April 13, 2023

an Easter chat for the books, packing power to my plight

Our Easter gathering was small-ish. My folks, my sis, Ann, her oldest son, and Mini's 2 friends. My dad chatted with Mini's friends, M and Q, after brunch while we were lounging around, most people were watching the Masters. In my estimation, there's nothing more boring than golf on TV, so I read blogs. I thought I overheard my dad mention my brother, Pat, a few times. Later, I asked our ND guests if my dad was bragging about Pat. 

I made a bunny cake and the girls
decorated it. I meant to
sing happy b-day
 to Mini, but we forgot. Her
bday was yesterday. 


Mini had gone up to take a short nap in her bed, so Dad's intended target audience was her friends. 

Before I get to that, another tidbit that might make my 'situation' come into focus a bit better. . . 

I called my folks after my failed SIBO prep incident. I was still red and puffy-faced. My dad answered.  

Historically, my dad will pass the phone to my mom and barely say much when I call. I've been in their house when Marie calls them, and he has lengthy, involved, engaged conversations with her. Who knew lengthy conversations were in his wheelhouse? 

Dad:  WHAT'S UP. 

Me:  I described how I failed the prep for the SIBO test. Then I told him that we'd had a draining chat with Lad the night before.

I'd written out 3 pages, then read it to Lad. Coach had agreed with my notes and was there. Ultimately, we're urging him to try ADD meds to see if that might help him be more accountable, better at time management, less impulsive, and build better relationships. 






* I explained:  it's hard for children with neurological differences to fit into the world and that there was a FB post circulating that detailed how kids with autism, ADHD, Asperger's, dyslexia, etc. might put forth all the same effort as 'regular' peers, but often fail and become frustrated. They might not make teams or have friends or get invited to dances, etc. It isn't that they aren't bright, it's just that the world doesn't recognize their gifts and talents.



Me:  YEAH DAD, GRADES? I NEVER WORRY ABOUT GRADES (I admit to focusing on grades when Lad was a kid. I wish I could go back in time and rectify that). GRADES DON'T MATTER. I GREW UP KNOWING THAT NOTHING I DID REALLY MATTERED 

(*I wasn't brave enough to spell out exactly what I meant:  I didn't feel smart enough/didn't measure up even though I AM SMART by most people's standards).

Dad:  WELL, AT LEAST YOU STILL HAVE ______ AND _____ (insert names of my two offspring that he believes are my most intelligent kids).

Me:  DAD! DO YOU NOT HEAR ANYTHING I'M SAYING? (his naming of who he thinks are my smartest kids demonstrates the EXACT reason I felt the way I did  growing up. Because my test scores weren't near prefect, I wasn't enough- was never as good as Pat and Marie) 


Dad:  OH, OK. 

Maybe it was always best that Dad NOT have full-length phone conversations with me. 

Fast forward to Easter. My dad is chatting with M and Q. M has an Irish name, so she's scored points with him.


Background:  M, Q, and Mini 'vatored' me Thursday night when they arrived. 

Vatoring defined:   their group of friends hanging out in their ele'vator' lounge in their dorm where there are couches, etc. They have great chats there late into the night, and sometimes invoke a 25 minute study stretch, broken up by 5 minutes of talking. 

We talked until 12:30 am in my kitchen, and debriefed them on some of my family of origin background, so my dad's Easter diarrhea-of-the-mouth (see below), while surprising and alarming, supplied some context for them.  


"Let me tell you about my son. . . and his
 daughter, my smartest grandchild . . . "

Dad:  MY SON, PAT, (talked about his career, his pipe playing, etc) EARNS (enter a staggering salary figure, close to 6 times what Coach makes) WITH 8% INCREASES ANNUALLY AND BONUSES. 

    PAT'S DAUGHTER, MY SMARTEST GRANDCHILD, DIDN'T GET INTO NOTRE DAME, EVEN THOUGH SHE SCORED A (near prefect #) ON HER ACT. TWICE. SHE DIDN'T GET IN BECAUSE HER PARENTS MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY (her mom is Dr. Leprechaun and owns her own family medicine concierge practice). 

