Friday, November 30, 2012

I'll Show You Mine

Hey guys, my FOO looked like yours, right?

If all anyone had to compare our families was one photograph - one snapshot - chances are good no one would realize that there was such a huge difference between mine and yours. But the real truth is that I consider myself one of the lucky few, because the more I see of the world around me, the more I've come to realize that most families are not so peaceful, not so loving, not so considerate, honest or compassionate as mine. It would be remiss of me to say that we don't have problems too; that there hasn't ever nor will there ever be strife and sadness or varying levels of dysfunction, but like any structure with a strong foundation, the Jonsi FOO is generally a resourceful, empathetic, and tough lot of people who (mostly) find their way Home at the end of the day. There are always exceptions, but overall, my family is one of the most-resilient I have ever seen.

My dear friend Jessie, who blogs at Releasing Jessie, recently wrote a post that inspired me to write about my FOO in an effort to try to answer some of the questions she asked there: What does a healthy family look like? What does a healthy sibling relationship look like? How supportive are you supposed to be? When do you know it's enough? When do you think it's too little? How do you have a close family without being enmeshed? What does a healthy relationship with siblings or parents look like? What kinds of things can be encouraged between one's own children? And what should be avoided?

Phew! Great questions, which I'm going to try to tackle over the next few weeks with vignettes about what my FOO looked like when I was growing up and what it looks like now. I've been struggling the past few days to come up with a way to do that: to illustrate as precisely as possible what my family-dynamic looked like and how it came to look that way. I've started and stopped this process several times now because it doesn't seem so easy to explain how it is that I inherently and confidently know that my FOO fell into the "healthy" category. I suppose I'll start off on this attempt with the following thought: If I was approached by a complete stranger who wanted to know what made my FOO so vastly different from DH's FOO, I would begin by telling them that unlike DH's, the members of my family unit were honest; my parents told the truth, both to each other and to their children. And unlike DH's, the members of my family upheld basic principles of respect and consideration. Not only did we learn boundaries from a young age, but we were also taught that we could effectively say "no" to anyone who did not respect ours. I would tell this hypothetical stranger that my mother came from a long line of strong, empowered, and genuinely loving people, who left a legacy to be proud of, rather than one worthy of shame and sadness. I would also tell her that my father came from a background of severe dysfunction, having a father himself who was emotionally abusive even before he was diagnosed with schizophrenia after serving in WWI and a mother who, though loving, didn't know what the fuck she was doing and spent her entire life fucking her kids up. I have seen, firsthand, how difficult it is to overcome dysfunction because my own father has been fighting it his whole life. Both my mother and her side of the family and my father, in general, value honesty and self-worth; compassion and intelligence, self-respect and fortitude. WE, the Jonsie-Foos, are a group of people who tend to avoid drama, to live in Truth, and who have a very real and genuine desire to pass down to the next generation a similar sense of respect and unconditional love: for themselves, for each other, and for the world around them.

In the picture [removed], I am struck by the emotional-closeness I feel when I look at the image of me and my brothers, even though our relationship now is not what it was when the picture was taken. I don't remember the date but my guess is that the picture was taken on Easter morning when I was probably about seven (and my brothers were about thirteen, eight, and four, respectively). Each Christmas and Easter, we lined up in the hallway so my mother could take a picture of us before we'd rush out into the living room to find our Easter baskets or tear into our Christmas presents. I liked this particular picture, in part because we were all looking at the camera at the same time and not making goofy faces for a change, but also because that was a time in my life when I felt close to my younger brother. We played together a lot at that age, and we got along pretty well. I used to read to him before we'd go to bed most nights, and that continued on until I was thirteen or fourteen, not every night and only ever because we wanted to, not because someone made us do it. Maybe that's why my hand is resting gently on him in this particular photo - it was just a natural expression of our comfort with each other at that point; the bond that we had shared, that was fostered by our parents but allowed to change and grow (or subside) as time passed.

