This was always the most stressful week of the entire year when I lived in Michigan. My youngest kid’s birthday is the 22nd and my oldest’s is the 27th. And Thanksgiving usually falls in between them, if not being on one of their actual birthdays.
While I’ve made a lot of peace with my parents and realized I can’t change them, I’m still resentful about how they handled the kids’ birthdays and Thanksgiving falling in there. My parents were the ones who made it the hardest week of the whole year for me.
My parents refused to come to any of the kids’ parties that were celebrated with their friends, claiming it would be “too loud” and we should have expected them to be unwilling. Example: one year, my youngest had his friend party at Chuck E Cheese and we invited extended family. My parents didn’t show up, again claiming the “too loud” excuse. Meanwhile, J’s grandma (then in her late 80s) and mom showed up.
Less than a month before I moved back down here, my sister had her kids’ birthday at Chuck E Cheese and my parents did show up. I told them I thought that sucked because they wouldn’t come to my kid’s party there. They said something about how they regretted the choice they made then (but of course never apologized for it.) My sister saw that we were having a heated conversation away from the kids and told me to get over it and to stop ruining her kid’s birthday.
So for years–more than a decade–I had to host three separate parties in the same week. One for each kid and their friends, and a separate family-only one for my snowflake parents and the rest of our extended families on both sides. My kids never enjoyed the family parties anyway because it was all the adults sitting around talking to each other and ignoring the kids, which they could have done at Chuck E Cheese anyway.
Meanwhile, I had to host three separate parties in the same week. Which means preparing for and cleaning up from three parties, making three separate cakes.
By now, this is more than five years in the past, but I’m still mad that they put that on me. I’m mad that they had a different standard for my sister’s kids. (And they wonder why I think they favor her over me?) I’m mad that I didn’t have a sense of boundaries then to tell them that no, I’m not doing three fucking parties in the same week just so you can ignore my kids at their own party anyway.
And then Thanksgiving! I always told my mom that I missed our Thanksgivings in Texas when it was just us. She thought that was selfish. But in the midst of the same week where I was running myself ragged with three birthday parties, I was also expected to go to my mother-in-law’s for a turkey dinner in the afternoon, leave there after too short of a time, then drive to my mom’s and eat the exact same meal (albeit prepared differently) a second time that day.
And my mom always complained about us being late, never thinking about how exhausting it was for us to go to two different places in the same day, eat the same meal twice, and have both moms feeling shortchanged. In all honesty, both moms were shortchanged because they both insisted on having dinner on the same day every year.
Meanwhile, something came up in my FB memories about my youngest’s first year after we had to switch him from the gifted school to the neighborhood school because no one (*cough, cough* my parents, whose schedules would’ve allowed it) could pick him up from school for me. My youngest’s teacher that year really had it out for him. Based on things like the fact that he wouldn’t stop chewing pencils, she constantly sent notes home complaining about his “distracting” behavior.
It’s obvious to me that he was chewing pencils because he was anxious. Of course he was: he just changed schools and had a teacher criticizing his every move. That teacher went so far as to get a psychologist to come into the classroom and observe him because she was so convinced he had a problem. (Of course, the psych declared him normal.)
All of this could’ve been avoided if my parents had been willing to pick up the kids from school on the four days a week I worked and he hadn’t had to change schools. But they wouldn’t. And even before that, I had to leave my 10-year-old at home watching his younger brothers while I worked at Starbucks. He was far too young for that and it did have repercussions for his anxiety that he’s still dealing with. But you know, it would have been too much of an inconvenience for my parents to watch the kids for a couple hours.
Even the way they treated my youngest in particular was really unfair. They always implied he was a bad kid. My mom said he tried to push her buttons on purpose to get her riled up. He was a boy under age five at the time–to ascribe manipulative intent to normal kid behavior is crazy. She also frequently compared him to another one of my cousins whom she openly disliked.
Not only is it bad enough when your kid’s teacher has it out for him and his grandma doesn’t seem to like him, but it felt like a slap in the face to me. I got pregnant with my youngest at a terrible time in my life, after a failed vasectomy. I made two appointments for abortions and couldn’t go through with them. I took a lot of shit from friends for not having an abortion because it was such a bad time to be pregnant and quite frankly irresponsible to have another given our circumstances.
But in addition to being unable to go through with an abortion, I also thought my parents would enjoy seeing one of my kids from birth. My first two kids were born in Texas. To find out that they didn’t seem to actually even like my third kid felt like a kick in the teeth. I didn’t have the baby for them, but it certainly made me regret moving back around them.
They’ve never apologized to me about any of this. The closest they came was telling me they regretted skipping out on my kid’s Chuck E Cheese party. Do they care about how petty they looked to my kids and in-laws? Do they care about how much it deeply hurt me–especially when they could show up for my sister’s kid?
It’s really no wonder why I left the state for good within a month of my nephew’s party. Once and for all, I finally got the message that they were never going to be involved grandparents and they were never going to try to make things easier for me.
I was so completely done with three parties in a week plus two Thanksgivings in one day. I’m glad that part of my life is over. I don’t care if that makes me look like a bitch. I can finally enjoy this week (even if it’s still a little hectic.) And you know what? My youngest has turned out to be a damn good kid and they really missed out.