Family Matters.

by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

 

When people hear that I have twins one of the first questions I'm usually asked is, "Do you have family around to help you?" The answer to that question is like one of the options for relationship status on Facebook: It's complicated. Although my mother and stepfather live close by, I haven't spoken to them since Elby turned two. My mom bought her only grandchild a tricycle at that birthday but she's never seen her ride it. Since Elby will be five in November, she’s long since grown out of the three wheeler phase and now has a big girl bike she rides everywhere but her tryke still resides in the garage waiting patiently for the twins.

 

Elby doesn't know my mother as her grandmother. She must have a vague idea that her mommy has a mommy too, since there are pictures of me as a little girl sitting on my mom's lap around our house. But when "gram" calls and wants to talk to her Pumpkin, that means my mother-in-law is on the phone. When a package comes from Gram and Gramps it means Jon's parents have remembered Elby’s birthday or sent the babies new jammies "just because."

 

My mother's never seen my baby girls. I don't know if she even knows how small Sadie was when she came out or how scared we were in those first months. I do know that she knew I was pregnant with twins because after hearing it through the grapevine, I did get a card wishing me luck. I can't help but wonder if she worried about how my pregnancy turned out.

 

When my twins were finally home from the NICU they were insanely colicky and Jon couldn't come home from work to help me. But my brother, Michael and my sister-in-law, Racquel came over almost every single night. They held babies, refilled my wine, read Elby stories when I couldn't, and listened to me cry. Jon and I couldn't have done it without them - which, in retrospect makes you realize even more how important family is in these types of situations.

 

Last week, Jon’s parents, his sister, and her two kids flew out to visit us from Connecticut. They’d never met the twins and hadn’t seen Elby in way too long, although they talk to her a lot by webcam - oh, yeah, we’re like the Jetsons. Elby had a blast. Although she was a little shy at first, once she warmed up, she constantly asked, “Where are my cousin Annie and Ben?” or “Do we get to have dinner with Gram and Gramps again?” or “Who wants to see me dance?” And, of course, “Can I watch one more episode of the Powerpuff Girls?” That last question really shed an awesome light on my parenting skills, by the way.

 

I watched Jon’s family (and now mine) soak in our girls and see what we see: gorgeous kids brimming with light and energy, growing before our very eyes. Jon’s family is of the WASPY variety so although they’re not effusive by nature, they took in Sadie’s g-tube button without blinking an eye and their lack of discomfort or shock felt as good as a hug. Jon’s dad acknowledged the chaos of three small children with a few empathetic nods but it still felt like validation and love.

 

DebSchwarz
09.08.09

How very sad about your mom - kudos to you for expressing your hurt and disappointment. As I write this, my husband is in Scotland helping his infirmed parents. His mother barely knows our kids' names (we had a brood like you, triplets plus one) and has shown little to no interest in them. He now finds it hard to even pour her a cup of tea given her disinterest over the years. I wonder if parents realize that it affects our motivation in helping them in their elder years if they show no interest in our kids? Sounds like a "tit for tat" kind of thing - sad but true.

heathermom
08.18.09

I feel like I can relate on so many levels. My dad isn't completely uninvolved, but his once-per-year semi-acknowledgment of my kids is pretty painful. I confessed on truuconfessions how much it hurt to have an uninvolved grandparent and I couldn't believe how many metoos I received. It made me feel less alone, but also sad that there are so many kids and grandparents not sharing a close bond for whatever the reason may be.

