The dif­fi­cul­ties of stitch­ing frayed fam­ily ties to­gether

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BEL MOONEY

DEAR BEL, I grew up in a hos­tile, ag­gres­sive home, but came to terms with my im­per­fect child­hood many years ago.

My fa­ther had a vi­o­lent lack of self-con­trol and held his chil­dren at arm’s length – but I do care about him and my mother deeply.

I mar­ried 16 years ago and have two beau­ti­ful chil­dren and the peace­ful home I had al­ways dreamed of as a lit­tle girl.

Last year, the peace with my par­ents was blown apart. I had a ma­jor op­er­a­tion and our young chil­dren (very quiet lit­tle girls) were cared for by my par­ents while I was in hos­pi­tal. They didn’t find it easy, as they don’t “do” child­care, but I was very grate­ful.

When dis­charged, I de­vel­oped a com­pli­ca­tion that could have killed me, so my hus­band pleaded with my par­ents to come back so he could be at my bed­side. Our daugh­ters were so scared. My par­ents re­fused, say­ing they were tired.

Though sur­prised, my hus­band ac­cepted this with good grace and found friends to help in­stead.

I didn’t no­tice ini­tially that my par­ents had stopped call­ing or tex­ting. Get­ting bet­ter, I re­alised we’d had weeks of si­lence, dur­ing which they had no idea if I was alive or dead.

I was stunned they could choose per­haps the most dif­fi­cult time in our lives to hurt me like this.

Seven weeks later, I called my mother to ask why. She said they were an­gry we had asked for more help, that they had done more than enough al­ready, they were tired and how dare we.

It is im­pos­si­ble to ex­press the pain this ex­pla­na­tion caused me.

Since then, we’ve man­aged to patch things up – but I haven’t got over it in my heart.

Lately, my fa­ther has been shout­ing at the chil­dren again, he screams at lunch about the small­est thing and I walk on eggshells when we’re at their home. I have to send the girls out­side so that they don’t see his tem­per.

He’s aw­ful to Mum – says he’s de­pressed and dis­ap­pointed with life. I don’t know how to man­age what’s they might of­fer as a rea­son to draw the line at driv­ing back for two hours or more.

If it had been me, I would not have re­fused – but let me just sug­gest that your mother might have been brow­beaten by her hus­band into say­ing no. Af­ter all, you know what a dif­fi­cult man your fa­ther is…

What’s more, read­ing be­tween the lines of your un­cut e-mail, it seems pos­si­ble that your easy-go­ing hus­band might have couched his re­quest in terms less ur­gent than was needed and ac­cepted their (self­ish?) de­ci­sion a lit­tle too read­ily. Who knows what went on? I am not in any way tak­ing their side, but it might help you to re­flect that things were pos­si­bly a bit more com­pli­cated.

I can to­tally un­der­stand why you were so hurt, but since you know their fail­ings and how mis­er­able they are, can you not sur­vey them with pity – from the se­cu­rity of your own fam­ily joy?

That, af­ter all, is what mat­ters most now.

You cer­tainly don’t want to cut your par­ents off but nor do you want your daugh­ters to be ex­posed to your fa­ther’s tem­per, so I sug­gest that vis­it­ing alone is a good op­tion – at least for a while.

If they ask why the chil­dren are not with you, just say: “Well, I don’t want the girls to get on your nerves – that’s how it looked the last few times.”

It will be for them to in­vite the chil­dren over.

As for you, you’ve ac­cepted im­per­fec­tion be­fore and that is one of the keys to a wise, gen­er­ous soul. – Daily Mail

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