Saturday, May 3, 2014

We all know I turn a little peculiar when I visit home.

I realized some years ago that my parents don’t know me. I am not even talking about the inside me, my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs. I am talking about the regular, old outside me - how I spend my time, what my home looks like, what car I drive, what books I read.

To tell the truth, years ago I hid a lot from them. I mean it was easy to do living so far away from them and it’s not as if they visit. Actually I only hid from them the fact that I was seriously ill. I didn’t want to worry them needlessly. I was pretty sick. I only told them years after.

I mean who doesn’t edit what they tell their family? Some people edit out the bad, others play up the good. Now I do neither. I tell it like it is. Too bad nobody is listening.

The realization that my parents don’t know me hit me even harder the last time we visited them -we, meaning me, husband, and children. It was their first time to see me as a parent and after not having seen me for several years including two pregnancies it must have seemed to them that I arrived with an instant family. The parents had trouble getting used to me as a parent and to my girls. I chalked it all up to the fact that we had to get to re-know each other. I did my best to acquaint them. I loaded hundreds of pictures onto my parent’s computer. I showed them the girls’ school on-line. I repeated the stories of their births and all their “firsts”. I got a few polite nods and even one nodding off (my father). Not exactly the reception I was expecting.

As it didn’t go very well last time, I don’t know why I was expecting something different this time, but I was. Last time I figured it was just a matter of getting to know each other. It would all smooth over. This time I figured that my parents just didn’t know how to get to know us. This time I’ve tried my extra best. I’m armed not only with pictures, but also with short films of our home. I’ve got a few nice stories about us on deck. And the girls, well, they are older now and they can speak for themselves. I’ve tried some relaxed conversations. I’ve tried some staged conversations forcing out the stories about swimming lesson successes, A+ book reports, school absences, birthday parties. I have given the grandparents alone time with the grandchildren as well.

Lest you think the flow of information is all in one direction, I have been filling in the children with stories about my parents, where they grew up, went to school, worked, I have shown them where my parents go to church, where they spend time. As well my father has driven them all over showing them his hangouts. I watch as they listen attentively and how they shyly begin to ask questions and then to tell their grandfather something about themselves only to be interrupted by something much more important that their grandfather has to say. I see how their faces crinkle up. I see how they shrug their shoulders. I see how they are giving up. I see myself as a child.

It hurts when you tell somebody you miss them and they say nothing. It hurts when you tell somebody about their grandchildren’s school and they dive into a 15 minute story about another grandchild. That’s just me, an adult, I can take it, but the kids?

I am not one of those people who expect the world to stop just because I moved away – my goodness I have been away too long for that. I guess I just expect some balance. I know they want to tell me what I have missed out on here, but they forget that they are missing out on our lives there. And they’re not even willing to listen.

I just had an expectation of what it would be like for my children to have grandparents, for my parents to be grandparents to their grandchildren. In my mind’s eye it all looked a little different, not even ideal, just different, closer, less going through the motions, more real connections. Oh lord, I have to stop now because that last sentence just reads like some sappy, late-night commercial for an internet dating site. I warned you that I get peculiar when I visit.

10 comments:

anka skakanka said...

That's a very sad story Chris, such a shame you feel like that but the way you could now move on from this is probably to take advantage of the knowledge you have, of how it feels, and do everything in your power for your children never to experience that kind of treatment from yourself (which I'm sure you already have taken care of). I used to feel like this about my mum, that she didn't care about me much, never told me she loved me, never cuddled etc. I must say it is different now that I live abroad myself, and we are both older (and smarter?). I've also grown, and understood some of her reasons, and if I didn't I tried to forgive, or forget, and move on with MY life. Hope you feel more positive soon and back to your normal self ;) Hugs and kisses from Scotland :)
http://blogankiskakanki.wordpress.com/

Wojtek said...

>> Smutna historia .Można powiedzieć ,że to było czołowe zderzenie przeszłości z teraźniejszością .Niby to błahostki ,ale często inaczej sobie wyobrażamy coś co będzie niż to co było lub jest .Zaakceptowanie danej sytuacji jest czynnością wymagającą czasu, a brak akceptacji powoduje odrzucenie obecnej rzeczywistości lub przyszłości .Prawie zawszę to się zdarza w przypadku dużych różnic czasowych .Kiedyś były takie opowiadania o Polakach, którzy po 1 wojnie (potem również po drugiej) ludzie emigrowali do innych krajów .Emigrowali na jakiś czas ,by zarobić na życie i potem wrócić do kraju by godnie dożyć swego końca .Okazało się ,że im dłużej osoby były poza granicą ,to po przyjeździe do swojego kraju doznawały coś w stylu załamania nerwowego .Polegało to na tym ,że obraz danego miejsca zatrzymał się w czasie i potem często ludzie nie potrafili się dostosować do nowego świata ,co było powodem czasem nawet poważnych chorób psychicznych .Takie osoby nie potrafiące żyć w nowej rzeczywistości wracały z powrotem tam gdzie potrafili funkcjonować .Wracając do swojego "podwórka" odrzucano wszystko co nie było zgodne z naszą perspektywą .Najlepiej to można zobrazować ,wyobrażając sobie np dziecko spotykające swoich biologicznych rodziców kilka albo kilkanaście lat później (np oddanie dziecko do okienek życia ,chodzi o okienka antyaborcyjne) .To może dotyczyć tego przypadku .Co o tym ty sądzisz ??

