Total amnesia of dysfunction

With my parents, while they like to hold grudges against pretty much everyone, the convenient hypocrisy of all of this is that they always seem to forget all the dumb things they do to upset and annoy everyone, including me. And when you try to bring it up, they react with such horrid shock and disbelief that it seems that you are doing something to offend them just by mentioning that they could potentially be imperfect beings who do imperfect things. The audacity!

It’s been about four weeks since we were in San Francisco, and it’s been feeling really good not only to be in an uncluttered, choking hazards-galore space, but also to be free of their constant dysfunction. My mom called this week and said how much she and my dad have been enjoying the baby videos I’ve been sharing. Well, it’s good that they enjoy the videos because they aren’t going to get to see the baby much in person for who knows how long. And frankly, I think my dad may prefer to see videos and photos of Kaia rather than see her in person; he barely interacted with her at all other than a few funny and kissing faces.

“When are you coming to visit again?” my mom asked. “You should come back soon and stay longer.”

She always says this as though the last time I visited, it was just… simply marvelous. We loved every moment of each others’ company and found each other so damn enriching. But that could not be any farther from the truth as we all know. The constant passive aggressive comments. The uncalled for and totally out-there outbursts. The constant criticisms. She has total amnesia and seems to prefer it that way. In her head, she is the perfect mother. My dad is the perfect father. We have some perfect family where everyone gets along. That is not true.. at all. It never was, and it never will be true. We had zero conversations about anything. My dad and I barely spoke. I would say good morning to my dad, and most mornings, he didn’t even respond. What joy at us all being together!

“When Chris comes for work, you and Kaia should come, too,” my mom went on. “Then we can all spend more time together. And I can look after her.”

I reminded her that she’s not fit to be a caregiver for anyone. And she insisted she could simply “watch” her, and when she needed to be fed or changed, then I could do it. Wow, what a great offer to babysit!

It’s always going to be this senseless with my parents until the very end. There’s really no end to the delusion, amnesia, dysfunction, or tyranny.

A calm weekend – different from last weekend

It’s a long weekend for us here in New York with Labor Day tomorrow. Yesterday, we went to the Bronx. Today, we’re mostly at home and in the neighborhood. I vacuumed and cleaned a lot, cooked a few things, and enjoyed some time on the roof. I was productive, but I also felt very relaxed. I felt a lot more relaxed this weekend than last weekend in San Francisco, even though I did get to see my friends.

I always feel a little bad when I see my friends in San Francisco. I feel like they probably get a more tense version of me because I have to deal with the toxicity of my parents while there, which leads to my not being that at ease while with them. I’m not sure if they’ve ever noticed it, as no one has ever said anything. But I don’t feel like my normal self when there.

It seems like it’s impossible to be calm and at ease in the presence of my parents. Whether it’s my mom getting mad and making a big deal out of something senseless, accusing me of doing yet another “bad” thing I haven’t done, or my dad criticizing me or constantly talking to himself, nothing is ever “calm” there. He can’t help but nitpick and get mad about something when I am home. Despite the fact that he lives in a cluttered mess, he still feels the need to give feedback about things I do while in his home for such short periods of time. This time, he got mad at about how I didn’t tightly wrap up the baby’s pee diapers in the trash bin (that they were already going to take outside anyway), and then he got mad that I didn’t wipe down the bathroom tiles after showering (the long run issue here is that mildew buildup can occur). Is either the end of the world or going to cause massive problems? No. But he has to point them out anyway because when you do things that are “wrong,” then they are WRONG and BAD. If he does even half a thing wrong, it’s totally cool. And if Chris hadn’t been there, he likely would have raised his voice and been a lot more mean about it when addressing me. It’s exhausting, and I am always so relieved to finally leave that place.

When everything is suffering

“You want to be happy, and you’ve taken actions to make sure that you live a happy life,” a friend said to me this week over lunch. “You don’t want the same life your parents have, and that’s why you are cognizant of building a different life for yourself and not becoming them.”

