Monday, October 28, 2013

Adult Child of...

...a Narcissist? Alcoholic? Divorced Parents?  These are 'things' now??

I suppose if I check, I could probably add Philanderer/Philander-ee and Nowork-aholic to the list, too.

(A brief history...and why these labels don't define me.)

Me...trying to escape? 

So, if we're counting, I guess I'm still adding stuff to the list of reasons I should be totally screwed up and in therapy for as a grown-up, but so far I'm doing great at either being a modern psychological miracle of achieving adulthood without packing around a bunch of baggage from my childhood to screw with my everyday life and my marriage.  Or I'm in complete denial and waiting to go completely off my rocker any day now. 

Or how about this?  I'm more of a "If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" kind of person.  And faith.  Lots of faith.

No one in my family (including the narcissistic, alcoholic, philandering, divorced parent who is my dad but I won't name, even though the chance of him reading this is ZERO), can believe that Shane and I have such a normal, happy life together.  We don't fight.  We don't have any weird issues with self-esteem or trust or abandonment.  Neither of us is demanding or passive-aggressive or thoughtless of each other.  We are each other's best friend and biggest support system.  We talk about everything, all the time.  We go on dates and hold hands and kiss and embarrass our kids sometimes.  We are still crazy attracted to each other (I'll spare you the details), yes, after 26 years.  We make each other laugh.  We were each other's first and only loves, and truly, it only gets better if you stay friends and never take each for grantedWe have wonderful children who are not *difficult*, whose company we enjoy, and who (we hope) enjoy our company, and who are growing up into beautiful, well-adjusted people who we are proud of and amazed by, all the time.

Every day that goes by, we know our marriage and our little family makes up a statistic that is growing smaller, and smaller and smaller and smaller.  Which is sad.  Or maybe it's just true what they say...that what God allows you to go through in your life, He also gives you the strength to get through.  If that's true, I'm the biggest wuss that ever lived, because so far I haven't had to "go through" much. 


Except being a poor hippie kid with a usually-hung-over dad who was always kicking and breaking things and throwing things and cursing (though he never physically harmed any of us--yay, score).  Also having him turn out to be a total philandering, unemployed, emotionally (and physically) unavailable parent and husband was an interesting revelation.  But I didn't realize it until I was older--As a kid, he was totally a superhero to me (when he wasn't throwing stuff and cursing).  So I can say that I basically had a happy childhood, which I just didn't know was screwed up, at the time.  Good job shielding us from all the crap, Mom...

(Does it *not* count, if you don't know your childhood sucked until after the fact?  Maybe.  At the time, I thought it was great.)

I always think she should have bailed WAY sooner with me and my brother.  But then I wouldn't have met Shane.  Which is like saying "Sorry you went through all that and it sucked, but it turned out great for ME...If that makes it any better." (Selfish? Probably...Sorry).

Other than that, I guess I had the same issues growing up as many kids in the 70s, except we also had basically no family income that I can recall.  Or maybe most of us hippie-types had no income.  Like, ever.  ("too...'Establishment', man.  We just gotta, y'know, live..."). Except for that time Mom worked as a waitress for a season. Oh, and I think my dad worked in a pawn shop for 6 months, but that still leaves kind of a lot of whole years of no work.  Did we actually live on Love? I doubt it.  We did a lot of gardening, out of necessity, and venison was our main source of meat (not a delicacy and certainly not an 'in season only' kind of thing), and we bartered for a lot of other stuff, so I guess it worked out.

I was always aware of being that dorky hippie kid with hand-me-down clothes and bony elbows and stringy hair, whole-wheat bread sandwiches in my sack lunch (ew), and no Kool-Aid. Ever.  Who knows? I was probably also that kid who everyone thought caused the lice outbreak at school in 2nd grade. (sorry, Mrs. Koble!) She made up for it by whacking me on the back of the calves with her stupid folding yardstick whenever she felt like it, though, so we're even.
On the list of my other not-the-usual-childhood-things, our house, which we built from scratch in the middle of nowhere (with no power, running water, or phone at various times spanning 1977-1986), burned down when I was 16.  I met Shane the next summer at 17,  and my parents separated the following spring just before my 18th birthday, leaving me (thankfully) to depend on his parents for support and advice, as mine literally split up and went their separate ways (and both moved out of town).  They both made it back for my graduation, and divorced shortly afterwards. 

