When I began my journey into this wonderful world we know as the blogosphere I knew there were going to be moments that were a blogging-MUST…my occasional off-color reference to kid-craziness, hubby antics, fun friend escapes, you know the bit…slice-o’-life. I knew also that there would be those instances better left to a private venting moment (or hour) in my car or shower. I made the decision to publicize my blog to those not only connected through my Facebook blog page but also through my own personal Facebook page. Why? Well, my friends know me…and if I can’t have a little fun amongst them then, well…maybe they’re not that good of friends to begin with, no?
But what about when I find myself so deep in an emotional funk that I can’t even be pried out with the giggles of my sweet babies? The kind of week where you are so completely overwhelmed with the feeling of grief and disappointment that you’re not sure if you would prefer the fetal position in an hour-long-shower…or a rant toward the source that is so heated it could cause spontaneous combustion. Can I blog about that? Will my relatives take it so seriously they’re at my door with a counselor and hefty SSRI in tow? Will my friends be able to look me in the eye or question the ability to have a normal convo with me the next day? I don’t know. I just…don’t.
What I do know is that I’ve hit a low that I’ve not experienced in years and rather than pay a counselor money that I’d prefer to spend on something fun, I’d rather use this venue to its therapeutic potential. Besides…I already know what a counselor would say…her words are on repeat, constantly playing but never entirely sinking in.
I won’t exhaust you with what I should be sharing on a fancy brown leather chaise…the truth is, my childhood bore nothing notable or abnormal. No physical abandonment or neglect. No abuse or instability. I lived a rather plain, predictable life as a child. I was the oldest of three girls and forever the seeker of approval. The mere thought of having disappointed my parents could send me in a tailspin of tears and self-hatred. That same fear of disappointment haunts me today. Some days it can be downright crippling, in fact. That bitch of a fear sneaks up on me when my life seems to be void of any variety of reinforcement…positive or otherwise. When it seems as though I’m simply drifting through life…not bounced by any road blocks nor excelled by any tailwind…just there. Am I doing it right? Am I fucking up? The unknown is stifling…it literally halts me as it did this weekend. While my primary fear since early childhood has always been disappointing my parents, it now extends far beyond that. Does my husband think I’m a good enough cook, housekeeper, wife, or mother? If he were looking to replace me what characteristics would he seek in his “re-do”? Do my in-laws pity my husband for his choice in marriage? Do my superiors at work feel conned…as though I’m not nearly as qualified as they once thought me to be? Do my friends wonder how in the hell I ever made any friends to begin with?
Do my children (and God damn it I can’t even type this without crying) feel lonely, sad, emotionally abandoned, unwanted, unloved, uninteresting, unnecessary or frankly not worth my time? Do they look at their friends’ moms and wish they could be miraculously adopted by another? Do they think THEY’RE doing something wrong and that somehow they have inadvertently disappointed ME? I have GOT to cease this sickening cycle.
I love my parents. I would do anything for them and to this day I do all that I can to make them happy…to make them proud…to make them want to be around me. I’ve never wanted more than their love and affection not only toward me but as I grown older I need that more importantly for my children. So why is this so hard? Why are they so absent? They live 25 minutes from my home…and yet…I’ve not heard from them in over three weeks. Sadly this is our “normal”…quite frankly we’ve gone two months in between phone calls before. My mother has never called and asked me to have lunch with her. I’ve never gone shopping with her. I’ve never been invited to come over for movie night. We don’t have random phone conversations… only those spurred by a family event, celebration or trauma.
From the time I left for college, I knew things were different from other families. My roommates would get their Sunday night phone call from mom…while I snuck back to my room to initiate the call home myself. I often wondered if I was annoying my parents by calling each and every week. But I kept at it. I called them for birthdays, family cook-outs, to let them know how I was doing, how their grandkids were doing and to check on them…just because. I was fine being the instigator…until about three years ago. Three years ago my father-in-law unexpectedly became very ill and within six months passed away after an excruciating battle with leukemia. We were crushed. He was my husband’s father, our family protector and my sweet little Ben’s very best friend in the whole wide world. Just gone. For three solid weeks after he passed we received nary a call from my parents. Not one. Not a voicemail. Not a knock at the door. Not a covered dish. Not an offer to help with the kids. Not one. I don’t know that I had ever been so heartbroken…for so many reasons at once. At that moment it stopped being my responsibility to make the effort…so I stopped calling. I’m convinced if it hadn’t been for my birthday, those three weeks could have easily turned into four or five…or more.
I wonder if my mom even likes me. Did I annoy her as a child? Was I in her face too much? Did I keep her from living a dream that would never come to fruition? Did I say something wrong and not realize it? Does she just want to be alone? If I thought that were the case, I could deal with the fact that she has her own set of troubles preventing her from connecting with her own children. However, she doesn’t seem to struggle connecting with my youngest sister…and her three children. In fact, they live down the street from each other and visit nearly every day. She knows my nephews like the back of her hand…their favorite foods, colors, toys. Yes, she has been commissioned to be the full-time babysitter for them, so it’s not all fun and games. But they get to have her. And don’t think my kids wouldn’t gladly take a time-out or scolding from Grandma now and then just to spend a quarter of the time their cousins get with her OR my dad. Because they would. In a heartbeat.
This weekend my six year old niece spent the night with my parents…their attempt to make up for missing her birthday party two months ago. While my mother was away fulfilling her daily babysitting duty for my youngest sister, my niece asked my dad whether Grandma had died…because she hadn’t seen her in so long. Died. The next day my son asked me if Papaw could come and play LEGOs with him…and I swiftly told him “no” accompanied by some random yet realistic, non-personal excuse as to why he couldn’t come over that day. Why? I couldn’t bear the thought of his little face falling at the sound of no answer and an outgoing voicemail message on the other end of my dad’s cell phone. And I just don’t think I can stomach any more disappointment…not without a regrettable, explosive and very likely irrepirable response from yours truly.
As I mentioned above, a wise counselor once told me that it is in my best interest to come to terms with the relationship that actually exists and simply grieve the relationship that will never be. I’ve tried. And just when I think my expectations have hit a comfortable and all-time low, I get a fool’s gold glimmer of change. Despite multiple attempts to voice my concern and hurt with my parents, our cyclical dynamic remains the same. I wish each day that maybe they didn’t really hear me when I told them how much it hurts…because maybe then ignorance could explain it all. I wish they lived hours away…because then there would be an excuse for their absence. Selfishly, I wish they ignored my youngest sister and her kids as much as they ignore my family because then it wouldn’t feel so personal. And well, that just makes me feel as shitty as the shitty relationship to begin with.
Despite the cycle of torment these intermittent weeks of silence bring, the one thing I’m thankful for is the relationship that has developed organically over these years between my middle sister and me. As we’ve grown and mutually experienced the detachment and elusive nature of our parents, we have found solace and validation in each other. With her I never feel ridiculous for feeling this hurt when others would suggest I am actually quite lucky to have living parents who have never laid a hand on me. She doesn’t make me feel like a spoiled baby when so many would BEG for “normal” parents like ours.
We’ve done our best to cushion the blow to our combined six kids…each being there for fun sleepovers when the kids need a get-away or when momma needs a night out. She and I have each survived some life changing experiences in the last few years…and I’m convinced, speaking only for myself, that she keeps me sane. She assures me that I’m not imagining this irritant that has burrowed under my skin, nagging and provoking my periodic emotional and unhealthy self-deprecating response. When I want to rage, she is behind me…calming me when necessary and cheering me on when a rage (or blog) just might be what the doctor ordered.
And I’m thankful for that.