I remember always being surprised when I'd meet new people and they'd be shocked, sometimes appalled (!) that I had three, yes THREE, brothers. They'd ask me if I had any siblings and I'd say, "Yes, three brothers." And they would say, "Three? My god! Do you have any sisters?" And I would say, "No." and think, "It's really not so bad, you know." There were a few times in my young life when I wanted more siblings, brothers or sisters would have been fine, thank you. I think it shocked people because most everyone always had so many PROBLEMS with their siblings - they had a love/hate relationship or their brothers beat up on them or they didn't get enough attention because their sibling was always vying for it. But my relationship with my brothers was mostly peaceful; we rarely had any physical altercations and those that were never consisted of more than a pinch, a light punch, or occasionally being sat on.  My oldest brother was known to torment and tease us most of the time (when he wasn't ignoring us anyway). I shared a room with my MB (middle brother) and LB (little brother) until I was eight, at which point I got to move into OB's room (because my parents had an addition built on the house so he could move upstairs and I could have my own room). We were not allowed to enter each other's bedrooms (or the bathroom) without knocking first or being invited in. We did not eat each other's food. We expressed physical love to each other only when we wanted to (hugs, kisses, etc...which I don't remember doing a whole lot of, though I'm sure we did when we were very small). We all had separate but equal chores to do around the house. We were expected to use manners with each other and with anyone we came in contact with. We had our own sets of friends, always. When we were old enough (probably when we started school) we had our own birthday parties with our own sets of friends (plus family parties, which our extended FOO and siblings were invited to). When one of us did something to the other that was considered unacceptable (hitting, name-calling, making encouraging remarks to get someone to pee down the stairs) Mom (or Dad, but mostly Mom) mete out punishment that pretty much always fit the crime. And yes - MB and I really did encourage LB to pee down the stairs. And LB really did it.

We didn't get into physical fights because it wasn't allowed. No one was allowed to hit, punch, kick, push, or pinch anyone else without expecting that there would be repercussions. As we got older, we had our own sets of toys and only had to share the ones that were considered communal. We were never, and I do mean never, expected to take care of or look out for our siblings, which contrary to popular belief, served to allow us an emotional closeness that most of the kids I knew couldn't fathom. We were each celebrated for our uniqueness. From the time we were toddlers, we were given age-appropriate choices in order to learn how to exercise our own right to make decisions: Two-year-old Jonsi, would you like to wear the blue or the pink shirt today? Eight-year-old Jonsi, your best friend is going to try playing softball, would you like to try that sport too? Eleven-year-old Jonsi, would you like to try wearing contact lenses? My entire life was peppered with decisions that I had never even been aware of, all of them serving to teach me that I had the intelligence and wherewithal to decide things for myself.

I don't remember much about OB when I was very young, say from the age of newborn to six, probably because he's six years older than me and we never had very much in common until I was in my late teens, and even then it was a stretch. He and I didn't become friends until just a few years ago, once I snapped out of the debilitating fantasy world I resided in for a while with my Narc-Ex, and I was well on my way toward true emotional adulthood. Even now, I'm much closer with his wife, whom I consider to be my best friend, than I am to him. My relationship with him is quite simple: we spend time together with each others' familys, we joke together and reminisce about childhood, we gently tease each other occasionally, and, well, that's about it. When I want someone to talk to, I call my best friend. Truth be told, I feel emotionally closer to her than I do to my brother, mainly because "emotional closeness" to me, equates to how often and the depth at which I communicate verbally with someone. And on the flipside, ever since I met DH, he and my brother have developed a close relationship of their own: by doing things together, side-by-side, generally mostly in relative silence. They go fishing together. They fabricate lures together. They occasionally have a couple of beers over a bonfire together. But for them, there isn't a whole lot of talking going on. I'm pretty sure that's foreign to DH, but I'm pretty sure that's how my brother has always bonded with his own friends - by sharing common interests together.

MB was adopted. He became a part of our clan when he was about three months old. My mother made a point to celebrate his adoption day every year, with a special dinner (usually at a restaurant of MB's choice) and a cake. His presence in our lives completely refutes the misused and misquoted phrase, "blood is thicker than water" because his kinship with us, in my opinion, was no less deep or sacred than the relationship biological siblings can have with each other. Genetically, he was not "one of us." But in his heart, he is and always will be. He was, quite literally, my brotha-from-anotha-motha.

