Saturday, September 24, 2016

September Blog Challenge: Day 24

Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

My childhood:

My dad was never really affectionate. I remember he used to be more strict with Carlton than with us girls. If Emily and I didn't pick our toys up within a certain amount of time, he'd come into our room with a garbage bag and whatever was left on the floor was put into the bag and put outside. I lost a lot of McDonald's Happy Meal toys that way (Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, etc.). Emily and I learned to just not make a mess and play outside instead.
We never went to the zoo or the aquarium because "too hot, too many people, and you can see those animals on TV." He worked across the lake in New Orleans, but would be gone for 12 hours. I would see him from around 6:30pm until about 8pm every weeknight, but there was no real conversation. He'd get home, eat, have an argument with Mom, and go to bed. On the weekends, he mowed the grass or ran errands, or went hunting, or played with tools in the garage. Sometimes, if he was in a good mood, he'd take Emily and me to the gas station to pick out some candy. One of the only positive things I can say about Dad is that I could tell him anything and could trust that he wouldn't tell anybody.

Mom worked a lot. I don't really remember her doing much with us growing up. She never painted my nails or showed me how to put on makeup or taught me to cook. I remember she was depressed a long time, a few years maybe. She would lay in Carlton's bed and drink Cherry Coke while playing Super Mario World on his Nintendo. She had migraines a lot, as well. Sometimes, usually on a weekend, Mom would make junk food with Emily and me. I'd pull the piano bench to the sofa and set cheese dip, cocktail wieners, and meatballs on it buffet style. We'd pick a movie and sit and watch it. When I got to high school age, Mom started letting Emily and I stay up late with her on Friday nights to watch Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on TV.

Karen and I didn't develop a relationship until I was an adult. She would bring Krystal over for Thanksgiving or we'd see her at Gommie and Dandy's for Christmas, but it wasn't often. I think I only went to one or two of Krystal's birthday parties.

Meredith was bossy. So, so, so bossy. When she was left in charge of us, Carlton would go next door to see his friends and Meredith would have Emily and me clean the house. We washed dishes, vacuumed, and dusted while she sat on the sofa reading a magazine or watching soap operas. But when my parents would come home, she would take all the credit for cleaning. She babied Emily to pieces. Everything Emily did was so cute. I would see her painting Emily's nails or brushing her hair, but she never offered to do mine or would tell me she didn't have time or didn't feel like it if I asked.

Carlton was terribly mean to me when we were kids. I was never allowed in his room, but Emily was. He would pass me in the hallway and grab my arm, digging his nails into my skin. I would tell my parents and show them the marks, but he would say I did it to myself to get him in trouble and they would punish me for "lying". He would spit on me in the car or pull my hair since he would always sit behind me. If we went somewhere in the smaller car, I would be stuck next to him and he would pinch me over and over again. I tried to avoid him, but he would come after me on purpose. One time, he was bothering me in the kitchen, and I guess I snapped, so I grabbed this giant butcher's knife from the counter and held it out at him. I was shaking and upset and just so angry that he was bullying me. He laughed at me and I burst into tears and ran to my room. He came after me, of course, and was laughing while apologizing, "Aw, don't be mad, it was just a joke!" I think I responded with something along the lines of, "I fucking hate you!" It was a relief when he moved to college.

Emily was my best friend. She drove me crazy and got me into trouble, but our relationship was so strong growing up. We shared secrets, talked about boys, went to the movies together, and generally enjoyed each other's company. People at church thought it was so weird that we were as close as we were, especially as sisters. We used to pretend we were Jillian and Sally from Practical Magic because we could relate to them.

* * * * *

My adulthood:

Dad still doesn't like his current life. He wants to move out into a nursing home or into a little studio apartment. The thing is, he needs us. If we don't cook, he doesn't eat. He doesn't think to make a sandwich or ask us to make something. Zac will cook dinner sometimes and Dad will head to bed. Unless we place a plate of food in Dad's lap, he will go hungry. We dragged him to Disney World, despite him not wanting to go, and he had so much fun. He doesn't remember it because he was so focused on how long it took to get there and back. The same was for our Tennessee trip. He had fun and even talked about moving to the mountains after Mom retires, but he hated the drive. He just spends time in his chair now, watching TV and napping. He doesn't remember what he does day to day. He tells the same stories over and over, and he's just so mean these days. We used to have a really good relationship, but now, it's just different.

Mom basically went crazy once she started going to to nursing school. She became a stressed out mess, always in a rush, always emotional, always at the end of her rope. If anyone has a problem, she turns it into her own story of "well, you don't work as hard as I do" or "if you think you had a hard day, let me tell you about my day". My lack of "empathy" makes her crazier and we butt heads a lot. I try to be nice to her, do things for her, or act polite, but I don't do it right (according to her). If I say "thank you", she doesn't think I mean it. If I apologize, I "didn't word it correctly." So it's pointless to try. I nod and get through each day as quietly and without confrontation as possible in order to have a pleasant encounter. Don't get me wrong, there are a few good times now and then, but they are few and far between.

Karen and I started forming a relationship when we were planning our Disney trip back in 2014. We started talking more and it was just nice getting to know her. I know she had a hard childhood because Dad was much more strict with her than he was with Emily and me. She loves Disney more than I do (which is a lot), and loves her animals the way I love my kids (also a lot). I think if we were closer in age, we'd have been close like Emily and I were.

Meredith and I have a weird relationship now. Our kids get along great together, but I can't tell if she likes me or likes being around me or not. I visited her at college a few times, but she fretted over my makeup too much, always trying to dress me like her because whatever I liked to wear "embarrassed" her. One time, I was staying at her house and we went to the grocery store together. I was wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top with a pair of jeans. She saw someone she knew and based on how I was dressed, she had me wait in the car so the person didn't see her with me. She doesn't like my tattoos, but sometimes I wonder if she may want tattoos for herself but won't get them because she's a pastor's wife and is holding herself to a particular image. She's a people-pleaser and knows how to comfortably hold conversations, something I've never been good at. She's also a great mom. I always thought any kids she had would be brats because in my experience with pastor's children, they were all atrocious. Her kids are pretty awesome.

My relationship with Carlton is awkward, to put it nicely. It's weird to be around him, strange to hug him, and he's got three of the most challenging kids I've ever met. His life choices make it difficult for me to respect him as a person. He apologized for my childhood torment a few years ago, but I get flashbacks when I'm with him. There are just too many wounds and not enough bandages.

Emily and I have had our ups and downs, but she's a good sister. She tries to be there for me when she can, which is more often than not. We usually make up easily because we don't like being mad at each other. Mom sometimes tampers with our relationship with exaggerated versions of things Emily or I say to her and we have to go back and fix it. I do feel sad that she never wanted kids of her own so my kids could have blood-cousins, but it just wasn't something she wanted. She's a good aunt to my kids, though. They love her to pieces and enjoy her when she visits.

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