“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” – Kathleen Casey Thiesen
The niece sharing the same name as my daughter left yesterday. We dropped her off at home. Before leaving, I gave her a graduation gift. It was gently used and was originally mine but she adored it. I gave her this and this. I have had them for some time and rarely wear them. I know the younger crowd really likes that set and I wanted her to have something nice. She was quite pleased with the gift, second hand or not.
Of course, it caused me to reflect on my daughter. I also gave her something from Tiffany. It was for her birthday last year and she actually liked it and wrote that as much as she prefers to be alternative and counter culture, she always wanted something from Tiffany’s. So there are two M’s that I was able to gift with something special from a little blue box with a white ribbon.
During her stay with us she noted my sons project in his room where he attached the picture of his sister and wrote all about her. Niece M said it broke her heart to read how much he is interested in her and wants to love her knowing the little interest she has in us or him. This made me start to cry. I agreed.
It is indeed one of the most challenging aspect of my non-reunion. Protecting my sons from their sister. How horrid does that sound?
I have doubted myself lately. Doubting my commitment to honesty and truth and regretting that I ever told my sons about their sister. Have I caused them more harm than I would have had I kept her a secret? I cannot know. I do know that it hurts to have my wonderful innocent sons subjected to such emotions. I remember being angry at my daughters’ fathers over the approach he took with his subsequent children. Perhaps my anger was unjustified. Maybe he knew something I did not?
I have been fighting the urge to go into my sons room and remove that project from his wall. I wont, of course, but I must say the desire is overwhelming at times. So much so, I have to keep the door closed and limit my time in that room. It is as if that section of the wall glows and laughs at me demanding attention.
Justice and others have commented on acceptance. I will admit I struggle with accepting poor behavior in others. I have a hard time accepting poor boundaries, abusive behavior, lashing out, ignorance and the like. While I don’t try to control it (by turning around and telling others how they should behave or what is wrong with their behavior) I do struggle internally with accepting it. It just hurts – all the time.
Perhaps it is, to some degree, a matter of semantics. For me acceptance seems to imply condoning. I seem to be stuck between acceptance and letting go (are they the same?)
How does one accept a child that is harsh and hurtful to you?
How does one accept things that are simply not acceptable?
What exactly does it mean?
Maybe I do know.
The last time I visited my parents, my mother left me alone for a bit with my father. My nephew was being inducted into the Honor Society and Mom attended the event. I was invited but decided to stay home. When my dad is left with me he chats a lot. I mean like ALOT. It’s usually very awkward and puts me in a bad position in the family since I am the only person he talks to in this manner. (This fact alone is quite amusing considering our past and the fact that I am the child he most abused).
"Hey Daughter, tell me something. Why is it that you are the only one I can talk to like this? I talk to your mother or your brothers and sisters and they get all defensive. You seem to understand me." he says.
Internally I sigh.
"I don’t know Dad. Maybe I have gotten past what you did to me and they are still hanging on to things. Maybe they still want you to be the Daddy of their dreams versus the Dad you are. Maybe you and I are more alike. Mom always said that. Maybe you don’t talk to them as nicely as you do me? Even better, maybe you should ask them and not me?" I answer.
He visibly shirks at a few of my words but he does not object. Instead he takes a few puffs of his cigar and ruminates.
"Oh, I could never ask them. They just get angry and we never get anywhere." He continues.
"Maybe you should ask them differently. Or change your own tone. Or think about what you are doing to make them defensive?" I respond.
"Me? What do I do? You don’t get upset and offended by me. What is the difference?" he asks.
I am a bit startled he is going to this level but I respond.
"Dad, I gave up years ago expecting you to be someone you weren’t. You were an awful father to me. You drink too much. You are difficult. Once I moved out, your power to control me and therefore irritate the living daylights out of me ceased. I could choose to continue that anger between us or I could let it go. I let it go — for me. And in letting it go, I let go of who I wanted you to be and accepted who you are" I answer.
His discomfort is obvious as he shifts his bony rear in his rocker, puffs on the cigar and says with a slightly defensive tone
"Oh, I don’t know about that…"
"I do." I respond.
And the conversation ends.
Perhaps this is the approach I need to take with my daughter.