I went into what I suppose was a rough patch after that.  At the time my mom helpfully suggested that I get counselling (I was like yeah, that is SO NOT HAPPENING. I'M FINE!).  I refused on principle--because 18-year-olds know everything, and also because I couldn't afford a phone line, let alone a therapist.  So-- I was miserable and sad and angry all.the.time.  Shane and I fought a lot over stupid stuff, which mostly revolved around me just being a total hag.  We would have conversations like this:

Him:  Hey, let's go hang out at my parents house and have a big home-cooked dinner with all my brothers this Sunday, and then we can watch football and nap on Mom's big comfy couch by the fire.

Me:  I don't WANT to go there.  I HATE going there.  I don't want to go ANYwhere.  I'd rather sit here on this beanbag chair and eat Top Ramen.  No, wait.  YOU can't go either, because I don't want to spend Sunday by MYSELF either.  I hate everything.

We had a lot of those conversations.

I guess my low point was a night when I was getting ready to drive home from his house, and I found myself wondering, what if I just...drove my car off a steep part of the road where there was no guard-rail?  Looking back, I can say that was a TOTALLY stupid idea.  With my luck, I would probably have just driven down the bank and been maimed enough to be miserable for the rest of my life, but not enough to need an actual funeral, with people standing around being sad and everything.  (Ok, I know that's not funny, but my point is, it was a really dumb idea, and I knew it was, even as I thought it.  But I did think it.)

We broke up for a couple of months when I was 20, when Shane realized he couldn't be a parent figure to me while I sorted out my problems (which I didn't admit existed), AND try to be my boyfriend, though we stayed friends and talked a lot.  And fought.  And talked some more.  And got through everything somehow and back to being great friends, then got engaged.  We grew up, through it and past it.  

My mom spent about the next 10 years after the divorce in one kind of therapy or another, sometimes with an actual therapist, sometimes working with other women going through the same crap, and sometimes just by talking nonstop about the events of the past 21 years to everyone who would listen, including her kids, so,, whatever works. 

Shane and I got married just before I turned 21.  My parents had been separated for about three years by then, and my dad had moved on and moved in with his then-current girlfriend.  (Actually, he had overlapped them a bit...which did NOT endear her to our family, but I ended up realizing that she was really a sweet lady, albeit unwise with men, who I came to like immensely, and kept in touch with her for awhile after they broke up.) By the time of our wedding, my mom had gotten past the part where she considered buying a gun and just shooting him to put him out of her misery, but not to the point where she was happy that he was still using up good oxygen.  The wedding rehearsal dinner was an epic attempt to keep everyone smiling and keep my mom from not lunging across the table with a butter knife. We solved that by putting them on the same side of the table (like maybe she'll forget that he's down there), with us and some bridal party members between them, but still, the wedding photos are a bit...tense.

I don't look back on my life and blame anyone for anything.  I don't feel like I'm packing around a bunch of repressed weirdness.  I don't hate my dad, though I suppose I could, or I should.  He's been enough of a lackluster parent to deserve it, but it seems like a waste of my time.  (Writing THIS much about him seems like a waste of my time, actually...I have a wheelbarrow-full of tomatoes to can today, and yet, here I sit).  I've given up on keeping in touch with him, and it seems like a waste of time to bother being annoyed any more, that he forgot my birthday, my kids' names, or a Christmas card (again. WhatEVER).  It's just who he is...Just some really intelligent, oddly self-centered guy who I happen to be related to, who has missed out on some of the FREAKING COOLEST KIDS EVER.   

(ok, deep, cleansing breath...)

Well, on a positive note--I think, if every single thing that happened to me along the way, made me who I am, then I guess I needed all that crap to happen, in exactly the order that it happened, for everything to turn out the way it did.

I also always think, today, I will write something just light-hearted and funny.  And SHORT.  But then--No. 

Maybe next time, though...


  1. Hi Stef...

    Soooo......I can still read your blog, right?


    1. Hi Michelle...dear lady. Of course you can! Just, no throwing tomatoes, though, OK?