All We Can Do is Pray

My dad and I are having a little fight, though it occurs to me that he doesn’t actually know we’re fighting.  Maybe a more accurate way to describe it is that he thinks everything’s fine and my feelings are hurt.

I’ll just be honest with you.  My feelings are hurt on two levels, one is altruistic; the other is selfish.

My feelings are hurt in an altruistic sense because of the following: my sister-in-law has not enrolled my youngest nephew in pre-school as she had agreed to do when my brother agreed to give him back to her.

This pisses me off.

I said, “God, that pisses me off.” and my dad said, “Well, there’s no point in getting pissed off.  All you can do is smile and accept that that’s how life is.  God will take care of it.”

If I were God, which I am not, I would be pissed off that perfectly capable, able people with some big old brains in their heads were waiting around for Me to do something when maybe the Something I was going to do involved them being motivated to do it.

I am tired, tired, tired, weary in my bones of having to listen to every single person in my family talk about my sister-in-law like she is some all-powerful force of nature who could, at any minute, wreck all our lives if we don’t always make every effort to appease her and appear as if we are no threat to her.

She’s just a person.  A person I don’t like, but just a person.  To make her into some mythological beast none of us are cut out to fight is unfair to everyone, even her.

And I’m pissed and hurt because I’m going to be in Chicago next week and my dad’s going to be in Naperville and when I called him and suggested we meet for dinner, he said “no.”

Fucking Naperville.

Then he said he was going to spend the night on the night in question down at my mom’s.  Why don’t I drive clear down there and have dinner with them?

He can’t drive from Naperville downtown against rush hour traffic, but I can drive down to fucking Kankakee with rush hour traffic?  As a compromise after he’s already said “no”?

Oh, gee, I wonder why I’m not in any big hurry to make that drive?

I have eleventy billion theories I was going to bore you with, but even I’m tired of explaining to myself that this is just how it is and I have to learn to accept it.  It’s bullshit when others say it to me and it’s bullshit when I try to convince myself.

27 thoughts on “All We Can Do is Pray

  1. No. I refuse to accept that “all we can do is pray” when God has given us the resources we need to change the unacceptable things that we see. That means within our world, our country, our communities, and yes, dammit…within our families. This post pissed me off (not at you, B, but in defense of you) because I can totally relate to that whole mentality of “come see us, we won’t take the time or effort to come and see you.” My family never took the time to come and see me the entire time I was pregnant, and it wasn’t until a month later when I almost died from complications that finally they were stirred enough to come and see what the hell was going on. So, if you feel it within your spirit to take action on behalf of your nephew, go for it and don’t let anything (i.e., guilt from your family) stop you. If they can’t drive through rush hour to see you, then screw it, just stay where you are and take yourself to the most exquisite dinner you can treat yourself to. People do only what they really want to do. So you do the same. For you.

  2. Parents can be real pissers. My father DROVE all the way from Arizona to visit my sister in NY. He didn’t even tell me about his little trip until my sister mentioned that he was with her, err, at that very moment. When I got him on the phone I was really excited and asked if he would drop by on his way back home (I lived in NJ at the time). And he said no! No?! You can drive 7/8 of the COUNTRY to visit her, but you can’t drop down one very small state to see me?? So Ginger really has a point, people really only do what they want to.

    And if you feel like speaking out on behalf of your nephew is the right thing to do, the rock the boat sista!

  3. I’m afraid it would take up too much time and type to properly answer concerning “just taking it”. I’ll probably answer at my place when I have time, because these are extremely important matters, and I’m on your side in this one. It takes some stones for a Methodist layperson to take a Methodist minister to task, so I think I need time to gather my thoughts.

    As for the fact that YOU are expected to do the extra driving, boy, can I relate. I’m a 42 year old man. I have my own household that I’ve been a part of for almost 20 years, with two children of my own. I’m no Bob Krumm, but I have some prominence in the community.

    Yet, my parents treat me exactly the way yours do you. They live 500 miles away now, but even when they lived down the street from me, they would NEVER come to my house to visit. I always have to be the subservient one. This is highly symbolic, and I think it’s done on purpose.

