March 4, 2020

Humming Beatles' tune: 'All we need is love, love' . . . or maybe we need more?

There is so much history here, I cannot possibly fill you in.  This is my best efforts at the cliff notes version.   Apologies in advance if you find this repetitive or if you came here hoping for a laugh: 

I enjoyed a pretty great childhood.  There was no abuse, no living in squalor.  We took vacations, swam at the local pool, joined activities.  Mom was a stay-at-home mom.  Dad worked hard as an accountant/controller at a big company that often left him grouchy, but his mood improved if we cleaned up our toys and cleared our plates.  

I have four siblings, so was never lonely.  We were encouraged to read.  We did household chores.  Discipline was part of life.  Mom baked the best cookies and all of our friends knew it.  Our folks would NEVER have purchased an Atari game system no matter how much we begged, but then my sister won one in a Kellogg's drawing contest, so we avoided a deprived childhood. 

I suffered a bit (understatement) from middle child syndrome because my position in the family sucked.  My two older sisters were rule-following, try-hard, mousey types.  They never rocked the boat and they were really tight.  Two years separated them, so they were often lumped together, as in:  they got to see the movie Grease together and attend sleepovers at our cousin's house because she fell between them age wise. 

I arrived two years and eight months after my sister, Marie, but you would think that there was a 10 year age gap, ie:  I was NOT lumped in with them for outings and such.

My brother, Pat, was less than a year younger than me.  Mike was 18 mos younger than him.  So, I was packaged as one of the 'three little ones.'  This worked fine and dandy until my brothers decided to play a 'boys only' game and I was out of luck.  In a word, my birth order sucked. 

Pat walked on water.  Still does.  There was some serious parental worship.  The kid could do no wrong.  He was after all, the first born son in an Irish family.  Meanwhile, Mike was just super cute.  Everyone enjoyed him. Nuff said?

I sought outside relationships from the families I babysat for.  I felt needed, praised, and overall important when I was at their homes.  I got the attention that was somewhat lacking in my family.  At home, I worried about getting in trouble.  Marie once helped me hide in the basement when Mom was on the warpath and I was her target.  I was far from one of the goody-goody sisters and if I tried to walk on water, I sank. 

Fast-forward a million years to present day.  I tried for years to be recognized or to join their mentality.  I am embarrassed to say that for too long, I believed my family members and their mindset about everything was 'right.'  I tripped over myself to align with them.  

Then something incredible happened:  I grew
My doll,. Bridget.  My grandma
made her this
 outfit when her hair fell out
so it wouldn't be obvious
 under her bonnet.

I no longer needed my folks' approval for shit.  I stopped caring what they thought (sort of - cause if I really didn't care then I guess I wouldn't be writing this, right?).  

An example of how my sisters still require my folks approval:  Ann (the oldest, most controlling creature alive) wanted to name her 4th baby Claire.  Mom told her she didn't like that name.  Ann decided instead to name her Bridget.  Bridget was my favorite girl name of all time.  I played with a doll through 8th grade named Bridget (yes, I babysat and I played with dolls and I could not wait to have a million kids.  FYI 6 is the new million).  By the time I had a daughter, the name Bridget had been used.  OK, so the naming thing happened 19 years ago, but nothing has changed.  Trust me. 

When I found someone to make a kitchen table for me, I asked her to put a monogram on it in the corner.  The opposite corner has a Celtic knot on it. 

Mom:  Oh, I don't like monograms. 

Me:  Oh.  I do.  (my former self together with my sisters would have said:  Oh, I am going to cancel the monogram).

My happy childhood was often saddened by the impact of gross favoritism.  Marie and Pat are incredibly smart.  I was in the middle of that.  Smart counts for a lot in my family.  I am no dummy, but I lack the genius gene inherited by Marie and Pat.  

Or I was just made to feel lousy.  When no one asked me to the prom senior year, I told Mom that my girlfriends and I were going to my friend's club for dinner -her parents' treat - and then we were going to sleep over at her house.  

Mom:  If no one asked you to the prom, then you aren't going to a sleepover.  