I thought about this when I was thinking back to a week ago during my visit home. This time last week, I woke up on Saturday morning to pump in my parents’ house, and when entering the kitchen, my mom had a whole stove full of food she was preparing… at 6:30am. I had no idea why there was so much food and the need to get up so early for all this food.

“Why are you making all this food so early in the morning?” I asked her. “It’s so early.”

She had an angry look on her face, as though I was asking a stupid question. “Your aunt is having us upstairs for dinner tonight. Don’t you know?! You don’t just shove your way into a dinner like that. That’s not our custom! You have to bring something! You don’t come empty handed!”

That last part was basically like a snake hissing at me.

“I was planning to buy something today to bring it,” I responded simply. “There’s no need to make anything. I can just buy it today.”

“JUST DON’T! DON’T SAY ANYMORE!” My mom raised her voice, increasingly getting mad. “When I say something, just shut your mouth! I tell your dad this, too! Just STOP talking back! I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it! I can’t put up with it anymore! I suffer SO much!”

At that point, I left the kitchen. I wasn’t going to take any more verbal abuse that early in the morning. The whole conversation was just stupid and irrational. Plus, the tension could potentially hurt my milk output, which I didn’t need. She remained in the kitchen, “suffering” and cooking endless food that mostly would not get eaten, mumbling to herself about how she’s always suffering.

When I’ve gotten invited to meals or potlucks, I’ve always welcomed the opportunity to make a dish or bring something. I’ve never looked at it as “suffering” or “more work” that needed to be done. I suppose it’s because meals are social events, and I like both parts to them: I like the food (plus the opportunity to make something that would be fun for me to cook or bake), and I like socializing and being around people. But that’s the way my mom is: it seems like literally every single action she takes is “suffering” in her eyes. She sits in her room where everything in existence is all suffering and refuses to get out of it. She’s beyond help, and talking to her is of no use. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t have kids to support or a crappy day job to go to: everything is miserable to her.

Decompressing after family visit and scrutinizing my brother’s nose

I think that by today, my body has fully adjusted to being back in New York on Eastern time. I always adjust right away, but with the baby sleeping on me plus the red-eye, this last flight was a real doozy for me. But more so, I think I am still mentally decompressing from my visit to my family. I was chatting with my therapist today, and she said that I need to work on a plan for myself where I can enter the family visit like it’s just any other day, and leave the family visit without any need to decompress. I told her that I thought that would be nearly impossible. Everything there is such a trigger for me — the hoarding, the clutter, the mess everywhere, the excessive amount of food that I know will inevitably rot or get thrown away; the dilapidation; the weedy backyard; even my brother’s old belongings that still sit around in the bedroom.

Before I put Kaia to bed last night, I was staring at the photo of Ed and me on my bedside table, scrutinizing his nose against mine and trying to figure out if we had the same nose… because if we do have the same nose, then that means Kaia also has Ed’s nose. But the more I stared at it, the more I realized that Ed’s nose was more like our dad’s, whereas mine was more like our mom’s. But Ed and I do share the same eyes. Kaia’s eyes seem to morph, and while sometimes they look like mine, other times they look ambiguous. I then tried to remember his voice, and for a split second I failed, and this deep feeling emptiness came over me. And then out of nowhere, I heard it again. I tried to remember his laugh and could not hear it, though. This is what time does. It’s been over nine years since he’s died, and now I suddenly cannot remember the sound of his laugh. That just felt so heartbreaking to me. Everything seems to fade away over time.

Dads – then and now

My mom mumbled and ranted aloud multiple times while I was home. I’m pretty sure she meant for me or my dad to hear.

“I busted my ass off raising two kids nearly by myself!”

“I raised two kids with no help at all!”

“Now you have a baby. You know how hard it is!”

This one was meant for me to hear: “You are so lucky that Chris is so helpful,” she said, after observing Chris feed and burp Kaia multiple times, change her diapers, and organize her milk in the kitchen. “It makes it easier to have a family. Your dad… he was useless back then, and he’s useless now. You need to tell him what to do step by step, and even then he doesn’t do it right. It’s just easier most of the time to do it by myself.”

