Aging and Relationships: Kids, Self, Grandkids

Estranged. 

It’s such a weird sounding word when it comes out. It means to have evidence of feeling alienated. Alienation is a touchy subject because it usually serves under the umbrella for a series of emotions brought on by memories of resentment, discontent, and distrust by a loved one. This especially rings true for people who have been on the fritz with a loved one who is older and ‘set in their ways’(usually a parent or a sibling), and who may have been in and out of a person’s life. The ever evolving cycle of fight, make-up, fight, make-up builds emotional walls as harder than diamonds. Going through long periods without communicating can add extra layers of resentment to existing unaddressed emotions. Ultimately, making someone question if it’s better to not speak to the person at all.

I am not going to talk too much about my personal experiences of being estranged from a parent. Rest assured, I have first hand experience with parental alienation. So much so that it caused me to take an entirely different direction in my life. I can’t help to think I would be in a different place in my life and career had I received support from both of my parents in my mid-20’s. I have no regrets regarding my personal decisions. However, I do wonder what could have been had a different run of opportunities been presented in front of me. My relationship with my alienating parent has definitely changed for the better since my early 20’s. Although, I wonder what it would have been like without the parental scrutiny and ambivalence about who I chose as my partner at 22. I still have resentment toward the parent who chose to detach from me. I pride myself for having a forgiving personality. I choose to keep those feeling separate when we talk or meet until I am ready to address them with my parent.  

I want to talk about family gatherings that should be fun filled days or weekends of entertainment. Somehow these gatherings end up being torturous minutes and hours of bickering over past personal decisions. Mind you, everyone is responsible no matter who is passing blame. Albeit, a lifestyle choice, a parenting strategy, a marriage to an “non-family-approved” person, or even the choice to move out of state or country. Sometimes things as small as lifestyle choices can trigger estrangement.

I’m generally speaking, and not taking into account individuals who have substance abuse, addiction or mental health issues. Family members who choose separate from individuals who have substance abuse problems tend to separate due to circumstances far greater than decisions surrounding choosing a place to live.

Image result for estranged Via Google Images

I have a friend who told me about a young neighbor who got married this weekend. She identifies as White/Italian American female, and her husband to be, a Black/African American male. Now, before we get caught up in the touchy subject of race, the social pigeon holes we’re supposed to fit into, and the divides race creates in societies all over the globe…race isn’t the topic I want to discuss.

I want to talk about estrangement from families because of personal decisions and the general disapproval of a person’s personal decisions. In this case, choosing a partner or spouse. I learned the girl’s mother and father didn’t approve of the marriage because the couple was not of the same race. As a result, she faced years of criticism and doubt before they decided to move forward in their relationship. She didn’t even know if her parents, or any family for the matter, would show up to the wedding (I learned they did in fact attend). 

I can’t even imagine the stress that girl felt facing her walk down the isle. Her wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of her life.Why ruin it to make a point about something that doesn’t effect anyone else but the couple. They chose each other. They probably know what they’re facing. Why make it more difficult. Why not let them live their own path?

We grow up with a set of family values constructed in the nuclear home (US reference), right? Then, as we get older and begin to explore the world on our own. Sometimes, we tend to adopt practices from other cultures and communities into what we think may work in our lives. Examples are things like community values, national traditions, style, and even regional nuances like properly naming a pork-filled sandwich. I believe this rings true the more and more our world becomes a robust intercontinental environment; opposed to isolated piles of sand and dirt.  

Many “old school” elders tend to be set in their ways and are very stern regarding their feelings about something. As a result, the unwillingness to budge or accept the way things are operating in a loved one’s life directly contributes to their estrangement. A lot of times, the reasons as to why someone distances themselves from a loved one, are unresolved issues compacted over time. Some individuals can behave childish and short sited; passing the blame back and forth resulting in complete detachment. 

These are the instances where voices are elevated. Emotions will run high. Recollections will be told.

Everything should be taken into consideration and each person’s memory of a situation should be heard. There are also instances when both parties are to blame and they must come to a reconciliation for their grievance in order to move forward. Some times interpretation of instances of the past needs some clarity from both parties. Children may remember things differently than their parents. Some memories may be of pain, but the parent sees the memory as a teaching moment for their young children.

I have dealt with separating good memories and pain. I know there is another side to every story. That side is the truth.

It took me becoming a parent myself to put the pieces of my childhood together. Some painful instances I have no one to blame but myself. Some of my memories are muddy. The pain from some of them is very  real. I try to find someone to blame, but I come up short because I know there are many versions of the same story. In those cases, the reality is I can only accept how those instances changed me for the better. In other cases, I know I have to confront memories with my loved ones in order for us to heal together. Something I have been actively doing since I turned 30. I know I have to be open to hear their side and their pain. When appropriate, I insist they be open to mine.

In the long term, confronting these emotions is a two way street. Renditions of events need to be heard from both sides. It just takes time and effort from both individuals. 

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