I was chatting with a friend this morning about her trials and tributions with therapy. Anyone who has been through this sort of process for emotional stuff understands it can be very, very tough getting started. And all too frequently it seems to get so much worse week after week.
It also gets better.
I myself have been so guilty of this very same phenom. I am mired in the misery and the muck of the present moment and all I see and feel is being stuck in that same suck space and imagine it continuing into forever.
From the outside looking in, it is so easy for me to see the positive side in other people’s problems, to be encouraging and positive and hopeful for them. With my own stuff, my own voices, my own deep-seated demon dragons, having real hope for a different outcome has been an uphill battle. I expect myself to fail; I expect to disappoint those around me. This year’s rendition of therapy is part of alleviating or at least managing those expectations.
While I never think of myself as a control freak, I know the reality is that I am in a weird way. I am not necessarily externally controlling – I might want to smother M with a pillow periodically so I do not have to negotiate or compromise having my own way – but I feel a strong need for some sense of order and control over my own environment. Part of that comes from understanding those around me and their impulses and desires, often making it appear as if I have no strong opinions or closely held beliefs of my own. I do, but I tend to be much milder in my assertions and low-key in expressing my thoughts.
Ask my kids. I have pretty awesome relationships with both my kids, and it is something I give thanks for every single day. They both live nearby and we all are busy with our own lives, so we do not see each other as much as we all might enjoy. But with email, text, even Facebook it’s possible to be in touch as much as we want or need.
My daughter is getting married next month in a simple courthouse ceremony. My son is in the midst of planning a wedding-palooza type family event. Lots of bells and whistles with the latter, and as we discussed long, long ago, it is not as if he has much control over the type and size wedding festivities. M and I are supportive of both efforts and events. The courthouse in its simplicity and no-fuss efficiency suits my daughter, and the bigger ongoing party is what my future daughter-in-law desires so we are on board with that as well. Bottom line for me: I want them to be happy, now and long into the future.
Our conversations of late have been wedding, family, and health dominated. While I could potentially break my arm patting myself on the back, I know my kids are glad I am the type of person and parent that I am for them. I listen, I might express an opinion or thought about the my perception of the best course of action, but unless it seems life-and-death, I am certainly not going to push my ideas or opinions on grown adults very capable of managing their own lives. And if I do say something that sounds or is that emphatic, my kids tend to listen to what I’m saying, because when this mom gets frightened and wants them to do something, there is always a very good reason other that “I’m the mom” at the root of my desires. And I do not get angry if they ignore my advice, and I never say “I told you so” to anyone for any reason, but especially to my kids. They make pretty good decisions, and they seem to learn from prior missteps. I am very, very proud of both of them.
I have never lied to my children. They ask me a question, I answer it honestly. If it seems too personal – has happened only a couple of times that I can recall – I have said that seems a little too personal and perhaps out of bounds for the parent/child relationship. However, after thinking it over, I came back and asked if they still wanted an answer, I would provide an answer. At 19, my son asked me if I had ever had unprotected sex, particularly between my divorce and marriage to M? Another time my daughter asked if I had ever cheated on her dad or on M. Nope, but I had dated while M and I were officially and legally separated, which M and I agreed in therapy did not count as cheating. Because these are important issues and I felt fair, if uncomfortable, questions as they learned to navigate in the world of adultier adulting. I felt kind of weird about it, but on the other hand, I also understand for them I am a trusted source for information and perspective. Because seriously, no one wants to know about their parents’ intimate lives and habits. Ewww.
I suppose I am one of those hippy-dippy parents who see nothing wrong with being an open book with my kids. My responses have always been geared toward age appropriate – there are things I would say very differently to my adult kids than I would to their elementary school selves – but always candid and honest. I have never pretended to even think I know best; my loftiest goal is to do my best based on my experience and knowledge of each of them as individuals. Everyone who has ever known me understands I bend over backwards to ensure they know I have limitations.