My mom always says she puts up with my dad because if it wasn’t for him, she’d likely already be dead in Vietnam decades ago. That’s probably true. She definitely owed her life to him. Unfortunately, he definitely has been an unsatisfactory husband and father. And with both their combined traumas, their marriage has definitely not been a happy one. It makes me sad for them, but it’s their life, and I can’t do anything about it.

I am grateful to have a supportive, egalitarian partner. If it weren’t for Chris having as much family leave as he had and being as supportive and progressive as he is, there is no way in hell I’d have managed exclusive pumping and likely would have just switched to exclusive formula feeding long ago. I’d likely be in a far worse mental state as a first time mother. But that’s the thing: as time progresses, people like Chris should not be the exception: they should be the rule. We need to expect more of fathers being active parents and expect mothers to do less than they historically had because they did WAY too much before.

An extra day… wasted

You would think that my parents would have been happy that our flight got cancelled, meaning they’d have an extra full day to spend time with Kaia. While my mom said she was happy because it’d mean she would see Kaia more, she didn’t take advantage of it at all. She spent the morning doing “chores” – sweeping the floor, scrubbing the back sink, cleaning out who knows what bins. Then, she went to her JW meeting and was out of the house for three hours. When she came back, she left AGAIN to take a walk for “exercise.” She was probably gone another hour. My dad? He was a lost cause. He was watching some WWII movie when we went out for a walk and to the Columbarium and back, and he didn’t make any effort to play with Kaia at all, except when my mom would force him to. “You need to spend some time playing with her. She’s going to leave soon. Play with her NOW!” My dad would make stupid excuses, “Well, I have to get ready to leave in 20 minutes.” Umm, that’s… 20 minutes from now.

My mom barely said much to me other than to suggest I eat or drink things, criticize what I was doing with Kaia, or to pick a fight with me this past Monday. My dad said even less to me. He just asked about random medications and supplements he saw I had in the bedroom, and that was really it. We had no real conversation at all during the 5-ish days we spent together. It was annoying, strained, and not enjoyable at all. My mom put up her usual act when my aunt was around to be cheerful and overly effusive. My dad acted like his usual childish self and constantly had to be told what to do by my mom and served food. It was the usual and expected stuff.

Yet somehow, despite all this, as she usually does after I leave, when I talked to her today, she said I needed to stay longer next time. Stay longer — for what? She finds it impossible to not pick fights with me and bicker over senseless things. She criticizes how Chris and I parent our child (which I expected, so I was barely annoyed with it). She and my dad barely talk to us at all. She kept telling Kaia that “your mother is bad! She doesn’t want you to eat (this)! She won’t give you a blanket! She won’t let you do (that)! She’s very bad!” But I let it all go because I really didn’t care, plus I know at this age, Kaia doesn’t totally understand what she’s even saying.

Even if there was no passive aggression, no criticism, no fights, and no hostility, and even if their son hadn’t died from suicide, the air would still be uncomfortable there because of all the clutter and junk they hoard and pile up. It’s physically uncomfortable being there. And I really do worry for their safety with all the junk, as they could easy fall and get into accidents… or worse, even die from a fall. They just don’t get it at all when I try to warn them and they think that I am the one who criticizes! My mom says to me, “Not everyone is high class like you,” or “not everyone lives in luxury like you do,” or “Just don’t say anymore!” Seriously?

That house is truly the house of terror, the house of misery, of suffering. I even felt weird bringing Kaia there and felt more paranoid about her potentially choking on food there just because of the bad omens. I was a lot more careful with preparing her food than I normally am because of the negative vibes. That’s how ridiculous that house is to me. Nothing thrives or grows in that house. Things only go there to die.

I guess I always futilely hope that something will change, that maybe they could have just a few moments of being happy. I suppose that’s why I keep going back. But I am always let down.

