My husband talked to his brother last night, starting to ease into what we've anticipated will be a tension filled time (daughter's upcoming birthday, baby's pending birth, reliving last fall). I thought I had lost the capacity to be surprised by my in-laws. And I was quite wrong.
The backstory: my in-laws live about 2 hours north of us. My husband went to college about 2.5 hours south of us. My husband and his father are huge college football fans, and my husband has season tickets to his alma mater. Since my daughter's birth, I go rarely, my husband tends to drive down and back to 4 or 5 of the 6 or 7 games. Maybe once a year we spend one night. His parents tend to go to two or so games a year, often making a long weekend out of it, leisurely driving, spending time in bed and breakfasts and touring around the countryside.
My daughter loves to go to games - you'd think the heat and the tedium and the game would bore her, but she loves every bit of it. The three of us went to the overly hot opening game two weeks ago (just as we did a year ago, bleah) and had a good time. But this past weekend was a patsy game, opponent not important, and right in the middle of the afternoon nap. Plus, you might remember, Gustav blowing through. So we skipped, and ate the cost of the 4 tickets.
My brother in law tells my husband that his parents went! Drove 4.5 hours, right past our city, and down to the game for their long weekend. My father in law bought tickets online, and sat in a different area of the stadium.
This might be too particular and specific an example to really explain. There are times I read other's stories (nothing recently, I have nothing specific in mind!) and think, hmm, well, that seems a little petty but I'm sure there's history here I don't know (the blog world: giving each other the benefit of the doubt). Football is really important to my husband and his father. My husband, as the season started, has thought more than once of calling his father to wish his team well. We have 4 tickets to our games. In laws could have gotten tickets from us. Did they even come by our section of the stadium? Did they expect to see is? Try to avoid seeing us? Hope to see us? Hope to not see us?
Do they give a damn at all that it's been 9 months since they've seen us? Seen their son? Or seen our daughter? That they've missed nearly 1/3 of her life? Does my father in law care?
I was nearly speechless last night with disgust and outrage. I spend so much time fretting over this relationship, worrying about how it will resolve, feeling guilty about my daughter slowly forgetting her grandparents. And for what? For nothing. It just seems they've washed their hands of us, decided their one closer granddaughter is enough, and oh well. They are, without a doubt, the most self-centered people I have ever met.
My brother in law had originally called because his family and the parents are renting a house on the Outer Banks for a week and we're invited to come for as long as we'd want. Um, no. It's this coming Sat to the next Sat. My daughter's birthday is the following Monday. So no worries about them showing up for her birthday, since they'll be driving much of the weekend. That takes that worry away, at least.
I said to my husband, forget it. Let's just have the baby and send them an announcement. Or better yet, send all their friends announcements but not them.
This did lead us into a longer talk about (parts of) the bigger picture. I know it hurts my husband, and he feels shame and embarrassment at how his family treats him. Particularly in contrast to how my family has forgiven him and embraced him back despite his treatment of me. It hurts me, too. His mother made it clear I wasn't needed in the family and she was happy to cut me loose. I don't want to feel the cause of this rift. I grew up in a loving extended family - spent time with my grandparents. Spent weekends with my aunt. One of my cousins would spend a week or two with us every summer. Some subtle forms of favoritism played out in my family, and I remember those small hurts or slights, remember confusion as a child at adult relationships I couldn't understand. The thought of subjecting my daughter to a level of craziness 100 times worse than I ever experienced is heartbreaking to me. I won't have it. I won't have her cry that her grandmother loves her cousin more than her. Or be scared by my brother in law's drinking and cursing and wild, stupid behavior.
My mother's mother was an alcoholic, and by all accounts, a fairly mean drunk. She died when I was 11. I didn't find this out about her until I was in my late teens. I never saw it, though I did see those small, subtle things. It's made a big impression on my husband that my parents told us that when I was born, they went to her and said, you will not drink around our daughter. You will not act this way, or you will not be a part of her or our lives. My parents set boundaries, and those boundaries worked. But my parents also worked to show us the good side, to build positive memories.
My husband appreciates my family, warts and all, perhaps more than I realize. He also appreciates that despite it all, I want my daughter and unborn son to have a rich, extended family, to build memories that will last a lifetime. My husband's mother prevented that for him. Started family feuds, pitted cousins against each other, played stupid power struggles.
My husband and I are moving to a place - slowly, in fits and starts, and with a long way to go - of building our own life. Of creating what is important to us, of holding family close, of nurturing long friendships that matter as much as family. It is what I said yesterday. This is our life. You are welcome to join us. It is your choice if you do not, and your loss.
4 days ago