“Because I don’t want her to be fucked up by her parents like you.”
Posted on March 17, 2016
We’re driving to the lawyers’. We are arguing. It’s a rainy, watercolour painting kind of day, and inside the car I feel as if we are trapped in the grey interior, words angry over the swish of the windscreen wipers, the drone of the engine.
He wants to talk about the relationship between me and my parents. It’s getting harder to hide the fact that I don’t really have one from our children, and the older one is picking up on it.
It gets bad really, really fast. Finally he yells “Because I don’t want them to be fucked up by their parents like you!” He wants it to not be this way. He wants this to not be our reality. HIS reality. He did not choose to marry into this.
I can’t blame him, but I also can’t change it. I’m running out of ideas. I’m losing my ability to play-act. I can’t invent trust I don’t feel, a relationship that’s not there. Up until now, though, it’s been easy to fake one so that my children have a relationship with their grandparents. Until I realised that faking it was making me feel physically nauseaous.
My therapist says, “Feeling sick is your body’s way of telling you that you aren’t being honest. You are honest in every other aspect of your life except that one.”
You know what happens when you first hear the truth? You can’t unknow it. When she said that, I knew what she said was true, and I also knew that pretending was no longer going to be an option for me. Which leaves…what?
Because I promised myself I wasn’t going to cut them off.
Because my partner doesn’t want me to cut them off.
Because I don’t think cutting them off is the answer.
Because no matter how fucked up my relationship with them is, maybe there is still some joy to be had in it for my children. Grandparent grandchild relationships can be different. Right? Right?
We leave the argument unresolved.
The next day he brings it up again. We’re at home, the sun is shining. There is room to escape from each other – maybe that makes the difference.
Somehow, we muddle up a compromise, and I put it into action as soon as the oldest gets home.
It is this: I tell her the truth (the kid safe truth). I tell her that my relationship with her grandparents is difficult, because of things that happened in my childhood (she doesn’t need to know it goes for far longer than that). I tell her that one of her aunties is not talking to her grandparents at all (that’s all I say….). But then I tell her that just because I feel that way, or Aunty feels that way, it doesn’t mean she has to feel that way. That she can have her own feelings about her grandparents. She can love them. She can contact them. It’s okay with me, and I will support her. Sometimes grandparents and grandkids have their own special thing which is better than what parents and children have.
At first she is apprehensive but as I talk her face relaxes. She is glad to know about Aunty. And she is glad to understand what’s been going on, in all the unsaid things, the eye-rolls, the silences, the conversations that stop when she walks in the room. And most of all she is glad she can still be in contact.
I don’t know if I am doing the right thing, but I am trying.
When she leaves the room I go and make myself a cup of tea, and I drink each scalding gulp, and I’m hoping, really hoping, that this is going to be okay, and I haven’t fucked her up too.