Baby Steps

I think a normal part of adulthood is waiting for your parent(s) to accept you.

My mother may have called our relationship disgusting, but she has also somewhat expressed a desire to be in my life, albeit in a cowardly way. She won’t call, and when she comes to pick me up she won’t come in the house, or really say anything to Gabe when he opens the door. Still she asks me to not disappear (part of her fear about me being in a ‘cult’), and once told me that she was forgetting what my laugh sounded like.

Not my fault you want to reject my family.

It took me about four months of being pregnant to finally break the news to her. She burst into tears. Later she called me and reminded me that, “To him he’s just a number, but this is your first child,” and to make sure that he (we didn’t know the gender at the time) didn’t get neglected. Side note: there are a lot of kids in our family, but also a lot of parents to love and adore them.

I started to believe that with this new development my mother would be forced to accept the father of my child as a permanent part of my life. Either she accept that I’ve made him my family, or reject her grandchild. A few days after Guinevere was born, my mother and sister asked to come by the house. I was unsure about how I felt about it, and reluctantly agreed to it. Alice, Bailey, and Edward each said they would draw a line if she got ‘out of hand’- I assured them that I would draw the line first if she became judgmental.

I didn’t want to feel judged, which often happens in her presence. One of the things she judges is how clean a house is. She cleans houses for a living, but even before she did she believed in cleaning the house before having guests come over, which I found out isn’t universally shared- Bailey was oblivious to such rule of thumb. I want the kids to maintain this tradition, so I emphasized how important it was to have the house clean before we were expecting her, fibbing a bit about the estimated time of arrival so we would have room for error. Somehow the time rolled around and the house was in worse shape! Blame it on the still stabilizing hormones, but I was embarrassed, disgusted, and felt disrespected. “If you don’t want her to come, call it off,” Ed suggested. I told him it’s not just that, but I would be humiliated with the way the house was. Thankfully he addressed the situation with the boys. It was also a relief that she couldn’t make it that day.

When another date was agreed upon, I kept my mouth shut about the state of the house (to prevent possibly jinxing it). My mother and sister came over with gifts, one for me, one for the baby. I had a gift for each of them as well, which was a huge accomplishment due to all the things I had going on the past few months and the challenge of finding something without too much sentiment. Guinevere received a bulk box of diapers, some velcro-swaddle-blanket-thingies, socks, and one of those fancy thermometers you swipe over their foreheads. I got a relaxation kit, a gift basket with loose leaf black tea, teacup, honey, biscuits, a cute spoon, and a Toblerone (the first thing gone). They huddled around me and the baby in a corner. I think I invited them three times to have a seat. Eventually they did, huddled together on the couch. The girls would each come over to get a little attention, be it to get noticed by the ‘new people’ or to make sure the ‘new people’ didn’t get all of my focus. I welcomed the interruptions, but my mother would attempt to ignore them, looking at them briefly with a sort of glazed look in her eyes. She reminded me of how the Nazis would dehumanize the Jews. I tried pausing the conversation to point out how smart and beautiful each of the kids are, and still I saw how my mother rejected their importance in my life. I raved over the wild-boar stew that Ed made and offered it to them, and they declined. Coffee? Declined. Not long after, they had ‘other things they needed to do’, and left.

I was rather put off by their behavior. Bailey was pretty ticked as well, and thought I hadn’t been assertive enough. I pointed out how quiet they are, and that you can’t really be confrontational with them, and the ways that I had been assertive with them. Bailey’s family is a bit louder, with their communication as well as with their actions. I spoke to my friend Steve about how I felt about the event, bitter towards my mother’s indifference. He pointed out that at least she came over, which was a step forward, and how that in itself was a big deal. Baby steps.

Parents need to take baby steps, too.

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