This blog is not FDA approved
I don’t have a story about drug abuse, sexual or physical abuse, depression, bi-polar or other diagnosed disorders so when Eric asked if I would write something for BBW I was a bit confused. I don’t have an inspiring story of triumph, beating an addiction, surviving abuse or other such stories as I’ve read here. In fact, my first response to him was I’m honored you asked, but I have to turn it down. He then jumped down my throat, threw a few f-bombs at me and forced me with the glaring of his beady little clown eyes to think about it.
So, I offer you what sits as a weight on my heart, family dysfunction 101:
There were usually anywhere from four to 15 children running around my house after school and during the summer days of my youth. You see, my Mother babysat for the neighborhood families for many years and with three brothers of my own and our friends over to play it was usually a full house.
With so many children around, seeing them interact with their parents picking them up and visiting my friend’s homes I began to notice something was different. Other parents were so much different than mine in one glaringly obvious way. Their Mothers were very, what’s the word I’m looking for, affectionate, loving, attentive – any of those will work. They would hug and kiss their children right in front of people and hold their hands when going out. This was foreign to me, completely. In fact, there is a story my parents love to tell about a day we went camping with a group of families and my parents managed to leave me at the lake and drive away. They got back to the campground and realized I wasn’t there. It was big news in that small camping community even made the little newspaper there as the search party went out to find me playing in a field of flowers. They laugh about it; I cringe every time it’s told. Really? You didn’t notice I wasn’t in the car? I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when they laughed and told him the story. It was a look of pity and sorrow for that little girl.
Then as a teenager, hanging out with friends and hearing them say “I love you too” on the phone. I was dumbfounded when they said it was their Mother they were speaking to.
Is this normal? Am I the only one not growing up with this kind of connection with their Mother? I kept noticing a reoccurring theme throughout my childhood and adolescence. My peers were getting a lot more attention and affection from their parents then I had ever seen in my house and I don’t mean just me, I didn’t see it towards my brothers or between my parents either.
To my recollection, I had never heard the word “love” uttered from my Mother’s lips. Not an “I love you” given to each other, to any of my brothers, to me, to their extended family on the phone. Nothing…ever. Come to think of it, there was no hugging or kissing really either. Did I miss it? Not until I saw what was happening in other homes and realized I was not seeing it in mine.
Now please know there was nothing horrible happening in our house. No physical abuse, no alcohol or drug abuse, nothing really. It was a very “normal” middle -American family. My Mother was a master party planner and there was often a Christmas party or some such happening not to mention this woman could cook! We never went without food on our table, many presents under our beautiful tree or a comfortable place to sleep. The only thing lacking was affection, oh and photos. Our home did not have family photos on the walls or on tables, dressers, or even in an album on the bookshelf. Not a single photo of us, them, Grandparents…nobody. Oh there were photos, school pictures, etc. but they were piled in a hall closet in shoe boxes and such.
Some would say, well she had a rough childhood and a Stepfather who was very strict and distant (suffering from ptsd from the war-he was at Pearl Harbor), a failed marriage and loss of her first child prior to starting my family. She is almost 80 years old and grew up in the depression. She has a right to be closed off. I disagree, to me these are all reasons that she should be overly affectionate and holding tight to the family she has. Instead, she keeps us at a distance.
I did have a very sober conversation with my Father a few years ago about it (just after my brother died) and he confirmed that “love” was just not outwardly shown or said in our house and that it was my Mother’s doing and his for allowing her to dictate the family structure. Since our talk, Dad has made a point to say it often to me, he felt horrible that I missed it growing up. I also found out that he had never heard it from her either. How do you marry someone who never said they love you? This was not an arranged marriage or a shot gun either.
I see how it has affected my life as an adult, the need to be accepted, to hear positive reinforcement and affection from the people in my life. I can’t get enough of it and in fact if I feel or hear that someone doesn’t like me or has an issue with me, it drives me nuts. I must find out why and what I can do to fix it. I must be liked by everyone. (It is this dysfunction that drove me to beg Le Clown to allow me to post anonymously but changed my mind, I don’t like allowing fear to dictate my life.) It has formed our family structure. We are not close – none of us, we do not phone each other daily, weekly or even once a month. My brothers and I live in different areas and are very tied up with our own families and lives. My parents feel somewhat neglected since we all grew up and went our separate ways and don’t contact them often enough for their liking. They do not see that their lack of emotional bond with us created the lack of family unity we are today…or perhaps they see it but are in denial because that they had done nothing of real consequence (that I had seen) to change that other than to complain that they wish we were closer as a family.
Earlier this year I got married and we started planning our move overseas, I called my parents (both were on the line) one last time before the flight out and at the end of the conversation and for the first time in my 40 years I said “I love you” within earshot of my mother and to my shock and awe I heard it back and it was not my Father’s voice, but my Mother’s. I hung up the phone and looked at my husband… she said it back.
~What I hope you take from my family dysfunction story: Tell your children you love them, don’t assume that you providing for them is showing your love and is enough. Hug them tightly, smile and play with them and create the family you wish to have. ~