    One of the most profound stories in the old testament is the story of Jacob wrestling with God. There’s not time to get into all the symbolism, but it boils down to how all of us wrestle with our fathers, not letting go until we are ‘blessed’. We desire formal recognition that we have come of age in our own right, that we are men (or women) – and that our father is well pleased. When that is withheld, whether we admit it to ouselves or not, we spend the rest of our lives “wrestling”; everything we do is conditioned to get affirmation from our fathers (especially men).

    Luckily, Christians get an ‘out’; we have another, better Father who will indeed ‘bless’ us. Because sometimes our earthly fathers go out of their way to prove just how fallen man really is.

    I’m sorry, I’m gone far afield. I’m afraid you struck a nerve with this one.

  4. I feel your pain. My dad is retired and does this to me. He isn’t a bad guy but he has the entitlement thing going on because people have rearranged their schedule for years for him.
    I love him. I do, but I don’t rearrange anymore. It was making me crazy. So I just love him for what he is, realize he isn’t going to change, compromise occasionally (but not every time like I used to) and try to stay afloat for the both of us.

  5. My in-laws are this way. They have lived only 20 minutes max from us for several years now and visit rarely. Not so bad before we had a baby, who needs in-laws dropping by right? But 19 months ago, the child who will probably be their last grandchild was born to us and their visits increased, but not by much. My husband has to take the baby to them if he wants his parents to see him. My mother on the other hand, we cannot seem to get her to stay away. She drives 40 minutes, each way, to see him every week and has done that since he was born.

  6. It just aggrivates the piss out of me that things are so difficult whenever my family is involved. On the one hand, I love them all very much, obviously. On the other hand, I just hate that they’re resigned to their lives always being difficult and beyond their control. I mean, even if that’s so, let’s not keep heaping trouble on. Let’s make some effort to make life a little better for us.

    Slarti, I think what you’ve said here is so wise and appropriate it’s probably going to haunt me all day. I was thinking about that a little bit last night, in terms of my own beliefs. Why do I venerate my ancestors when my family is so ridiculous? Who keeps asking generations of ridiculous people for help?

    But what you’ve said here is exactly right. I want so much to feel like I fit in my family and that they are proud of me and, yes, that they recognize me as an adult person and I think that I’m so certain that it’s not coming from them that I’ve turned to a wider group of family and hope to feel certain of my place within their ranks.

    I can’t see myself ever becoming a Christian again, but I am glad to feel like, if I ran into God on the street, we could have a few beers and at least be friendly. But a lot of that has come with realizing that things were fucked up in a lot of ways that anyone (even Him, but anyone) could have stepped in to fix and didn’t.

    Holding Him solely responsible is not fair.

    And, it reminded me of something that struck me recently watching a friend interact with his daughter. Some dads look at their daughters and say nothing about how she looks. I am embarrassed to say that I probably stood there like a giant dumbass the first time I realized that–that to look at your daughter does not necessarily mean you comment on how she looks. Damn.

    I wonder if I avoid being looked at for fear of inviting comment. I’ll have to think on that some.

  7. I mean, what I mean is that not every interaction for every father and daughter is fraught with such ridiculousness, where both parties feel like the other one wants something from them they can’t exactly discern.

  8. 1. Do you know why SIL hasn’t enrolled the kid in preschool? Beyond being a drug-addled mentally ill mess, I mean? Are there paperwork hurdles? Does she need help getting your nephew properly vaccinated? Does they lack a fixed residence to put down on the form? Does she need some assistance getting to the BoE? Does the kid have the clothes he needs? If she herself has a lot of problems, any of these issues could seem completely insurmountable.

    2. Tear your brother a new asshole. The child has two parents. Older Brother has found it “better” for some reason to let his kid be raised by an unreliable, mentally unstable woman rather than getting his own shit in gear. It’s convenient to blame her for this failure of care, but damn. The whole “useless man-child” thing…he’s got to grow the fuck on up.

    3. Dad, this is not how life “just is.” The Bible is full of active verbs for a reason; we’re commanded to love, seek, act, and do. Humans have to collaborate to do God’s work and place themselves where God’s people are. God is with the needy, the poor, the bereaved, the afflicted, the children….read your Beatitudes, Dad. You know that have to get yourself with them if you want to get with God. That includes your grandson.

