I grew up in a family where appearance was everything. I’m feeling fairly certain that many can relate to this ‘ideal’ and that is a sad reality. I remember parents fighting, slamming doors…. tooth and nail and then within an hour we put on a smiling face and host a family event like nothing just happened. The false facade carried on so deeply to the core of our beings that when my parents split up it was simply unconscionable. Where in the world did this curve ball come from? Certainly straight out of left field.
The fact that I am “outing” the ‘family’ in this blog post right now may just send a few to their early grave. Or merely piss people off so badly that they refuse to speak to me for the rest of my/their lives…. Frankly…. they’d be doing me the favor. I simply hated living this life they chose. To be told in high school, “your father and I are separating…. but you can’t tell ANYONE…. not even your brothers.” And then to harbor that burden till I was in my twenties and they finally did split up…. Well… let’s just say “it’s just not fair.”
I was not one to necessarily feel wanted. I was constantly reminded of the burden I was to parent. In fact…. even still in my forties I am constantly reminded of what a “tough” kid I was. How burdensome it was to parent me, and just simply annoying it was to parent me. Do keep in mind that this “burden” that’s spoken of is solely based around the money it cost to raise a teenager. It’s not necessarily about how horrible I was a person. In fact, quite the contrary. I got nearly perfect grades, followed the rules and did all that I was told. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor on Saturday mornings before I was allowed to go out and play. I may have grumbled along the way, as what young child would not when felt like they were the household’s slave-labor? But truly…. never got into any serious trouble…. ever.
It’s a shame that my parents never truly seemed to want to be parents to begin with. Perhaps being parents was what was the demise of their relationship in the end all. (No one truly knows that either…. ask them “why did you get a divorce” and the most you’ll get is a deep belly chuckle, or an offer for a drink of water.) But whatever the reasons, it remains clear that parenting was not their forte.
And…. let’s just say that grandparenting is of an even-lesser forte. Which is truly what has sparked my ‘out on a limb’ post to begin with. My kids are beginning to feel the true burden of what my parents make them feel like the ‘have to’s’ in their annual get-togethers. I find myself in such a predicament each and every birthday or christmas when the grandparents decide they ‘have to’ see their grand kids once again. My kids feeling like they do not even know these ‘family’ members that are deemed family merely by blood but not much else. They wonder why they even bother with the annual visits when they don’t even know them on a much more deeper or personal level. They wonder why their grandparents don’t care to get to know them outside of a birthday, or why they should even go with them when it’s that time again.
I have always left it up to them whether they want to spend their time with them or not. The truth is, it does not just stop there. Extended family in general is just obsolete. Fairly non-existent. It’s frustrating at best because when blood family does decide it’s their time to be blood family, and my kids (and myself really) are just not feeling it… we tend to cave to the guilt measure. We tend to sacrifice a bit of ourselves to do as requested and I find… truly…. we are just repeating the pattern of the way my childhood was… “put on a happy face so help me!!!”
And yet as a radically unschooling parent I want my children to make their own choices on these experiences, relationships, etc. It’s a tug of war to want to allow them to make their own choices, and yet feel they are putting on the happy face for the sake-of. When to intervene or not is always my bottom line question. I have always been upfront about my feelings about the entire thing, so I have to believe in my depths that they are following their gut on their decisions. I just hope they are not trying to put on the happy face for my sake. I sure as hell don’t need it any longer!
And then with all that said, I feel sad for my kids. I wish I could force “family” to see how truly amazing my kiddos are. I wish I could convince them that time spent with them is never time wasted. I wish I could internally tweak their innards so that they could never get enough of wanting to be with my kids. My kids deserve the very best, loving, attentive extended family ever in the world. People who are their constant cheerleaders and simply just “get” them through and through. I feel sad that this will never be …. at least not by blood relations. Blood relations are too wrapped up in their own lives to share their life paths with my kiddos. Pathetic but true.
The joy comes from the fact that we have a select few in our lives who do come through for them. It’s always a blessing when people like that come into your lives. Those that can rally where blood relations do not. But also for the fact that this bullshit stops here. My kids are learning to trust and believe in their true selves. They have parents that allow them to feel, grow, trust, nurture, explore, explode!, love and more. And their children will have grandparents that will know just how especially amazing it is to have the opportunity to be in their lives. I know I will cherish that honor to its fullest potential and my grandbabies will never every doubt just how much I love them AND their parents.