Tomorrow night is the open house at my older son’s school. Family and friends are invited to attend. The children’s work will be on display to new/incoming/prospective families as well as to parents to see all they’ve accomplished. I cannot believe that in 3 weeks my son will have completed first grade. A second grader? Really? Get out!
I have accepted that the relationship I have with my parents is the relationship I will always have. It will never be any better than this and hopefully won’t be any worse. We’re in our 3rd year of estrangement. When I was in my angry phase, it was far easier for me to not allow them in at all. But as the months have gone on and I see them as the broken, limited, unattuned people that they are, my hard stance has soften. A bit. While I have no desire for a relationship and even though they make no effort to see my kids, I am, wired at the most primal level, to try to do the “right” thing (and, right by whom, I am not at all sure) when a benign situation occurs to invite them to an event.
I did that when the school hosted their version of grandparents day and I did it again with this open house. I sent an email to my parents, uncle, and aunt, inviting them to come to his open house if they’d like. I know how proud my son is to show off his work, his school, his teacher, and his friends and, while he might not have outright asked me to ask them, when I asked him if he wanted me to invite anyone (and, yes, I could have just as easily not asked at all), he said, “Grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt”.
My uncle and aunt are going to attend and they are going to offer to pick up my mom and take her. Evidently my dad goes to bed very early these days and they figure he won’t be up to coming, but I suspect if he knows they are going, he will make the effort to go. All I can think of is why? Why do I bother? Why do I try, at all, in any way?
I am clear, clear, clear on why and how things are as they are. There will be no meeting of the minds, no apologies, no clearing of the air. Ever. My parents are not evolved or introspective or present enough for it to ever happen. And, in the absence of that happening, I am completely at ease with things being as they are, which is to say, estranged, with only the most tangential and peripheral relationship with them.
For some reason, and maybe it is an effort to assuage some future guilt, I carefully pick and choose when to extend the smallest of olive branches. And, it’s not really even an olive branch, it’s the vaguest of opportunities for them to see us. And, it’s really more about extending the invitation than them actually showing up.
For big family events, where there is the opportunity for high drama or confrontation or too much interaction, I avoid them. We no longer celebrate birthdays or the holidays (Mother’s Day, ugh). But when a specific kind of benign event presents itself, I feel compelled to throw them a bone as awful as that sounds and makes me sound.
My son will be so glad to see them even if he never asks about them in betwixt. For my part, I will avoid all contact if possible or maintain only the meagerest of pleasantries. I have no illusion that any interaction they have with my son(s) in such a setting will be meaningful or lasting.
This must be some kind of good daughter syndrome. That even though they have been horrible to me and even though they see this estrangement as my fault and even though I have no desire to interact with them directly and know that the circumstance will mitigate any real interactions with my sons, I am still trying to do the right thing. In whose eyes? I don’t know.