She’s baaaaaaaaaaccccccckkkkkk! And with her own family story! 11 weeks into the new job and I’m finally feeling like I’ve found my footing, enough so that I can get back to writing on here. After my husband’s family story on Monday (and boy, is it a doozie) I felt like I should contribute mine – because really why have one bad side of the family when you can have two!
Narcissism, adultery and wealth, oh my!
My mother met my father when she was 17 and he was 20 in a youth group in Liverpool. They got married two years later and all my mother wanted was babies but they couldn’t afford them so I didn’t come along until my mum was 24. And then my sister came along 4 years later and my brother 4 years after that, just in time for each one of us to be in school full-time and for my mother to start looking for a job but them pesky babies kept being made. Unfortunately this story takes a turn when my lovely bouncy tow-headed brother was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 2.5 and that was it: physical therapy, hydrotherapy, daytime splints, nighttime splints, wheelchairs, ramps, hospital extended stays and what was the equivalent of a full-time job for my mum. It wasn’t easy and it was heartbreaking to watch my brother be in so much pain but we just got through it, day after day, as a family. Everything revolved around that while I kept my head down because there just wasn’t enough bandwidth for my parents to deal with my sister and I.
During all of this my father is on the corporate ladder, supporting his family which led to us moving constantly in search of the next promotion. He traveled constantly, was always in a bad mood and liked to take that out on us. I was counting down the days until I could move out of the house and not have to deal with him anymore. My sister on the other hand would make him drinks as he was a happy drunk and so therefore would keep the peace. The houses got bigger, my parents got more miserable but dammit if I didn’t get to go to a private university in the heart of San Francisco to get my bachelor’s degree (May as well get something from all this pain!). My parents thought I should go into the business program, I did that to please them and then finally got into Marketing because I loved it immediately. But my GPA wasn’t high enough for them and I didn’t have a job waiting for me after I graduated and so I could see that I was a huge disappointment to them.
But there wasn’t enough time to dwell on me as my sister and brother were already bound for other things so that was it – parenting done with the oldest and you’re on your own kid. My relationship continued to be strained with my dad and my mother was ever critical of everything I did in my life and everything I did to my appearance. I thought it was funny at the time but after talking to friends who were around during that time, they said it came across more mean than supportive. It’s amazing what you think is normal if you were around it all the time growing up.
Fast forward to roughly ten years later and my father fucks up massively. At this point my parents are in a big fuck-off house in Atlanta – a seven bedroom monstrosity with a fully finished basement (and just the two of them living there) and my mother finds out my father cheated. A lot. With lots of different women for years. It broke her quite spectacularly as it would anyone who’s been married for 37 years and my dad’s reaction is to be as dozy as hell. I got the opportunity to confront him and he’d been compartmentalizing for SO long that he had no idea that what he’d been doing was wrong. My mother forced him out of the house into an extended stay and that was it. Until she took him back a week later because she thought she’d be left destitute if a divorce took place. So she took a man back who she despised and she was never the same after that. My father did therapy for it and that didn’t stick so now they were just miserable together. Six months later I met Aaron and when the wedding planning got underway, little did I know it would be a battleground for my mother to make my father miserable on a larger stage. She was mean, she was spending money like crazy, and she made me feel like the shittiest person ever (Did I mention we wanted to get married in our backyard and almost got married at City Hall after filing for our marriage license? That would have been a better path than the craziness that ensued…).
Has your mother ever made you cry in a bridal shop?
The ONE time I tried bridal dress shopping with my mother was at David’s Bridal. I didn’t realize that there were no mirrors in the changing rooms as you were supposed to step out and get oohs and aaahs from the female members of your family and your wedding party. My friend, Elizabeth was with me but my sister and mother showed up late. I was in the changing room trying on a wedding dress, not knowing how it looked when I stepped out and my mother went, “Ugh!”. I then heard her go and look for mother of the bride dresses. I held it together with my desire to try wedding dresses fully erased until finally I said to her, “You don’t seem to really want to be here,” to which she responded, “No, I don’t really want to deal with this wedding anymore and all I care about is seeing my brother (who was going to fly over from England for it).” With that she left and apparently cried all the way home. Elizabeth, who had observed ALL of this took me for a drink and I knew that the cracks were starting to show as my mother had previously reserved the crazy behavior for just family members. I cried all the way home too because really, who makes their daughter feel like shit while trying on wedding dresses? Mothers who are fucked up to the core and the most miserable any human has ever been. I ended up flying 2,500 miles out to Seattle as my best friend was getting married 8 weeks after me and so we had fun together choosing bridal gowns.
Fast forward to my Ruby girl coming into existence. My labor took 84.5 hours, something COMPLETELY out of my control because who wishes for that? My mother responded by saying the whole thing was taking too long and so they ended up missing the birth of their first grandchild because they went home. She didn’t like the middle name I chose for her so she started calling her “Ruby Mae.” She thought I should be breastfeeding more often. And the list goes on and on. At this time, my father had a new job waiting for him in Seattle so they were leaving when Ruby would be eight weeks old. During this time they wanted us to come and pick up a bunch of furniture and tools and store it in our tiny house (where there wasn’t ANY room now that we were introducing a baby and all of the gear that comes with them) and so we said we couldn’t do it. They then stopped talking to us as we’d wronged them. My sister said that we should meet them at the hotel they were staying at the night before they flew out otherwise they’d write us off and my response was, “I’m not bringing a baby to a fancy hotel bar in Buckhead on a Friday night. If they want to see us before they leave, they know where we live.” And they left without making any effort whatsoever.
