Category Archives: Family Drama

Angry All the Time

Tim McGraw sings a song called “Angry All the Time”. It’s about a marriage that has reached its breaking point, and the song’s tune has always made me feel sad and wistful. The title, if not the lyrics, seems to apply to me lately, in particular this past weekend.

“Mom, can I have an apple?” is enough to send me over the edge. This is not good.

Belle is a very active child who still does not know boundaries. She will grab at anything within her sight, within her reach. She is five years old. I don’t think she should need to be so highly supervised every bloody second of the day. I have had to put the dog out of limits to her on many occasions as she simply will not stop getting in her face, waving scarves (or anything else, really) around, which causes Tessie to chase her (of course) and then screeches when the inevitable happens. She exhibits highly inappropriate behavior, some of which can send me into a rage in seconds. She takes glee in seeing someone else hurt or in trouble, and likes to do and say inappropriate things to her sister, the neighborhood kids, or friends who come to visit. Some examples are: deliberately spitting on someone else’s food, saying a word like “stupid” over and over and over and over, mooning, all followed by that infuriating gleeful laugh and I sometimes just want to throw her through the window.

Krystal has turned into an 8 year old teenager overnight, and the massive attitude is driving me mad. Nothing is ever her fault, and she has to be reminded to do simple things multiple times before she takes action. She also seems to have some sort of odd “opening disability”. She cannot open a tube of toothpaste, a package of crackers, a bottle of water, without assistance. Worse, she doesn’t even try. This is closely related to her “can’t find anything” syndrome. Just last night we were doing baths and she needed to comb her hair. She said, “Can I go get your comb? I can’t find ours.” And her comb was right there, under the headband that she couldn’t be bothered to move.

I am stressed. I need a break.

I don’t want to feel so angry all the time.

Turkey Day Fallout

We spent Thanksgiving at my step-sister Stella’s new apartment. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, about an hour and a half drive for us. The view from her living room was nearly breathtaking, but it’s far too remote for full time living for my tastes.

Also present was Stella’s 18 year old daughter, Britt, Britt’s boyfriend Brendan (not sure how old he is), and their 6 week old son. Stella also has a son Steven, who is only 9 days younger than Krystal. Two kids, nearly 10 years apart. Her mother, my step-mother, was also there, along with her father and his wife. A bit of an odd mix, but we’ve done this at Christmas the last few years, and my mother has also been around for that (think about all the dynamics going on for a second), along with others including Stella’s sister Deidre, her husband and their three (adult) kids and grandson.

When we got there my step-mother, Pat, told me that Deidre’s husband’s mother had been admitted to the hospital that morning with a possible stroke, and a few hours later his father had fallen down the steps and was also being hospitalized. A bit later Stella got a call from Jessica, Deidre’s middle daughter, who said that “Uncle Lars might have died this morning.” And so we realized that when we were first told Lars had fallen, it was actually Lars, Jr. and not Lars, Sr. It took about an hour for the “might have” to disappear from that sentence. I had met Lars in the past, but didn’t know him well – in fact Deidre’s husband is from a large family with 9 children, so I wasn’t even sure which brother it was at first. Needless to say this put a damper on the day, even for those of us who didn’t know him. (I’m very sorry if all these family relationships are tough to keep up with – the bottom line is that we had a real motley crew by most people’s definition, but family is family.)

Given the fact that Britt and Brendan are high school dropouts with no jobs (and who planned this baby – don’t get me started) and they have no money, I had pledged Krystal’s crib and high chair which I still had. They already have the crib, but I brought the high chair with us yesterday. And never got a thank you for it. I wanted to take it back with me when we left.

Belle kept asking me when we were going to go home, and it wasn’t until Rick, Deidre’s almost-21-year-old son, got there that she started having fun. We took Tessie with us for the day too. While she is house trained at home, I wasn’t sure how she would be at someone else’s house (without the bells!) so I made many, many forays outside with her. I’m happy to report she had no accidents and was quite charming.

Today she had her first appointment at the groomers – I think she looks quite spiffy!


Where does the time go?

Twenty-five years ago today I lost my little sister. She battled cancer for two years, before slipping into a coma shortly before I arrived home from college for the weekend. My mother met me in the driveway before I entered the house to prepare me, but I shook her off – I just wanted to get in and see her, to do what I had to do. It’s difficult to explain now, but I felt an urge to get to her. I knew the end was near, but I had no experience to know how this worked. I do remember playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on our tape player for her, hoping that the music made its way in. During some of my alone time with her I also told her it was OK with us if she wanted to go. I later learned this is something a lot of dying people need to hear, but I said it out of instinct. Whether she heard it, or needed to hear it, well, only she knows.

A group of her friends came by to see her the next evening, and we later learned that as they passed our house a few hours later on their way home, they saw the hearse in the driveway. We like to think she waited till she could “say goodbye” to everyone before she left us.

Today my daughter Krystal shares her name, which was intentional. And my daughter Belle shares her birthday, which was a happy coincidence.

She lived for 17 years – it’s surreal that she has been gone for half again as long as she was on this earth. Where does the time go?