And still, after all this, I don't think this post conveys just how different my family was and how different my familial relationships are than so many others out there. Let me put it this way: you know how I acknowledged that my relationship with my siblings is no longer what it was when that picture was taken? Neither I, nor any of my brothers have a problem with that. We all know that our problems are our own, that each of us is following our own chosen path, and that we can still share a bond with each other that no longer requires us to pose together in our parent's hallway for family portraits in our jammies. The first time OB opted to stay home while the rest of us went on a family vacation together (he was eighteen), I missed him but I understood that it was time for him to move on from that particular tradition, even though the rest of us weren't ready yet. When OB moved out to get an apartment with his (now wife), I had a pang of sadness because I knew he would no longer be there with us to open presents on Christmas morning or to drive me around occasionally in his supercool Camaro; but otherwise I had been prepped for it and knew it was "right." When he got married, I felt nothing but happiness for him as he started a new journey with a wonderful person who loved him just as much as he loved her. When I felt like I was losing my mind and any self-respect I might have had for myself because I was in an abusive relationship, each of my brothers reached out to me in their own way and on their own time. OB talked to me about it once, which was all he felt comfortable with and more than I ever could have required of him. When he saw that he couldn't help me because I didn't want the help, he did not offer his hand again until I asked for it. My mother never expected him to. MB reached out to me once too, on his own time and in a way that was different from OB's attempt. He too gave up when he saw I didn't want the help and no one, including me, blamed him. LB did the only thing he could do, and that was to express to my mother that he missed me. He was really too young at the time to have done much else. My relationship with him has not been the same since that time, in part because of the choices I made then, and moreso now because of the choices he is making which have little to do with me.

My brothers and I communicate with each other directly when we want to communicate - our parents NEVER play middle-man.

I can not ever remember one single instance when I felt guilted, shamed, or manipulated by my parents, extended family, or siblings.

My parents operated on a level of honesty unlike anything my husband and friends with narcissistic mothers have probably ever seen. My mom was and always will be a straight-shooter. She is the greatest example of Truth my two eyes have ever seen. My father, too, made a point to always tell the truth, in particular with regards to his FOO - I grew up hearing about his family and their dysfunctions, as well as my father's own dysfunctions - mostly from his own lips. I never questioned the truth of his words because I never had to. When we asked questions about his life, he answered them.

I never had to fear to be myself, and in fact had been developing my Self from the moment I was born because my parents evoked no sense of shame in me for being whoever and whatever I wanted to be. I was guided, never manipulated. I learned natural consequences for my misbehaviors and misdeeds. My parents' expectations were laid out, always, in a fair and concise way: the rules never changed and were always clearly expressed. Fear, Obligation, and Guilt were not a part of my life. That is what I hope to convey in the vignettes I would like to share with you: that I didn't grow up in a FOG and honesty was a way of life for us.

41 comments:

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    1. Well poop. That wasn't what I wanted to happen.

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  2. I just have to stress again, my childhood was mostly healthy and generally happy & peaceful. Not perfect. I have issues with my mother. I've had issues with my brothers. I currently have major issues with my youngest brother. So I don't mean to imply with this post (or my series of vignettes that will come after) that I lived a Leave It To Beaver kind of life, or that My Life Was Better Than Yours. Just, in general, I think that it was much healthier than the those of my dear friends who had to deal with NFOO dynamics.

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    1. You know, I don't think you implied at all that you guys were perfect. But it is amazing to me how EXTREMELY different my childhood was. I am always expected to reach out to my sister and be a part of her drama. I was expected to look after her, all the time. We shared friends, a lot. Often she just took my friends, or boyfriends. We got the same Christmas gifts a lot, just in different colors. I was not encouraged to be myself, try new things, or given choices. Mostly, it was do it this way or else.
      I almost feel a pang when I read about your relationship with your brothers...like you are missing out. And I know that's not true. But I'm so conditioned to feel that we all have to be "best friends" in order to be close. I'm expected to be super involved. Frankly, I would not choose to be my sister's friend at all if I didn't know her.

      Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to seeing what else you have to share. And love the picture. You should've seen me rocking the super-duper 80's 'do. It was awesome.

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    2. Okay, so I know I didn't have a sister and I don't have the experience with one to say that I would have had to deal with the same things you did. But I can't help but feel that if I had had a sister, my experience still would have been vastly different from yours. Just, in reviewing my parent's track record, it seems likely that I would have had a pretty healthy relationship with a sister too.

      I find it really interesting that you got a pang of (sadness?) because reading this post made you feel like I was missing out. That's something I'd really like to delve into in some of my upcoming memories - how I never felt like I was missing out at all with my brothers, and that our lack of enmeshment with each other was probably the hallmark of a "healthy" sibling relationship, you know? I wonder if that's an aspect of enmeshment that could be discussed - like how you're trained to feel like you're missing out if you're not completely overlapping each other.

      The friends thing is kind of crucial, I think. DH also had to share all of his "friends" with his sister and his mom and, everyone really. I see that as enmeshment, when you're not even allowed to have your own set of friends who are completely separate from your FOO. Even in siblings who are close in age - say, twins (can't get any closer than that) - I believe that they should be allowed to have their own sets of friends. And I think, if parents allowed their children to individuate, they'd do that naturally. It really wouldn't come down to having to be "allowed" anything - I believe it's a NATURAL process for kids to go out into the world and individuate from their FOOs - even same age, same sex siblings.

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    3. I don't think I made my point well, about the pang of sadness, but you did it perfectly! That's what I meant to say. I've been coached to think that I had to have this overlapping relationship with her (and my mom) in order to be a "close" family. I felt the sadness for just a moment...and then realized it for what it was. It was a great light bulb moment for me.

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    4. I dunno. My sister was always trying to steal my boyfriends by acting all slutty to the point I had to ask my dad to please tell her to jot romp around the family room in her lingerie and no bra when I still lived home.

      I mean, I sort of get my sister's need, but fuck, she was "the pretty blond one" and I only had three boyfriends. I wouldn't have touched any of hers with a ten foot pole (except the friends of mine I set her up with which were way classier than the douche bags my sister dragged around. I'm still friends with a few of those poor boys)

      I adore my sister, even now while she's not really talking to me. But shit, the relationship with my mother in the middle was/is messed up.

      I like to think other sisters have better things going. But my mother and her younger sister? My mother bad mouths her and my aunt defends my mother and tells me to be a better daughter. My aunt has no idea, at least from me, how awful my mother is to her behind her back. I have no good examples. I just go to therapy and hope to do better and only have one kid because....

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  3. Wow...Thanks, Jonsi. It's one thing to try to imagine it, and another thing altogether to read about it/see it through your eyes and think, "Hey, it's real." Never thought it was perfect, just so far from the insanity of what I grew up in. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. [[Judy]] You're welcome. I'm glad to share my relatively sane childhood with you. :o)

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  4. Please gimme a moment to take this all in.
    Wow. Huh? I gotta sit here and contemplate how...normal this whole thing looks and sounds and should feel.
    Gimme me a bit, OK? Because that's NOT my reality at all. Just let me catch my breath and I'll get back.
    OMG.
    TW

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    1. Take your time, TW. It seems you're not the only one who needs a minute to take it in.

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  5. I didn't think that at all. It's just that normal is so foreign to me. I liked reading this. It just made me feel a little sorry for my little inner girl.

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    1. Vi - I just felt bad that I made you feel bad, that's all. I didn't want you to feel like I was bragging. I think it's okay, healthy, to feel sorry for your little Vi. She wasn't so lucky as little Jonsi was.

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    2. You didn't make me feel bad. In a lot of ways, it's better for me to know I was screwed than to think it was my fault things sucked. I thought all the strife was because I was a horrible little girl. It helps to know differently.

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    3. What happened to you as a little girl was, most definitely NOT your fault. Period.

