It was an interesting weekend. So much, in fact, that I’ve had to sit on some thoughts over the past couple of days just to process it all. I’ll try to not make this story too wordy.
Both Sunshine and I had the kids over the past weekend and decided, since it was a long weekend here in Canada (Victoria Day was our holiday on Monday), that we would try to get the kids together one more time and see if we could manage to all get along…especially important after our difficult weekend this past Easter.
Since her girls hadn’t seen my dad since before he went to Florida to live in retirement last November, we decided to all have a family weekend at my dad’s place. He loves the girls and Sunshine as if they were his own flesh and blood, not just because they’re related by marriage.
So let me say right up front that Sunshine and I worked GREAT together. She was able to relax a little bit (not one of her strong suits) and I was able to not stress over every little detail and interact with the kids in a more positive way (not one of my strong suits). We were on the same page almost all weekend and had a great time with our children.
The time spent with my dad, however, was less than ideal.
Pretty much on a consistent basis all weekend, my dad put me down and made “jabs” at me in front of my family. Whether it was making fun of my weight, bringing up something that I did when I was younger that had nothing to do with the conversation at hand, or simply talking down to me…it was an extremely uncomfortable weekend. Primarily, it was uncomfortable because my wife had to experience it all.
Y’see, I’m kind of used to being treated this way. I don’t expect my dad to change any time soon, so I just take it in stride and try to let it all slide off my back. Sure it bothers me, but he’s an old leopard; he isn’t changing his spots any time soon.
Sunshine, however, isn’t used to seeing the constant barrage of negativity. She understands me completely (better than I understand myself, in fact) and realizes that I have the issues that I have because of my upbringing. She sees my continual struggles as an adult be exacerbated by how my father continues to treat me.
She can probably explain the fine details much better than I can, but she was NOT happy when the weekend was over. In fact, she told me on Monday morning that it would be a VERY long time before she would even consider staying at my dad’s again…especially with the kids.
She doesn’t want her girls to think it is okay to treat somebody that way. My son sees it, obviously, but dad doesn’t lay into me as much when it’s just my son and I visiting (I guess having a 7-year-old isn’t the greatest audience in the world) so he (hopefully) only sees how I treat him instead. I do my best to treat my son differently than the way I’m treated…so my hope is that he grows up feeling strong and empowered and confident in whoever he is and whatever he chooses to do.
There were more than one occasion that words my father spoke actually hurt me, and Sunshine could see that. She doesn’t want to see me go through that again.
I love my father. I really do. I know he isn’t purposely trying to cut me down or make me feel inferior. In his eyes, those biting comments are supposed to spark some kind of fire within me to make me do what he sees as being the right thing.
So when he comments about my weight, he feels as though shaming me in front of my family will make me want to do something about it and suddenly drop 20-30 pounds. When he brings up an embarrassing story from my past for no reason other than to shame me in front of my wife and kids…well, I guess I don’t really know what he’s trying to accomplish other than make himself feel superior in some way.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, my weekend with Sunshine was great because our family was close-knit and had a great time together. If anything, my dad helped our marriage grow a little bit stronger…so I guess I should be a bit more appreciative.
It’s tough to work through these issues when, after 41 years, the root of the problem is still in full effect. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it…probably nothing. I do know, however, that I need to ensure I never take my internal anger out of my family. They are the root of my happiness and are my reason for living. If ever I need anything, I just have to turn to my wife and she’s there for me.
It’s just a shame I can’t say the same thing for my dad.