Extended family meets baby Kaia

We had a family dinner this evening so that my cousins and uncle could come over to meet Kaia. My aunt and parents had obviously already met her earlier in the week, but this was meant to be an extended family gathering. Not much was talked about, as per usual: my parents barely said anything to my uncle or cousin outside of greetings and if he wanted more food. They even left right after dinner and didn’t even want to sit around to eat the mango mousse cake I got. My mom insisted that she had “chores” to do. My aunt’s roommate had a chair to sit on at the table, but instead she declined, eating on top of a tall stool away from us instead. She spent most of her time hiding in the kitchen and cleaning things and doing dishes. It was a weird family dinner without much talking. I think the only people who really talked were Chris and my cousin.

My mom gives me such a hard time about the short time I stay at the house, and even more so now that Kaia is here. But the time she actually does get with her, she barely spends any time with her. She finds reasons to sweep the floor, scrub the sink, make excessive food that we’ll never eat, sort through the compost pile; the list goes on. And my dad? He gives Kaia maybe five minutes of attention, then proceeds to say he has other things to do… like scroll aimlessly on his phone (with his phone literally about 4 inches from his face), or watch YouTube videos. I wanted to give them time with her, but they don’t even use the time they have to spend time with her properly. It’s like this constant lose-lose situation. Nothing ever satisfies them, and they cannot enjoy any moment at all.

Sometimes I wonder if I really should get annoyed by this at all. Maybe it’s just my choice to get annoyed. Maybe I just need to accept that they are mentally incapable of being happy and enjoying the moment. But can you blame me for wanting my parents to have at least a few moments of happiness?

When mother’s box of bullshit is unleashed

I knew that when I told my dad he had to apologize, otherwise I’d never let them meet Kaia, that my mom would get angry with me for even the mere threat. So I was waiting for her to confront me about it, and conveniently and expectedly, she did just a couple hours after Chris left for the office this morning. It started with, “Do you have five minutes? I need to sit down and talk to you about something. Don’t get offended.” (This is a cue that she is going to unleash her anger). In my head, I told myself that it was definitely going to happen, so I had to mentally brace myself and not allow myself to get emotional, raise my voice, or do anything to show she had power over me. I had to own the conversation. Well, it didn’t matter if I raised my voice or not because of course to my mom, I was the bad tempered one. I was the ungrateful one. I was the bad one, the awful, disobedient, disrespectful daughter. These are just some of the things she said to me this morning as I was pumping milk. If I hadn’t been connected to an electric nipple sucker, I would have just walked out. These are just some of the things she said:

“How could you threaten to not let us see our grandchild? What have we ever done that is so wrong to you? You are wrong! It doesn’t matter how bad your parents treat you; you need to respect them from your head to your toe and obey them! Jehovah sees all, and he will punish you!”

“I have never hurt you or Ed in my entire life! I raised the both of you almost by myself! I did EVERYTHING for you! And you say that I hurt you! I HURT YOU? I HAVE NEVER BEEN ANGRY WITH YOU!” (I didn’t respond and continued playing with the baby. Not really sure how she should decide whether I feel hurt or not?).

“Your father already texted you to say sorry! What else do you want him to do? What do you want us to do? Why can’t you just forgive and not make such a big deal over everything? We paid for your college education and this is how you treat us! You want us to bow down to you and beg you for forgiveness?” (I said if she wanted to, she could).” Then, she started fake crying and literally got down on the floor to bow down and say sorry over and over. Then, she ran over to the window and started praying to Jehovah loudly, asking him to give her strength to deal with her ungrateful, “powerful” daughter with a bad temper. I didn’t say anything.

“Your father said you called me a bitch and an asshole. Did you do this?” (I said he made it up, which he did because he’s juvenile). “Under Jehovah’s eyes, he said you did it! I am going to ask him to swear it!”