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  6. Jonsi poo,
    What a lovely picture and tribute to your family.
    I'm working to quiet the part of my soul that read this and immediately piped up with, "Surely she's lying?" Reading this as an ACoN makes me feel like I would imagine a starving child in a third world country would feel if given a magazine full of glossy pictures of fully stocked grocery store aisles.

    The abundance of comfort, joy, patience and good parenting seems like something that could only happen in an alternate dimension.

    Thank you for putting this out here. I will be studying it. :)

    Love,
    Vanci

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    1. Sigh. Oh Vanci-Pantsy. It really does make me sad that my childhood is so unbelievable to some - what a sad statement that makes about your reality. I'm sorry.

      It is real. And if it makes a difference, I don't think you had to see it to believe it. I think this is from The Santa Clause: "Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing." I know you are envisioning the kind of childhood I had for your own girls, and searching for that same kind of happiness for yourself now. And you've come a long way.

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  7. It must have be so strange for you, Jonsi, (when you met DH) to get an inside-out view of a NFAM and the fog in which we operate. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to read your stories - I am only now, in these last few years, attempting to fix my relationship with my sisters. I created a distance from ALL of them in an attempt to get out of the whole mess - threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

    I love 'Jonsi-foo', that is a cute way to describe it! I too am jealous. *bottom lip sticking out* but tell it anyway. I think it will be SO HELPFUL - as your particular point of view IS, to have something to contrast our angst with.

    Of course your family has issues - humans are messy. Personalities and decisions are messy. It's the dealing with all of it, in the confines of a happy family, that is so interesting (to me).

    What you're offering is HOPE.

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  8. You guys are bringing tears to my eyes. I just told DH that some of you guys expressed a kind of disbelief because it's so hard to imagine a childhood like mine in comparison to the horrors that you've lived through.

    I like what you wrote, Gladys - about how I'm offering you guys HOPE. I hadn't thought of it quite that way, but I like that my childhood, my stories, can be a beacon for you guys - that it's all still possible for you to have what I had. I want that for all of you. I wish you had all had parents like mine, a family like mine. But since you didn't, I'd like to share mine with you and show you that it's not impossible, even now, for you guys to find the same kind of love in your lives. I think so many of you are already headed there, have been for quite some time.

    I'm happy to share my love with you guys.

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  9. The thing is, I grew up thinking I had the perfect family! I had a special bond with both of my brothers. My older brother and I were scared shitless together and my younger brother was my baby. I loved being the rescuer/protector for both of them. Anything that was done to us was "for our own good".

    Since we were immigrants the only extended family we had access to my mum's younger sister married to my dad's twin. My aunt and uncle were terrified of NF and allowed him to behave at their house exactly as he behaved at our house, rages and all, even on the day of my aunt's funeral!

    The odd time we had people at out house my NPs staged an awesome performance and we all played along. So, on the rare occasion that I was allowed to go to a friend's house, I assumed THEIR family was also putting on a performance.

    I would look at a picture like the one you posted and assume YOU were putting on a show for the outside world because I have pictures just like that one!

    People have always told me how lucky I was to have such wonderful parents and even now people tell me how lucky I am that my parents are still alive and I should overlook how nasty NF is because he's old.

    All this added up (at times still does) to me believing that I AM THE FUCK-UP! Of course, I know now THAT was part of the plan!

    Thanks for sharing this Jonsi! I'm not jealous but I'm REALLY happy that DH has you to guide him out of the FOG!

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    1. Ah, DH also grew up thinking had the perfect family - everything was just so "perfect" and "swell" by golly! I don't know...we never walked around proclaiming how perfect our family was, or insinuating that we had no problems, or sweeping issues under the rug. That would have been fake.

      And the outsiders who believe the lie are just foolish.

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    2. I just came across this and I thought it fit in quite well with this discussion:

      “You must remember, my dear lady, the most important rule of any successful illusion: First, the people must want to believe in it.”
      ― Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

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    3. Not sure we "wanted" to believe it or we just didn't know there was another way.

      When I found out there was another way, I wasted years of my life thinking I could change it. That might be where I bought into the illusion because I guess I thought they loved me and would change rather than lose me. Fat chance!

