Wednesday, September 10, 2008

apparently it's not their loss

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.


k@lakly said...

I know I must have said it before but here goes are right on in your attitude. Cut the wheat from the chaffe, your life will be the richer for it. (And a whole lot less complicated)

Jessica said...

I have been following your blog for a while now. You are an incredible writer. You are also a strong woman for fighting for your family. I would feel the exactly same way in your situation. You have done what you can, now it is up to them.

Tash said...

Have we ever seen your IL's talking while mine are drinking glasses of water? Just sayin'.

I guess I'm back to yesterday's point, which is I don't know what to do when we invite them and they crap on the invitation. And I'm just bewildered that it falls to us (meaning y'all, and we all) to do the song and dance to rectify stuff when they're the destroyers.

I think we're dealing with it by having radically lowered our expectations. We simply don't expect a phone a call or invitation or pleasantries. We don't expect them to drop in if they drive within 5 minutes of our house. We don't expect them to do spontaneous gestures of love for Bella. And we seem to be fine expecting them not to be parents. I worry, though, about Bella's expectations. Because these are her grandparents whom she adores. And I just don't know how to explain to her that football (or whatever) somehow matters *more*.

Tammy said...

Delurking to say your last three sentences hit home for me. Not with in-laws but with my own family. Mother, sister, brother have to drive right by my house to get to each others, petty differences have kept them from my daughters graduation, birthdays, etc. I am sticking to my guns and will keep all thatnegativity away from me and my girls.

Astarte said...

I'm so sorry for your husband and his parents. I know what it's like to be ashamed of your parents, and embarrassed about how they treat you. It's a terrible feeling, and for you all to go through this while everything else is going on too... ugh.

On the up side, they seem more than happy to leave you alone, so maybe you can stop worrying about them showing up unannounced in the delivery room, etc. (Also, if you tell the staff at the hospital, they will keep out specific people.)

Am I doing okay? said...

Wow! As if you need that. Stubbornness hurts the stubborn. (I made that up.) Hope you are finding you own joy.

niobe said...

My parents have (have always had) zero interest in my son. To me, it's incomprehensible, but I keep telling myself that's just the way it is.

My mother lives about 4 hours away and though she frequently visits our town to see her other grandchildren, she hasn't seen or spoken to my son in over a year.

Lea said...

Do you think it's possible that they thought you'd be at the game? Maybe they thought they'd run into you and it would be kind of an ice breaker after not seeing you for so long. You know, not a big formal planned visit where expectations are high and everyone is nervous, but instead just bump into each other, talk a while, watch the game, maybe meet up afterwards. I don't know--it's just a thought that occurred to me. It may be completely implausible.
Anyway, hi! I usually lurk on your blog, but family rifts make me feel bad. I hate them in my own family, and anyone else's so I felt compelled to comment. I just thought I'd chime in with a positive possibility. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, all this time I thought that I had a unique stiuation. Mother who was crass, uncaring, self-centered and hurtful. I guess there are lots of us out there in the same boat! Sort of good to know, makes me feel less awful about the whole thing - so, ummm thanks Which Box?
And also sorry for the a-hole in your family!