Relatives: Seeing and Dealing with Differences

Some of this is from a discussion list. I'm leaving most of the names off and preserving the bodies of the posts:
I received this e-mail from a relative today (I changed all the names):
Abby (3) was very unhappy about a time-out this afternoon and when she came out, she informed Mom that she was moving out!! She was going to go live with Grandpa. What a riot - 3 years old and moving out!!! I told Mom to give her a good dinner before she leaves.
It broke my heart. Everyone in the family thinks it is so cute—but all I can see is a little girl with no power in her relationship with her mother. To say she wants to move out is the biggest "punishment" she can muster to let her mother know how unhappy she is. Why is it so funny when the anger is from a 3 year old? Will it look so cute when she is 15? Then everyone will be tsk tsking and wondering if it is genetics that is causing all the problems.
Talk about heartbreaking. I have been watching movies of my kids' very young years and they are full of this stuff. How it feels to know how we hurt them....I watch them sometimes with the kids (when they want to watch them, which they enjoy and ask for) and sometimes I say "Look at what just happened..I am sorry...I'd never do that now." They say that they know this but it does hurt. One thing I have been aware of is the adult club/cameraderie of 'isn't that cute' is compelling and to give this up must be a conscious decision because we get gratification from other adults (in the form of approval) when we participate.
Just two nights ago, my brother called me—our first call in 18 months (huge falling out). He opened by telling me how well his daughter (my niece) is doing. All about her 4.03 grade average, honors classes, college plans, etc. He said "she's learning that when she does right things, she gets rewards." I wanted to scream.

Then he went on to relate the reasons why he'd kicked his (then 16yo) son out of the house 2+ yrs ago. He said "I told him if it (disappearing for a weekend with no call home) happened agsin, he'd be out. He did it again, and since I'd told him he'd be out, I had no choice but to kick him out. What would it tell my kids if I didn't keep my threats?" Way beyond just wanting to scream, I was biting a hole in my tongue. I thought about saying something, but it's just not worth the trouble. I'd be wasting my breath and energy, and all I'd get is a big, ugly fight.

BTW, he was calling me to encourage me to make amends with our Mom, who wrote a letter to the three of us, telling us we were her 'greatest failure' 'most painful trauma' and that she is 'ashamed' of us. I declined to call Mom, because she wrote that she was 'closing the door.' He chose not to read her letter and to continue calling her because he is the king of denial.

I long ago found it's just not worth the effort of trying to enlighten them. They're just as sure of their methods as we are of ours. I just change the subject and move on.

And they wonder why I don't keep up relationships with them....

~~He did it again, and since I'd told him he'd be out, I had no choice but to kick him out. What would it tell my kids if I didn't keep my threats?" ~~

That they are more important than your ego? That you actually love them more than your desire to control them?


My extended family is similar - lots of falling out; estranged relationships; similar discipline issues. My mom and Grandma have NEVER gotten along. Last year my 15 yo dd was copping an attitude and demanding one thing after another which I patiently tried to comply to because most of the stuff just wasn't a big deal (Mom, I want ice-cream from some particular store, can you take me? at 11pm) Anyway, my mom said "My mom would've never let me get away with stuff like that" and I said (trying not to be too rude) "How'd that work out for you Mom?" Meaning, I want something different when my daughters are adults ... I want relationship. It's hard because I want my parents to be pleased with me, so sometimes I vascillate...but I'm trying so hard to go another direction.... One thing that impressed me one time was when I visited my friend and her graduated daughter. Her daughter was speaking her mind about quite a bit of stuff and my friend just took it all in stride. I loved it and it was really inspirational because I would never think to be that forward with my Mom—too afraid. ...but they had the best relationship even though the daughter was clearly not pleased with the mom on a few issues and vice-versa. It was real and authentic.
This is so sad. I'd like to think I don't have these same stories, but I do. Last summer my kids, then 9 and 11, spent 3 weeks with my parents. I tried to have it only be a week, but my parents and the kids both insisted 3 weeks was a good time. I was right.