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    4. Oh, I was thinking about the "outsiders" when I read that quote, the ones who could have used their outside perspective to see the Truth but who were too invested in the lie themselves to do anything about it.

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  10. I think I am most struck by the openness and honesty of your family. What a phenomenal foundation for a child to grow and flourish, to individuate, to feel secure and above all, loved. Unconditionally.
    My FOO was marked by an impenetrable wall of secrecy and "scripted" interactions: Learning to act "As if" all was fine, just fine, thank you. Which has left so many, many unanswered questions, questions I was not allowed to ask about either my father or Psychob's FOO. Or even WHY for example, I was put on a plane and sent here or there. Unquestioning and immediate compliance with the adult's "commands" was the order of the day. Dad traveled extensively for his businesses, but I always felt safer when Dad was around: Life was more predictable and I actually enjoyed spending time with him. But the secrecy-not good at all. I have no real sense of "Roots" as so many other people seem to have; most of my friends have tap-roots, deep and abiding roots to their FOOs, an easy comfort with their siblings, mutually respectful relationships with their Parents who clearly see their AC's as equals as well as Adults.
    The openness about your brother's adoption was jaw dropping for me. Since I spent so much time with Dad, he finally disclosed to me when I was about 13 that he had been married previously, his first wife committed suicide secondary to post-partum depression, he found her body hanging in the shower and I had a half-sister who was in the custody of her maternal GPs who adopted her. Dad was truly heart-broken he did not have a relationship with his oldest child-it wasn't for lack of trying as I found out later. (My S/M later facilitated a reconciliation between them, and I met her many years later.) I promised to keep his secret, but he must have told Psychob about this disclosure because all hell broke loose with her and my only and ~2 yr. older Nsis-who felt since she was older, she should have been told first. Even though she spent no time with Dad and was aligned with Psychob against Dad-probably the only thing they agreed on. (THEIR fights were epic...)
    This disclosure rocked my world, I won't minimize the implications of this knowledge. But this example is just one of so many regarding the secrecy inherent in my FOO. If Dad's previous marriage and the circumstances of his first wife's death, the reality I had a half-sister "out there, somewhere" had been presented as a fact of life from my earliest years, if it had been treated as a fact of life, not some shameful, painful "secret" I wouldn't have found my 13 yr. old self thinking, "If I didn't know about THIS, what ELSE do I not know about? Who ARE these people-my parents?" Again, I got the message very clearly from my youngest memories, questions regarding my parent's past were actively discouraged. Questions regarding even current events, for example, why I was sent away at various times were NOT allowed at all. Unquestioning compliance was the only "acceptable" response.
    A foundation built on this kind of shame-based, clandestine crap is no foundation at all. There IS no trust, the foundation of all relationships. Jonsi, I see your FOO as a house where all the windows were opened, the fresh air and sunshine of honesty, respect, mutuality were welcomed and encouraged. The prevailing feelings I still have regarding growing up are fear/terror and powerlessness. My "house" was dark, all the windows were closed, the heavy drapes drawn tightly shut. The undercurrent/atmosphere was always charged: Uneasy, anxious, as if all hell could break loose at any time because it did. Often for reasons I could not comprehend then any more than I can now.
    I'm still in awe of your Parents. What incredible people they were and are, both individually and as a couple. How fortunate you and your brothers were to have such Parents. No doubt, this is why they have such a great "DD" :)
    TW

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    1. My parents are so wonderfully REAL - there are no secrets, there are no lies, there is only openness and honesty. And my mother could expect honesty of us because she herself was honest.

      My mom ran a daycare for years - I always felt that she genuinely loved the children she watched. She had so much love to share and she was the perfect person to watch children - she's loving and warm, but a no-nonsense kind of person too. The kids she watched were always well-behaved and respectful and that's because it's what she expected and they knew it. She treated each of those children as she treated her own children. I think they all felt that.

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    2. "all hell could break loose at any time because it did" my childhood in a nutshell! Even into adulthood this describes any interaction that involve NF, my late older brother and, in past couple of years, the NGC. Until I found these blogs I assumed it was some kinda freaky male gene!