>> Gdyby cię te opowiadania (o polakach imigrantach) interesowały ,to mógłbym poszukać .Kiedyś dużo było tego w internecie ,a nawet w książkach .Problemem jest znalezienie takiej literatury (internet i książki) ,bo taka literatura bardzo często nawiązuje do pewnych faktów będących niewygodnymi dla samego autora lub innych grup ludzi.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate such posts very much. I think this one is sincere and touches a very sensitive subject. Even though I disagree with you on many platform and am very critical towards your posts, this one I liked. Truly, genuinely liked. Thank you for such posts. So... human...

Wojtek.. said...

>> Ja piszą swoje posty kieruję się w głównie swoimi przeżyciami oraz doświadczeniami .Wiem doskonale jak to jest bo miałem 2 przyjaciół mieszkających obok mnie .Gdy miałem 14 lat to wyjechał mój pierwszy przyjaciel a rok później drugi .Jeden siedzi już 10 lat w Stanach Zjednoczonych i już nie widzi powrotu tutaj do Polski .Drugi przyjaciel powrócił po 5 latach .Po powrocie tutaj przeżył dosłownie szok .Większość przyjaciół których znał zmieniło się do tego stopnia ,że nie poznał ich .Część się stoczyło a druga część szukając pracy wyjechała tam gdzie się dało robotę znaleźć .Po okresie około 3 miesięcy udało mu się zaakceptować dany stan .Obecnie studiuje on w Warszawie i dobrze mu idzie .Poznał nowych kolegów i na nowo układa życie .


Dygresja
>> Kiedyś , czyli z 30-40 lat temu jak się miało szczęście , to można było dostać wizę nawet na 10 lat . Po gwałtownym osiedlaniu się polaków w Stanach zauważono nadmierny przyrost imigrantów i zmniejszano okres wiz . Obecnie ciężko jest dostać wizę na okres dłuższy niż 3 miesiące . Wiem , bo 1 kolega chciał dostać wizę do Stanów , to w ambasadzie powiedziano mu , że wizę przyznają tylko na okres 2 tygodni . Inne kraje np Niemcy czy Francja nie mają wiz :) (i gdzie tu sprawiedliwość)


Dygresja 2
>> Rozmowa na tym polega , że się wymienia swój sposób patrzenia na świat .Można się z czymś nie zgadzać to jest normalne .Nazywa to się wolnością słowa

Anonymous said...

Maybe not all families function the way romcoms show? Beaming grandparents lovingly forcing warm coco on smiling kids in xmas sweaters? I think, what your kids need at this age is the feeling that they do have grandparents, so when the subject comes up at school, in storytelling, talking about birthday presents, or something, they do not feel different from other kids. I doubt kids need more love from what their parents give, they mostly need to know grandparents to be like other kids. Nagging, or forcing, grandparents to send a birthday card or a present, once or twice a year, is plenty sufficient in my opinion. Mind you, I am not a child psychologist, just talking from experience.

Peter

Chris said...

Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement. I nudged my parents a bit more, and the situation is getting better. When I acted as mediator between my children and their grandparents, the conversation started to flow. The grandparents have taken them 'out' a few times more without us. They even have their 'secrets' from us which I am pretty sure involve consuming large quantities of Coca-cola before bedtime. Baby steps, baby steps.

This is the first trip that I didn't feel like a stranger at home. This is also the first time that I thought that I could move back to my hometown and live a satisfying life. I don't have the culture shock issues that Wojtek writes about but I did in the past. Maybe due to technology I am able to better keep up with my family and friends and what's going on? Maybe I am more flexible in my old age? I don't know what it is, but something has changed-for the better.

Edi said...

Chris, thanks for that post. I think many people can relate. I believe there is a lot of value for the kids in having a great relationship with their grandparents and the bond is so different than that with the parents. We can't have everything though and no family is perfect. Sometimes I wonder if we are harder on our loved ones and expect a lot from them because.... we love them...does it make sense?

Chris said...

Edi - That makes perfect sense. I think I just wanted it so much. i want it for my kids and I want it for my parents as well. The situation is not tragic, but you know, I just want everything to go well.

Linda Wisniewski said...

Who doesn't "turn a little peculiar" when they visit their childhood home? It's a very emotionally charged situation. You handled it well, in my opinion.
p.s. Love your blog title. Visited Poland in 2010, land of my ancestors, and the kielbasa is so good...thinly sliced, mmm.

Rafal Wolk said...

Hey, I think the problem is that when we move and live our lives in different settings, places that are as exotic to us now as they had been the first time we touched their ground. Those who we leave behind, live the same ol' lives that they ever had and to them, what we do has zero relevance on the opinions that they'd created of you and your choices. I was gone for nearly 20 years... came back with two kids and a wife... the interest was limited to a short and very superficial interaction followed by years of struggling to keep in touch. Nowadays I just stick to the four of us and try to keep myself busy enough not to get too angry about the fact that my own family is less interested in my life than those who I randomly meet at work.
Thanks for sharing!