November 2nd, 2004


I have been feeling a need to write some, but having trouble putting together _what_ I want to write. In lieu of such useful and productive behavior, instead I want to bitch for a moment about family.

See, all of us have been diagnosed with ADD at this point. All of us are on meds for that ADD at this point, which helps, but does not fundamentally make us people we are not. I have noticed a pattern, however, in the people who make up all of our families, that irritates me a fair bit.

Every single one of us have parents who prefer to refuse to believe that we have ADD and instead blame the treatment on the bizarre zealotry of one of us, usually not the one of us who is related to them in any way, except possibly in the case of Deb’s mother who is at least doing a passable job at thinking her own child is bananas instead of completely passing the buck.

See, to admit that someone with a doctorate in psychology or psychiatry were correct in their much less biased evaluation of us, they would have to let go of their absurd notions of who each of us were supposed to be. Acknowledging that we each have ADD would mean that, for example, Lynn would have to let go of her notion that she will one day have a doting son who lives to call her and chat with her and make her feel important to his life and his choices. This is just one example, though there are many with all of us.

ADD isn’t the only thing their in denial about, certainly, but it is one among the many. They have these conceptions of each of us that they are so emotionally attached to that they would generally rather not have their children in their lives than face that we aren’t who they wanted us to be and believed us to be. Beth is perhaps the best about this as she does generally take a deep breath, eventually, and face up to reality. Then again, Deb has thrown more of those harsh “it isn’t like you imagined” realities at her than most people even possess. I am not so sure it is a general ability to cope so much as something she eventually had to do to live up to her standards of being better about such things than Deb’s father.

There are many things that fall into these categories from spouse choices, to treatment for ADD, to financial matters, to “little” things like communication patterns and such. Not one of us really has parents who really fundamentally understand that our choices are ours and not really even theirs to pass judgment on since they do not live in our lives, our heads and our hearts.

I have seen this manifest in parents who arrange to separate their children from their spouses when attempting to cajole them to come home for Christmas and staying at their house. I have seen this manifest as making literally thousands of cookies to arrange on every surface of the house and then getting pissed off when the kid and their spouses leave to find something meat to eat instead of thousands of carbs and sugar to crash from. I have seen this manifest in years of disapproval of car purchases and the willful belief that they were rash immature decisions even when faced with the logical reasons that it really was the best choices. I have seen this manifest as deciding eternally that one person is financially irresponsible for making different value judgments about the worth of optional items, even though all of us are doing vastly better than our generation, and better than any of our siblings have at our ages. I have seen this manifest as attempts to manipulate us out of our choices by flat out lying about the legality issues related to our personal lives. I have seen this manifest as selfish and insanely persistent nagging despite several explanations of impossibility for seeing them for the holidays at their house, when they were retired and could go anywhere, and we had absolutely no vacation time available and a spouse who couldn’t travel. I have seen this manifest as nagging, condescension and a million other ugly ways.

Fundamentally, only Beth seems to generally ever manage to respect our autonomy, and even then, it is patchy at best. Jim is a complete failure on the subject. My mother is a complete failure. Tina doesn’t even assert her own autonomy most of the time, and so I don’t even consider her in the question of who should respect it, usually. Dennis, does a good job of coming around quickly, once he’s heard the whole story, which is perhaps the most productive of the alternatives, but I sometimes think that is partially because he is Deb’s step father and missed some of the early states of idealism with Deb and Cade that most parents have. My dad and Joel’s dad are both too quiet to really know where they stand most of the time, and neither of us have much of a relationship with our fathers. Joel’s mom is at least not as coo-coo for cocoa puffs as my mother, but she’s also terrible at even vaguely accepting or respecting her son most of the time.

The thing that is most recently bringing this pattern to mind is the upcoming holidays. See, Deb and Joel hate gifts. They hate feeling like they don’t know what to give someone. They hate having to remember to attend to all of it, get them sent, etc. They don’t remember dates and do not have the ability to maintain “think of person x” while doing all shopping for a year to give them the chance to find meaningful gifts. They don’t like feeling inadequate and clueless. They don’t like it when it is someone they live with every day and know exceptionally well, let alone for extended family they see maybe a couple times a year at the very most.

With our siblings, for the most part, that’s not a really big deal. We all sort of assume that it’s a lot of minutia. We tend to assume gifts are optional between us for the most part, and that it’s fine to just ask and often to just send money if that’s really the most helpful thing. There is no drama and denial there.

But with our parents, every year there is the game. See, I am the only one in our house who ever buys or makes anyone gifts. The instant that the two of them had me in their lives, their feelings of relief at having someone who is capable of shopping for people and even finding it sort of fun sometimes was overwhelming. Once in a while they really do stumble on something perfect or see something themselves and suggest it to me, but the instant that they could, the abdicated all gift responsibility to me because I didn’t mind, it made them feel taken care of, and it solved a constant frustration in which they never felt like they could live up to the expectations placed on them. And God knows we all had enough of those things in our lives without gifts as extra baggage.

