Monday, June 22, 2020

an off topic meltdown

So my parents are the loves of my life, imperfections and neuroses and all. The good and the bad shaped me into who I am and shaped my life accordingly.

I usually don't discuss this dynamic on my blog. It's not the space, it's certainly not what my readers visit here for. But it's a pickle and sorry folks, I have to write it out.

I've had difficulty putting into words at times the issues we've faced as a family of three. There have often been stretches where they stop speaking to me. They didn't like my boyfriend of many years, who later became my partner. That was one time. They freaked out on me when my wedding ceremony - an actually very light on the bible interfaith ceremony co-officiated by my husband's childhood pastor and a cantor - caused them to believe that I would have them "kneeling before a cross" at my wedding.

I am also the only child *and* the only family member that they speak to. I place no judgment on my mother's detaching from her remaining abusive toxic family members. My Dad from his (much less toxic to my untrained eye)? Sadness, but not judgment. They don't have a close circle of friends.  They have only each other. They had me until I left home for a city they hate. They had my older daughter until she turned around 7 and everyone realized wasn't demonstrative with affection, and snarky and didn't like to give hugs. They took solace in the snuggles of the baby, a natural cuddler if there ever was one. But they are both prone to depression, deep deep depressions.

Since college I have had a fairly good understanding of how difficult this relationship could be. What it meant to be the sole source of your parent's happiness... Gee, maybe this does fit into my blog. Because I've written before about wanting to not to put that weight on my own children. Not wanting either of them to feel the intensity of the emotional whiplash I sometimes feel with my own parents.

Over the years these freeze outs have gotten more frequent, the result of political divisions. They have become fierce believers in the American dream, followers of patriotic symbols and fearful of lawlessness. A total mind fuck because I was raised to believe that america was a place where everyone but the most wealthy was a paycheck or disaster away from homelessness. The politics that shaped me, through public school, law school and a career organizing workers into unions used to be something I shared with my parents. Explaining how they shifted to where they have shifted to is a whole other essay (one that I may write one day).

The a few days ago, I said something I regret. Here's what I said regarding the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus:

"Imagine how it would feel to view statues of Hitler or Geobbels."

Well, that was that.

I've been given the freeze. I apologized. Profusely. I texted promises to no longer send them data supporting positions I take that they disagree with. They accused me of accusing them of fascism. "How dare I."

Law school training gave me an unfortunate tick in the ways I make arguments to those never subjected to the Socratic method.  I'm way too keen on asking probing questions to try and detect logical fallacies. I know. I have to stop. I know it's intended to make me come off as the bigger person but to someone who disagrees with me I must be a twat.

On the other hand, conversations with my parents as of late also leave me forced to bite my tongue in silence at some of their beliefs.  There is no moral, statistical or experiential authority to appeal to them to reconsider their words. There is nothing to be done.

So I wrote a text of apology:

"I am so sorry. what I said was wrong. I believe that Columbus committed the same atrocities as Hitler. that's what I was trying to say, badly. You are not fascists and I was trying trying to say that night that it's in my opinion that everything I have in this world - including my children - is because f you. because you are my parents."

Right now I merely pray that the anger they're feeling towards me abates. I'll take all the rest of it if it eliminates the unsettled-ness, the world-off its-axis feeling when your parents shut you out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ripping the band aid off

Niblet and I have been watching The Office.  Hundreds of episodes. I somehow forgot about the Michael Scott's loony girlfriend Jan had  baby via sperm donor storyline? Well, only in my brain would watching this unfold signal "what a great way to discuss your baby conceived via egg donor" - no follow me here, I have never wanted this conversation to be a memorable event where we all sit at the dinner table and discuss. It honestly seemed as good a time as any.  I have been talking to S about the knd lady who donated an egg so we could have her. She's actually somewhat interested in the story, and I mean, fuck, it does sound like a sort of cool story when you really break it down...
So, yes, I finally shared with my crazy smart, too precocious 11 year old that we used DE to conceive her sister. She knows everything there is to know about reproduction we've been reading books since she was 4. Why not use this sitcom to discuss in a very matter of fact way that many of us needed help to conceive babies?

"So, I need to tell you, using a donor to make a baby is really common, not just for sperm. You know how we needed to use IVF to conceive your sister? well, I needed a donor egg to make that happen." 
Let me say that at first it this went TERRIBLY. 
So terribly I thought I made the biggest mistake in the world. Niblet said some stuff to me that sounded horrible, stung really badly. "Oh so she's only my half sister, I'm not related to her at all... you're not her real mom, you're her step mom...I wish I never knew this..." She even at one point questioned whether her sister was even Jewish, asking me if the donor was (whew chile). I used all the strength I had to stay calm about it, and also remind myself that she, my own egg daughter, is always pretty dramatic to begin with.
So, forcing myself to allow her space to feel everything she needed to feel,  I explained that 
1) In my most humble opinion we should never keep secrets, 
2) I have no intention of keeping this secret from her sister, 
3) I am absolutely her sister's mom, in fact I'm her biological mom, a donor provided the puzzle piece we needed to conceive her, 
4) this isn't actually as huge deal as she's making it out to be, it is waaay more common than she realizes, and 
5) it would feel MUCH much worse if I never talking about it with her until she was an adult. In fact I know her well enough to know she would feel very angry, betrayed even.
She sat quietly and stewed with the information for about 5 minutes, saying she didn't want to talk about it. I said absolutely, okay, and let her know that she should come to me with any questions at all that she might have. 
Then she sat next to me on the floor and we finished watching the aforementioned Office episode, watched three more and then bonded over how I was going to introduce her to the X-Files next because she loves Stranger Things. And we made a plan to have a girls day the following day, one where we work on redecorating her room.
And that was that. It has been a week. She has alternatively snuggled and then yelled at her tiny terror of a sister, as she does.  She has not mentioned any of this conversation to me. 
Perhaps one day she will raise more questions? Or she may never bring it up at all? Who knows? She's 11 and in puberty and already erratic and coping with a pandemic where she's in social isolation. She's going to be reading books about DE with her sister, she had to learn about this sometime. Part of me wonders whether this ripping off of the bandaid was appropriate, while another part of me is relieved that she finally knows.