(I actually believe that she said:  If you aren't pretty enough for someone to ask you to the prom, then you aren't going to a sleepover - but I am not 100% sure if she spoke those words or if that is how I 'heard' it.  Either way, the same message was implied.  The words 'not pretty' had been directed at me plenty.  Why my self image was SO low?  Hmm).  I did go out with my friends that night - just took the car after school and left before anyone was home from work.

Marie has a kid at Notre Dame, which is where my dad went and where Marie went, and where Mike and Pat went to school (go ahead and try to uncover my true identity now that you know that.  Good luck).  Having a daughter there is just one more feather in Marie's cap.

Ann is a victim of abuse from her penis-less, ex-husband who she has been divorced from for 12 years and everyone tip toes around her and tries to find ways to keep her happy.  She has always spoken with a weird entitled lilt to her voice.  I have a very curly headed kid aptly named Curly (Bridget was taken, see:  Mom did't like the name Claire).  

Ann once said to me in her entitled tone:  "I mean I always wanted a kid with curly hair."  I was not sure how to respond: 'Oh, here take mine.'  Weird.

Marie talks stock market stuff with Dad.  Calls Mom everyday at the same time on her way home from work.  If I try to call at the same time, Mom who has call waiting will NOT pick up my call.  If I happen to be on the phone with Mom at a different time and an unexpected call comes in from Marie (or anyone else) while we are on the phone, Mom:  "Oops, that's Marie (or whoever), I better take this." 

Ann and Marie get together without me.  Sometimes Mom joins them.  It hurts even though I don't enjoy spending time with them.  They are judgmental and closed minded and GOD AWFUL controlling and under a spell that requires them to clear every move they make with our parents.   Original thoughts are not their strong suit.  

A few years ago, Ann posted on FB when she took Marie to an Ed Sheeran concert for Marie's 50th.  Even if they asked me, I would not want to go to that concert.  Not the point.  They didn't ask.  I am the only other fucking sister. 

Years ago, my folks planned a surprise party for Ann to celebrate her getting her masters in nursing or something.  The ruse was:  Ann and Marie go to a movie followed by dinner.  We were all waiting at the restaurant.  Lad and Ed were invited (my younger kids were not, but Marie's youngest daughter - younger than Tank WAS invited).  Lad asked me why I wasn't going to the movie before the dinner with my sisters.  I was like, well then Ann would have known something was up since I am not normally included in their sister outings.  EVEN MY KIDS SEE IT AS TWISTED.

I was working at a dumb job in a Catholic grade school doing advancement stuff when I called Mom one day.  She told me:  "So Marie got a really good job offer today (after staying home for years) Your father and I always knew some company would snatch Marie up because she is just so smart."  I glanced around the storage closet I was working in at the Catholic School and thought, 'Hmm, so I have NOT made it then?'

Pat used to bring his four kids to my parents' house on Sunday afternoons to give his wife, who is a doctor, a break.  (might still do this for all I know.  I stumbled upon these special Sundays on accident once and his daughter told Mini that they did it every Sunday).  Mom would make them lunch, and they would play and Pat would have an audience with Dad.  I honest to God chuckle to think of what would happen if I showed up with my kids one day to just, you know, hang out, or be fed, or chat. 

Pat also sets up Dad's computer and troubleshoots all computer related issues for Dad.  Extra gold stars for this shining star! 

Pat once told me that Mini should quit dancing because she was also taking fiddle lessons from Aunt Leprechaun, Pat's wife.  They didn't know anyone who had been successful at both.  "Oh, shucks Wally, I guess you're right.  Let me yank her from dancing because YOU said so."  

My dad answers the phone with a warm "What'd ya need, Ernie?" when I call.  Guessing my two brothers or Marie, or even poor Ann, don't get that greeting because they call to talk White Sox line ups and stats and stocks and earth shattering shit.

 is a good guy.  He manages just fine from the perimeter (I consider myself out on the perimeter too) but he enjoys deep sports-related conversations and banking-related chats with Dad.  He isn't excluded from anything.  He and Pat are practically Siamese.  Mom told me years ago when Mike got his promotion at the bank that he makes REALLY good money.  It is pretty evident, but thanks for the heads up Mom. 

