Parents and Estrangement

This is not going to be a fun post to write. It is also going to be a novel, but it needs to be said. But I think more people should talk about this, and it’s been weighing on me, so here it goes. Today I read this article: Life Without My Mother is a Joy. It was posted today and it specifically references mothers, but it definitely can be applicable to either parental figure. It brought up some painful memories.

After my tumultuous “moving-out” experience, both of my parents had plenty of opportunities to be a part of my life. My mom pushed past the hurt that I’d caused her and actively sought to have a relationship with me. And I know it wasn’t easy. There was sometimes where I hung up the phone on her, the first year I didn’t see her on Mother’s Day, the young adult choices I was making that she didn’t necessarily approve of, but she still kept trying. She apologized (and still does) for the actions she was a part of that hurt me growing up. So she and I have a good relationship now – actually much better than it had ever been.

The flip side of the coin, and the real reason for this post is because of my father. Growing up, I’d always considered my papa to be my favorite parent. We bonded over our shared spirituality, my tom-boyishness, etc. In fact, when I went of my first date with my then boyfriend, now fiance, he almost didn’t continue seeing me because of how over-the-moon, “I have the best dad ever”. I had been living on my own for 4 years, trying to figure out how life works, working a soul-draining full-time job and managing to go to school full-time and was about to finish my undergraduate degree.

During the first year of dating my boyfriend, I watched him carefully with his children. That year was personally very difficult for my partner, due to a variety of reasons, but he never ever gave up on his kids. No matter what they went through, or how distant they acted towards him, he was always there, always reaching out to them, refusing to ever let that relationship go. He was respectful of them when they were mad at him, he apologized to them when he was wrong, he sought out fun opportunities to bond with them. That spoke volumes to me. Seeing him be a real father made me realize that I actually didn’t have the utterly fantastic dad I thought I did.

Honestly, I realized that I had barricaded off processing my relationship with my dad because I was just trying to survive myself in the real world. When I thought about my own relationship with my father, I realized he actually had been essentially non-existent for the first five years of me living on my own. He called me once six months after I moved out – only because my mom forced him to. He stopped by my apartment once – I have a hunch it was because I had finally gotten my “own” place and wasn’t rooming with anyone else. But for the vast majority of the time, years in fact, he never reached out. No phone calls, no texts, no even “likes” on my facebook or twitter feeds.

A little over a year after my boyfriend and I had been dating, I came to the conclusion that my relationship with my father needed to be addressed. I was done acting like everything was okay between us. I wrote a five-page letter to my dad explaining what I loved about him growing up as well as my hurt and frustrations with how he was acting towards me. This letter was the first time I’d ever stood up to my dad. The first time I found my voice and told him how I felt. Here’s a small portion of my letter:

So it boils down to the fact that I feel our relationship has been ruined and you haven’t tried to do anything to apologize for the way it is and how you treated me five years ago, and continue to treat me even now. Your recent text seemed to illustrate it to me: “I have never closed the door on you. You chose to go out on your own, but I’m here if you want me. I’ve never “pretended” things are ok. I love you very much even though you chose to leave us.” That text came across to me like this: So “you never closed the door” but you don’t welcome me either… you’re “here if I want you” but only on your terms. Since I haven’t “repented and come home” you’re trying to do the barest minimum. You’ve “neverpretended’ things are okay” – but you’re willing to let them stay like this for the last 5 years until who knows how long? I “chose to leave you” – since when is moving out and becoming an adult a bad thing?

My father’s response to this was basically “You seem to be angry about this, we should talk in person.” No apology, no expression of desire to improve. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to sit down and talk about it with him. It wasn’t my responsibility.

So I set boundaries.

I told him that he had my cell number and my email address, he could call when he wanted. But he couldn’t call on my birthday or Christmas if he didn’t call me on any of the other 363 days of the year. I unfriended him from Facebook, because it hurt me every time he commented on my siblings posts, but never on mine. Every time I saw he had sent my sister a care-package while she was away in college, but never to me. I needed to protect myself and allow myself to live my own life without feeling like a dagger was plunged into me any time he acknowledged someone else but not me, his oldest daughter.

He still hasn’t changed.

Last year in September, about four years after I wrote that letter to him, I planned a small family reunion. I invited my mom, my siblings, my grandparents, and my partner’s children. I did  not invite my father. I didn’t even tell him it was happening. He heard about it at the dinner table a month or so before. “What’s this about this trip?” My siblings told him what we were doing and who was going. He never asked about it after that. Never said “I wonder why she didn’t invite me?” or even seemed to think that it was atypical that a daughter would invite her entire family – minus her dad.

He won’t change.

Last December, I became engaged. A question I’ve had in my mind the last six months is “Do I invite my father?” I’ll be the first to be married, I’m his first-born. This is a memorable event for me, it should be one for him as well.

I had quite a few concerns about inviting him, I can’t list them, but suffice it to say, the real reason is because he hasn’t shown he wants to be in my life.