A Visit with the Ex-In Laws

Does that make them outlaws?

Yesterday morning my ex-husband called to say there was a change in plans – the baby (his new nephew) had a fever, and since his sister had been up with him all night, everyone was moving out of the hotel room they were in in Massachusetts (for her friend’s wedding the night before), and heading to his parents’ house in Connecticut. Well, six of one, half dozen of the other for us as far as distance was concerned, so Plan B was put into action and the girls and I headed to my ex-inlaws house for the day. But first we had to drop Tessie off with a neighbor – we were going to be gone for 10-11 hours and that is way too long to leave a dog, especially a puppy, in a crate!

I’ll cut to the chase here: I spent all day with my ex-husband, his parents, his two sisters, his new nephew and one of his brother-in-law’s, most of whom I hadn’t seen in 2-3 years, and even that was more incidental than a visit. After all, I divorced their son/brother, and as nice as they’ve been, I’m no longer family. Even my children are not “theirs” since my ex never adopted them. Was it weird, or awkward, I hear you asking? And to that I have to say no, and no.

We were really there to see my ex-sister-in-law (I’ll call her Julie), who has a 4.5 month old son. Since they live in California, we don’t see them often anyway, and of course everyone was excited to see the baby. Belle watched him carefully, and asked Julie, “Did he grow in your tummy?” and Julie said that yes, he did. Which then prompted Belle to ask, “Was it hard for you to eat?” Ah, kids!

Krystal spent the entire visit pretty much draped over the ex. But so far the fallout is much better than it was a month ago, which I attribute to two things: 1) I was there the whole time, and 2) we were the ones doing the coming and going.

We pretty much hung around the house – the baby’s illness seemed to have subsided, and it was much more comfortable hanging around a house than it would have been hanging around a hotel room. We had football on all day and from a strictly selfish point of view, it was really nice to watch football with other adults. I found my blood pressure stayed much more normal than it does when I watch alone! We had to leave in the 3rd quarter of the Patriots game, but I listened to the rest of it on the radio on the way home – definitely a good win!

I have no idea what, if anything, my ex has shared with his family about our marriage, divorce and relationship since. I suspect next to nothing, just based on little things that have transpired. For instance, when I spoke to Julie on Friday to make sure they had made it and that we were still on, etc, she mentioned that her brother would be there and she hoped that would be OK. To which I had to say that when I saw him a month ago he had said he was going to be there. So it wasn’t a surprise, and of course I have no issue. Frankly, he and I are getting along better now than we did through most of our marriage.

And I wonder what they wonder. If they wonder anything at all. We were pleasant, respectful and helpful to one another. Through conversation various memories came up from the time we were together, and it was not awkward. It really wasn’t. But when we left I hugged everyone but him.

Good Grief

No, not a post about Charlie Brown….

First, a little background. Some or most of this I’ve already talked about on this blog, perhaps obliquely, perhaps not – it’s hard for me to know. The meat of what I want to say will make more sense if I describe this though, so here goes. I was single when I made the decision to become a parent via adoption. I did all the paperwork to adopt from China, then sat back for a year and waited for my referral. A lot of things can happen in a year, and in mine, I met a guy. While he hardly jumped on the parenthood bandwagon, he also didn’t want to lose me, and when I got my referral we chose a name together and he traveled to China with me when I adopted Krystal in 2002. She has always known him as Daddy, and we married later that year. During my marriage I was a single parent, and he even agreed with that assessment. With the wisdom of hindsight and perspective, I believe most of that was driven by his emotional immaturity, and I’m truly not saying that in a nasty way. He was not really ready or prepared to become a parent, and he disengaged from me and from our family pretty much immediately. I also believe he was depressed and angry at the change to his life that he didn’t feel like he had a say in choosing. At any rate, despite agreeing before marriage, and much begging by me during our marriage, he never adopted Krystal, and thus never became her legal father.

After our divorce we moved away, and he now lives 7 hours away by car. Over the last 3 years he has visited Krystal here at our house several times a year, sometimes staying in a hotel, sometimes he takes her to his parents who live about 2 hours from us. He will call her occasionally and sporadically, and she always loves hearing from him. I’m amazed at the progression in our relationship – sometimes he and I spend more time chatting than they do. Sometimes I see glimpses of the guy I thought I married.

Krystal’s birthday is in January, and for the last 3 years he has seen her for a weekend between Christmas and her birthday to celebrate both, and this year was no different. However, due to a heavy travel schedule on his part and various other conflicts on both sides (I suppose), that was the only visit this year, up till this past weekend.

He arrived in our area on Friday, and he, Krystal and I actually had lunch and saw the movie Wall-E together. Then Krystal spent Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night with him, returning home on Sunday. She called twice and had a great time as always.

And then trouble set in.

Krystal was weepy and sad Sunday night. I was sympathetic and acknowledged her feelings, comforting her and letting her cry. I let her sleep with a special stuffed animal of mine, which she likes to do when she is feeling lonely or sad, and I “put good dreams” in her head. All seemed well.