My daughter has a "cuddle shirt" which is an old shirt of mine. She has a few, which are very important to her. Her favorite is now saved away, it was "Mrs. Cuddie." My mother took it away from her, and didn't even tell her. Also, her favorite stuffed animal was taken from her. All because my daughter didn't clean up to my parent's satisfaction. So sad.

What is even worse, is that when they discuss the 3 1/2 weeks with my parents, the first things that come to mind is NOT the camping trips. Not the long hikes in the woods. Not how Alexx learned to drive on the back roads of NM. Not the trips to the various historical sites in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona... It was how my parents limited Alexx's computer time to 1 hour a day, but my dad spent hours and hours on the computer. Alexx learned to wake herself up at 1am after my parents went to bed, and would sneak on the computer until 4 am and then she'd go back to sleep, and sleep late. The hiding of the toys. The food issues. I guess it should serve to remind me what I want my children to remember about me and their childhood.

I remember when Alexx was in the body cast, couldn't walk, couldn't even leave the bed to go to the potty herself, six weeks like this. My mom and dad came out to help out for a few weeks. My mom limited Alexx's tv. She could watch 1 hour a day, unless it was a history or other "educational" program. And she could play playstation for 1 hour a day. period. How stupid is that. Both girls wish to go back to my parents this summer for a time. They said "1 1/2 weeks this time, mom." They want to fly back alone. This could be worked out, but I am hesitant to send them again. I really don't want to be away from my girls, and the stress of hearing them tell me these things on the phone was too much.

When they are home alone, I tease them and tell them that I want to come home and find everyone still alive. They are absolutely forbidden to kill each other. It's kinda a family joke. On Tuesday (April 1) I came home and Alexx was in the kitchen. I called for Janene. She didn't answer. Alexx said "she's on the bed, mom." In a strange tone, she said this. I walked back to her room and there was Janene. Dead. On the bed. Shirt torn, blood coming out of her chest wound. big grin on her face. Alexx says "sorry mom, I couldn't help it, I killed her." Janene cracked up laughing. It was one of the best April fools jokes. They had gone so far as to put a towel down on the bed under Janene so the blood (ketchup) didn't get on our sheets. They had worked on this joke for a long time. Together. And I am very sure they were laughing and enjoying each other as they were planning this little spoof.

I think my girls are great. I'm so lucky to be their mother, and I love spending every minute I can with them. Alexx is now 13, and she's amazing. So many people don't seem to like their teen, but I think mine is fantastic.


This list has been doing me a lot of good, so I want to thank those who write here.

This past week we were out of town visiting my mother and my adult sister. While things went pretty well, the hardest part for me was observing - ach - I don't know how to describe it all - here is a perfect example in place of lots of words:

Grandma wanted us all to go to the zoo, her treat. When we got there, she bought a comprehensive family annual membership, so that dd (5 years old) could go every time we come visit (even thought that may be only two more times this year). Dd and I waited while Grandma did this, dd getting mildly impatient since we could see interesting things, but couldn't go in to where they were, since the membership had to be bought first.v Once inside the zoo, right away we see an area where they are renting strollers that look like little cars, with a steering wheel, for $5. Right away, these little "cars" are the most interesting thing at the whole zoo for dd. She is yearning for one. I know her, I know her love for all kinds of wheeled vehicles, and I know that THIS is what would be the highlight of the zoo experience for her. Grandma and Aunt are now impatient to get moving through the zoo, and looking coldly disapproving as I pay the $5 to rent the little car. Dd is delighted to be "driving."

Grandma wanted to give dd a zoo experience, but only on Grandma's terms. This happens so often in the family I come from. It took courage to make the choice to give my daughter what I knew would delight her, while my mother and sister glowered. It went okay. It was practice for bigger things.

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