All I can say, well I can say A LOT, but really - this information, in my calculation, really packs more power to my plight. I grew up FEELING that I wasn't enough, there were remarks, behaviors, conversations, but it was difficult to nail down my parents'. Like, was I reading into things? I was always pegged as a drama queen for complaining about middle-child stuff. Then THIS. 

Now I feel somewhat vindicated. My suspicions/feelings have been confirmed/legitimized. In my dad's mind:  only really intelligent people matter, it's acceptable to compare offspring to one another, and when a grandkid doesn't have the well-roundedness to be accepted into the family-favorite college, then the only explanation is, well, total horse shit. 

Notre Dame doesn't exclude people for having too much money. They want ALL.THE.MONEY, which makes my daughter's near full-ride all the better, because they aren't getting much from us. How does my dad know that Mini isn't his smartest grandchild? We NEVER tell him test scores. Hmm. 


*consider who is doing the measuring, right? I know, but it's hard to not WANT to make the cut since that's been the marker for.EVER. 

My memoir must be published and made into a movie, pronto. Right? Because, sadly, I have to believe this story is relatable - or at the very least appalling/eye-opening. 

This is where you tell me how you marvel that I grew into the human that I am DESPITE being raised by a pack of wild dogs, being raised by parents who didn't see the talents of EACH of their children. 


Beth Cotell said...

Your dad is a real piece of work. I am assuming that he is like this because HIS father only valued things that can be measured (grades, salaries, etc.) instead of valuing the whole person to include things that can't be measured (basically everything else in life that makes a person a good person).

I can't imagine spending a lifetime trying to measure up to the "perfect" child. I'm sure it is exhausting because no matter what you do, you will never be good enough in his eyes. The fact that he won't give Mini any credit for a FULL RIDE is insane and very telling - he can't(or won't) change the narrative in his mind that the other grandkid might not be as wonderful as he thought.

I also feel bad for Mini's friends having to listen to him brag about someone they don't know. Telling them how much money he makes is very odd...I'm sure her friends felt uncomfortable. In the end though, it makes me feel bad for your dad (don't hate me!) but he is very out of touch and sadly has missed out on having a wonderful relationship with not only you, but your awesome kids as well.

Bijoux said...

Parent issues . . . We’ve all got them! I’m sorry about how your dad talks and makes you feel. It sucks. I’ve always found it helpful to consider the time period they grew up in and their own family of origin. My father was fine, but my mom is a real piece of work, and this dates back to my childhood, long before she began showing signs of dementia. If she doesn’t like/believe what you say, she acts as though you didn’t say anything. Similar to talking to a brick wall.

On a happier note, the bunny cake was adorable!

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

That sounds like such a toxic way to grow up, and I'm so sorry that you STILL have to deal with this kind of thing.

Nicole said...

Wow. WOW. Honestly, this is really horrible and toxic and I am so sorry you are STILL dealing with this kind of dreadful behaviour as an adult. What a shitty way to grow up. I'm so sorry.

Colleen said...

I was reading this and thinking that YOU broke the cycle. I think we all see things in our parents we want to emulate and things we never want to do, and you're doing it. I can tell by the way you talk about your kids that you truly individualize them and see them and love them for who they are. I think you can love someone (your parents) but not like them and that's ok to feel that way. Hugs!!!

Nance said...

It's a wonder any of us survived our childhood. I could tell you things that would leave you gobsmacked, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

To paraphrase the British poet George Herbert, the best revenge is living well. Live happily and well, Ernie, and try to stop expecting so much from people who simply do not have it to give to you (and never did).

Pat Birnie said...

Oh my goodness. My mouth was literally hanging open as I read this! I’m so sorry you had to (&still have to) deal with this. I wish there was a magic wand we could wave that you could remove yourself and stop letting this nonsense affect you. You truly have risen above your upbringing. Also I’m sure those smart ND girls know that people are not turned away because they have too much money!! lol. I cannot fathom him telling them family members incomes??? Lordy.....

Busy Bee Suz said...

