Parents: The Other Side

xmas 09 025Am I a hypocrite? I talk about missing my sons, and how far away they are and how it breaks my heart, but in all that I never really talk about how I am with my own parents. It’s complicated. But I often think of them now, and how I don’t see them much, or keep in better touch.

My parents were an important part of my sons’ lives, but before that, when I was young, they never seemed to care where I was or what I was up to. They didn’t come to my first (group ceremony in Detroit) wedding, although my mom helped me choose a graduation dress that could double as a wedding gown, as I did both in the same month.

Before that, they didn’t know (or care) when I quit school at 17 to hitchhike around the country. My mom & I had a huge fight and I left home on her order when I was 15. My dad was living on his own at the time, but he said I could stay with him. I did. For a few weeks, and then I was off again on my adventures. I was homeless but happy.

They were supportive when I decided to go back to school and get that diploma, but things were still rocky between my mom and me. Dad tried to help and when it became clear I could not live with my mother, he provided a small home on the other side of town for me to live in until I graduated high school. Yes, I lived alone. Until my boyfriend (soon to be first husband) moved in with me.

They did help after the divorce, when I was at rock bottom. And they came to my second wedding, which was a full stop shindig, my betrothed footing all the bills. I didn’t have any special mother-daughter moments. She didn’t shop for a wedding dress with me or give me a wedding shower for husband #2. My parents came to my third wedding, too, and by then my mother was ready to believe I’d never stick to anything. That was 29 years ago this September. Still together.

When Mom did call me, or I called her, she remarked without fail that she didn’t keep up with her own mother until her parents were getting old, and that she thought it was weird when parents and children stayed in constant contact with each other.

I never agreed with that, but I wasn’t going to say so. I was fine not being in close contact with her, but I always wanted something more with my sons. I just wasn’t sure I deserved it. Or that they would be open to a mom who bugged them all the time on social media, texting, phoning, visiting.

Unlike my own mother, I would love nothing more than a daily (or even weekly) text, email, or phone call. But I hold back from initiating contact lots of times because I don’t want to bother my kids. I remember how little real estate my parents took up in my head when I was starting my family. I wonder if maybe it’s the same for all young people, or was I conditioned not to care?

Since my parents are not online (lucky for me as this particular post might hurt their feelings) I can’t email them or text. I try to remember to call, but since they moved full time to Florida, we’ve visited once. And I was sick the entire time. We haven’t been back since.

I think I should give the folks a call today. After all, they are getting older. And so am I.

*photo of (from left) my brother Bill, me, Dad, Mom, brother Bob.

10 Comments on “Parents: The Other Side

  1. Cynthia you make me cry on what you were deprived of in your young life “if I only knew you were in trouble” how did I not see ! I only knew what I was told and there was a lot of friction between your mom and I at times so she wouldn’t share those thoughts. I’m so happy you have Al and the boys go with your heart to stay in touch with them. love you Aunt Wese xo

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    • I think they did okay being teenaged parents. And you were a great aunt! I still remember all you did for me. At the time, I did not feel deprived. I felt liberated! It’s only looking back that I think it was sad. At the time, I was having too much fun:) I was a very lucky girl. Nothing bad happened to me on the road. And I had so many friends who put me up, let me stay…I think I would not be who I am without those early experiences. I wonder if I would be a writer. I wouldn’t trade my life, or my parents, but especially my aunt, for anything.

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  2. I am so lucky that my daughter and I are so close. We no longer talk every single day, now that she’s so busy with her kids’ education (she’s a homeschooler), the homeschooling group she’s treasurer of, her part-time work as a biostatistics consultant, a happy social life, etc., but we do talk at least once a week and we do share things about our lives.

    I got closer to my own mom when my dad died. A lot of truths came out then, stuff she wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me when he was alive. I only had her for about ten years after Dad died but I’m glad we got closer. I know she wanted to help me against my dad’s emotional abuse but she just didn’t know how, or didn’t know how to do it without it coming back on her.

    I wish my son and I were more in communication. But then i feel like he and i are often on the same wavelength even when we don’t communicate a lot. Still, I wish . . .

    My parents occupied a lot of real estate in my head when they were alive–too much sometimes. These things are complicated. (NEWS FLASH!) Your childhood and adolescence were indeed complicated. yet here you are, a wonderful person.

    love ya Cindy

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    • Thank you, Kris. I have other friends with wonderful close relationships with their daughters and I love to see it. Micki and Liz going down to Red Wings games, Donna and Kristy shopping at Farmer’s Market, calls from Hannah when I’m visiting you:) I did just talk to my mom & it was a good conversation. For too long, we didn’t talk about the past, and that made it very difficult for me, just was not comfortable when she’d bring up HER version, which was way different than mine, lol. A few years ago, we had it out, and I told her everything on my mind. She was so sad and sorry about it all, but didn’t remember things that had haunted me for years. She apologized anyway and said she believed me. Now things are much easier between us. We have both mellowed with time. I’m glad you got ten good years with your Mom. Hardly seems enough, but it was something you’ll always have.

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  3. So far, this could change, my focus is on working on myself. That includes to recognize when I feel unease (pain) and reflect on the sensation and remember how I usually respond and that perhaps, I should respond differently—do shorten the duration of the discomfort. What I have learned is that I never regret forgiving and letting go. But sometimes it is hard. Very hard.

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  4. Edith, I forgave my mom a long time ago and we had a “good enough” relationship. But when she’d talk about the years I was banished from the family as if they never happened, I’d feel panicked and sick. Real physical symptoms. I wondered if we would EVER talk about it. When we did, something lifted inside me. Her apology helped. When your family doesn’t want you, it translates as “you are essentially unlovable. ” I spent a long time, too long, trying to fix that problem in some very unhealthy ways.

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  5. I was watching this sitcom last night, “Mom.” Three generations of women in this family all ended up reliving some variation of the same general theme — some experimentation with drugs/alcohol (the mother and grandmother ultimately join Alcoholics Anonymous) and becoming a teen mother.

    It was interesting to see the dynamic between the three generations. The daughter was delighted when her grandmother said she’d support her pregnancy but when her mother said the same thing she just rolled her eyes and said, “You have to, it’s your job!”

    Alcoholics Anonymous (apparently) puts a great emphasis on forgiveness. The grandmother was very eager to forgive her daughter, but didn’t realise she needed to be forgiven. The mother’s anguish was still very raw and she was reluctant to forgive her mother. But she also came to realise that her own daughter was harbouring similar resentments to her. We’ve all been wronged, we’ve all wronged others, sometimes that is a hard thing to appreciate.

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  6. Sounds like a show I’d like to watch! I love everything AA stands for, and they are right about forgiveness. Marianne Williamson says when you’re depressed, feeling blue, out of sorts, or things are just not working smoothly in your life, ask yourself “Who am I not forgiving?” Then forgive them. She says forgiving does not mean you necessarily go to lunch or even ever speak to them again. The important thing is to forgive the person in your heart, and it’s okay not to put yourself in the path of another betrayal.

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