Being estranged from my father is one of the hardest things. I feel the hard emotional pull when I least expect it. I cried last night watching Survivor and seeing a close father-daughter relationship. It’s toward the end of the season and the contestants had the chance to win precious time with their loved ones. The daughter was crying in her father’s arms – overwhelmed that her dad was there, and he said “I am her strength.” My father isn’t my strength and he doesn’t want to be a part of my life.

I think I know the reason he does this, but in my opinion, there is no valid reason on the face of the planet for why a father should not want to be a part of his daughter’s life. So this estrangement – is actually put in place by him, but I set up the boundaries. The fence-line is put up for my own emotional sanity. And I have the right to do that.

But at the end of the day, what I really want out of this is for people to feel free to talk about this. I don’t know if I’ll ever reconcile with my dad. But I do feel happier in my life. I don’t have to deal with his judgment of my choices, I don’t have to tip-toe around his ideology. Maybe most crucially, I don’t have to listen to him praising our current terror of a president. I am glad that I’ve become a person vastly different from who he wanted me to be. I’m a strong, independent, feminist, liberal, woman who cares about other people, no matter their sexuality, gender, religion, race, or anything else that society tends to judge others by. I have a wonderful man by my side and a puppy at my feet and I am at peace in my own corner of the world.

For my readers:

It’s okay if you and your parents are estranged. No matter who put the walls up. Your reasons are valid. It’s okay to find happiness and joy outside of your parents. Please do. And also please know that I am open to talking about it if you ever need a listening ear.

 

A Homeschool Alumni’s Hope

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Every parent wants what’s best for their child(ren). They invest countless aspects of themselves and their freedoms in order to raise their offspring. It is a natural feeling to want to protect them and wish them the best, and have a grand idea of how you hope your precious children will turn out. I get it. I was raised in the homeschool movement were we were taught that we were going to be the movers and shakers once we became adults. Our parents hoped we’d be positive impacts for our future employers, in our community, and in the world. I personally was homeschooled all the way through my senior year. I am proud of being a homeschool alumni.

There comes a time, however, when we come adults. Our parents have little to no say on the person we choose to be, or how we choose to live our lives. They hope we follow the line they’ve drawn in the sand. When we don’t – we hope they understand, many times it’s not because we don’t love them anymore, it’s because we’re all individuals. We’ve found our own path. I was not the most obedient daughter, my infant nick-name “Birdie” proved to be quite apt as I was a bird – and I frequently flew off – not always in the direction my parents wished. My mom wrote this a few years back about me: “We would tell her to stick with us and she would for a while, but then would venture off again.” No, I know I’m not the person they originally hoped I would be. However, they are proud of the person I am. They’ve grown and changed just as I have. They were the ones who helped me be who I am. They had “given me the tools” for life as my parents often remarked.

The reason I’m writing this is homeschool alumni (particularly Homeschoolers Anonymous) have been raising their voice. There have been abuses that have gone on in our lives, and we do have a right to blog or post or tweet about them. I get that it’s easy to try and dismiss us – we moved out of your house a few years ago, we were children then and weren’t allowed to talk-back. It’s not, however, being disrespectful if it’s telling our story. It’s not being rebellious when we find a scandal and try to have it addressed by those who were involved. Sweeping allegations under the rug, avoiding the tough questions, or ignoring us is not how you taught us to be. You are the ones who raised us. We are adults and we have a voice. We ask you listen to us. If we express that you have harmed us in someway – apologize. Take responsibility. We want reconciliation, we want those relationships restored.

Trust me, we want to share the joys, the sunny days, the happinesses in our lives more than the storms. But we all should face those storms irregardless of whether we want to or not. Do you have the courage to help us make this a better world?

Photo credit: me

Weekend Blessings

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Weekend Blessings

I never wanted my own children. Something about being the oldest of seven and seeing 4 births and honestly just wanting to be selfish and loving my freedom. Don’t get me wrong – I love babies and children. Their innocence, inquisitiveness, and tenacity is precious. But life has a way of having its own way. The man I’m dating has children, and his two sons live with us every other weekend. Have to say, I love them. They make me get off my couch every weekend they are with me because every teenage boy needs to have their out-door times or else the adults living with them will go nuts. Would I like my own time? Yes, but if I’m honest with myself, I get more done and experience more fun times and memories every day they are with me. I get hugs and jokes and dorky pictures. The pic in this post was taken this weekend by the oldest… neat perspective, right? I might need an attitude adjustment every so often when I have to figure out what to do with them when it’s rainy and cold outside, but in the end, it’s worth it. They are now my family, and they are important in my life, and I in theirs.

This week….

