Sunday, June 21, 2009

Are you guilty of this?

Today I read an article on the about a young man who admits to a surprising policy during visits with his family:

95 Percent Of Opinions Withheld On Visit To Family

KALAMAZOO, MI–A full 95 percent of the opinions held by Justin Wilmot, 26, were kept to himself Sunday during a Father's Day visit with his family.

Wilmot holds his tongue while his sister and mother discuss their mutual excitement about Legally Blonde 2.

"No one in my family really gets my worldview, so I find it easier just to smile and nod and agree with everything," Wilmot said Monday. "When I'm with them, I tend to be a lot quieter than when I'm hanging out with friends."

Wilmot, who grew up in Kalamazoo and now lives in Chicago, described the visit as "seven hours of self-censorship."

"We're totally not on the same wavelength at all," Wilmot said. "I'm not just talking about dangerous subjects like politics or religion, but pretty much everything they bring up–the shows they watch, the things they buy, the people they know. So if someone says Daddy Day Care was hilarious, I may be thinking, 'I can't believe Eddie Murphy was once respected as a subversive comic genius,' but I sure as hell don't say it."

Among the subjects Wilmot declined to weigh in on during the weekend get-together: new Tropical Sprite, Survivor, the selfishness of childless couples, Iraq, golf, AM talk radio, and his brother-in-law's fantastic idea for a calling-card side business.

Wilmot said he used to voice his opinions, but has long since given up.


Does that seem shocking to you? Not to me, and you can imagine why. Yes, whirling betty is guilty of the same. I am not particularly proud of it, but I learned several years ago that being true to myself is not worth it during family visits.

When my mother was alive, I was quite assertive. She always deferred to me. After she died, everything changed.

The family dissipated. My father married his longtime mistress and she was the complete opposite of my mother. She deferred to no one- least of all me!

When I went to visit my father in the house I was raised in, the presence of his new wife turned the house into a prison for me, even though I had lived there a lot longer than she had. I was only allowed to enter the bedroom I was assigned to (which, of course, was NOT the bedroom which had always been mine- it was my brother's and I had never liked it) and the downstairs.

HOWEVER, I was only allowed to be in the downstairs portion of the house WITH supervision! I kid you not. The bitch whom my father married was convinced that I was going to rob them if left unattended- yes, ROB them- even though my criminal history is nonexistent- nope, not even a speeding ticket can be attributed to whirlingbetty.

I had to make a decision. Either I had to eliminate my father from my life or I had to figure out a way to tolerate the insanity which he married. I decided that my visits would be infrequent and short. I would visit once every 3 years, and for only two days. They never visit me.

For two days every three years, I can squelch myself. I do not share their views on politics or gun control or homosexuality or race discrimination. I do not care to hear about how superior my father's wife and her adult children are to me and my siblings and my deceased mother. But I made the decision that I will spend two days every three years biting my tongue and visiting.

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Friday, June 05, 2009

End of an Era

Today The Child graduated from 5th grade and elementary school. Many thoughts swirled through my head as I reminisced about his school career and then dredged up ancient memories of my own schooling.

We were lucky that The Child was able to attend this particular elementary school. A gem within a huge urban school district, this highly sought-after school is populated by students who have won the citywide lottery. It's an alternative school, which basically means that the individual is honored. Because acceptance is paramount, there is no such thing as bullying here.

Before he started Kindergarten, I was a wreck, thoroughly convinced that there was no way that my son would survive even a day of Kindergarten. I wrote a letter to the principal of this school, expressing my concerns. To my shock, she called me and invited me to bring The Child in a few days before school started to meet with her and his teacher. This was the beginning of the support and acceptance that was offered to me by this school. As a single mother with no family or support, this meant the world to me.

It was still traumatic for The Child to start school, even after the generous preparation from the principal and teacher. All-day Kindergarten was too much for him. But thank heavens he was in that particular school, where his lessons could be learned in a caring and conscious environment.

One morning I dropped him off in his Kindergarten classroom, and just before I rushed off to work, I became aware of a problem brewing. One of his classmates, one who indulged in the alteration of facts to suit his agenda, was becoming enraged because The Child was in after-school latchkey and he wasn't. The Troublemaker was telling the teacher that The Child had been taunting him and telling him lies about latchkey, of all things. (Hard though it is to imagine, The Troublemaker was actually upset that he wasn't in latchkey.)

I knew what had been going on between the two boys because The Child had been diligent about telling me EVERYTHING. When I arrived at work, I called the principal of the school to tell her what was going on, and I was so worked up that I was shaking as I informed her that the teacher was preparing to send The Child to detention over a problem that had been fabricated by The Troublemaker.

In any other school The Child would have been sent to detention and been reprimanded, whether he deserved it or not. At this school, the principal made a beeline to the Kindergarten room, where she intervened and took the two boys to her office. Using top-notch problem-solving techniques, she heard each boy's version of events. In a fit of brilliance, she called The Troublemaker's big brother into her office to check out the facts as presented by The Troublemaker, and sure enough, Big Brother exposed the fabrication.

One of the things I loved about this school was its bookstore. Families and teachers donated their used books, and the books were then sold to students at prices ranging from a penny to a dollar, and the proceeds were used for school projects. I volunteered at the bookstore, and really enjoyed being in charge one afternoon each week. I met lots of students that way, and enjoyed watching the children embark upon a lifelong love affair with books.

Today I was much more distraught than the Child was over the end of our relationship with this school. I console myself with the reminder that the relationship may be over, but the lessons learned, by both The Child and his mother, are everlasting.