Time to pop that bubble. Time to stop trying to save my parents feelings by tip toeing around them. It’s been a lifetime of tip toeing and in the end, where has it gotten us?
They don’t know what they are doing isn’t normal. They don’t know that their responses to every day things is crazy by every one else’s standards. I suspect they have used emotional blackmail and manipulation as their only form of conflict resolution for so long that they don’t even know they’re doing it.
I’ve written before about how exhausting my parents can be and this is just the latest installment.
We are heading home to Australia for a holiday in just over 6 weeks. If not for this fact I would just leave the current trail of emails to rest and not respond to the crazy in the hopes that they’d see I’m not playing the game and give up.
Here are the most recent emails I’m referring to. I haven’t edited anything but personal details and dates for safety reasons.
I need to know the dates of when you are over here so I can organise holiday leave. I have to be in Melbourne from __ to the evening of the __.
So far so good. Very reasonable questions and I was sure to respond within a few hours of me getting up this morning so Dad could book his holidays in asap.
We arrive in Brisbane on __ and fly back on __. We’re heading down the coast from __ until __ so that week is out. If it works for you and Mum maybe we can come and stay for the __, __ and __? Obviously we’ll come over to visit again later in our stay but no set dates at the moment.
Love you too
I’ll admit it. I don’t want to be tied down to spending an entire solid week or more with my parents. Surely I’m not the only grown daughter in the world that thinks a solid week under your parents roof can be stressful?
In my email I wanted to make it very clear that I didn’t think he should be taking 3 weeks off work with the expectation I’d be at their house for the majority of that time. I wanted to nip that in the bud early for fear of being hounded constantly whilst actually on holiday about why I’m not round for a visit and do I not care about them at all?
Please note this is a man who threatened via text whilst I was driving to Brisbane airport 2 and a bit years ago with, “we’re not coming to the airport tonight, why even bother “. This text was in response to me not finding the time to drive 50 minutes to see them earlier that day. Yes, this was the day we had to finish packing our bags and our home up and get our kids settled at my mother-in-laws where they’d be staying for a few weeks. I did not sleep the night before, I pulled an all nighter packing boxes.
In retrospect I’m thinking most parents would have been there that day helping their child to pack for a huge international trip. I’m thinking most parents wouldn’t put the onus on their kid to make the effort to come and see them, knowing how crazy busy they were. My Dad did not pack one box, move one piece of furniture, bring over one take away meal to keep our spirits up and our bellies full. He did absolutely nothing. You know what? I didn’t expect him to. I didn’t complain. I didn’t get cranky and let him have it. Hubby and I mulled over the fact that other than one afternoon of half-hearted packing by my mother no one came to help us pack up 6 years and 5 people’s worth of stuff.
The only family member who lifted a finger was my amazing mother-in-law who went above and beyond time and time again in the weeks leading up to our departure. She cried the hardest at the airport when we said goodbye, she didn’t want us to go but she still supported us…like any good parent would. She would have done anything we asked of her and I love her dearly for that. She never once asked me, “so when are your Mum and Dad coming to help love?” or said a negative thing about my parents lack of support, she just plodded on.
My parents did turn up at the airport in the end. I acted like I’d never received the text, why ruin those last precious moments with family before moving overseas by bringing it up?
So yes, past over reactions made me aware that prioritising “us” over pleasing every family member for our entire “holiday” was a conflict with my parents just waiting to happen. I also didn’t want to have the guilt of my Dad sitting at home for 3 weeks feeling dejected because he’d taken the time off thinking he’d spend it all with me and the kids and we just didn’t turn up.
I decided committing to 3 days (probably 4 nights) during the first week of our holiday was fair.
This is my personal reaction to your email and I have not CC your Mum. The tone of your email is such that we are to feel privileged that you can make the time to see us.
Your brother is in rehab and he moved heaven & earth to make sure he is able to phone his mum once a week. Your sister lives in Cairns and has serious personal problems at the moment and phones her mum every night.
Your Mum is counting the days for when you come, and is excited about it.
I think this email is “the one”. The straw that broke the camels back. I’ve outgrown this. I outgrew this kind of drama weeks into our move abroad. The world became so much bigger than petty conflicts and life as I’d known it before became clearer. I’ve now spent 2 years since then putting up with drama and trying to diffuse situations by either acting like there was no overtone and simply responding to the facts or smoothing things over with as little fuss as possible. I’m done.
My next response to this email is vitally important. I’m writing this blog post in the hopes of clearing my head a little so I can get down to business.
It’s time for this long overdue and carefully worded email; not to be cruel, not to be rude, not to intentionally upset but to bring everything out into the open and tell it like it is.
I have to do it. It may mean they never speak to me again. Maybe a little bit of them will die inside and we’ll never have another comfortable conversation as a family again.
I have to tell them outright what they have been doing all these years. I have to point out that the last paragraph about my siblings is actually irrelevant to the content of mine and his emails. It is manipulative. It is there purely to make me feel guilt. In the past he’s taken the “Mum’s health has deteriorated” route to achieve the desired level of guilt.
I have to tell them that honestly most people wouldn’t read my email and infer a “tone”. I have to tell them that their reaction to me not bending to what they had mapped out in their head (and didn’t even bother to verbalise) is abnormal. That most people can read such an email and if disappointed respond with something along the lines of, “I’m disappointed to hear you only have 3 days available to see us, I was hoping we could spend more time together. Is it possible for you to fit in a few more days with us?”.
I have to make it clear I’m not entering into these conflicts any more. I have to explain that I feel like I have been emotionally blackmailed and manipulated for as long as I can remember by them. I have to tell them how it has always made me feel.
I have to tell them that I think we could have a healthier relationship if all this emotional baggage was left out of our conversations and we start speaking like functional adults.
For my own mental health, I have to do this, but it’s hard. I’ve been conditioned all my life to argue insanity with more insanity and take emotional blackmail in my stride like you would a bout of the common cold.
Family, it’s exhausting.