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  11. I also identified very strongly with every other previous Comment, their descriptions of their responses to this Post, their own experiences and feelings.
    Thank you for illuminating the profound differences between a "normal" FOO and our's-Vanci's Comment, Mulder's, Gladys, Jessie-thanks for providing the impetus for Jonsi's Post-Judy, VR have captured not only different aspects of my experience, but more importantly for me, the feelings you had when reading this Post. I also felt what you all were expressing when I read Jonsi's Post.
    I never had the sense your upbringing/childhood was a "Leave It To Beaver" type of idealized experience, Jonsi. It reminded me of how much we shouldered as kids, kind of a "Compare and Contrast" exercise that brought me closer yet to the recognition of how much we didn't have, regardless of our "material" surroundings.
    I knew from the time I was a Little One my family was 'different' from other families. The reality of this was really brought "home" so to speak when I was sent to spend the summer with my Aunt and Uncle (brother to Psychob and SIL) and their 8 kids, my cousins in Chi-town as a pretty traumatized 13 yr. old. Mon Dieu, here I was in a Working Class home of three bedrooms with the garage converted to a BR (so 4 BR, kind of) and one bath home and what a wonderful, magical summer that was: The Adults WERE, the kids also were exactly that and each child was valued as an individual and the grown-ups had very clear boundaries between the two worlds. It was predictable, everyone worked together yet within the age-appropriate responsibilities.
    I wanted to live there forever. I was so sad when that summer ended. I also remember Psychob getting off the phone with my Aunt after I was ordered to report "home" and a plane ticket was procured. One more time, on a plane alone going somewhere-this time, to a place that was no where NEAR the "Home" that I was leaving. Psychob got off the phone with Aunt after she confirmed I had arrived back at our residence. Apparently, Aunt commented on how "mature" and "sophisticated" I was compared to her kids which gave Psychob a profound sense of satisfaction as she related this conversation to me.
    Yk, if my SIL who was married to my "favorite" brother used those words to describe my child and considering they also had kids in the same age group I would have immediately been asking questions: "How is TW "more mature?" How is she more "sophisticated?" I would have seen red flags for sure.
    Not Psychob. She considered these "qualities" desirable apparently. I had "passed the test" in her mind (as far as what? "competition?") with her SIL who managed all these kids along with her brother/my Uncle and was somehow "Superior" to their kids. She hung up the phone with Aunt with this smug, self-satisfied look I knew well. I was a source of "Bragging Rights," not a kid who had once again been jerked from an environment where I felt safe-and that summer, unconditionally loved and accepted.
    Thanks to all of you for your Comments. And thanks, Jonsi for this Post. It's a true goldmine, a touchstone for what SHOULD be. Our kids, our grands will NOT have the Legacy we had: We don't allow it to continue.
    And IMO, that makes all the difference.
    TW

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    1. TW, I have some heartbreaking stories about family members on my father's side that remind me of yours - except that theirs ended in complete tragedy and devastation, while you, strong, brave, smart TW, made it out. You fought. The family members on my father's side gave up. Thanks for sharing this.

      xoxo

      Jonsi

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  12. Jonsi, our mothers sound so similar. I hope I can also add insight to this post as I too grew up in a normal, loving home. Not perfect, but normal. I think the key thing is honesty. My mom is also a straight shooter. She doesn't tell you what she thinks you want to hear. She tells the truth, period. And when she's been wrong about something, or over-reacted, she apologizes. No excuses. Just- "I was wrong and I'm sorry for having said or done x, y, or z, period."

    My mom also watched children. She didn't run a day-care per se. It started with a family acquaintance that knew my mom was a stay-at-home mom. This acquaintance asked her if she would mind watching her child. Through word of mouth, my mom eventually wound up watching several in our home over the years, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. Some of the kids were wild at home, but knew the rules at our house were consistent, fair and would be enforced. They were well behaved on my mom's watch. She treated them all with love and kindness. One particular child (according to the story shared by her mother) told her mom that she liked the rules at my mom's house better than her own home.

