My family has seen its fair share of drama. My parents divorced when I was four years old and both of them spent the remainder of my childhood trying to find themselves through other relationships, work, friends, and basically anything that kept us from being a family unit. Our first family meal together was when my entire family helped me move into my college dorm; I was eighteen years old.
Co-parenting wasn’t a term in the ’90s. Nobody was encouraging them to get along for anyone’s sake, let alone me and my siblings. We made the best of it and have loads of good family memories that bring smiles to our faces and fill our hearts with warm and fuzzies.
On the whole, though, my childhood was mainly about survival (mentally, emotionally, and financially). We grew up with my parents. For full disclosure, they did the very best they could with what they had and I try to recognize and be grateful for their efforts. I do love them dearly for then and now. My grandparents, on both sides, were in need of much therapy themselves for a whole host of issues unrelated to parenting. I don’t blame my parents for anything, like I said, they did the best they could with the tools they had at the time (and in the culture of the time, before counseling was ever encouraged let alone normalized). However, I do get disappointed in the backlash I get from family for trying to do better now.
The snide comments about my kid’s routine, boundaries, and my priority to protect my marriage don’t go unnoticed by me. Mostly I try to just brush them under the rug and then bring it up in depth with my therapist; continually repeating “hurt people, hurt people” and remembering I am only responsible for my own healing and can encourage another’s personal growth as much as they will allow me to. I’ve learned so many strategies to help me keep my own peace, which usually means sticking to my boundaries and moving on from any kind of statement that might entice me into an argument.
Physical and geographical boundaries have done wonders to help me distance myself from the day-to-day drama. State lines and a day’s drive really help keep me out of the thick of it, but it’s a double-edged sword I’ve battled for years. In my perfect world, having family closer would be wonderful for my kids and our lives, but perfection isn’t real, and making the most of what I do have is what I always come back to.
Family trauma regarding death + loss has left me feeling obligated to take phone calls, FaceTimes, and accept out-of-town visitors at any and all times. My reason is that since I don’t live close to my family and can’t easily see them, technology has been our main way of bonding.
I’ve had many years of therapy to understand that all boundaries matter and I don’t have to answer, reply to a text, or accept out-of-town visitors at any and all times. Boundaries in the virtual space are just as important in the physical space.
The holidays bring another level of expectation, sometimes guilt, and loads of pressure to “be together.” Just a reminder that I’m unsubscribing from the family drama in any season in which it becomes overwhelming; spring, summer, fall, or winter my boundaries still apply for the mental health and stability of myself, my marriage, and my kids.