The best news to get at a music festival
Nine months later at the Shaky Knees Music Festival, my sister dropped the mic and told me my parents were moving back to Atlanta as my dad had lost his job and they wanted to be close to us kids again. And I knew. I knew that my relationship would be done with my sister (because my mother has no friends and so uses my sister for entertainment) and that my brother would disappear also. Three months went by and my mother finally got in touch with me and I met her and my father in a Starbucks with a now 14 month old baby who was walking and talking and ended up walking over to a stranger on one of the couches and playing peek-a-boo with her. She didn’t know who these two strangers were sitting across from her and she could care less. It was awkward, they didn’t know what to say and I wanted to get the hell out of there. I tried after that because I thought they were making a genuine effort BUT I think they liked the idea of being grandparents much more than the actual execution of it and they would barely spend any time with Ruby more than a few hours every 8 weeks or so. I got pregnant with Oli around that time and that just seemed to be an inconvenience. But, Ruby’s second birthday was where the ridiculousness was really put out there for all to see.
I deliberately had a special day planned on another day with Aaron’s mom because she was “Gaga”, the be-all, end-all wonderment that my child loved more than any other human being on the planet. I knew if she was there, my mother wouldn’t have stood a chance which would have caused a fight. But when they showed up with a bag of clothes and a tablet for my TWO YEAR OLD and she wasn’t interested, my mother started acting hurt, coloring in my daughter’s brand new coloring books at the table while my dad was playing with the tablet on the couch. My friends had bought her stuffed animals which she loved and Aaron and I had bought her a few little age-appropriate things and for two hours that’s all she played with. And my parents left for another two months until I went into labor. That tablet? I exchanged it at Target for some toys that Ruby picked up because again, two years old.
“Do you know how exhausting it is looking after a two year old?”
The birth of the boy was a wonderfully easy experience (I was induced so everything was predictable and my parents came and picked up Ruby) and two days later, upon bringing Oli home from the hospital, my parents met us at home, collapsed on the couch and said they were exhausted. As I sat there holding my two day old son with little to no sleep. They left 30 minutes after they arrived and we were thrown into the world of two kids.
Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like not showering or sleeping for three days…
Three weeks later it was my birthday and my mother texted saying they wanted to come over for it. I asked if they could come over a bit earlier before Aaron brought Ruby home from daycare so I could shower (Oli wasn’t sleeping and was an incredibly colicky baby so I was a shadow of my former self). They ignored that and showed up right when Ruby walked through the door. And they proceeded to want cups of tea and I think they were gunning for dinner as well but Aaron and I were SO FUCKING TIRED. He brought me over a beer as it had been 11 months since my last drink and I sat there folded into him while drinking it. My mother made a sound which we later found out was her thinking my husband was rude for not offering her one. She doesn’t drink beer and he’d been making her cups of tea for the past hour. Did I also mention we were dealing with the onset of an ear infection in my daughter and that my father decided to take a phone interview in the driveway while my newborn son is crying because his belly is hurting him? FUCKING CHAOS. And through it all my mother is hurt that she’s not getting more attention. That was the last time I saw both of them because I just couldn’t do it anymore. My mother said she didn’t fit into my life anymore and didn’t know where to help so, the logical thing to do was obviously just disappear. Luckily Ruby was only two and Oli was only three weeks old so neither of them have missed them because they don’t know who the fuck they are.
Two years and two months later…
Which leads me to the Tuesday before this past Thanksgiving when my mother out of the blue texted me and asked me if we would all like to come over (she also finished with, “I realize that a lot of time has passed since we last saw each other but maybe we can start fresh as we come to the end of this year.”) Glad you realize. Because I’ve realized something. We’ve been raising our kids ourselves. With no hidden agenda or people giving us shitty advice. We’ve dealt with being puked on and changing peed-on sheets at 3:00 a.m. before the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. for another workday. We’ve cried while watching our daughter in her first ever dance recital. We’ve watched her come out of ear tube surgery. We’ve watched Oli take his first ever steps towards his Gaga and giggle hysterically whenever someone makes a loud sound. We didn’t sleep more than an hour and a half at a time for TEN FUCKING months during the first year of Oli’s life. And we fucking did it all ourselves. And I’m SO FUCKING PROUD of us. So, to paraphrase my husband, why invite those toxic people back into our lives? The ones that said ”why can’t you be thin like your sister?” and ”why can’t your hair be more like your friend Leah” and “we thought we were raising a genius, guess we got that one wrong” (said by my father as he was holding my newborn daughter, because why not make me feel like shit when I haven’t had any sleep).
Here’s my takeaway. Everyone’s got fucked up family members. Everyone’s been made to feel less than by one or two of them. But when it’s your parents doing that to you? There’s no need to have them in your life. I know it would be easier for everyone (including my poor brother who has now become the dominant child and I think is starting to feel the effects of having the full blown gaze of a dying star aimed at him in the form of my mother) if we would just do holidays so that the perfect instagram picture would be taken but that’s not what life is. Life is running through leaves with your little kids, slow dancing in the kitchen to Nat King Cole singing “O Holy Night” while our kids go, “Ew! Stop dancing together!”, getting puked on, dealing with tantrums, getting sweet sticky-fingered hugs and “I lo loo” kisses. I owe it to my family to not perpetuate the feeling of being less than; the world does that enough to us as is. So, be it this holiday season or next holiday season, you owe it to yourself to be genuinely happy with the families that YOU have made, whether they be related or not. If you show true happiness to those kids of yours they might stand a fucking chance of having a happy life of their own.
A brand new blog/website where these happily married, 30-something parents of 2 little minions rant, rave, and speak in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together! http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration