Another family situation that is reaffirming

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Childofmine, May 16, 2014.

  1. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    So I am going for a family girls weekend---my mother, sister and niece. My aunt was also going to come, drive here, and she and I were going to drive together to meet the other three about four hours away. My aunt lives about two and a half hours from me.

    She and I were both looking forward to being in the car together, catching up, and then enjoying shopping, eating out, visiting with everybody over the weekend.

    Yesterday, she called, crying hysterically. It scared me to death---I thought somebody had died. She told me her 42-year-old daughter (difficult child who lives with them, her parents, and difficult child's two kids live there too---my aunt and uncle, their grandparents, are still trying to raise all three of them, literally...whole other story), my cousin, went out very late the night before to get something to eat, taking the Great Dane in the car with her, and totaled my aunt's car.

    Lots of questions, here, I'm sure, you are thinking. Yes, me too.

    So my aunt has no car now to drive. My uncle is taking the granddaughter to a soccer tournament elsewhere in his car so my aunt can't come. The difficult child's car is in Atlanta at her brother's house, parked in the driveway, not running, because the brother borrowed it over the winter and didn't put antifreeze in it and now it won't run at all.

    My aunt is the type of person who just throws her hands up and says over and over, what are we going to do? when something bad happens. She isn't a problem solver.

    I tried to listen with empathy and made one suggestion about how she could still come. It was immediately very clear to me that she had already decided and wasn't coming so I stopped. She kept saying I won't be very good company anyway.

    A lot of forces at work here, as you can imagine. I saw difficult child last year for the first time in a long time. She literally looks like somebody who is starving to death. It was shocking to see her. Her difficult child-ness has been going on since she was a teenager. I could tell you stories to curl your hair.

    But anyway---she is either in the throes of an eating disorder or is on meth, I believe. Meth is the more likely route, since she did that before some years ago and ran off with a minor to Florida, leaving her husband and baby for a week.

    My aunt and uncle are huge enablers. They are now 75 years old and they just give and give and give and give. They are both still working part-time jobs, and all she talks about is not having any money. They are fully supporting their grandchildren---difficult child doesn't work anymore. Plus they support difficult child and continue to bail her out of all of her problems. She also has multiple illnesses---seizures, kidney stones, etc.

    It is a train wreck.

    My mother called me later very upset (for the 100th time) about the whole situation. I listened empathetically, and then I told her what I have learned. We can't change this situation. We love our aunt/her sister, and she is not likely to change at this point. Yes, it is very sick. Yes, they are likely to have no $$ at all to keep them in their old age. Yes, their kids are train wrecks and users.

    The real question is: what are we to do---we who love her and sit by and watch and listen to the train wreck as it happens over and over again? I told my mother that distance is the only solution I have found, and working on myself.

    Otherwise, This stuff is enough to drive you nuts.

    My aunt and uncle just run around as fast as they can picking up the pieces of everybody else's difficult child-ness and lack of responsibility. They don't say No. They don't set boundaries. They don't take care of themselves. Their health is failing. My aunt has been depressed (who wouldn't be?) for decades. Her back hurts all the time. Her head hurts all the time. She said they didn't have collision(?) insurance so they get nothing back on the car. And they can't buy another car, so what are they going to do?

    I'm so thankful I know how to respond in these situations now. I didn't engage, and I didn't get into the drama with my mother and my sister. I just told my aunt how much we would miss her and how sorry I was that she is upset and can't go. I didn't call anybody else. Later that day, they all started calling me.

    I told my sister this: This entire situation reaffirms the work I am doing on myself. I am not going to be my aunt---age 75 and running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to stop all of the leaks in the dam that my difficult child---my son---has sprung. Not going to happen, folks.

    GFGness is everywhere, in all families. I hear it told when people open up and start being honest. Many people don't do the hard work we are doing here on this forum, that I can see. Many participate all of their lives.

    I'm not going to be one of those.
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  2. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    I know that is an odd response...and I didn't get to it myself until almost the end of your post. In the middle I could feel my throat tighten up with anxiety for your aunt, her carlessness, her plight, the awfulness of the situation.

    But you are right. Your aunt, sad as it is, isn't going to change. You can jump in and drown too, or you can distance yourself with love and empathy.

