mary for her shallowness and it’s anybody’s guess as to why Mary is so cold to Edith. They both make efforts to derail the happiness of the other.  I hope my girls will see that those efforts do nothing but cause pain for all involved.  It is wrong to desire that your sister or brother come to ruin.

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