    And back to the honesty thing. No question was ever off limits. We talked about anything and everything as a subject would come up. If my brother or I had a question, no matter the subject, it would be answered honestly. My mom was a good judge of character as well and taught us to watch out for people who are manipulators. A perfect example: One time I got in a fight with my best friend. A few days later this friend came knocking on our door. Mom answered the door and my friend was standing there with a gift and said she wanted to apologize to me and give me the gift. Mom set her straight by telling her that I was perfectly willing to be her friend if she would just be nice to me and that she couldn't "buy" my friendship with a gift. Had my mom not stepped in, being a kid and not knowing any better, I would have been manipulated by this "friend" and her "gifts."

    As I got older, I realized (as all children do) that hardships exist, and I noticed my mother's ability to deal with those hardships with her own kind of quiet dignity. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she was with her almost every day, trying to help her to remember and, when the disease progressed further, taking care of her as she had taken care of me- with a kind of selfless compassion that few possess.

    I married into a very dysfunctional family and right away the contrast between my family and DH's was day and night. I only found out about NPD 3 years ago, but prior to the realization of what was actually wrong with my NMIL, I just thought she was strange and emotionally draining to be around and that my DH's FOO was one of the strangest, most dysfunctional families I had ever met. My DH has never been much like his parents or siblings, but it took me helping him to open his eyes to really see the depths of their dysfunction going on. We are now happily NC, which hasn't been hard to do since NMIL is the ignoring type.

    ~DD

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    1. Wow, DD. I'm so happy to hear this because I have to admit, like many of my friends here, I feel that families like ours are so rare. Your mother sounds a LOT like my mother. Thank you for sharing this, I very much appreciate it.

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    2. You're right. Families like ours are rare. I didn't know that growing up. I thought most families were like my own. It breaks my heart to know there are so many people out there like your husband and mine that didn't get to experience unconditional love as a child.

      Then again, DH has said he thought all families were like his growing up. So he didn't really know what he was missing until he became a member of my family. I wasn't so welcomed into his though. You know how that goes.

      ~DD

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    3. Oh I sure do. We're kindred spirits, you and I!

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  13. I know what normal (relatively speaking) families look like. But it's like a journey I just don't have a map for.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCm6gRHINqA

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  14. You've provided an extremely encouraging description of a desirable family environment, thanks; it sparks the idea to spend some time going through my growing up years, maybe in chrono order, or maybe according to different issues, just imagining the helpful parental responses I would have probably mostly gotten instead of the ones I did get.

    Not long ago, such an exercise would probably have mostly been painful to me, though usefully enlightening; now, I'm at a place where mostly I feel the anticipation of greatly appreciating how I can in my imagination somewhat experience a healthier version of my growing up years, which might even help re-program some of my current attitudes, who knows?

    I might change some of the settings and people in this re-imagining, I'll have to think about that, but your description is like having enough of a map (credit to Q) to go on with for now. --quartz

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  15. I can understand better your determination for DH to see the FOG and get out. You know there is a better way. Hugs, I am really happy for you.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this, Jonsi. It gave me hope that families CAN be beneficial when done right! I also love, LOVE, the fact that your MB was adopted - my NM feels adoption is 'a stupid move' to bring in 'inferior genetic stock and kids with emotional problems'.

    Needless to say, I think about adopting all the time. Out of spite. ;-)

    But in all seriousness, there are children out there already with poor circumstances who need love - it just makes perfect sense to bring one in under your wing if you have the room, doesn't it? Anyway, really impressed, and really inspired, too. Thanks for sharing a positive example, Jonsi! :-)

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    1. Inferior genetic stock?! SERIOUSLY? Who says shit like that? Good lord. Did you she genetically screen your DH too before she "allowed" him to marry you and breed.

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    2. When my DH and I had difficulty conceiving we began the adoption process. NM declared, "No adopted little bastard will be a grandchild of mine!"

      Shortly after I became pregnant and, at the time, I was so deep into their shit I actually apologized when I found out the baby was (GASP!) a girl. Imagine that. First, I had the nerve to be born a girl, then I disappointed again by giving birth to a girl.

      Face it guys, I'M definitely the family fuck-up!

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