Standing My Ground

I was just thinking the other day about how nice it was that my dad hadn’t started any conversations with the phrase “your mother…” in a long time. I was thinking it was nice that he had either stopped acting as her enabling emissary or I hadn’t done anything worthy of passive-aggressive anger in a while.

Then we had Sunday.

The day had been lovely. The whole family was at the shore house for the weekend and we had spent several hours in the sand before throwing in the beach towel due to wind. As we were coming off the beach, Dad said to me, “You know, your mother…”

Oh, come on. 

Apparently Mom had been nursing a grudge over something I said to my sister on Facebook about her posting a picture of herself in which her house number is visible. I didn’t remember doing it, so I looked it up. What I said was “have you gotten any messages about the visible house number?” It was a perhaps not-so-oblique reference to my mother messaging me and lecturing me about my house number in a photo. Mind you, I was not in the photo and the photo did not show what my house looked like. Unlike my sister’s post.

My father wanted to tell me that I should be more considerate of my mother’s feelings given what I went through with my stalker.

Um… I’m sorry, what?

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “Think about how you would feel if someone you loved went through something like what you went through.”

Are you serious right now?

I had zero patience for this exchange because hi. I’m the one who actually had the stalker. I’m the one who lives with that every day. I’m the one looking around every time I enter or leave my house or my car or whatever. I’m the one who is always aware. I went out of my way, in spite of my own feelings, to make sure all the ducks were in a row before I even told my mother about it so that she would worry as little as possible about my safety. I did as she asked and texted her every blessed morning for three weeks to let her know I was still alive (not kidding – she made me text her every morning so she knew I was still alive) after he had been arrested and before I could move to another place.  And though it was a wake-up-and-this-is-what-I-have-to-think-about-first reminder of what I was dealing with, I understood and did it. I was very open about everything that happened so my  mother would never feel that she was being left out. I didn’t love the idea of her coming to court because it would upset her, but I knew she needed to be there for herself, so fine. And I didn’t want her to come to the governor’s award luncheon because I was concerned that hearing the story and its impact again would bother her. But she pushed and pushed and I couldn’t tell her why I didn’t want her to come, so I got tickets for them. That was the day I got my job offer, and she refused to have a drink with me to celebrate. I don’t recall her so much as getting off the couch to celebrate the announcement.

So if I can get a break for five minutes from considering my mother’s feelings about my stalker, and considering what might happen at any given time as a result of any one of my actions, I’d like to enjoy that sweet freedom without my  mother putting the thought of that situation back in my head. Thanks.

Nope. Apparently not.

But as I tried to explain my feelings in this regard, he cut me off and told me to meet him halfway – he understood my point about it being unfair to put her worries on me. Then he said he thought I should think more about her feelings because he’s starting to see more and more of my grandmother coming out in my mother.

At this point, my nephew came running up to hold my hand as we walked to the house and effectively ended the conversation.

My grandmother was a very fearful person. She wasn’t a bad person and she wasn’t totally crazy like my aunt, but she did have some phobias – by definition, irrational concerns. They governed her behaviors. And that’s what my dad was referring to.

Well… here’s the thing: I’m not going to enable or indulge those fears or concerns. It will not help my mother, and it will only hurt the rest of us. She knows, and Dad knows, what it was like to cope with my grandmother’s tendencies. So if she’s getting that way, then Dad, you need to get her some help.

But since he had shut me down and my nephew had clinched it, I couldn’t say that.

Yet, the next day, it was all still bothering me, and I didn’t appreciate having been silenced by an “end of discussion” admonishment. He was the one who brought it up, after all. So I emailed him, choosing my words carefully but standing firm in my feelings. I let him know that I was upset that they thought I didn’t consider her feelings, given all of the ways I had. And I told him that if he really feels that her tendencies are similar to my grandmother’s and that they’re unhealthy, then she should get help, and that though it may sound harsh, I would not enable or indulge the behavior.

Then my anxiety level ratcheted up another notch as I waited for his reply.

It came several hours later, and consisted of telling me that my mother was fine at the award luncheon and only wanted to recognize what I had accomplished, and that he would NEVER (his caps) bring up what he was seeing in similarities between my mother and grandmother again, and that when it comes to health issues, THEY will decide what to do.

And then he told me these kinds of conversations should be face-to-face. Which I would have done if he hadn’t shut me down.

I’m sorry he feels that way. I think he’s wrong to imply that his daughters shall have no say in whether our mother, who we all know has struggled with mental health issues, should get help. I think he’s wrong to try to make me feel bad about telling him what I think, since he brought it up.

And I feel like shit, because I’m the daughter and my dad is mad at me.

Thirty-six years old and I’m still here. Coming home from a beach on a day when I had gone to a gray mood in my head during Mass because of Jack, but hidden it. Disallowed to tell my father how I feel about what he’s approaching me for, and in addition, deprived of any credit for consideration of my mother’s feelings, and faulted for my own.

Turns out, one of the lessons I’ve learned from the situation with Jack will be applied to areas other than my love life. I will not be made to feel guilty for standing up for myself and my feelings.




14 thoughts on “Standing My Ground

  1. 36, 46, 56 doesn’t matter you will always feel like shit when your dad is mad at you. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand your ground and say what you need to say, do what you need to do. Just means you have to accept feeling shitty about upsetting a parent. You’re a good “kid” and your parents know that, you just have to keep being you, and realize you’re human, and so are they.

    • I suppose you’re right. I remember the exact moment when I realized my parents were human and not just parents. I was 18. Sometimes I think they should remember that I’M human, and not just their child.