I told her she was wrong to accuse my friend of being dirty and loaning us a pack’n’play that was not cleaned. Her response? “So you are saying you favor Rebecca over me? You like your friend Rebecca more than me?” (very rational)

“Oh, of course it’s useless to talk to me! I’m stupid! I’m uneducated, stupid! I’m not like your mother in law who is a DOCTOR, so smart, so smart, so educated!” (My response: “Just stop.”)

“Do you know what your mother in law and brother in law did to me the night of your rehearsal dinner? Do you know how they insulted me?” (I cut her off and said she had no idea what she was talking about in a monotone. Also, how is this relevant to anything… this was 6 years ago?).

“Your in-laws and Chris would never treat you as well as I have treated you! NEVER! They don’t do a damn thing for you!” (Sure – classic abuser language).

“None of your friends ever went to private school! Only your parents sent you to private school!” (ummmm, false, and I simply cut her off and said “stop comparing” in a monotone. The monotone approach just infuriated her more and more as time passed, and she repeatedly accused me of yelling and raising my voice).

“Your Auntie Linda inherited Ms. Hazel’s house and never sent her kids to private school even with free money!” (“stop comparing,” I said over and over).

“Your husband treats me poorly because he learned it from you!” (No, Chris does not treat her poorly, but I don’t care what she thinks).

“He won’t let us see our own granddaughter on Tuesday and Wednesday! He’s so powerful, isn’t he? You two won’t even let us into your hotel! You won’t allow your own parents to see their grandchild!”

“When you are talking to me, you need to act CHEERFUL! Why aren’t you cheerful and always so mean faced?” (Gee, I wonder why?).

“I texted you and told you I was going to the doctor and my chest hurt, and you didn’t even text back or call. You don’t care about me! Now I know what you really are!” (She used that as a manipulation as she always does to get a response she wants. I don’t fall for it anymore).

“You will be so happy if I die! You will have a celebration!” (“No,” I said back).

“If I die, you and your dad will be miserable! You will have nothing!” (Not really true, but I didn’t say anything).

She loves to talk about her “health not too good,” “I’m disabled,” “I suffer from depression,” and that she could die any day now. She’s been saying these things for over 12 years now. Those are her favorite things to go back to in order to manipulate us and make us feel bad.

The private school theme always comes up again and again. She repeatedly has tried to use it as a weapon against me, as though I took something from them that was so valuable and wasted it. They make it seem like I owe them something. Considering they rarely paid for any extracurricular activities, I never had lessons of any kind, I had a pretty “poor” childhood relatively speaking. You would wonder what my parents would have done with that money if I had never gone to a private college. Well, you shouldn’t wonder too much. They didn’t starve or eat canned beans every day for four years because of it. They didn’t take out loans, refinance their home, or wear rags because of it. In my friend’s words, “They make it seem like because they paid for your college that you have to take their constant abuse and shit. That’s not the way it works.”

I was mad that this happened, but I expected it. I honestly didn’t even really get that angry because I just felt numb. I barely reacted. I never raised my voice, though my mom thinks I did and kept repeating over and over how bad and scary my temper was. I thought momentarily about not coming back this weekend to stay with them, but I realized that we would barely spend any time alone with them given the family meals, plus I’d be out with friends most of Saturday. Plus, Chris would provide a buffer as they’d never be their full, monstrous paranoid selves if he’s around.

After this trip, I have no idea when we will see them again, or when they will see Kaia again. To be honest, I have zero desire to see them again. They will only become more angry and paranoid as time goes on, and they will continue to think that their verbal abuse is acceptable. I can’t really tolerate their alternate reality anymore, especially now that I have my own child to care for and raise. I don’t want her exposed to their mental illnesses and abuse. It’s just a good thing she couldn’t understand the insanity coming out of my mother’s mouth today.

When grandparents meet their granddaughter the first time, plus impending doom

After my dad’s shitty apology over text and my mom calling to apologize for him, I came to terms with the fact that he would never bring himself to ever call me himself and give me a proper apology for calling me a bitch… or really, for anything awful he’s ever done to me. I have to keep repeating to myself that my parents will never change, and I will never be able to change them. I want them to meet their grandchild, so I will suck up whatever dumb things they do temporarily to allow this to happen. I was doing this for them, as it’s clear that I get zero benefit from any of this.

