Thursday, September 29, 2011

"It's never too late..."

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 12. My dad's mistress moved in within a month of my mother's death, and, while my dad took me to one counseling session soon after my mother died, when I refused to speak, I guess he gave up. After that, my dad and his new wife never mentioned my mother again - in fact, they pretended as though nothing had happened. I had no idea how to deal with my mom's death. And my dad was too busy with my step-mother to pay attention to me or parent me.

Over the next several years, my father and his new wife more or less ignored me save to tell me how terrible I was - and it's true, I didn't get along well with him or my step-mother. My father told me on multiple occasions that it was my fault my mother had died. I got into all sorts of trouble as a teen, although they rarely noticed. I would stay out with older friends for days and I'm pretty sure they were just glad I was out of their hair. My dad offered little guidance or discipline - in short, he gave up parenting me. I really resent that now.

After high school I moved away, but distance made me miss my 'family' and we continued to have a cordial albeit superficial relationship. My father continued to refuse to speak about my mother, but if we kept the conversation geared toward weather and work, we were fine. It continued that way for over a decade.

Then, last year, I gave birth to my daughter. My step mother, who I had never been close with, began emailing me with increasing frequency, which was bizarre since neither of them cared at all about my pregnancy. She told me that she and my father were planning on visiting, and when I told them that it wasn't a good time, she became increasingly pushy. I realized that they didn't care about me, my husband, or really even my daughter and what we wanted and needed as a family - they just wanted to visit to fulfill their need to appear like good grandparents. That's how it's always been with them - they always try to appear like they're such perfect people. It was the last straw for me. I wasn't going to pretend that everything was okay; not when it involved my daughter. 

I look at my beautiful, sweet, trusting, and innocent daughter and cannot imagine treating her - my child - the way that my father and step mother treated me. 

Reactions - My husband initially thought that cutting them off at the birth of our daughter after maintaining some semblance of a relationship with them for over a decade as an adult was somewhat vindictive. I don’t really see it that way - it’s just that having my daughter gave me cause to rethink my entire relationship with them. And, my husband has still been supportive - he does understand why I cut them off. As for my dad and step mother, I don't know what their reaction was. And I don't really care. Sometimes I'm sad, but it's because I still feel abandoned by my dad, not because I no longer talk to him. In fact, cutting off my parents has finally allowed me to grieve in ways I couldn't previously do. It's been hard. I feel so angry at my parents sometimes.

I think the important part of my story is the realization that it is never too late to cut toxic people from your life. It is never too late to try and make a better life for yourself and your family. My daughter doesn't need people who treated me poorly in her life. It isn't her job to help them win some kind of grandparents of the year award. She's not part of their game. My dad treats people he believes to be inferior to him with open disdain, and is generally impatient and negative. That attitude rubbed off on me growing up, and I work every day to fight it. I want my daughter to know that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

2 comments:

  1. Your daughter is lucky to have you as a mother. You are protecting yourself and your family from being hurt further. Being a grandparent is a privilege, not a right.

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  2. I love what you say about re-examining your relationships because of your daughter. I love that we are better people because of the love we have for our children. The growing and experiencing, truly giving all of that validation, unconditional acceptance and love to our children...wonderful gifts these burdens of unhealthy parents...wonderful sideways and backwards gifts--that we can love our own children with greater depth of our heart and soul, that's such a hidden blessing in all of this.
    Thanks for sharing your story...your truth...your inspiration.

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