This was/is kinda a crazy week. Last weekend I wasn’t feeling the greatest physically or emotionally, work seemed drag. I’m part of a group at work that is going through a year-long leadership training class. It’s extremely hard to get into, but I finally racked up enough kudo points with the bosses to be accepted. There were days that being a part of that group is the only reason I showed up at work. Close to the ending of the program, the group gets to try to orchestrate a fundraiser. Let me tell you – trying to figure out a fundraiser, get it through the myriad of approvals for the twenty things you thought wouldn’t need to be thought of twice, much less a written proposal that has to be approved by someone 4 ranks up, is not an easy task. Add in then around the 7-8 other people that you have to get agree on the ideas and how to get it going… well, let’s just say that I adopted the position of event coordinator. I have enjoyed it, but it hasn’t been easy. The reason? An 8-day vacation I’ll be taking in Hawaii next week. 🙂 The anticipation has been building for the last 3 months – and for the last half the work day, I wasn’t as nearly productive as I normally was. But at least I feel really good about where I left my team with me being gone all next week. Then my mom decided to spring an impromptu trip into my town to do some shopping – and decided to bring 3 of my brothers. The two nights before we leave for Hawaii I’ll have company… Cluttered house and all, with no food because I haven’t bought any because it will spoil by the time we get back. So of course I told her it was fine for her and everyone else to stay with me. I’m going to be going to get my hair colored tomorrow (have to look good when I meet my boyfriend’s mom for the first time) and the little errands that seem to creep up right before a big trip… and I have my family in town, and my house is barely presentable, but you know what? Who cares! My brothers won’t notice the mess – they are too busy taunting my boyfriend as they race him playing a racing game at their first attempt on an XBox 360. My mom is appreciative because she won’t be paying mega-money booking a hotel, I get family time with my siblings that I see far too infrequently. Plus, since they are in, they attract the attention of my beloved grandparents who also want to see family, so I get to see even more precious family! So they will have to lock up my house when they leave because I’ll be halfway to Hawaii by the time they get up, these memories are priceless. The more I “grow up” the more I realize family is priceless, my work will “work” itself out. Life is meant to be lived, one day at a time, looking ahead, and trying to move ahead, while treasuring your family.

“A grandfather …

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“A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.” – Unknown

I’d like to take this time to write a shout-out to my Grandpa Frost. It’s his birthday today, and I think it’s high-time I tell the world how freaking amazing he is. 🙂 He married into our family when I was a child, but I can’t dream that any other man, blood-relative or not would have taken us all into his heart the way he did and does. The first time I ever met him, my family lived on the opposite side of the country, and he and my Grandma flew to visit us for a week or so. I remember I was so impressed when he recited my full name in the airport when we came to pick them up – nicknames and all (no, I’m not typing it out, ask me in person, and I might tell you it). He immediately endeared himself into my heart (I AM the oldest of the grandchildren, so I think I deserve a bit more of their attention – just sayin’). He’s always had a full beard – perfect for babies to play with. He has strong hands to give wonderful neck massages, he’s a walking encyclopedia – always giving out fascinating little-known trivia facts about practically anything and everything under the sun. Once we moved back into their neck of the woods, I try to take every opportunity I can to spend time with him. We’ve gone on hikes, I’ve gone with them RV-ing, of course done sleepovers, road-trips, and trying out new restaurants. My grandpa has watched me grow, and as I’ve become an adult, I’ve been able to see a different side of him now that we can share more adult activities (nothing like a cold beer together on a hot day) and adult conversations. He was the first person in my family to tell me that he approves of my boyfriend – which means alot to me, and to my boyfriend, who has never really had grandparents or even a decent father-figure in his life. Last month, I had one of the funnest times with my grandpa – We went to an Oktoberfest – just him and I. Both of our partners had to work that day, but going to the Oktoberfest is something that we’ve done as much as we can… and I normally go with my grandparents at least, but that day was the only day I could go, so the night before, I called him up and he was up for the spontaneous trip, so we went! The first time I had ever had one-on-one time with just him. It was such a special, neat, bonding time, just him and I. We ate sausages, drank beer, and people-watched. Didn’t talk about much important, but what was important was spending time together. I will always treasure that memory. Happy Birthday Grandpa! I hope you have many more, and know that you are very, very loved by your oldest granddaughter. 🙂

2-year Anniversary Flowers

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2-year Anniversary Flowers

It was the 2-year anniversary of our first date last Friday. My man surprised me at work by having these flowers sent to my work (not easy to do, as there are guards to get through). I was the envy of quite a few woman who told me “my man never does that” or “my husband used to do that, not anymore”. To me that’s sad. Romance is good to have in a relationship. Later that night, after we were both off from work (and I took my flowers home to take this picture of with my new camera I bought to take to Hawaii with us) – he treated me to the place we had our first date – Andina, in the Pearl. It was a nice way to end the day. Men – send your woman flowers – surprise her, allow her to be envied by her coworkers, demonstrate that you LOVE YOUR Woman! Women – treasure your man, give him neck-rubs, watch football with him (even if you really don’t like it), ask him questions about the game or the silly rules it has… I do… lol.