…and by family I mean my parents.
It took moving to the other side of the world for me to realise that my parents weren’t quite normal. Yes I had an inkling, my hubby has always been a bit flabbergasted by their behaviour over the years, but you’re meant to have issues with your in-laws. Even those of us as lucky as me to have a wonderful mother-in-law it’s still someone with pull over your partner, with history and an upbringing you were never a part of and it takes some getting used to (still not quite there but I do love my mother-in-law and she loves me…some of the time…so its a win in my books).
I grew up for the most part as an only child. My brother and sister from my Mum’s first marriage are 11 years older than me and both left home in their teens. My parents sent me to a private school and we went to church on Sundays…there ends the list of activities I did outside the home. Mainly I read books and Saturdays were spent going shopping for more books. Saturday shopping started in the morning and ended around the time the shops closed in the afternoon/evening. It was what we, “did”.
I didn’t think this odd growing up, I didn’t think this odd when I was 18…it did however start to dawn on me aged 25 that maybe all those non-shopping things other kids did after school and on weekends should have been a part of my formative years?
Granted many generations of kids have grown up happy and healthy without their parents sending them to music lessons or after school sports but they did send them outside once in a while. Since having kids and listening to how my hubby and his sister were raised I’ve learned the value of kids being allowed out to play with the other kids in the neighbourhood. Sure my vocabulary was excellent at school, and it would want to be with the number of books I sped through in a week, but you can’t learn everything from a book.
My childhood is in a lot of ways irrelevant. I’m a grown woman, time to move on. There are many weird things that happened over the years (dawned on me about a month ago that maybe some of my body image issues started when I started developing breasts earlier then most girls and my mother took to giggling and calling them, “titties” and my Dad laughed along…..I mean seriously, what on earth were they thinking? Being called, “tissue tits” at school starting from when I was 10 right up until I was 14-15 didn’t help either)…but again, I was fed (dinner anyways), clothed and educated. There are billions of people that have lived and died with much worse circumstances than me.
When we first got married and moved into our first home my mother would come to visit and walk in like she owned the place. My hubby drew the line when she began walking straight into our bedroom unannounced and without asking permission. I think similar situations are bound to happen to most newly weds, especially if you are young and moving straight out of your parents home. The part I don’t think is normal is my Mum effectively throwing a tantrum and refusing to visit our home or talk to me for MONTHS when she was asked nicely, “please can you not go into our bedroom without asking“.
Yeah, it’s that bit that strikes me now as odd. Hubby said it calmly and exactly like that and my mother blew! I can even understand maybe being embarrassed and making a scene but I can’t understand going home with time to cool off and deciding to call my daughter to tell her, “fine! I’m never coming to your house again“.
Then there was the possessiveness with our first child. I vividly recall a falling out where I wanted my son home at a certain time one weekend because I had plans with my Mother-in-law to go and see Santa. I remember finally cracking and saying into the phone, “but Mum he’s MY SON!“. Eventually he was dropped home hours later and yet again I got the silent treatment for weeks and a refusal to come to my home.
There was a huge falling out that I can’t even recall the cause of (I’m sure it’ll come to me later) when our second son was a few weeks old. This silent treatment lasted the longest of them all. My parents weren’t at our eldest’s 3rd birthday party and it wasn’t until his 4th birthday that things started to get back to normal (i.e speaking terms).
I’m certain in their minds it was all my hubby’s fault and me for standing by him, but without bias (and I loved my parents AND my husband so my bias was torn anyway) the things he was putting his foot down on weren’t unreasonable. Yes, things like boundaries (the bedroom thing for example) were never set in my household growing up (part of the reason I’m so closed off as a person now, I had to compartmentalise parts of me and hide them no matter how silly and minor they were…its like pulling teeth trying to get an opinion or emotion out of me other than anger)…but ultimately surely at some point a rational person would see that their daughter was torn between them and their new husband and would back off? No, never. Every thing that didn’t go exactly their way was a personal attack in their eyes and the only response was emotional blackmail. I see it for what it was now. At the time I thought my husband and parents just hated each other and that was my burden to bear.
Why am I bringing this up now? Goodness knows I ponder on it every now and then, but this time it all boils down to it being my birthday yesterday.
