The hardest lesson of all

Now after reading all these posts of how my sister has been treating my family*, you might be wondering why I don’t just severe all ties. She’s made it obvious she wants nothing to do with my family. She has gone out of her way to exclude us from every facet of the life she and my niece have built.

So why don’t I move on and just forget about her?

This is the lesson that I am trying so hard to get through and what I need the most help wrapping my head around.

I can’t move on and completely severe ties because my sister won’t let me. See my sister is very brave when she has no one to answer to. She is one of those people who have no qualms about being abrasive, aggressive, rude or dismissive to just about anyone. She doesn’t care if she comes across as a b*tch to most people. In fact, she relishes being known as a b*tch. There is one exception though, our parents. When it comes to our parents, she needs their approval. She can’t show them who she really is, instead she chooses to blame her bad behaviour on everything and everyone but her. She defaults back to being the victim. She lives for their perception that she is an innocent bystander, just collateral damage with no control over the situation. This means she will go out of her way to tell my parents how her behaviour is a result of my wronging her in some way, then she doesn’t have to take responsibility for her actions. She selectively omits things she has done, and places she has gone so she comes across as innocent, absolved of all wrongdoing. I am the bad guy and my parents make me feel as if I am responsible for everything that she does or says to me. I fully admit, my parents have a strong hold on me. I don’t crave their approval the way my sister does but I would like them to see this situation is not my doing. Constantly being blamed for a mess I didn’t create has been mentally draining.

Here’s what I mean.

My parents have been travelling since mid – December. Prior to them leaving, my sister and niece would come over every weekend. During those visits, they would spend time with the boys. In the eight weeks since my parents have been gone, my sister and niece have come by to see the boys twice. Once for Christmas and once when my sister needed to use the bathroom after she got her eyebrows threaded** a couple weeks later. Two times in eight weeks. Not bad right? She lives over an hour away, so coming by once a month is pretty good and I agree it would be if she wasn’t visiting weekly when my parents were here or in my neighbourhood every weekend. See she comes to the same neighbourhood the boys are in every weekend but has only come to see them when she needed to go to the bathroom. With all that being said; I know she made no attempt to see my children when she has been in the neighbourhood for the past eight weeks and because of that, I have begun purposely making plans with my boys so they don’t realize their aunt and cousin haven’t been by to see them. I try to keep them busy so they don’t realize the people they are so used to being around, are purposely not coming around anymore.

All of this will change when my parents come back because she will come see them every weekend. Which makes sense since my mom feeds her and she is in the neighbourhood every weekend anyway. The only difference is when they start visiting every weekend again; I will still continue to make plans with my boys and not be home when they are. This is when she will play the victim. She will tell my parents how I am ruining the relationship between my niece and the boys because I am taking my children out while they are there. I am making plans with my boys and not including my niece. SEE!! She is justified in not including my boys because I don’t include her daughter. She fails to mention the eight times (and counting) she has been in the neighbourhood and failed to even attempt to include my boys.

My parents will then turn around and tell me about how I am mistreating my sister and niece.

Boom! I am the bad guy again. In order not to be, I have to sit quietly and take the blatant disrespectfulness, accept the way my boys are being treated and not stand up for my boys or myself because if I do; I am in the wrong.

In short, she plays my parents against me.

Now I know all this sounds dramatic but I can assure you it’s not. This is what happened last year. Last year my parents were travelling for about seven weeks and in those seven weeks there was one attempt to see the boys. While my parents were here, she and my niece were heavily involved in the boys but as soon as my parents left so did they. She made sure our parents got the impression she was heavily involved in the boys lives but as soon as they were not around anymore, she made sure to exclude us. She was in the neighbourhood a lot but she never came by but when I called her out on that, it was somehow my fault and she fed the same story to our parents. It’s all about the perception that she is present in the boy’s lives, but as soon as our parents live, she doesn’t carry on the charade any longer.

That has been the hardest part. It is the part I cannot come to grips with yet. As hard as I try, I just don’t see why I need to be painted as the bad guy. In my sister’s world, she is never at fault for anything and she doesn’t have to take ownership over anything she does. She has her reasons for wanting to severe ties with my family. She has made a concentrated effort to ensure we are completely eradicated from the life of my niece or herself. She has made it known her friends are of greater value to them, than my boys ever were. My family was a convenience she used until we weren’t convenient anymore and then she discarded us at her leisure. These are all truths that are quite obvious. She admits this in every time she walks into my home and does not even say hello, every time she disrespects my family, every snide remark towards us, every text message she fails to send, every phone call she refuses to make, every picture she doesn’t post or post she makes in secret, every time she laughs because she has argued my seven year old into tears over a game, and every exclusionary action she takes. She just won’t admit it to our parents. And because she won’t admit this is the life she wanted, we are the ones continuously being beat me down. Do you know how hard it was on the boys last year when my niece and sister were around every week while my parents were here and then suddenly they disappeared as soon as my parents left? What it took for me to convince my kids they had done nothing wrong and they weren’t at fault for the lack of interaction. These people drain me emotionally and test me mentally. And it isn’t fair. I didn’t choose this. She did. She just won’t take responsibility for her actions.