What in the actual hell?
His way of thinking is total horse shit. He can't see the values in people unless they are getting high grades or making a load of money. he's ass-backwards, for sure.
YOU ARE A MARVEL. You treat your kids equally and adjust to their needs whenever they need you. Your dad could learn some lessons from you, but I know it's too late for him. So sad.

Big hugs to you for overcoming what was such a weird childhood (coming from the girl raised by wolves!). You should be proud of how you and Coach have such a healthy relationship with each other and your kids. XO

Kari said...

It's unfortunate that your father values only the superficial things. He's very lucky to have so many children and grandchildren. It's really sad he doesn't recognize that.  

I like that you had a small Easter celebration. Despite your father's remarks, it sounds like you enjoyed your daughter's friends.

Ally Bean said...

Your father is something else. Stuck in some old-time thinking, I guess. It's kind of you to allow him to be part of your life. He certainly hasn't earned the right.

Ernie said...

Beth - My dad is a piece of work. I'm not sure if he got this way from his parents. I suppose that is most likely accurate. My grandpa survived the depression and he was very focused on saving money. At any rate, while my dad has lots of good traits - this fixation of his about someone's intelligence is really irritating. I'm not sure if I will bother, but I'd like to point out to him that my niece didn't get denied from ND because of her dad's salary but because she wasn't well rounded enough. Mini is bright, but her leadership skills and involvement in extra curriculars most likely painted a picture of the well rounded kid that she is. Her essays were also funny and demonstrated a lot of compassion and empathy for a brother who was bullied and the boys we attempted to adopt.

The visiting girls found the whole situation very entertaining and jaw dropping, how could they not? I swear I'm in a better place than I once was, because years ago that would've burned me up - but I'm much better at laughing about it now.

Coach was honestly the one to draw the comparison to my siblings as my dad's 'well at least I have these two kids' mindset must be exactly what goes thru his head.

Ernie said...

mbmom 11 - Thank you very much for the kind words. I do really think that Coach and I are good at focusing on each kid's individual strengths. And, you're right - we do try to encourage them to be the best that they can be.

I'm fine. Honestly. I don't expect an apology. I don't want to try to change the past - good or bad, right or wrong, I am who I am because of my upbringing. What does not kill you . . . right? I really wasn't miserable growing up, but the jealously I had for my brother was hard to contain and it got me into trouble. I'm really happy with what I have and how I turned out.

It helps that I know my dad's wrong. I know ND didn't turn my niece away for her family's wealth. It's so silly. I'm REALLY very good at laughing at all of it now. I feel like the whole nonsense to put things in perspective. All the hogwash I was fed growing up, HOGWASH.

Ernie said...

Bijoux - You raise a good point. I agree, this probably stems from something my grandparents instilled in him. I remember them as people who would never spend money and who were big on saving. We also were expected to show them our report cards every quarter. That was a big deal. None of us every had anything to be ashamed of, but can you imagine if we had? A good report card earned us a dinner from McDonalds from my grandpa.

Talking to a brick wall sounds slightly passive aggressive and unhealthy. Good grief.

We make that cake most years, because Mini's bday is around Easter. It has never been so beautifully decorated. The visiting girls kept offering to help in the kitchen, but I find it usually easier to just do the stuff my self. Finally, I was like here - decorate the bunny cake. They let their creative juices flow.

Ernie said...

Suzanne- My brother used to make fun of me for being a slow reader. He was less than a year younger than me and that was painful. He really never got in trouble, that I can recall, for being a snot to me. His walk-on-water existence used to make me come unglued. Now? I am crazy about he and his wife and their kids, but we have our own paths and we parent a little differently. And I'm a big fan of the crew Coach and I have raised - hard working and great senses of humor and not a spoiled bone in their bodies. So, it's all fine.

I ended up finding praise and support from the families I babysat. They were WOW'D by me and I guess I got what I needed eventually.

Ernie said...

Nicole - It is a strange thing to realize at my age. I've known for a long time that my parents played favorites, but deep down I'd tell myself that couldn't be right - because PARENTS aren't supposed to have favorites. I assumed I was wrong, that I read into things. As an adult, I've really recognized that my parents have flaws. I mean, they are human. This latest stuff though really just allows me to recognize that I'm not the crazy one. So, that's helpful.

