Wedding Woes

"I'm not close with my family." (but seriously, no one will ask)

Dear Prudence,

During a recent visit, I noticed that my father was growing increasingly impatient with my 3-year-old. At one point, my son dumped some crumbs from his stroller tray onto the floor at the supermarket. My father grabbed the tray from him and pushed him hard against the side of the head. I immediately intervened and told my parents that “we do not hit in this family.” Growing up, my mother had been strict, but my father was controlling. He hit me until I went to college out of state. He used cruel and demeaning language. He often hit me in the head, sometimes knocking me into walls. I had compartmentalized different aspects of my parents in my mind in order to try and build a healthier relationship with them as adults.

Later that evening, they dismissed my concerns, minimized what my father did, talked over me, tried changing the subject, and then threatened to leave right then and cut ties. I told them to stay in hope that we could make some progress. But they just pretended like nothing had happened. I am reeling. I am prepared to cut them out of my life unless they can assure me that they will not physically harm my children. I am looking into therapy to work through this. But in the short term, I am not sure how to respond to people who ask about my parents. I don’t mind being purposefully vague with acquaintances or strangers. But I am unsure what to tell people to whom we are not close but we see on a regular basis—for instance, day care teachers and neighbors. What would be enough information to tell people so that they know not to talk to my children too much about my parents but also not to ask me too many follow-up questions? I feel the need to protect my children and to protect myself, but I also feel like I’m drowning.

—Stopping My Father

Re: "I'm not close with my family." (but seriously, no one will ask)

  • I know when you're really anxious about something, you'll kind of pull the oddest little things into the sphere of what you're really worried about.  LW is just borrowing trouble here, no one is going to ask something like that.

    To assuage LW though, a simple, "We're not close" should suffice.  Hell, I use mom and dad for my biological grandparents b/c that's who raised me and who my parents are and I don't explain to anyone ever 90% of the time.
    mrsconn23charlotte989875OliveOilsMomSTARMOON44
  • VarunaTT said:
    I know when you're really anxious about something, you'll kind of pull the oddest little things into the sphere of what you're really worried about.  LW is just borrowing trouble here, no one is going to ask something like that.

    To assuage LW though, a simple, "We're not close" should suffice.  Hell, I use mom and dad for my biological grandparents b/c that's who raised me and who my parents are and I don't explain to anyone ever 90% of the time.
    This is exactly it.  LW is thinking about what they can control here, which is information to outside parties that *might* ask, because the rest of it is too painful.  Which I totally get.  And I think it's a great therapy topic to talk about so that LW can feel like they have a plan for the thing they think the can control, but at the end of the day...it's going to be a vague answer to a rarely asked question. 
    VarunaTT
  • It seems unlikely to me that day care teachers and neighbors would randomly ask about your relationship with your parents. Should it come up, all you have to say is that your aren't close to them. Most reasonable people will know not to pry after hearing that.
    image
  • Unless your parents were picking your kids up from daycare, or they’re frequently at your house talking with the neighbors no one is going to ask. Even if they do a “we’re no longer close” is enough. No one is owed anymore information even if they ask. Which they won’t. 

    But yes to the therapy! Your parents may never acknowledge what they did, but you need to find a way to work past it. Trauma isn’t your fault but healing is your responsibility. 

    Also, you’re right not to allow your children to be alone with people who can’t commit not to use violence. 
    OliveOilsMomshort+sassy
  • This is not a situation that will come up if you don't bring it up.

    In the meantime yes, therapy! 

    And also, through that therapy work to confront your parents. "This is not how we handle things.   My child when under my supervision is not for you to discipline and your behavior was out of line and would not be OK if you were in charge." 

    They can disagree with you and that's when you can say, "I understand that you may disagree with this.   The result of not changing is that I will not expose my child to this.  I am sorry that this is the result of your failure to change." 

    End scene.   You may need to accept that they won't change and process in therapy the results of it. 
    short+sassy
  • I can assure you people will not ask. Until it was mentioned, my daycare did not know my dad had passed.

    LW is anxious about cutting ties but given the past and now the situation, they need to do it.
    LW's dad has done this before, and clearly not above doing it again. I'd be done.

    To be noted, I am glad to see LW is seeking therapy.
    short+sassy
  • The (grand)parents aren't going to see the wrong in their behavior and continue to do the same things to her kid and not GARA her way of doing things differently as a parent.  The important thing is for LW to recognize this and not put her child in harm's way by doing things like leaving her kid with that set of grandparents alone for any amount of time if she plans on allowing them to stay in her life.  That said, I can understand the not wanting to forever cut ties because of the obvious, but that doesn't mean unlimited contact.  It's a growing up phase that LW needs to go through.  

    YES to therapy or coaching because LW has some stuff to work through because it is going to go deeper than the hits she took, it's going to relate to other personality quirks that she may not even realize (people pleasing, anxiety, "reading", being on guard all the time, etc.).  
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