Be careful whose advice you buy

by statia on August 31, 2006

I read some interesting entries and comments over at Donna’s regarding family. Her grandmother, in a nutshell, is just not nice. I totally understand where she is coming from in both of these entries, because my own grandmother is just a bitch. It’s horrible to say, but even the friends that have met her will tell you, she’s just an awful woman. She didn’t have a particularly easy life growing up, so she feels as if the world owes her and that she shouldn’t have to justify her actions because she’s the elder. I am a stubborn bitch, I know, but I’m sorry, I have a problem with that and one of the comments in somewhat defense of Donna’s grandmother, really struck a nerve. The basic premise being that Donna shouldn’t shut the door entirely because some of us have never had grandparents and she should cherish what she has and try to make it work, else she’ll regret it.

You know, I get where this person is coming from. I can’t tell you how often I wish I had met my paternal grandparents. Especially my grandmother, because I was named after her. My maternal grandfather wasn’t a big figure in my life, so I can’t say that I missed him when he died. I met the man maybe three times and the last time I saw him, he had alzheimers and barely knew my own mother. But I can’t change the way things happened, therefore I live my life the way I always have.

What really gets me is that people feel that family is the end all be all. That because they’re family, you should suck it up because you share the same genes. And I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t work for me. Why do people feel the need to be overly pushy to others regarding family? It’s always “you need to work it out because they’re family” or “you need to just ignore it because they’re family and family is the most important thing.” Just because you’re related by blood does not mean you need to be close. It doesn’t mean that you have to take shit from a family member and it certainly doesn’t give that shitty family member a free pass to be a complete asshole to people and not have to face consequences for that. Yet, people repeatedly keep toxic family members in their lives hoping that maybe someday something will change or because they feel they have to put up with it.

I don’t talk to my own family really. I only just recently started talking to my mother, and already my relatives are all over my shit because “you’re really going to need her in a time like this.” Last I checked, I got through fertility treatments and other hardships without my mother. I’ve proved that I can survive without her. I can’t say that opening this door again is easy. I’m terribly guarded, and even more so now. I refuse to let my kid get in the middle of this. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to handle things. I know they’re going to want to see fetus when she’s born (like how I’m alternating the he/she? get used to it) and I’m not really sure how I feel about that yet. I’m not going at this balls to the wall, and my mother knows that. I will just never be close with her. There’s too much history there, and I don’t think I should be forced to just change that because people think I should.

I have my family to think about now. That’s my main focus, but you know what? A lot of my close friends are what I consider my real family anyway.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.


M@ August 31, 2006 at 8:48 pm

I had a step aunt and uncle that I had to put up with “because they were family”, and it was total b.s. They were mean and obnoxious and down right insulting.

You do what you need to do to keep you sane and happy.

M@ August 31, 2006 at 8:49 pm

Oh and trust me about the sunscreen. :)

Amy August 31, 2006 at 9:16 pm

Great post, Statia.

Rob’s family is so extremely toxic and sick and it is killing him to realize that just because they’re family doesn’t mean we have to continue to put up with their unacceptable behaviors. I totally agree with you about the consequences of behavior thing. I don’t care if you’re a stranger on the street or if I passed through your vagina to enter this world; if you are sick, toxic and/or behave unacceptably towards me, then there are consequences for that.

My best friend had to shut our her ENTIRE FAMILY. Every one of them. It is hands down the hardest thing she’s ever had to do, but guess what? She has to do it for her own well-being. They were literally killing her with their sickness. So sad.

Anyway, yeah – the hard and fast rules of, “But they’re family!!”, don’t fly with me either. I love my family to death, but I have to work the hardest around them in setting boundaries and keeping my emotional balance. I feel emotionally safer with my family of 4 and my friends that I’ve chosen to be in my life most of the time. And I think that is true for a LOT of people.

girl September 1, 2006 at 5:52 am

I agree 100%. I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t spoken to my biological father in over 4 years. He was as toxic as toxic could get. He was mentally and emotionally abusive to me my entire life and physically abusive (plus the other two) to my stepmother, who chose to keep him in her life.

After I cut him out of my life I had a very hard time dealing with the fact that his actions still controlled a lot of my emotional reactions to things. When I got angry about things, I was reacting as if he were standing right there. It was taking a toll on both me and my husband. My shrink said one night, “People have this idea that just because someone is your parent that that means you have to love them. Well that’s crap and you know it. You have no obligation to him. He wasn’t a nice man.”

It took dragging my husband into a session with me to really work out some of the issues we were having that revolved around my lingering anger issues. That one session helped a Hell of a lot.

donna September 1, 2006 at 5:59 am

You know, I must have been buying into that theory about family myself, because I am so surprised by how many people have commented and said they have similar situations. I honestly felt like I was an oddball, and a bitch, for refusing to allow my grandmother into my life.

But I am so with you. You must earn people’s love and respect. You don’t get it just because of the simple coincidence of being born into the same family, and being old isn’t a free pass to be hateful, spiteful, racist and just plain mean.

And also, this makes me even more adamant in my belief that your spouse and the family that you create have to take priority over the family you were born into. Nothing is more important to me right now than my husband and my baby-to-be, and if my parents were to suddenly start acting like buttheads (which luckily they do not) I’d have to speak up about it. I may cave on all of the other vows I am making to myself about how I will parent this child, but not that one.

