As I mentioned previously I’ve started trying to persuade my parents that they need to be my backup plan so that I can have a holiday this Summer with 3son and 4son even if 2son announces on the morning that he won’t go.
Well my father had a think about it and rang me yesterday to discuss it. He was querying me on what exactly I meant, what the plan was, what the details were and why couldn’t 1sis look after him for a fortnight. “Because she couldn’t manage a weekend” was my reply.
My parents are busy people, so he told me, they have plans and holidays and can’t really drop everything at a moment’s notice to come and help me. I pointed out that this is why I was discussing it now, so there was time to think about it.
If 2son wasn’t going to come on holiday, he might not leave the house and his grandparents might not be able to take him back to their home. When my father finally got the concept that my parents might have to look after 2son in our home, he went silent. “We’ll have to think about that”. He also went silent when he said I would be getting some money from my grandmother’s death (to spend on the holiday that I can’t have) and I said that I really didn’t give a stuff.
I sat down and cried. I knew what that meant. In the nineteen years since I first gave birth, I have had 6 nights away from my children. Most of my holidays have been with my parents, both to give me some support and them the chance to spend time with their grandchildren. Two Summers ago I had my first proper holiday alone with my children and there was a great deal of freedom in not having to consider any other adults, but a good deal of stress too, in trying to keep children happy in an unfamiliar environment on a budget.
Last Summer we didn’t go away. Whatever 2son said, I wouldn’t know whether he was going to come away with us until the morning and I can’t risk booking a holiday on him not coming. He said he was coming to his great-grandmother’s funeral, giving me cogent reasons why he should and then just curled up in bed and refused to move. I have been stuck with him at home for the last year other than a brief time in November when he started to go to school for a single lesson and the occasional evenings when he went round to his best friend. His brothers are becoming increasingly bad-tempered and less co-operative towards and tolerant of one another and stresses and strains are growing all round. I’m lucky that I’m able to work from home otherwise I really have no idea how I would cope.
We all need a holiday. 3son and 4son need a holiday (and shouldn’t be denied one because of their brother’s behaviour) and to get away from the house. 2son could do with a change of environment. I could do with a break from everything and a night or two isn’t enough to let me relax. So after six months of discussion my parents are taking away 3son and 4son for 2 nights in April. Operation Happy Child are taking them away for 2 nights in May, with considerably less planning.
Yesterday evening came the email from my father, telling me off for taking it for granted that they would help me have a decent holiday when of course they couldn’t. How could I possibly be so foolish to think it. Telling me they’re too old for babysitting when they’re about to go off on a two week cruise and regularly go away on quite demanding holidays leaves me unconvinced. If my children were a few years younger than the physical demands would be greater but seeing as 2son is happy to spend the day in bed, it needn’t be an issue.
What my father is really saying is that while he says he is willing to help, that help is only on offer if it’s his plan, his rules and I do it all his way so as to not inconvenience him. They have their own life to lead and they are not willing to sacrifice a week or two of it to look after their grandson directly and their daughter indirectly and certainly not if they can’t do it in their home.
I have to decide how to respond to this. One of the issues I’ve been discussing in counselling over the past few years is to what extent do I need to tell or explain to my parents how they make me feel, both from childhood but also now. Part of my frustration is that when I try I either get blanked or dismissed or asked so many stupid questions that I can’t cope and the emotional turmoil is too huge for the limited or non-existent return. Have I tried enough to communicate with them over the years or have I given up on them too early? Not getting any return means I don’t try and there’s your vicious feedback. On the other hand of course I need to move on with my life and accept my parents with their limitations and stop worrying about whether they understand me or not.
What I feel, and I’m not going to make any hasty decisions, is that they’ve cut me off emotionally and that by making it so clear cut, they’ve given me the permission to say I’m not going to try any more.
At the close of the day, and I have talked about all of it, I read this post and thought that maybe my day hadn’t been so bad after all.