In many respects, I'm lucky for how I grew up. I always had food, shelter, clothing, and sometimes extras. The early years were pretty lean sometimes, but we never went without.
In other respects, things were tough. My parents divorced when I was 3 1/2 and my brother was less than a year old. The split was not amicable, to make an understatement. There was joint custody, which was no treat for any of us. The following three DECADES have not made things any better; my parents still do not and can not talk to each other. There is still manipulation and guilt-tripping done by both sides. I was around eight years old when I realized that when one parent asked about the other one, it was to glean info that would then be used against that other one, and I had to tell both of them that I was not the post office to pass messages between them. I remember feeling angry and frustrated and sad that the grown-ups were acting so ridiculously. There continued to be a lot of drama and issues for years after that. A lot of unhappiness and stress.
Once I got to college, I was old enough and removed enough to have better relationships with both of my parents (it started in high school, but I was still angsty and teenager-y) and in general things have been pretty good since then. Together (well, not literally--that would imply they worked as a unit), they paid for my college (though I did work for three years to cover books and living expenses)--I have zero student debt, and for that I am extremely lucky and grateful. They are both supportive of the life decisions I've made and have helped me in different ways.
However, the drama still rears its ugly head. That was one huge benefit of living across the country for so long--I could stay away from the nonsense. I could stay in New York or travel for the holidays and not have to hear about how much time I'm spending with one parent versus the other, or carefully schedule holiday days to make it as equal as possible.
I have a photo of myself with both of my parents when I was a baby and they were still together. The next photo of the three of us together is from my college graduation. That photo was maybe a minute of being close to each other, in strained silence, before one parent escaped as quickly as possible.
The biggest issue in the last few years was our wedding. Both of my parents would be there. In the same space. For most of a day. What would happen? How would they act? What kind of drama would occur with all of my family in one place, something that has literally never happened? I worried and fretted and cried about it for pretty much the entire planning time. (Thank god it was only four months. If we'd had a year-long or more engagement like many people, this may have given me an ulcer.) I'm tearing up thinking about it even now.
Happily, and to my huge, huge relief, things were fine. They didn't speak to each other, they stayed out of each other's way, there was no drama. I got a third photo of the three of us together.
There was a lot of worry for that one day, a lot of stress hanging over me for what is supposed to be a magical, wonderful day about me and my new husband.
And now there will be grandchildren. What kind of worry and drama does there promise to be for the next eighteen years?
I hate the way I had to grow up. I hate the fact that I'm still crying about it, as a mature and married thirty-three-year-old. I hate the fact that it's a legitimate worry to have even now--the drama and stress has subsided over the years, but it's very much still there, under the surface. Now that I'm so much geographically closer to them, and seeing them more often, it's not taking much for that bullshit to come back up.
I would not wish this on anyone. I want to avoid this kind of thing for any child, let alone mine. Thinking about the future of holidays, fighting between three sets of grandparents who want to see our kids--it makes me almost sick with dread and sadness and anger. I don't want this! I don't want to have to deal with it! I really, REALLY want to shield our kids from this nonsense. But I don't know how. I don't know how all the grandparents will act or react to our limited time and schedule. I don't know if they'll be more forgiving or more demanding. I just don't want to deal with it. For god's sake, I shouldn't have to deal with it.
I want to remember--and remind them--that Mister M and I and these babies are now my primary family, and will be our focus. Our needs as a unit will have to come first. I am excited about my parents being grandparents--despite all this, I think they will be good at it. I really just want to do whatever it takes to avoid them having to live with the kind of stress and secret-keeping that I have lived with for so many years (yes, even now! I'm an adult and it still hasn't stopped!). I'm not sure if I can make that happen without causing even more problems. Again, it makes me sick. And quite frankly, that is the absolute last thing I need to worry about right now or in the next couple months!
I need to focus on myself, on getting these babies as big as possible, and hope that I'm cooking them properly so they will be healthy when they come out. And then we'll need to figure out life with brand new babies and figure out how to be parents. Those are big enough changes and worries. But the other stuff continues to lurk in the back of my mind. For now, I think we've got a good excuse to bow out of Thanksgiving, and hopefully Christmas too--I can only hope that it won't be much of an issue this year, since everything and everyone will be so new. The pessimistic and realistic part of me says that oh no, there will still be Issues and Drama and Stress and Goddammit.
I don't know what to do except worry and cry. I don't want to do either of those things. To be clear, it's not like I sit around thinking about this all day every day. But it lurks in the back of my mind, and any mention of the holidays brings up at least a little of it, and sometimes I let it out enough to start upsetting me.