Friday, December 29, 2017
A Revealing Christmas
Every year, I go back to where I was raised and spend time with my brothers and nieces. My parents are both dead. We have a good time together, but we aren't really involved in each other's lives on a day to day basis. My brothers all live pretty near each other and do things together like Thanksgiving and birthdays, but since I am so far away, I really don't think about it. Some family secrets came out this year and I think that was for the best.
So, I always felt that I was probably an oops baby since I was born when my mother was 40 and there is a huge age difference between me and my next oldest brother. My dad had said that they kept trying until they got a girl and at Christmas this year, my middle brother said the same thing. So, maybe that is true, but I still feel like I was a burden to them, so I guess I didn't fulfill whatever the fantasy of "a girl" meant. So, it's good to know I was at least wanted before I actually arrived. Even if I didn't live up to what they wanted after I arrived.
The other revelation of Christmas was about uninvolved parenting. As I said above, I always felt like a burden to my parents. I had my own key at 10 and let myself into an empty house. They were gone three or four evenings a week when I was growing up and I just always felt like I had to take care of my needs on my own. I didn't think I had the same experience that my brothers did because my middle brother always painted a rosy picture of how things were for him growing up. But this Christmas, my oldest and youngest brothers were just talking and some how I mentioned that I always felt like our parents were uninvolved and that's when the bombshell dropped. They had EXACTLY the same experience. They felt like they were free to do whatever they wanted. I said I thought I could have built a bomb in the garage and our parents would never have known. They agreed that they could have and did build bombs without them knowing. Then the second bombshell hit, my youngest brother said that our parents never wanted him to bother them. He thought they were alcoholics! Yikes! I remember my dad drinking a lot after my mom died, but I thought that was just grief. He said they finished off a fifth of scotch a night. I don't even know how much that is, but he thought 14 drinks a piece since they drank it with water. What??????
I realized then that I had really disconnected with them and didn't even notice how much they drank as I was growing up, because I was trying so hard not to be a burden. Then the youngest brother said, "I don't think our mother really wanted to be a mother." Later my middle brother said almost the same thing and he was the one who was probably closest to our mother and always sort of stood up for her. I guess the gloves are off which I think is a good thing. Thinking back now, I remember he used to draw her fire too when she would come after me. One time in particular, I had been called to the dinner table and I opened a closet door on my way. She has stored some florescent light tubes in there and they fell and broke and she lit into me about how I should have come to the table and how dangerous these tubes were. That middle brother told her that they broke the tubes into the dumpster behind the store where he worked all the time and talked her down, I think, while he cleaned up the glass.
I mentioned how there was always a price tag to anything she did for me and that I did my best to cut her out of the equation to get what I needed/wanted so that I wouldn't have to pay the unknown price. I told them how she would get angry with me when I end ran her and how much work it was to get what I needed. I always thought it was better to not involve her and if I couldn't accomplish it, I did without. My youngest brother nodded and said, you shouldn't have had to do so much organizing as a kid. Yep!
One story I told was about how I needed books in junior high. We always went to school before to get the books and I had arranged to get a ride with a friend's mother and my mom was still asleep when I left (now I find myself wondering if she was a later sleeper because she had had too much to drink). I don't think she thought about me needing the books, but she wasn't happy when I came home with them. I always thought she would be happy that I wasn't burdening her, but maybe she was upset because of how it looked to my friend's parent.
I am sitting here typing this and crying because I don't know what to do with all of this new knowledge. I have cried about this before, but I always thought it was just me and some how I was lacking and now I know it was ALL OF US!!
So, more research on uninvolved parenting and I find that children raised by uninvolved parents tend to have substance abuse problems, check for two of my brothers. The middle one (he likes to be in control) gave it up when he was in his twenties saying he thinks he was allergic to it, but maybe he just didn't want to go down the path of our parents. The older one has been an alcoholic most of his adult life although, I think he has given it up know and the youngest told me he quit in 2009. They learn they must provide for themselves (yep, in spades for all four of us). They fear becoming dependent on other people (my oldest married a woman who was manic depressive and used him for his money and then left him after physically abusing him. The second one married a woman who is willing to be very submissive to him so he can be in control. He talks a lot about bossy women and not liking them. He mentioned our niece is bossy (her father said that was why she split up with her boyfriend) and I reminded him that both of her parents were alcoholics and she needed to take charge and that hopefully she will find a man who makes her feel safe enough to not have to be in charge. He nodded and got quiet when I said that. The youngest brother has never married and neither have I. I guess I, too, am looking for a man who will make me feel safe enough to not have to be in control all the time. Emotionally withdrawn is another characteristic. Check again. I know I tend that way, but I fight it. My middle brother didn't even have friends growing up and now as an adult his friends are all older. I told him how glad I was that he had found a group of people to be friends with. He does a lot for them, he is the caretaker, but I can't help feel like that allows him to remain in control since the giver is the one in control. Delinquency during adolescence is another. My youngest brother faced that one.
Thankfully, both of my brothers who have daughters have tried to be very involved with their girls and they do seem to have a close relationship with them. I had a close relationship with my dad after my mother died, but I think it was more about companionship than father/daughter and he kicked me to the curb as soon as he married his second wife. Both of my nieces had difficult relationships with their mothers growing up, but seem to be working on rectifying that, but they weren't really mothered growing up either.
We all responded as best we could to the parenting we had and we are all relatively successful, but we carry scars. I guess everybody has scars since we are all raised by imperfect human beings. I wish I knew what to do with all this knowledge. I have heard knowledge is power, so maybe now that I know, I can fight more successfully against this upbringing. It sure does make clear why I invented an imaginary daddy when I was growing up. He still comes to visit on occasion. :-)