The last time we flew to their home was on Thanksgiving Day. It was also my birthday, and my husband had to remind them. They laughed and said they’re used to forgetting my birthday or just giving me a piece of pumpkin pie with a candle on it as they did fairly regularly when I was a child. I do call them at least twice a month and always on their birthdays, mother’s/father’s day, etc. However, they do not call me, my husband, or our children on their birthdays and rather than sending birthday or Christmas gifts (as I do for them), they make an annual cash deposit into my PayPal account.
I was okay with this until I began getting guilt trips out of nowhere for not making more of an effort to keep in touch. Considering my very unpleasant childhood, I think that they have a lot of nerve expecting anything of me, but I’m happy to take any opinions on the following letter that I’m considering sending to them the next time they complain during a phone call about me or my family (FYI to commenters – I have rather thick skin and am not looking for sympathy):
“It’s unfortunate that our relationship has come to this point, but it really should be no surprise to either of you. I should have ceased communication with your 20+ years ago when I was 16 and you filed a petition to the court to be rid of all responsibility for me. Seriously, who could call themselves a decent parent after neglecting their child her entire life and then trying to turn custody of her over to the state?
You made me a latch-key child at the age of FIVE. This is now called criminal child neglect.
When I was being bullied mercilessly in school, Mom said: “You need to make this stop because I have an ulcer and I can’t deal with this.” She never comforted me when I sobbed every morning at the prospect of facing another day being bullied. Instead, she either sighed, slammed my door, or helpfully remarked “Oh, shit” before leaving me to go about her business.
When I begged for therapy, you turned it into a convenient method of confronting me about my behavior, rather than allowing me privacy with my therapist to try to help me understand the cause of my acting out.
You relished in your turning over responsibility of me to any mental institution that your insurance would cover.
You photocopied my diary containing my most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and it was read aloud in court while I was forced to sit there and listen.
You mocked me on my wedding day for not “taking marriage seriously” and criticized my husband over trivial matters, like how fast he was walking to get to the courthouse.
You have attempted to undermine my efforts as a parent by teaching my children about your Mormon religion despite my asking you to wait until they were old enough to understand that you and I do not share the same beliefs. You have mocked my in-laws in from of my children, telling them that their grandmother got pregnant too young because she dresses provocatively.
I am now a successful mother in part because I know how to treat my children so that they will never feel as I did while growing up: lonely, angry, and worthless.
My therapist has suggested that while my daughters are adolescents, we should not maintain close contact with you. Perhaps when they are older, they will want a relationship with you. Now that I’ve begun to recall and relate to my children what my own childhood and adolescence were like, I’m left wondering if I ever will again.”
I just fail to see any reason to continue to feel miserable about my relationship with my parents, and I hate that I still blame myself for not being the kind of daughter they wanted (Mom has come right out and said that I’ve given her nothing but pain and heartache). I’d be grateful for more opinions. — Apparently Over It
It’s so unfair that there are children who are raised without the love and attention they need and deserve. Sadly, your childhood isn’t rare enough. But the good news is despite your lonely and neglected upbringing, you now have the loving family you wished for as a kid. You can — and are — breaking the cycle of neglect. And while you can never right your parents’ wrongs, you can heal your pain by being the best parent you can and instilling confidence in your daughters that their home is one of unconditional love.
As for your relationship with your parents, you’ve had over 20 years to consider whether you want them in your future. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of discussions with your therapist about it, too. My opinion is if they’re continuing to make you feel of little value and that feeling is now extending to your daughters, you need to protect yourself and your family from their emotional abuse. In a perfect world, we’d all have lovely, wonderful parents who embraced our children as heartily as they embraced us. But that’s not reality. That’s not your reality. So, rather than hope that they’ll eventually be the parents/grandparents you always wished for, accept that they are who they are and they’re not going to change now. They’re crappy parents, and crappy grandparents. And at this point, you have to approach them in whatever way makes you feel the best. If that’s completely ignoring them, do that. If it’s sending them the letter above and getting some things off your chest, do that. There’s no wrong way here. You need to to whatever is going to create the biggest relief for you.
After decades of neglect and abuse, you owe your parents absolutely nothing. If cutting them out of your life gives you a sense on closure on a long, painful chapter, give yourself that gift so that you can finally move on and fully enjoy the love and family you’ve created without a dark cloud looming above you.