Sorry to have to stop here (before this becomes longest post ever) but the direct hit from yesterday (Feb. 26th) is a whole post in and of itself.  I will share it with you tomorrow - won't make you wait two days.  I have cried so much that I hate going out in public.  It looks like I am suffering from some puffy, eye ailment instead of shitty-family syndrome. 

I would have posted sooner, but I didn't want to screw up the pre-determined post date of the coolest story ever told that I shared Monday.  If you haven't checked it out - I strongly urge you to do so.  Mind blowing, right?  


Anonymous said...

I'm a new reader, found you through The More the Messier.
Sending you a hug from one outcast to another.
My sisters travel without me, too. They've done NYC. They traveled to Ireland together without me. They play cards and have parties and never think of me at all. I feel for you - S

Charlie said...

Oh this is such a shame Ernie. I’m sending you a big hug too. I really can’t fathom how families can sometimes behave like this. I only have 1 sister and she and her family live next door to my parents, a couple of hours away from me. But they all work really hard to make sure I don’t feel excluded. Sometimes I do a bit, but I know it’s not intentional. Have you ever broached this subject with your parents or siblings?

Anonymous said...

Your post just breaks my heart. I can feel how much you are hurt by your family’s actions - even now as an adult they still have the power to wound you. I know I am just a lurker but if it means anything, this lurker is so sorry you’ve been made to feel less than by your family. I don’t know if you posted this to just vent (something I would absolutely understand!) or if you were looking for advice? suggestions for coping? If you are looking for advice, maybe consider therapy. I have a friend who met with a therapist, explained the problem (a controlling in-law) and with the therapist developed coping strategies for managing the controlling in-law. It took like 6 sessions and my friend is so much happier now. People cannot be fixed, particularly if they do not see their behavior as a problem. You may never get closure, recognition, fair treatment from your family. (Honestly I wouldn’t even try. If it were me, I’d have named my daughter Bridget and moved far, far away! *lol*)

From reading your blog, I see a strong, funny, intelligent woman (you!) who has great kids, great husband, great friends, great life! Family stuff is hard. I hope you find a way of coping. Hugs, Maddie

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh man, I hate this post. (not you, though, never!) I just can't imagine your family treating you like this. I don't want to say anything bad about your parents, because they are your parents, but there is some sort of dysfunction here that I can't put a name to.
YOU are so different from the rest of them, so maybe that's the issue? I love that you don't bow down to other people's thoughts or opinions. I also wonder if you've ever confronted them about their behavior towards you and your kids.
I'm sorry you've been upset about something and I wish I could give you a really big hug. XO

Nicole MacPherson said...

This is just dreadful, I'm so sorry. Sometimes families can be toxic and sadly, the only way you can care for yourself is to disassociate with them. I wish it wasn't true but you can't change or control other people, only yourself. I'm sorry to say this, because it's awful. What you are describing is terribly dysfunctional and I'm so sorry. I can only imagine how hurt you must be from a lifetime of this kind of behaviour.

Ernie said...

I wrote 5 lengthy response while very tired and came back and they were all gone. Maybe I shut the window down too soon. Trying again, but if my comment show up 2x you will know I have not officially lost my mind . . . (just retyped it and thank goodness saw the message that said my comments were too long - no wonder I had to retype.

S - Thanks for visiting! I love The More the Messier and miss her regular posts, but am always excited to hear from her. She is so great! Are there three sisters in your family too? Being the sis on the outs is the worst. It makes me sad when people post amazing birthday wishes to their best friends/sisters on FB. I used to feel worse about being left out, but while it still hurts I am reminded that they deserve each other and I do not enjoy their company. Come back again during less icky topics. If you didn't read the post from Monday I urge you to check it out. It is a hilarious and surprisingly true tale.

Ernie said...

Charlie - I am glad that they try not to make you feel left out, but I understand how you still might feel that way. I confronted my folks last night and I told them I cannot believe that my siblings claim our family is so close. Far from it! (more on the confrontation later). As always, thanks for sharing. I was hesitant to post such a Debbie Downer account of life because it wasn't all that entertaining, but such is life I guess.

Ernie said...