The relationships with my kids are precious to me, and I certainly do not take them for granted. It seems they are now extending to their future spouses, for which I am very grateful and pleased about. I like that we have separate relationships outside of the individual couple-dom.
With the upcoming weddings and such, talk naturally turns to children and starting families. It is not a subject M and I are particularly concerned about, but G and K have told me that they are not interested in having children and vented their frustration with other branches of the family tree expressing disappointment and assurances that they will change their minds. *eye roll* I tell them to just brush it off, that they are adults and the course they pursue will be the correct one for them. That said, many of my friends I have shared that sentiment with are sad and kind of appalled that they have already decided something so important and seem to have difficulty with why I am not more upset. I don’t get it. I had children. I raised them to be independent adults capable of making their own decisions and being responsible community citizens. They are not dumb either, and I have to believe they have given their choices plenty of thought before sharing them with others. And they are only 29; there is plenty of time for them to change their minds in the future should the spirit move them.
But really, why would it matter to me? Grandparents are sort of optional in my experience. My maternal grandmother was the only one still living when I was born, and I met her once in my life, when I was 8. All I can recall is that she was very quiet and seemed kind. My kids have benefitted greatly from knowing both sets of grands, though, and that was my choice and decision. I wanted that for them, and I have zero regrets. Again, their dad and I made those choices and it was not based on our parents’ desires or say in the matter.
As for my daughter, she is not 100% sure about babies. They have animals, and she has periodic struggles with depression that make the idea of parenthood overwhelming. She is real with me about her feelings, because (1) I don’t judge, (2) I’m her mom, therefore odds are I will be on her side, and (3) I value her overall heath first and foremost over the idea of some future grandbaby.
She recently had a meltdown with me on the telephone about work, the wedding, the other side of the family, and how she feels her thoughts and opinions and needs are discounted. Her fiance is not insensitive to her feelings, but he is in such a habit of listening to and trying to please his family that he sometimes does not recognize what he does to C in the process … until she brings it up, points it out, and they have another discussion about families and boundaries. In other words, she is very blunt about how she feels. Occasionally that happens after she has vented with me about his behavior, and I encourage her to speak to him as frankly about her feelings, because I am certainly not going to do it for her. One memorable time, he did something that made me so angry at his lack of consideration that A was afraid to come to our home or speak to me for a couple of months. What he learned then was that I am not a grudge-holder; if C says they discussed it and he regrets his behavior, then I will let it go. But what C had to explain to A, if he made a habit of doing regrettable, inconsiderate actions (like turning off his cell phone after work and going for a drive without telling her AND being completely out of reach for almost 3 hours) then I was not going to be so forgiving next time. My daughter suffers from depression and anxiety. Her newly minted fiance disappearing for 3 hours without calling, texting, or otherwise telling her was enough to send her into a panic attack to the point that she calls her mom to talk her off the ledge. Not. Cool.
K also has drama over the wedding guests on her side of the family. G and K are adults and shouldering the burden for the cost of the wedding, so they have had to severely limit the guest list. That has not stopped K’s aunt from arbitrarily inviting other extended family members, leaving K the task of explaining the limitations of the wedding budget. It’s an ongoing push-pull between that side of her family and it tends to cause much drama and stress. I feel for her, but again, I am her voice of reason and support system, not the conduit to resolve the problem for her.
Part of these happy realizations of my role in my family’s lives stems from supporting the same friend in her battles from comporting herself into command central for her own immediate family and any/all problems they faced for nearly all her life. While I feel the codependent urge to stand up and solve other people’s problems, I understand my limitations and where the healthy line exists in such matters. I am glad to be a safe outlet for my children and my friends to talk about issues, but I am equally glad not to get overly involved or caught up in their drama. Somewhere along the line I learned how to be a good friend and good parental unit without falling off one side or the other as far as helping my kids navigate.
Nice, low-key ending to a busy week. I’m not feeling 100% today – stomachache and mild nausea this morning has me feeling physically kind of blech – so good texts and positive thinking takes the edge off tum troubles.
Happy Friday everyone!