Thanks for the support!

liv September 1, 2006 at 6:00 am

Totally with you. I’m lucky in that I like my immediate family, but sometimes? “Family” CAN mean “assholes with whom you happen to share DNA.”

Tracy September 1, 2006 at 6:25 am

See, I struggle with this, because I have a family who is very close, despite the fact that they’re all a bunch of gossipy, judgemental bitches. (I did NOT exclude myself in that). BUT…because they’re family, and because of the bonds we share, I’m stuck in f-ing Nebraska. I can’t leave my family – my mom has always been and will always be there for me until she’s pysically no longer able…just as her mom was for her, and as I will be for my daughter. My neices and newphew are as much my children as they are my brothers’.

I guess if you never had that bond, it’s easy to say it doesn’t matter – that it’s not the be all, end all. But if you had…you might understand where those commenters are coming from. It *IS* something worth fighting for, even when they’re on your freaking last nerve and they JUST KEEP PUSHING!

Tiffanni September 1, 2006 at 6:51 am

I knew I liked you. I have been getting that same advice about my ‘father’ who I haven’t talked to in like 15 years. An asshole is an asshole, is an asshole…family or not. Thanks for this post.

Steff September 1, 2006 at 7:02 am

I whole heartedly AGREE!
You hit it right on!

Shannon September 1, 2006 at 7:04 am

I have a very toxic family with the exception of my two sisters – they are all a bunch of dicks. My mom with all her toxicity pitted my sisters and I against each other until she moved out of state, now we all get along perfectly and are loving the time we spend together. I too have better love and closeness with my friends than my family.

Teresa September 1, 2006 at 7:04 am

Hell yes. Great post. My side of the family is close, but we don’t take shit from each other and call someone out when they are being a dick. My husband’s family? Yeah, whole other story. If someone is an asshole, doesn’t matter if they are blood or not-no one should have to put up with them. Like you said, no “free-pass”.

amy t. September 1, 2006 at 7:16 am

But trust me on the sunscreen.

That is all.

jesser September 1, 2006 at 7:29 am

I’ve been lurking on your blog a few days now, but now I’m compelled to respond to your post … I’m so glad that someone else feels about family like I do … that it’s a privelege, not a right to have a relationship with them and there’s nothing AUTOMATIC about it. You shouldn’t be expected to roll over and play dead and just take whatever family can throw out at you just because they’re family. That’s crap. I’ve also noticed that this is usually very one-sided … the person who expects you to put up with their shit because they’re blood would NEVER do the same for you. A total one-way street.

I’m lucky. I have a great family. But we keep it that way by treating each other as friends treat one-another … with COURTESY and RESPECT. I did, however, marry into quite a mess and I have seen the other side.

Well thanks for saying something that needs to be said more. And congrats on your baby!!

mac September 1, 2006 at 8:53 am

Real blood family needs to earn respect – it shouldn’t be a given that you’re going to grit your teeth and make nice if your mom or aunt or whoever is a total dick. I haven’t spoken to my dad in over three years now and it’s been a relief. I don’t have to pretend I care, which cuts down on my stress level tremendously.

Donna September 1, 2006 at 12:03 pm

You know I’m right with you on this on, girl. I moved thousands of miles away from my family because they were literally ruining my life. From a safe distance I can handle them in small doses. And since most of them are too cheap to come visit me, I don’t feel the need to reciprocate. Your family is your husband and your baby. Anybody else needs to be invited.

Lisa September 1, 2006 at 12:17 pm

You and I have talked about this before. Your chosen family truly is your family, related by blood or not.

I have more stupid mom stories if you are bored one day. ;)

Love you.

donna September 1, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Just wanted to comment on Tracy’s comment. There is a huge difference between family members that annoy you sometimes, and family members that are toxic and negatively affect your actual well-being. I love my parents and my brother, but damn, I want to smack them sometimes. That’s not toxic.

robyn September 2, 2006 at 4:57 am

You know where I stand on this. You, who I consider my real family because I picked you (or did you pick us?), were here with me through the absolute worst of mine… And I’ll never forget that.

Ice Queen September 4, 2006 at 8:35 am

Your post got me thinking about the shitty relationship I have with my godmother. My response is on my blog.

Gina September 4, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Amen to that one!!

missy September 6, 2006 at 8:54 am

Totally with you. You know how I feel about the husbands family. Its been said by practially everyone before me, that its a priviledge, not a right to be a part of my life. Blood, nor marriage means I have to roll over and take your shit. I wish more people felt that way. Stick to your grounds, especially with the little one. Dont let him/her get in the middle of anything thats happening. Hang in there.

reese September 7, 2006 at 10:16 am

Although the reality is sometimes we cannot avoid the influence of blood relatives on our lives, I agree with you that real family is what you make and choose yourself. I’m thankful we live in an age where people feel free enough to create what kind of families they want without needing to feel clanish toward the ones they were born with simply out of loyalty to blood ties. Some cultures do not understand this aspect of the Western world, but I think it’s a wonderful evolution. Sadly, some of my dearest ‘family’ members are Internet folks, and I rarely get to see them, but they are still family nonetheless :)

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