Ernie said...

Colleen - Well, thank you. I do think that Coach and I have gone out of our way to break the cycle. I definitely think we got better over time. But we really never compared our kids to one another, even when they were small.

I like the way you summed this up. I am crazy about each one of my kids, but all have different characteristics to be crazy about. Different makes the world go round, right?

Of course I do love my parents. There are parts of their personalities and their antics that I like, enjoy, and cherish, and then there are PARTS that leave much to be desired. Ah, to be human.

Ernie said...

Nance - It is a wonder any of us survived childhood, and we're not just referring to the lack of seatbelt wearing. Am I right? ;)

I like those words to live by. I'm a touch busy with my kids' lives and issues and needs to worry much about what my parents do or say, honestly. But this one - well, geez - it fell right into my lap. In my own home, on Easter. What was he thinking? The sad thing is my parents' have unwittingly caused my siblings and I to drift. I know for certain that that was NEVER there intnet. But, here we are.

Ernie said...

Pat - It really is hard to fathom, right? I swear that this really didn't upset me. I did find it entertaining and I do want to set him straight, but what's the point? It felt like an 'AHA' moment - like confirmation of what has been underlying FOREVER. I do think that I would've been a total mess if not for the families who I babysat for who championed me at every turn. They were always so good to me and helped me develop a strong sense of self. I also credit some awesome teachers along the way.

Oh my gosh - the visiting girls were so entertained by the weird family dynamics they encountered. Freak show - we are here for it. ND has blind admissions, also there are some SERIOUSLY wealthy families there, so why weren't they turned away for having too much money? Sheesh.

Ernie said...

Suz - Raised by wolves, hee hee. Yeah, the thought process, like what on earth are you smoking? What of all the CRAZY wealthy families whose kids attend ND? How did they weasel their way in there? Silliness. The fact that Mini is there, on an almost full ride? Well, I suppose that makes this whole ordeal that much more laughable. I was thrilled when she got in, since my dad didn't think she would. But this? This just makes it even sweeter. How does he know Mini isn't his smartest grandchild? We don't discuss test scores with him. Or anyone, so there's no way it got back to him.

Thanks for the compliments. I do think we do a decent job of focusing on what each kid does well. We've had our moments. Learning moments, to put it mildly.

Ernie said...

Kari - There are a lot of people in the family, so it would be nice if he celebrated each one for what they bring to the table.

It was a small gathering. The ND girls were a lot of fun. I can't wait until next year, as I've requested more of them to come. She has a lot of friends from the east coast.

Ernie said...

Ally - Old time thinking might be part of his problem. It is strange that he is still stuck there, since he is an intelligent man. My BFF from high school no longer talks to me, because she got upset years ago that I refused to disown them.

Nicola said...

Wow! Family dynamics can be so hard, especially when they haven't changed at all. Well time on being able to (mostly) laugh about it and rise above it now. That must have taken some serious work on your part.

Ernie said...

Nicola - Yes, family dynamics are hard. Hey, Dad - read the room, it isn't 1985 anymore. It is downright laughable. It has taken time, and because it is so wrong - I still find it hard to believe that he thinks/talks that way. I'm focused on so many other things though. When you know better, you do better and all that. I know better, so I think that helps.

Bibliomama said...

Who the hell says what their kid makes to ANYONE, let alone their granddaughter's friend? How classless and pathetic. And right, didn't get in because her parents make too much money? Who would believe such an idiotic statement? I sort of get how grandparents don't have a great understanding of neurodivergence, although a lot of it is unwillingness to understand, not inability. But the rest? Jesus. No.

Ernie said...

Ali - It is fairly mind-blowing even for my dad. Not to mention who tells a granddaughter's friend 'MY SMARTEST GRANDCHILD' - like what? How does he know she's the smartest since we don't tell you test scores? It is so dumb to say a college rejected her because she was too smart. Neurodivergence - that's the word I was looking for. Yes - that's all new and stuff, but my dad went ALL IN on learning about narcissism when my sister was divorcing her narcissistic husband. The man loves to read and learn, so I've been pretty frustrated that he refused to learn about kids with ADHD.