Carmen, Adam, and Adriana,
It occurred to me tonight why I stopped blogging about you. Because you turned into teenagers and stopped flooding me with tears of joy and instead sent me into the fetal position where I now lie writhing in emotional pain, wondering when it turned bad and whether my first ten years of blog posts were some delusion of a family I thought I belonged to. Who are you and what have you done with my kids?
I’ll admit, you each have marveled me from time to time in your later years as you made your confirmations, turned 16 and and got driver’s licenses, performed in the activities we paid for you to participate in, graduated. These were mostly joyous occasions.
Except you, Adriana, at that 8th grade graduation fiasco when you punished me under Pontius Pilate over that Lilly Pulitzer dress. Then I got my revenge by boycotting the ceremony. Good times. Adam, you really dazzled me with that sizzling grade point average at the end of high school. I once recall you explaining to me why you had no books: because you didn’t know your locker comb so you never picked them up. Totes amazing. That gpa was actually quite impressive under the circumstances. And Carmen, let’s not forget that fateful night I ate your Bdubs chicken wrap that was in the fridge. I calculated that you were already two meals removed from it so I just assumed it was safe. Boy do I rue that day.
The old blogging me would be writing about my lovely girls and their giggly sweetness as they shop for homecoming and prom dresses, or my brilliant, talented, industrious young son working his buns off saving up for his first Beamer. But, the new me has nowhere left to hide. There are no more warm and fuzzies left to soften the realities. Instead I report that I have an entire Chinese factory of unworn, unreturned dresses stuffed back into UPS packages and about one semester of college tuition lost to hair, make-up, and nail appointments that ended mostly in frantic redos at home. Pictures were the best. Strict orders where and when to arrive, then chasing you around like the paparazzi as if we popped out of bushes to torture you. Oh Adam, the cars. I have two words: Baseline Rally. Thank God it wasn’t worse (thank you, angels).
These events themselves did not deter me from documenting these years. It’s the deeply difficult, emotional grief that I stockpile almost daily when you treat me or each other disrespectfully. Guys, my heart has been breaking for quite a while now. It shakes me to my core when you berate me, swear at me, refuse to comply with my rules, and ignore my requests for participation in the household chores. And when you speak rudely and disrespectfully to me in front of your friends, the message I’m getting is that you want to humiliate me, that you have no respect for me. I cannot imagine I have ever treated you this way alone or in the presence of others. I tried to raise you to be citizens of good character. “Loving kindness” was my motto. What happened?
I am willing to take accountability for my shortcomings as a parent; that your dad and I may not have always handled conflict in a healthy way, that our own intolerance or impatience with each other let fly without reserve. If you haven’t figured it out by now, your father and I are a work in progress. We got married young, had you young. If we when we started this family we knew all the best ways to handle married life, run a house, raise kids and grow a career, we would be a different family. But everyone starts at ground zero. Everyone.
We learn from our mistakes, we learn about ourselves and each other, we identify core values and then work hard to live by them. We unknowingly establish unhealthy patterns of behavior and communication, only to identify those, too, and then do the work of unpacking it in counseling or, to your dismay, over glasses of wine.
My point is, get off your horses. Straighten up. You’re still the kids, we are your parents. We allowed you complete freedom of speech in our home but now it’s gone too far. Be humble, be kind. Be grateful for your life, your parents, and each other. Learn to accept our imperfections as a family. Learn to love and appreciate each other as you would wish to be loved and appreciated. This family can serve to be your most powerful asset in life. But remember: if you choose to weaken each other, you weaken the unit, and ultimately weaken yourselves.
Life is hard. It’s going to get tough. You’re going to have struggles, failures, heart-wrenching relationships that will render you helpless. This family is your place of refuge from all that life throws at you. How can you fall back on people you treat poorly? Invest in this family. For each other and for yourselves. If you practice it, good character, integrity, and loving kindness will be returned to you tenfold, but this crap you’re showing me in this house indicates to me you are going to have a very hard road ahead. If your dad and I can wake up each day making an effort to better than we were the day before, so can you guys. If we can overcome hardships together and see the best in each other, so can you. If we can forgive and still love each other, you can too. And if we are good enough parents to devote our lives to you kids and this family, you owe it to us to do better than you are.
I commit to creating an emotionally safe and loving home for each and every one of you. That requires all of you to contribute positively to this family and add value to the whole. Not loving your siblings much? Get over it. Love them anyway. Accept each other. Support each other. Play together, laugh together, help each other. Show compassion and empathy. Stop thinking the world revolves around you and start considering others. You will never be satisfied in life if your only aim is to satisfy yourself.
From this I leave you a list of my expectations. You’re all old enough to understand that the consequences of failing to meet these expectations will happen organically. Fail to meet them, you will fail.
- Speak kindly to each other: No fault-finding, criticizing, bossing, cursing, yelling, demanding, teasing. Talk to each other, ask how each other is.
- Treat each other’s friends kindly, be welcoming. No matter what. In this family we will love and accept those who are special to each other.
- Speak respectfully to your parents. Use appropriate language and tone. Don’t like us at the moment, don’t like what we have to say? Tough. We’re your parents. Zip your mouth.
- Participate in household chores. DO YOUR SHARE.
- We don’t owe you a cash flow. We don’t owe you a car. You all need to be earning money to take care of your incidentals. Weinkauf Family Budget Cuts are in effect, suck it up. You are blessed, be grateful for what is provided.
- When we are invited places as a family, you are all expected to attend. We are a family, sometimes we do things as a family. Please don’t complain or behave like assholes over it.
- You have a very devoted and generous grandpa who needs you. I would like each of you to make time for him once a week. Coffee, a drop-by visit, attending a family dinner, or ask him to lunch or dinner. Reach out to him once a week. Ask him what you can do for him, offer your help. Send thank-you cards when he treats you.
- When I cook on Sunday, it’s sacred. I expect you to be at the table.
- Talk to us. Instead of blowing up, avoiding, or having emotional meltdowns, tell us how you’re feeling and what you need. We’re always here for you. We love you.