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Flaky family

August 18, 2010

I have to admit that I am openly jealous of people who have really solid families – the kind that support one another through thick and thin. The kind that may be inconvenienced by one another, but never feel burdened. The kind that don’t think twice to put each other before themselves, because they know the rest of the family would do it in return. I always thought that I had a solid family.

Then I grew up and reality bit me square in the ass.

My parents both grew up in broken, dysfunctional homes. They both grew up not really knowing either of their parents, so I grew up not knowing my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and most of my cousins. My dad’s side of the family were first generation immigrants from Europe, settling first in Nova Scotia and then coming down to the US in the 30’s or 40’s. My mom’s has a whole other scandalous history (that is actually a great story). Both of them grew up not knowing what a solid family was like.

I, however, did not. My parents were high school sweethearts (even though they went to different schools – they actually met at church youth group). They will be celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary this fall. They were the kind of parents that worked hard to provide for us, and went all out for birthdays and Christmas, and yet still managed to carry zero debt aside from a mortgage. They went to all of our umpteen million band rehearsals, soccer practices, dance recitals, spelling bees, school plays, and even state history day competition (which meant sitting in a hot, stuffy capitol building for an entire day, watching dozens of plays and documentaries, only to watch me get last place every time). They were really great.

Then something changed.

I don’t know when, and I don’t know what, but the first sign that I can remember was when I decided to try out for the cheerleading squad. A bunch of friends and I decided to go to the clinics and have fun and see what happened at tryouts. I never expected when they read the roster of the 1995-96 Coconino High School Cheer Squad that my name would be called. I was so excited I cried.

My dad picked me up that day, and I remember running out to the car screaming, “Dad! Dad! I made it! I did it!” and his response was, “Great. I’m glad you had fun. Now let’s get back to working on the stuff that matters.”

“But dad, you don’t get it. I made the cheer squad. Me. Geeky, scrawny band geek ME.”

“Well you don’t expect that you’re actually going to be a cheerleader, do you?”

“Yeah, I do. Why did I work so hard all week if it was for nothing?” I was deflated. My rep at school to that point was the weird band girl who dated Kara Anderson’s little brother. For me to overcome all social barriers to actually be ON the cheer squad, well, that was sort of a big deal. It wasn’t that I wanted to be popular – I didn’t. I just wanted to prove that all of these things should be more about talent than popularity, and by making the squad, I did. My band friends didn’t like it, and my cheer friends didn’t like me, but I didn’t care. I. Was. A. Cheerleader.

And I loved it. I pretended that I didn’t because my parents, for the first time in my life, did not support me 100%. In fact, they didn’t support me even 1%. They didn’t pay for me to go to camp. I did. They didn’t buy my uniforms and shoes and accessories. I did. They didn’t come to my games unless the band was playing, and even then, they were there to watch me perform in the band – which became a lot easier because I stuck out like a sore thumb in that cheer uniform. If we had a retreat, my mom would tell me I couldn’t go. If we had a late practice, I had to find my way home.

They tried to get me to quit by using the ultimate teenage bargaining chip – driving privileges. They gave me a car and told me I had to take driver’s ed to get my license – knowing full well that I would have to drop cheer to go to class as they both met after school. I didn’t budge, and it was another year before I got my driver’s license.

I tell this story because I see more of this in my parents today than the wonderful doting parents I remember. And I struggle with it. I don’t understand why I can’t have the kind of parents that are thrilled at the prospect of spending a whole day with their granddaughter, rather than being spiteful that they “got stuck” with her. I would like to see a pair of parents that want the best for their child, not because it’s right, but because they don’t have to deal with the fallout any longer.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with my family dynamic. In Denver, if I needed something, I had a handful of friends I could call on and they would help me by babysitting till 3 am (on a weeknight), or move in the snow (twice) , or drop by and help me bathe when I couldn’t do it myself (when I sprained my ankle). I would expect that living with my family, that I would have more support than that group of friends I had known for only a few years.

But I don’t.

And that kills me.

Yesterday, I was in a funk, most of the day. I canceled plans with friends and I wallowed in self-pity. I went and saw Eat, Pray, Love, hoping that it would make me feel better, but I only felt worse.

This morning, I started looking for places to live, in hopes that I can move soon. Even if I have to pretend like I live far, far, away to deal with the fact that I do not have the family I wish I were born into to deal with the grief, I’ll do it. And that hurts more than anything.

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3 Comments
  1. casse01 permalink
    August 23, 2010 9:43 am

    Wow they were really anti-cheerleading huh? sounds like they were fine while you were robot daughter and then once you had a mind of your own and pursued something you wanted (and not what they wanted – it was all well and good while y’all had the same wants) then it was nice knowing ya don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. Sounds like they have control issues. I’m sorry they aren’t like everyone else’s grandparents, but I can relate because mine are like that too and I always get really jealous of those that have the doting grandparents. Life sucks like that sometimes.

    • August 23, 2010 5:00 pm

      I’m sure they had their reasons for being unsupportive or not wanting me to participate, and didn’t feel that they needed to justify themselves to a 16 year old. But it just plain felt like they knew I was growing up & were losing control, so they controlled whatever they could.

      I’m sure part of it is that their folks weren’t around for them, much less us, so they don’t know what a ‘good’ grandparent should act like. I know they love their grandkids, but my sis has the same beef. So I know it’s not in my head.

      It’s no less aggravating though.

  2. mary permalink
    August 28, 2010 6:52 pm

    Oh My Euncie

    I didn’t know any of this stuff. I would have done more if I know that was going on. I’m sorry your mom and dad were not for the whole cheerleading thing. I know you worked very hard that year. I know that you were working hard to get to places that you needed to go to. I also know that you were very worked over that year.

    As for the whole grandparents I’m sorry I can’t say much for that one. I do know that my parents would like something to happen with the bf and myself. I also think that some of my friends would like to see something :)

    I will keep you in my prayers as the week starts. I wish I could do more.

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