    4. No excuses from you, Dad. You blew this one. Your daughter will have traveled several hundred miles and is now within 30 miles of you. Seize the opportunity while you can.

  9. A very good friend of mine is trying to grapple with the fact that her parents informed her that if she moved to France they would never come see her. They aren’t anti-France; in fact they go to Europe frequently and it isn’t some sort of hardship on them. That she loves France and would love to live there is apparently some sort of crime, an unacceptable desire.

    I think it is a control issue … and an abuse of power.

    This very accomplished woman (and terrific person) is criticized for cutting her hair too short of for wearing too high heels or for taking and teaching yoga classes, and myriad other things, and we cannot understand what her parents’ problem is. It is very easy for me to tell her that she needs to ignore them and do what she wants since it is her life, but I know all too well that this is truly easier said than done. Do they have any idea, I wonder, how much they hurt her feelings? Do they understand, in any way, the cumulative effect of all this criticism?

    Children are not extensions of their parents; they are brand new people.

  10. Bridgett, I think she just doesn’t have a car and she’s off her meds (though self-medicating with pot… Can I just say how much I wish pot were legal so that it would lose its allure for the idiots in my family?) and getting up at a regular time and arranging a ride for him is jus ttoo much.

    He was in pre-school in Georgia for the first half of the year, so everything is up to date. It’s not that.

  11. If it makes you feel any better, my parents haven’t come out to see my (first!) house yet, because they don’t want to leave the dogs alone for too long. I’m their only child. I’m the one who rescued those dogs and convinced them to take them.
    That “all you can do is smile” and wait for God thing makes me crazy. If you believe in God, surely you believe God gave you a voice and a brain to use.

  12. Where is she now? Some states have free pre-school bus service, while others allow you to buy in if you’re on the route. If the obstacle is transportation for half a year, even if it meant paying the BoE directly (no, not handing SIL the money, which would only wind up in smoke), it might get the kid back in school where he’d get some age-appropriate interaction.

  13. As long as we’re all pitching in with stories:

    My inlaws are retired from USAir, and can fly FOR FREE anywhere in the US.
    They visit my brother in law about once a month in Dallas, and fly to Vegas several times a year.
    They have visited us, I think, two or three times in the 15 years we’ve lived in GA.
    I think this would be great, except for the obvious hardship it causes Mrs Schwartz.

  14. Jagosaurus, this is no criticism of your friend who has all my sympathy (and easily aroused rage on her behalf), when you ask Do they have any idea how much they hurt her feelings? Do they understand, in any way, the cumulative effect of all this
    : Has your friend ever said to them, When you do X, you hurt my feelings. When you criticise me constantly, for everything I do, however trivial, it devastates me. ? And I mean in, if not exactly those words, words so close that the dictionary would give them the same definition; none of this, “Well, they should know,” or “I’ve said pretty much the same-,” no. No hinting, no expecting what people should know. I mean words in pretty close to one syllable, exactly the effect, exactly what she means. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’m saying it can be done, and I think it’s very necessary in keeping a relationship alive. In fact, Aunt B, if you are pissed and hurt at your father, since he’s still alive and you guys can have this conversation, I think it would be a good idea for you to let him know that he hurt you. Yes. A phone call with a conversation that says, “Dad, it really hurt my feelings when you said you wouldn’t drive 30 miles to see me. Why wouldn’t you?” And even if you don’t want to ask the second part … I think you need to say the first part. It gives other people a chance to fix the things going wrong in their lives.

    Boy, that’s good advice. Now that I read it, I suppose I should actually write to my best friend and let her know (since she asked) that the reason she hasn’t heard much from me since she moved to Arizona is cumulative, but simple. She kept talking about the new network of friends she was going to build (fine, and a sensible thing to do) … but she also had no time to spend on the phone with me once she’d moved; no comment whatsoever when I went in for surgery; no comfort to offer when it resulted in a painful and disfiguring scar; couldn’t be bothered to let me know that my Christmas present to her had arrived until after Christmas – all of which lead me to believe that she was more interested in the new network than the old one. Which was her right; it happens. I wasn’t going to beg. I don’t know if I’m ready yet, though, to bring up the fact that before she left, she kept talking about my coming across the country to visit her (on my dime), despite my phobia about traveling – and despite the fact that although she traveled frequently, both by herself and with other people, she never once found the time to make the 20-minute trip across town to spend a Saturday together, although I asked repeatedly.
    There didn’t seem to be much point to going over that, since she was moving, but if you plan to continue your relationship with your family, it’s easier if you give people a chance to fix things.