Maddie - Not a lurker! I did write this to vent, but I am not above advice. I do have a therapist. Started seeing him like 9 years ago for Lad when Lad had ADD related issues. One day I was like, Hey, can I come and talk to you on my own? He has always advised me not to speak up because they will never change. I hate passive aggressive behavior and I could not figure out how to move forward after the 'incident' (you can read about it tomorrow) without speaking up. So I did. And I did name my 4th son the same name as her 2nd son. She didn't speak to me for a year. Hello 4th son - not easy to name four boys. She chose to use Coach's and my favorite boy name of all time. Reggie's not his real name. He was always regimented as a little guy. Read the sports page, got his chores down in a hurry - thus Reggie. She named her oldest our maiden name - which is a legit boy's name and then banned any of us from using it. By 4th son I was like up yours. I sincerely appreciate your very generous and kind words. Means so much.

Ernie said...

Suz - this is so hard. They are my parents. I do love them. I know they will not change, but last night I shared my feelings with them. The name I put on this dysfunction: favoritism. That and the fact that they trip over themselves when it comes to their first born son, who happens to be born less than a year after me. I have only ever met one other person with a similar family dynamic. We met through Irish dancing and we are at different schools currently. I think it is very much an Irish thing. Luck of the Irish I guess. Thanks for your support - hug felt. I will elaborate more on the confrontation soon. Took a melatonin and that combined with the support here and from Coach and the kids (my kids think I am a rock star for one comment I made to my folks in particular AND it wasn't even in my prepared script) I hope to get a good might sleep. I need it. Can literally not see straight.

Ernie said...

Nicole - I agree - dysfunction. It is so hurtful. I have felt bad for years that my siblings see things so differently. My therapist said that we can have different experiences and that is not unusual, which makes sense now. Coach used to shrug this stuff off, but after being married to me (and let's face it my family) for 23 years, his eyes are wide open. Not sure if confronting them was the right move, but I dislike passive aggressive behavior. After the straw that broke the camel's back happened (posting that tomorrow), I knew no other way to proceed other than to give them the silent treatment or to just speak up. I truly feel your words, and those from the rest of the commentors here as a big comfort and I really appreciate it.

Kari said...

Oh wow, a lot to unpack here.
Sending you lots of hugs.

Bibliomama said...

Wow, that is seven flavours of fucked-up (sorry if you're not a fan of swearing, I would back it down but really there doesn't seem to be a better way to put it). You could cut them all right out of your life and be totally justified, but I know how hard that is. If you didn't get invited to the prom you're not going to a sleepover? That is the bitchiest, hatefullest, most dysfunctional thing EVER. Closely followed by all the other stuff.

Ernie said...

Kari - yes indeed. And forever ago I thought Coach's family was the worst. I was still drinking the Kool aid back then. As a mother, I cannot fathom how some of this stuff was considered OK. Thanks for the hug!

Ernie said...

Ali - OMG I have not heard seven flavors - love it! Cussing is my specialty. It helps me let off steam and also grabs the kids' attention. Coach is all 'Remember when you didn't swear?' I explain: Yeah, that was before whey they were little and I could put them to bed when you worked long hours, now you work long hours and swearing is all I got.

Reggie figured out how to make his chrome book from school talk, so he programmed it to say: "Hi my name is Ernie, ef ef ef ef ef". When my kids imitate me they use the abbreviated version of the 'ef' word 'cause we're raising 'em right and all.

I winced a little a while back when you said how you wish you lived closer to your family. It has its perks and its total downside. I wish my family was all that they claim to be and then living close would be great. I could write pages of incidents not too different from the no-prom-date insult. No idea why but I was the scapegoat, the kid who would get over it. When I was asked to be an assistant director for an important retreat senior yr of high school, my mom hemmed and hawed and complained about the added responsibility. "your grades better not suffer," like it was a bummer. The very next year while I was away at college she called me all excited and breathless because Pat had been asked to be the director of the same freaking retreat. It was such an honor. I was like, WHAT the FUCK? I pointed shit out to them all the time growing up, but it would just end in eye rolls and they would make fun of me for my 'middle child' crap. I wish you lived close enough to meet for coffee. I love your perspective.