    You did so well!!!

    Victory high fives instead of hugs today!
  3. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    And you will not be like me either, COM. Finally doing the work now, in my sixties, to free myself of so many wrongnesses I could not even see.

    I blamed myself for things I had no part in and no control over.

    The blessing is that if we are willing to do the work on ourselves, if we are willing to stick with it and we have a good support system in place (thank you, each of you, here on the site) we can reach for that freedom at any time. I so appreciate your sharing this story with us here. Spending our lives and whatever good fortune we manage to accumulate on repeatedly rescuing those who refuse to do the hard work of rescuing themselves can and does happen to decent people every day.

    I am only just now learning to see and to accept that it is what it is.

    It is what it is.

    I am sorry this is happening in your family. Reading about it was an opportunity for me to whisper a wholehearted prayer of thanksgiving that I am not there, anymore.

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  4. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    you extrapolated the lessons you've learned. The lessons I've learned and the tools I employ through dealing with my difficult child (or rather dealing with myself and my reactions to my difficult child) have served me well in many other relationships too. Right now SO is reacting strongly to a decision made by my ex that will affect all of us...(it involves a rental property that we all use). SO is feeling extremely put out and territorial, and reacting by declaring that he will have to drop every other important thing in his life RIGHT NOW to deal with this for the next two weeks, this is incredibly disruptive (according to SO), reflects on the entire quality of his entire life, is more stress than a human can manage, and will ruin our next two weekends and probably his whole month.

    Normally this would make me frantic, I would feel both blamed and responsible, anxious to try to soothe him, afraid he was mad at me, trying to get him to see it other ways, offering solutions and alternatives.

    I did do a little of that this time...a few alternatives, anyway.

    But I didn't take responsbility for his reaction, or for the choices or the consequences of the choices he is about to make.

    Amazingly, I don't even feel particularly judgemental. I feel a little sorry for him for creating so much stress in his life--he can't even see that it is optional. But I don't have my usual round of "this is ridiculous, his reaction is absurd, , he is catastrophizing" etc.

    Because I see that he is an adult, his reactions and his choices are his to make, and I can stand back with empathy and let him do what he must do.

    This is a much much much better way. Better to respect him as an autonomous adult, better to not weirdly step in and take responsibility for things that aren't my doing, better to not flutter and wave and try to help.

    My difficult child helped me learn that. I'm grateful for that.

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  5. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    I am going to take this post and apply it to my life.

    I have a friend who I love to death but she has three girls that just trash her house and are very sarcastic with her and other adults. They are all under 12. I have tried to mention that the mouthiness is CUTE now but it wont be as they hit their teens. Her oldest has already started and her husband and the oldest are now like oil and water.

    The girls trash the house and then she has to fix it but she is not a cleaner so it litterally gets to a point where you can't see the countertops before her husband steps in and does it. The other night the kids were at my house and the youngest wanted to help me "clean." LOl she is 6 so we all know how much help that is. Anyway she helped me load the dishwasher and I mentioned that she and her sister could help her mom by doing this at home. She was cool with it her dad was not! He said they would do it wrong and he would have to redo it. I said well teach them how you want it done and then let them go at it. He's got three one can unload and put away, one can rinse, and one can load. It would help his wife out sooooo much. NOPE he is so Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) he can't give up that control.

    Seriously I look back now and see so many ways that I enabled my kids to be lazy. Now I can see it differently but I am slowly learning that unless my help is requested they will have to figure that out on their own.
  6. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

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  7. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My difficult child has helped me learn the biggest lesson of my life, how to set boundaries, how to say no, how to allow others to handle their own lives without my interference. It has freed me. I am grateful beyond words. What has been the most difficult thing I've ever done has given me the greatest gift. What a paradox. One of my therapists told me once that spiritual health was living within the paradoxes of life and not going crazy. I didn't go crazy. I got real.
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  8. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    Oooops....I just sent something I didn't mean to. My fingers are too fat for this phone.

    COM, I am sorry the trip fell through and there is another family crises.

    The responses are wonderful.... Much to learn for me. And, the reminders have tremendous value....looking into the future if we don't take care of ourselves.

    husband and I could not have held on another 20-30 years. Dealing with difficult child was more draining than I realized.

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