I had a wonderful birthday with my boys! They got me flowers, chocolates, a bottle of Baileys and a new cook book. They each wrote/drew me a beautiful card and I will treasure them forever! My boys took me out to a yummy dinner and a movie and honestly it was one of my best birthday’s ever!
…what did I come home to after the movie though? Yet another email from my parents. There have been a few in the lead up to my birthday. This particular one was an accusation that I hadn’t been available on Skype and that I hadn’t given them our home number and why haven’t I and please rectify this asap. Alone this doesn’t sound unreasonable. Well actually I do think its a little unreasonable. Birthday’s aren’t for venting about how you don’t have a landline number and why not!?! For the record they have hubby’s mobile number, but naturally they’re not going to call that. Yes, I may have only given them his mobile number for the very reason that they’d only put up with talking to him if it were an emergency but really, if they’d called it on my birthday he would have put them straight onto me. He’d always be polite if they rang and always has been, things only start to crumble when they become unreasonable.
Then there’s the issue of why I wasn’t on Skype. I’ll admit it. I cringe at having to talk to my parents. I’m a horrible daughter and normally I swallow my grimace and do it anyway, but on my birthday this year I ended up spending time with my kiddos and snoozing under my duvet for most of the day. I should have spoken to them early in the morning and gotten it out-of-the-way, but I didn’t.
My Mum stopped all email correspondence with me around June last year because I wasn’t responding to all of her emails. My Dad then started emailing me not long before Christmas telling me Mum’s health had gotten worse and urging me to email her updates on the boys. The silly thing is that I was already doing that. If there’s ever anything to report like a school play or sporting event then I email photos and an update. In fact before she started giving me the silent treatment I had been editing videos of birthdays, easter, trips to the zoo etc. and sending those through to them regularly. The problem is, it was never enough.
I upped the emails when Dad told me Mum’s health wasn’t great. It started out small and a little stiff but after a few weeks we were at a stage I was comfortable with. The boundaries started to get pushed as always and I kept my responses at the pace I was comfortable with. She emails a lot and I’ll admit I don’t always respond to them quickly. If its something important then I do respond, but irrelevant stuff? I don’t know, maybe I’m turning into a crotchety old man but I’d rather be doing something else.
10 days before my birthday Mum asked me what I wanted her to do about Easter presents for the boys. Buying love is part of what she does (remembering shopping was our only weekly activity) I hadn’t really thought about Easter eggs or what the boys need (normally we do pj’s and a toy of some sort so it’s not all chocolate), Easter was over 3 weeks away and so I left the email for the time being. A few days later I received an email asking what I wanted for my birthday. I couldn’t really think of anything so again I left the email. Two days later I made the mistake of responding to one of my Dad’s emails asking how we all are with a quick few sentences basically saying we were all well and the boys were about to start school holidays. Dad forwarded my email onto Mum probably just to keep her in the loop.
Mum almost immediately emailed me saying,
Dad forwarded your email to him this morning. I have sent two email regarding your birthday and Easter and have no reply. I take it you don’t want a birthday present and the boys don’t want an Easter egg and present.
I ignored it. A day later Dad emailed me,
I understand from your mother that this year will be the first time you have not received a birthday present from us. It’s not because we don’t want to, but you have not replied to your mother’s email. The same with her emails concerning the boys’ Easter eggs.
I sighed, took a deep breath and decided to act like those two emails had never been sent. I replied to Mum’s original emails about the Easter presents and my birthday present.
I thought the drama was over.
Then the phone call business began. It’s exhausting. I thought parenting my own kids was meant to be the hard part at this stage in my life, apparently not.
You know what’s more exhausting though? The constant struggle to not become exactly like my mother. It’s in the way I scowl, it’s in the tone of my voice, it’s in the warped logic I spew forth regularly, it’s in the way I see everything as a personal attack (even my kids fighting with one another).
I realise this was an entire post biatching about my own parents, a bit taboo really! I do love them, its in my DNA.
Stories of your own parental woes (your own or in-laws) would be lovely.
…and if you’re a parent, did you try and avoid turning into your own parents? Did you suceed?