The visit started annoyingly, as it always does. When my mom knows Ed or I am home, she will never, ever open the door herself. She always, always has to ring the bell multiple times to demand that someone serve her. So since I got to the house before she and my dad got back, of course, she rang the bell. As soon as she walked in, I could tell she was not happy with me. She gave me a half hello with a pissed expression on her face (which was a hint at what would come as soon as Chris wasn’t around on Monday), and then went over to talk to Kaia and admire her.

My dad did the same: he barely said hi to me and then just kind of stared at Kaia and blew her kisses. My. Dad. Blew. Kisses. WHAT???? He did all kinds of pucker lip and other gestures towards her and blew kisses and smiled endlessly at her. I have this strong feeling he never did that with Ed or me. They unloaded a bunch of clothes and toys they got her, along with some toys my dad picked up second hand off of Next Door (which my mom assured me she sanitized multiple times).

Then, my mom proceeded to fuss over everything about her and what I was doing wrong: why wasn’t I constantly wiping her hands and face when she was eating? Why isn’t she wearing more layers? What kind of half-assed bath did I give her? Why wasn’t I blow drying her hair? I wasn’t moisturizing her quickly enough: she was going to get sick being naked for so long while getting lotioned up! Oh, and then given the time difference (hello, it’s the baby’s first time changing time zones…) and how goddamn cold the house was, Kaia kept waking up crying throughout the night, so we had to give her Tylenol and turn on the heat…. which my dad kept shutting off even though I explicitly said the house was too cold for the baby (seriously??).

The truth is that it didn’t even bother me that she criticized how we took care of Kaia; I expected all of that and brushed it off; none of that really fazed me. I was more just cognizant of the fact that I knew she’d eventually swoop down on me and unleash her can of irrationality and anger as soon as Chris went to work on Monday, as that would be the only time she’d get alone with me. She’d never say any of this stuff in front of Chris; she barely said anything to him the entire weekend they were together. It’s mostly just meals together with nothing spoken and being under the same roof with little to no interaction.

Poor with money, rich with love

My nanny is a happy person. When we have moments together when I am cooking or pumping or preparing Kaia’s solids or breast milk, she likes to tell me about how she is still so in love with her husband, who she has been with since high school (she’s 59 and he’s 60 now, so that’s a LONG time), how they still keep the flame going by doing little cute things for each other. She tells me how much she loves her children, her grandson, how close she is to her daughter. She loves to share stories of her sister who lives in Florida and how when they visit and stay with each other, they steal each others’ clothes, jewelry, and handbags, and the other has no idea it’s happened until they’ve already flown off. Then they squabble about it and laugh it off until the next visit. She told me about the time when she and her husband finally bought their own home in Mount Vernon, how dilapidated and unlivable the inside of the house was when they first moved in. But after three months of repairs and renovation with her handyman uncle’s help, the inside of their home is like new and feels comfortable, like a real “home sweet home.” They love to host family and friends at their home often, and she says there is nothing better in life than family.

“We may not have much money,” she says to me often, “but we have so much love in our family. And that’s better than all of Jeff Bezos’s money.”

On the one hand, there’s my nanny, who lives paycheck to paycheck who enjoys life, loves and values her family, and has functional, loving relationships with her family. She has a beautiful, comfortable home that she loves and is proud to bring everyone into. On the other hand, there’s my parents, who have no money concerns at all and could easily live lavishly until they died at age 120, but they are miserable, constantly seeking fault with everyone else, hate their relatives, and willingly choose to live in a dilapidated, cluttered, dirty home, a place where they hate having guests of any kind.

I thought about this for a while today. It really does not have to be an “either / or” situation, but in this case, it is. I’m happy for our nanny. I’m not happy for my parents… not in the least bit.