    I mean, this bothers you enough to put it up where countless people, including strangers, can read it; you should let your Dad know, too.

    A good rule of thumb: Give the people you care about the chance to fix things while they’re still alive.

  15. La BellaDonna, you last sentence touched me. I want to live by that rule. However, unfortunately, some people don’t want to be fixed or don’t think they need to be (i.e., my mother). That’s where boundaries come in, which to this day–at age 40, I still struggle with in a huge way. I’m trying to learn how to balance out boundaries with giving people the benefit of the doubt and being patient. It’s a difficult balance.

  16. “Has your friend ever said to them, When you do X, you hurt my feelings. When you criticise me constantly, for everything I do, however trivial, it devastates me.? And I mean in, if not exactly those words, words so close that the dictionary would give them the same definition; none of this, “Well, they should know,” or “I’ve said pretty much the same-,” no. No hinting, no expecting what people should know. I mean words in pretty close to one syllable, exactly the effect, exactly what she means. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’m saying it can be done, and I think it’s very necessary in keeping a relationship alive.”

    La BellaDonna: Yes. I should have said that she has done this. Unfortunately for her (and her parents who seem hell bent on throwing away a relationship with a perfectly lovely human being)) they don’t seem to hear her. And by she has done this I means has said it about as directly and cleanly as you stated it and in the least accusatory manner possible (because we all know that just defeats the purpose of trying to address the issue in the first place). No hinting and no expecting they should be able to read her mind either. It breaks my heart for her.

  17. B, would you say that this attitude/behavior of your father’s is typical of him? Because, if it is, then yeah to what everyone is suggesting.

    But if it’s not, it could be connected in some way with his aging, discomfort with driving, or other physical stuff he doesn’t want to talk to his daughter about. I’m saying this because of my own experience. When I got my Master’s, I invited my mother to come to the ceremony, but she said “no, we don’t care about degrees, we care about babies.” Now, I loved my mother and she loved me, but I also knew that she did, indeed, care more about babies than about degrees. So I took this as some kind of comment on my taking the wrong path or something; it was fairly shocking to me, and I was hurt and furious, but I dealt with it purely on an emotional level. Within a couple of years, though, it was clear that her saying things like that (and her reluctance to travel) were the first signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I’m not suggesting that that’s your father’s problem, but there may be some physical problem involved.

  18. I’m amazed to see how common parents totally being detached from their adult children is. Not something people go around advertising, I guess, but, there is such a comfort in seeing it’s not just me. I had to grieve the loss of my mother, even though she’s alive and well and smoking her Marlboros, she is not a big part of my life or my sister’s and it’s sad. I miss her.

  19. Jagosaurus, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for your friend, and I’m sorry for you as her friend, and I refuse to put into print what I think of her parents and how I hope karma rewards them. Have a safe flight, folks! There’s nothing that can repair that kind of treatment. No matter how much you love someone, it doesn’t make up for how their parents should have loved them; it just becomes a daily, persistent, grinding pain on their behalf, utterly futile and utterly frustrating. I have a very dear friend, who should have been the sun, the moon and the stars to the parents, but wasn’t – particularly the mother. Oh, especially the mother. I hate her every day of my life.

    Ginger, I’m so sorry. I suspect that … I don’t think I’d like your mother very much, either. I hope she has the opportunity to realize that she needs to mend her relationship with you, and I hope you protect yourself as well as you are able. It just sucks when the people you value don’t value you the same way. :( Bad enough when your friends see it on your behalf; mercilessly painful when you know it yourself.

    NM, I too wondered if B’s father maybe had some physical impairment that he “didn’t want to worry her with.” It’s one reason why I thought B might need to talk to him – he may not realize that he simply replaced one pain with a worse one. My condolences on your Mom.