So every year it is my job to come up with gifts. I generally do so willingly, but I am much better at it the better I know the person involved. At this point I usually manage to do pretty well with Beth and Dennis. Sometimes I am annoyed at feeling ignored on the subject when she has been busy doting on Cade’s ex-wife’s efforts, but for the most part they do seem like they are genuinely happy with thoughtful gifts most of the time. I don’t know Joel’s family as well, in large part because Joel wants so little to do with his parents most of the time. I would like to know more about his sister’s real tastes in things, but some of that will come with time, and I don’t have a problem asking her what would work for her. His parents, even though I barely know them at all, seem to be easier for me than they are for Joel to buy for. I don’t feel like I really have a good grasp of them, though, and what would really appeal. Jim and Tina I have stopped being willing to buy for because I think Jim is fucking ass hole about his daughter and has done nothing to earn the effort. I am just completely done with those two. My parents, I know well enough to make do, no real problem. Cade and my sisters are all pretty easy to buy for and low pressure generally, anyway.

So that leaves Joel’s parents as the ones I have the least clue about and little way to find out. See, Lyn is so hung up on the idea that her son should want her in his life, that she seems to pout that I communicate with her instead of her son. What she is failing to get is that her choices are not A) your son could call you, or B) your daughter in law can call or email you. They are in fact A) you can cope with no communication with your son’s family because he couldn’t care less most of the time and you give her the cold shoulder for not being her son trying to talk to you, or B) hear about our lives at least a little through someone who doesn’t have years of baggage and a complete unwillingness to stay in touch.

So what happens is that I attempt to get useful information out of Lyn. Lyn avoids me, doesn’t respond or whines that Joel should talk to her. Joel couldn’t care less that she wants him to call, really, and isn’t good at remembering to do so, even if he did ever want to. I get little information that is at all useful about what they could use or would like. Joel still has no idea what to buy and would just not buy anything if it were left to him, and thus dumping it back in his lap doesn’t do anyone any good, either.

The most ironic part of the whole thing is that the independence that all of our parents can’t handle, is independence they created in us. Only in Beth was it sort of conscious choice. Deb at least got asked if she could be a parent for her brother while Beth tried to start an art business after Deb’s dad left. Joel and I got mostly left to the wolves by our families. They always meant well, but in the end, neither of us had parents until it was too late for us to need or want them, and it was only after the opportunity passed that those parents decided they desperately cared to have those sorts of relationships with us. So in many ways, the problem is one they created when they let us raise ourselves at 10 years old, or whenever it happened.

I keep wondering why I bother, since Lyn really don’t seem to like me all that much. She certainly doesn’t really understand me at all. She appears to be busy in her own life in desperately wanting a daughter to be close to and femme with and her own daughter doesn’t even remotely qualify, and so she’s just living out those roles anywhere she can place them. The regularly send me gifts that reflect wanting someone girly to interact with. At least Deb is pretty femme and 70% of the time, the things they pick out for me are something Deb would like, so usually she gets the gifts once I’ve opened them.

So, while I am willing to be gift girl for Joel, this requires some audience participation on Lyn’s part and she is instead holding out for her son to somehow morph into a creature he is not and could not even be if he wanted to be. And meanwhile, for my efforts at making them feel at least a little attended to, I get dodged and sent gifts that reflect how much I personally really matter to them in the form of shit I would never in a million years have a use for because it is so girly, or in the form of donations to causes that I actively do not support because, for example, they support more human and cattle based destruction of the planet in the form of buying a sheep for some village somewhere so they can support more people. More people is the last thing this planet needs. We are already a cancer on this watery globe without my additional grazing animal support of such destruction.

So what I really want to do is write to Lyn and say “You know what, it is clear to me that you intend to hold out for your son to suddenly grow a third head, in the form of being attentive and thoughtful of you. I know you don’t like me much and couldn’t care less what any of us really want. This is evidenced by the fact that year after year you send your own son, who has been perhaps the most finicky eater on the planet all his life, food stuff that he won’t ever eat 99% of. How about we return to our regularly scheduled program of me not trying to be nice to you and getting no real return on that investment, you can keep hoping your son will suddenly be switched with foldger’s crystals, and he will keep ignoring you completely and failing to attend to gifts or phone calls of any kind. That way, I will not be the only one working to not simply repeat a broken pattern into eternity, as I will have stopped trying, too.”

But see, then I am just as childish and retarded as she is on the subject of her son. And so once again I have the question “what the hell do we buy Joel’s parents” and in at least a month she hasn’t even replied to my question on the subject of what they might would like or could use. I am sure I am breaking some bizarre New England law of genteel gift giving by even asking her that as we all know that psychic powers are a requirement for the task at hand and it is gauche to simply out and ask questions. I am thinking that if I haven’t head from her by the middle of the month with something useful, I am going to follow her lead about donations to causes the gift giver believes in, and buy some care for some predators that humans keep fucking up as a donation in her name and just call it done since I cannot even begin to guess what they might want in their new role as innkeepers in New Hampshire.

Why must parents be so idiotically attached to their conceptions of their children instead of accepting the actual children then have with all their limitations and foibles that the same parents helped to create? I know, I know. Because people are stupid. That’s what I get for forgetting the mantra. Anyway.