Yesterday she spent most of the day playing at a friend’s house down the street, so I barely saw her all day (for the 3rd day in a row). When I finally got her home for the night she immediately turned on the attitudeĀ  and began wailing about how much she misses “Daddy” and how she wants to see him everyday and why can’t he live near us. She said she wants us to get married again, and when I said that wasn’t going to happen she got angry at me. And I am not proud that all of this made me angry. If he had been half the father to her when we were married that she thinks he is now, we might very well still be married, and she could see him all the time. I also said a lot of things I know I shouldn’t say to a 7 year old, and I tried to leave the room when I felt it getting really bad. She was sobbing so hard, and the sobbing and the grief were breaking my heart, but I also could not help feeling angry and resentful because all of this is so misplaced. He deliberately chose not to become her father for his own selfish reasons. He is lucky I let him see her and need I remind you he does not pay a dime in child support – which was his spoken motivation for not adopting her – and this was said while we were married, mind you. A real prize, eh?

Tonight Krystal was cradling the movie ticket stubs, all 3 of them which I thought had been thrown away. She asked me if I knew which one were Daddy’s, and when I said I did not, she said she would keep them all to make sure she kept his. And I told her that hurt my feelings, because I was there too, and I’m the one who does all the hard work. “What do you mean?” she asked. And I just said that someday she would understand. She left the room right after that, while I was reading Belle’s book choice, and when she came back she insisted I go into my room after I turned out their light. She had written me a note, and left me a photo of herself at age 3, and a necklace of hers, on my bed. Melt.

So I’m left feeling broken at Krystal’s grief, angry at the cause of it (on several levels), guilty about my reactions, and at a true loss on how to deal with this, both with her and internally.

Just venting I guess. If you read this far, leave a comment and let me know!

Issues, oh yeah, I’ve got issues

I don’t have the greatest track record with men. Among my issues, which include trust, intimacy, control and personal space, I have difficulty believing that you can be truly angry at someone and still love them. Or, put another way, that someone can be truly angry at me, yet still love me.

It occurs to me that I have no such issues as a parent.

I can get incredibly angry at my children. Krystal in particular can push me to the edge, and does on a regular basis. Yet no matter how upset I get, I know that I would still lay down my life for either one of them, and I know that they would never choose to leave me, even though I’ve already heard those dreaded “I hate you” words from my oldest (who is only seven!).

But they’re still little – they don’t really have a choice. What about when they are teenagers, or adults? Will I still feel as confident in their unconditional love?

I was talking with a co-worker the other day. He happens to be a first generation Chinese American. Actually, I’m not even sure of his citizenship status, not that it matters. Just weird that I assumed the “American” part when I wrote that sentence. Anyway, we were talking about the challenges of life for our generation which include taking care of still young children, as well as the responsibility for now-aging parents. I made a comment that I didn’t like my mother, and he said, “You Americans – what is wrong with you and the crazy way you see your family? I would never say that about my mother!” And I said, “I know”, because I know in the Chinese culture family is supreme, and elders are respected simply because of their elder status. And in the few minutes of discussion that followed, I realized that while I do have issues with my mother, and it’s true that if she weren’t my mother I would not spend time with her at all, the truth is, she’s not evil. While she has hurt me deeply, nothing has been done out of malice. Her biggest sins, to me, are probably ignorance and lack of boundaries. Hardly worth carrying the grudge I carry. And wouldn’t payback be a bitch when my own girls decide not to have anything to do with me because of some transgression I’m probably committing right now, while doing the best I can. Which is all my mother has ever done. The best she can.

So Mom, I’m going to try harder to see you that way. I know you love me. I know you want the best for me. And I know you’ve always done what you thought was right. I don’t always agree with you, but maybe that’s OK.

Quite timely, I’d say, since we are due to visit her this weekend. We’ll see how well my actions back up my new found revelations.

The Pet Dilemma

I am an animal lover. Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was the kid all the neighbors called to take care of their pets when they went away, and we always had animals. When I went off on my own, my roommate gave me a kitten in our “no pets allowed” apartment, and I even got to keep the dog when a relationship ended years later. In fact, I think of that dog as my “first child”. Unfortunately, I had to put him down only a few weeks before I traveled to China to adopt K, and my life has been pretty full with children ever since.

Lately my girls have been laying on the pet guilt pretty thick. K, especially, claims every person she knows has a dog. Or a cat. Or both.

Let’s talk facts here.

  • K has been allergy tested – she is allergic to both cats and dogs
  • B has not been specifically tested, but does have asthma
  • I am completely stressed out with the life we already have and cannot imagine having to take care of an animal. Dogs need to be walked (our yard is far too small to be fenced in). Cats need a litter box and not only do I hate litter boxes, but they are messy and can smell (even when changed frequently). Yet I love cats.

Conclusion: We have no business getting a cat or a dog. At least not right now.

Yet, I do think caring for pets teaches kids so much. Responsibility, empathy, unconditional love, just to name a few.

I told the girls I could handle a fish, but they rejected that, claiming it was too boring. I had hamsters as a 10 year old, but they are nocturnal (noisy!) and keeping up with the cage cleaning was a big job (as I recall).

Any suggestions for a very low maintenance pet that would be acceptable and appropriate for young children?