    Rachel … boy, I hope the dogs come to visit them in the nursing home. Seriously. They can’t get a pet sitter? They can’t put the dogs in carriers and bring them on a visit? They can always rent a bigger car if theirs isn’t big enough for two crates, or seventeen crates, or however many it takes. Yeah. I always did wonder why my grandparents didn’t come to my wedding – first in the family married (the only one, in fact, while they were alive), oldest granddaughter, and all that. There’s nothing like having the family make you feel as if you’re too much trouble.

  20. What Sista said. It is comforting to know that it’s not just me. My parents live in Knoxville, I live in Brentwood with my husband and 6 year old son. My 22 year old brother (whom they still support fully — including new car – no job required — wish I had gotten such a sweet deal as not only did they not buy me a car, they didn’t pay one dime toward college, and yes, I’m bitter!) moved a few months back to Murfreesboro to go to MTSU. My parents have been to my house a total of two times in 2 1/2 years, and yet a few weeks back, on one of their many trips to Murfreesboro, they still did not have time to drop by. Guess it’s just too much to ask.

  21. In fairness to my mother, I should note that although she preferred babies to masters degrees, before her illness set in she would never have done anything but rejoice with me on getting the degree, because she knew that I didn’t share her preferences. She loved that I was doing something worthwhile that mattered to me, and I loved that my sister had given her grandkids (I guess at that point it was just one) to play with, because that mattered so much to her. Your parents don’t have to be just like you, any more than you have to be just like them. That’s why it was such a shock for her to say that she didn’t want to come to the ceremony.

  22. Wow, bridgett. You really hit the nail on the head with this:

    3. Dad, this is not how life “just is.” The Bible is full of active verbs for a reason; we’re commanded to love, seek, act, and do. Humans have to collaborate to do God’s work and place themselves where God’s people are. God is with the needy, the poor, the bereaved, the afflicted, the children….read your Beatitudes, Dad. You know that have to get yourself with them if you want to get with God. That includes your grandson.

    I am now going to use that whenever someone says “all we can do is pray.” Awesome.

    And Jag – when you said “Children are not extensions of their parents; they are brand new people,” I was totally reminded of The Prophet. It’s been on my parents’ and grandparents’ bookshelves for as long as I can remember, and these words have always been with me:

    On Children
    And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said:
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    All of that said… I’m glad I have the relationship I do with my parents. When I moved out, I moved around the corner. I see them at least once a week for Family Night, and often more than that. And they’ve always been very good about letting me be my own person and grow up at my own rate, even when that means doing things that go completely against their belief system (like moving out of the house improvidently early to live with a guy I met online in a house so small nobody could pretend we’re not sleeping together).

    Now I want to go hug my mother. I guess I’ll stop by there on the way home tonight.

    I wish there was some sort of rent-a-parent system. I could loan my mom out for hugs and reassurance and my dad out for impromptu movie viewings and random techie advice, and someone else could loan me theirs for learning how to socialize with people who aren’t related to me (I don’t really think either of my parents have friends the way I see other people have friends… we’re very insular).

    I do hope you work things out with your dad, B. And everyone else who’s having trouble in this thread.

  23. LBD – I think looking for logic in the dog situation would not be helpful at this point. I don’t know why. Heck, I have a fenced yard with a dog house and one of those dog line things left by the previous owner. I would *love* for those mutts to come visit me.

  24. Pingback: For Aunt B’s Dad « Shoot The Moose

  25. dear strangers who seem to share some of what I feel,
    It’s probably a little late to contribute to the post and these comments, but I just read them and am moved to respond. Most of what ya’ll have said resonates with me a lot right now. I’d like to encourage anyone whose parents don’t treat her as a whole person to realize that she (or he) can choose to end that relationship. Even considering the possibility can have startling effects. It can allow you to determine the limits of their power over you. My parents like to withdraw their affection in order to get me to do what they want. It has always been that way, but I’m choosing to end the power plays by not responding to them. It breaks my heart, but it’s a heartbreak that I choose, not one that they have designed for me.

    We don’t get to select our parents, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with them.

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