  2. Oh man, that’s tough. Unfortunately, they will always be your parents and always feel they have certain rights, including the right to talk to you and treat you like a child, and to also discount your opinions on what they should do with their lives. When at some point, you are equals on equal footing and yes, you should be allowed to have some say over what may be happening with your mother’s mental state. Who do they think will take care of them when they are too old to do so for themselves? At some point, they will have to release those reigns to their children and it will be your job to make decisions and care for them. I’m sorry your dad is mad at you, and it is a difficult situation to be in, but I’m glad you are standing your ground. Good for you.

    • Oh, their children have decided that Sister 3 will take care of them. The rest of us aren’t up for it. Heehee. But you’re right. That’s one of the messages behind my telling my dad that I will neither enable nor indulge the behavior he’s concerned about in my mother. It didn’t help my grandmother, it won’t help my mother and it will not be good for the rest of us. And if he thinks the two of them will decide what to do about health issues, that basically means only one of them on a good day when no one’s head is in the clouds or up their ass. So good luck.

  3. Maybe it’s just my family (and I think Muri’s) but families seem to “talk things through” much more than when I was 36. Perhaps it’s the result of 30 years of self-help books and psychologists suggesting “better communication.” It seems like we suffered the resentments between parents and adult children in silence … and I’m not convinced it wasn’t better that way. Or at least not any worse.

    • Often times in my family, it’s not talking “through,” it’s talking “at.” My dad has long had that problem, which a lot of us put down to his years of managing hundreds of employees. He told me about my mother’s grudge because he wanted to inform me that I should be more considerate. I wasn’t going to accept that, given how considerate I am, and how much more affected I am by the situation than they are. I promise you – neither of my parents has ever read a self-help book. A lot of things go unsaid – this was something I was not willing to leave to that.

      • I think the change is cultural rather than individual and I’m certainly not exempt. I guess my point was that what seems to be your level of frustration with your parents after “standing your ground” doesn’t seem all that different than mine when I didn’t. Perhaps in the end there’s an immutable dynamic between parents and offspring. My Dad and I got very close when he was in his eighties but there were still those places in which he was Dad and I was little Buddy. Reminds me of the song, “in the Living Years.”

  4. Oh, I see. I definitely agree about the cultural – though I think those whose parents were hippies are more likely to contribute to that change than those whose parents were not (mine were not). There’s almost definitely that immutable dynamic. We do always have to bend, on both sides, in these relationships. I guess for me, this is an issue on which I won’t bend because my experience forced me to draw a line somewhere.

  5. Having to cater to your mom’s feelings and reactions is a tough situation to be in. You run the risk of sounding self-centered if you say “excuse me? Isn’t this supposed to be about ME?” but it’s a perfectly reasonable response.

    My cousin is dealing with cancer that invaded her spine and she recently had back surgery to try to halt the deterioration. She’s still in a world of pain every day. Her mother, my aunt, is something of a hypochondriac. She’s had all kinds of aches, pains and surgeries and it all moved to her back, coincidentally, around the time my cousin’s cancer did. My 2 cousins got so infuriated by her “people like you and me who have back troubles…” kind of talk that they sat her down and said the 2 situations were not comparable. I learned the last part when I saw them all a couple of weeks ago and casually asked my aunt how her back was doing. She whispered “I’m not allowed to talk about my back in front of the girls.” Awkward…but so understandable.

    • Ugh – that’s difficult all around for everyone. If I may: is your aunt also a bit of a martyr? I ask not to be offensive, but because I bet your cousins didn’t say she’s “not allowed” to talk They only wanted her to have some perspective and remember that she is not the one suffering most. Your cousin is dealing with double impact: cancer AND back surgery. One is enough. Your aunt has had neither but wants attention, it seems. I feel for everyone involved. That said: maybe it’s good that your aunt “isn’t allowed” to talk about it. At least she’ll be forced not to exhibit that behavior in that light.

      • I think she may be a bit of a martyr. This whole hypochondria thing is really news to me in the last few years – I thought she had a lot of health problems until my cousins told me their point of view. They’re usually normal, compassionate people, so I don’t think they’re imagining that their mom basically DOES want attention.

        It reminds me of your situation where you’re supposed to expend a lot of energy to consider someone’s else’s feelings, when you’re the injured party. It would be only natural to feel some resentment.

  6. I appreciate your empathy – it makes me feel less guilty. (Alright, so despite the last line of my post, I DID feel a LITTLE bad. But then last night Sister 1 texted me about something my mother was saying and told me she’s seriously concerned… so maybe I’m not the only dog in the fight.) I hope your cousins can continue to cope.

  7. This post reminded me of an article I read about who deserves consideration when there’s an illness/situation at play. Can’t find it for the life of me, but maybe it rings a bell — it’s about circles and the person to whom the illness (or event) happened is in the center and has the right to not give a shit about what other people think… then each rippling circle is in the same boat – they have to mute their own issues when talking to someone closer to the epicenter, but their needs trump those of people in outer rings. Does this make ANY sense? If not, I’ll scour the internet and see if I can find it. It provides healthy perspective.

    Sorry you’re dealing with this.

    • So, when you find it… could you maybe send it to my parents?
      I didn’t read the article you refer to, but yes, your explanation makes sense. Persons in circles rippling out from the center should not vent to any persons closer to the center out of respect. They should only vent to persons within their own ripple-circle or beyond, or persons nowhere in the circle or total ripple diameter. Look at us using geometry to solve interpersonal conflict.
      It helps, as a general rule, to realize that I tend to worry outward toward the ripples in any given situation. So, scientifically, what does that mean? When a center or point within a circle expands outward? Is there some sort of explosion?
      I’m so totally using this when I go back to see Ali Velshi now that I have a new job with new insurance which his office will probably still process incorrectly.

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