RachaelBrownell
08.15.09

It is incredibly hard to imagine what might lead a mama to not want to speak to her sweet daughter... the hurt, denial, or anger must run very deep. But you never know what the future holds... It is clear you are a wonderfully loving mama.

roseherring
08.15.09

What I appreciate most about your article is that you don't end it with some trite, forced, happy ending of sorts. You are clearly very troubled my the abandonment of your mother as you should be. Thanks for your honesty.

nabbie
08.12.09

Steph...
I hear what you are saying, but you are benefiting from all that neglect. You are STRONG, SMART, FUNNY, BEAUTIFUL, LUCKY(to have Jon and three beautiful girls), a good career, nice home, kick-ass shaggin-wagon, what more could you ask for in life by 40-something? Count your blessings becuase you could have taken a whole different route from that treatment in life, BUT YOU DIDN''T!!! Kudos to you for that and for all the good decisions you have made lately. We are all very proud of you Mama. You are raising three princesses and doing a fine job of it! That is what family is all about!! Shannon

Rob in Madrid
08.12.09

your kids have the forgiveness gene (and many don't) or not. It's the only reason how I can explain how some people can have a (abiet difficult) relationship with there kids and others cut out there parents completely. I understand as Lesle said sometimes a parent won't change and there isn't much you can do about that, but more often it's just bad parenting (and who doesn't make mistakes) and the kids refuse to forgive.

I have many friend in both situations. My wife has forgiven her Dad because as she puts it "We would have made different mistakes", also they have apologized for how they behaved but only many years latter. Our niece (same side) has reconciled with her Dad because he changed (alot) her mother is still struggling with that one (how long they stay married remains to be seen)

On the other hand I have many friends and family who have cut out there parents from their lives (in the case of my sister in law I haven’t had the courage to ask why) And a cousin who is barely talking to her mother, even on her death bed she could’t bring herself to reconcile with her.

Personally for those how have disowned there parents is it because of childhood issues (my Dad yelled at me too many times) or because of abusive relationships where the parent won’t change (as in the case of my brother in law with his mother.

From a parenting point of view the question is if you Dad Mom was difficult abusive or what ever the chances are very very high that you will over time repeat the behaviour and at some point you child willreact the way you did, to disown you. Thankfully us being hmans means we can change and break the cycle, hopefully before the kids get too old.

Aphra
08.12.09

I also am in a strangely unacknowledged condition of estrangement from my parents, and it also is a source of great pain. I was always driven to accomplish in the hopes of garnering their interest and approval (and I'm an ONLY child), and it took me well into my 30s, with the birth of my first son, that there was NOTHING I could DO, and that it was just who THEY are. But the intellectual realization of this some days doesn't cut the emotional pain as I watch my son grow, and wait to welcome a new one into my family...I always feel this absence. For my sanity I don't try to change the condition, fearing it would really only hurt me more, and also take comfort in the love of my wonderful inlaws and close friends (family I chose for myself). As a mother, I feel the estrangement from my mother most keenly, as I also don't understand as a mother NOT being there. She tells me she thinks and prays for me each day, but it sounds like just so many words with so many lost daily opportunities that she misses to be a part of our lives. It IS their loss, but one I ALSO feel...and it feels profoundly unfair.

Dani7587
08.12.09

Nope, definitely not alone. I'm estranged from my father. Tried to reconcile in college, but it didn't work out. I recovered and moved on, but I the anger returned after the birth of my son. He must not have loved me the way I love my child. Fortunately, my Step-Dad is the greatest Grandpa ever!

leslie morgan s...
08.11.09

Leslie Morgan Steiner

I'm with you, Stefanie! It's impossible to comprehend what a child could do to make a parent want nothing to do with them, short of murder.

It is so hard to explain this kind of complex family dynamic to children. I have the same quasi-estrangement (although not from my mother) in my family. My kids are older than yours, old enough to ask questions about why so-and-so never wants to see us.

A good friend urged me to reconcile at any cost for the sake of my kids. The truth? I'd already tried that a dozen times. You cannot force family to be family if they don't want to be in a relationship with you. Kind of like trying to force a husband who doesn't want to be with you to stay married. At some point, you have to walk away...because they already have.

My friend said he had made peace with his dad, who was abusive, to show his kids that you endure anything for the sake of family.

However, the example I need to set for my kids is that you don't take abuse, even from family. Especially from family. I hope my kids never have to learn the same lesson. I'd do anything to avoid that.

stilljustjen
08.11.09

Thanks for making me feel like I'm not alone out there with regard to my "complicated" relationship with my mother.