*and these are just the tip of the iceberg. So many other things have been done and said but I digress as these were the tipping points for me.

**during this visit they stayed for twenty minutes, used the bathroom, tried to pay my son for making them a sandwich (!!) and tried to facetime my parents (because they need to perpetuate the illusion of caring, you know).

In case you were wondering, an attempted visit was made to their city. In the past we would drive out to the city where they live once every couple of years. It’s in the Snow Belt. The highway has no lights. And it is over an hour away. We have no reason to go so we didn’t go. But since they moved out there, Millhouse will make the drive out there every couple of months. Millhouse drove out to their home the weekend after Valentine ’s Day. They weren’t home. When Millhouse texted them to let them know he was in the area McDonalds and he had left the Valentine’s the boys made for them on their front porch. The response was “thank you”. That was the end of it. It wasn’t “where are you / we can come meet you / are the boys with you / come back and come in for a minute”. It was thanks because they were busy doing something they didn’t want us to know about and they weren’t going to make time in their day for Millhouse or couldn’t even be bothered to find out if the boys had come out to see them. They won’t tell our parents that part though.

Lesson #3 – Reflections

These posts all have a common theme, I expected my sister to behave in a certain way and she didn’t want to.  I believed she was a certain way but I didn’t see her for who she really was.

I feel so stupid for believing she was who I thought she was.  I should have seen her for the person she truly was.  I can’t be angry at her because she has always shown me who she was, I just failed to see it.

I am disappointed in myself more than anything else. More than anything coming to terms with all the feelings I am going through makes this whole process even harder.  I held my sister in very high regard.  I saw her as someone I could count on, someone who I could lean on, someone who I could confide in.  I ignored all the times she was selfish, self-concerned, mean, vindictive, hurtful and cold.  I wrote those off as anomalies but that is who she was/is.  I shouldn’t have just accepted her behaviour or dismissed it or even worse defended it.  I should have known better.  And because of my poor judgement, my kids are paying the price.

I really wish it hadn’t taken me years to see who she really was. I should have realized sooner my family was just a convenience to her.  People she could use and abuse at her whim.  I wish I hadn’t enamoured my children to her.  That is my greatest regret.  The pain they feel; the hurt, confusion, self-doubt, all of it is my fault.  They haven’t done anything wrong.  They shouldn’t be made to feel as if they are not as appreciated as the other people in her life.  I gave her that kind of power over them.  As a parent, I never should have done that.

I have to state, emphatically, these posts are not about bad mouthing my sister. The purpose of these posts is to help me.  She is who she is and living her life as she sees fit.  I am not here to convince anyone of anything.  By writing down the things she has put me through, put my boys through, it is helping me come to terms with the state of our relationship now.  And what it will be like in the future.  I need to remind myself to be more selective of those I trust with my children’s emotions and this is how I remind myself.  Rereading the posts reminds me not to fall victim to pity visits and half-hearted attempts at a relationship with my boys.  I recognize them for what they are.  What’s done is done.  I can’t change that.  I can just make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Lesson #2 – Sharing should mean caring

I try to live by the motto: “do unto others as you would want others do unto you”.  I am far from perfect.  I have all sorts of flaws, and I recognize this.  I don’t try to compete with other people and I try really hard not to compare myself to other people.  What is for me, will be for me, and that’s it.  At times it is hard but for the most part I really try to treat people like I would like to be treated.

That’s why when my sister and niece lived here, I would try to include them in just about everything we did. Even before my boys were born, I would include them in all sorts of things.  Millhouse would joke that he had two wives because my sister and niece were part of our unit.  I would bring them along wherever we went, even if it was something they didn’t have much interest in.  An experience is an experience and they should be shared.  When Maks came along, he joined in on the adventures and finally so did Mats.  Even when funds were tight, I would try to take all three kids to do and see things.  I wanted them to have shared experiences.

Then my sister and niece left and that stopped. There were now separate experiences that didn’t involve my kids.  At first, I couldn’t understand it.  I just didn’t get why they were doing these things my kids would like to do but purposely not asking the boys to join them.

That’s where lesson number two came in.

And unfortunately, lesson number two is exactly the same as lesson number one. I was expecting her to do something she did not want to do.

When I reflected on how she behaved when she was here, it all made sense. Sharing experiences is something I would do.  I would take them along on adventures but that was never reciprocated.  In fact, they would go out of their way not to include the boys when they went out with their friends.  They would make their plans without telling us about them and we would only find out they were off to do something fun as they were walking out the door.  When Maks was old enough to recognize they were going out, he would ask where they were going and most often the answer was “out” or “places”.  When he pressed them, that’s when the true destination would come out and nothing else.

When they left, things got worse.  One particularly hurtful time was when my sister sat with my niece and her friends, in front of Mats and made plans to go rock climbing that afternoon without either of the boys.  I spent the afternoon explaining to the boys that they had not done anything wrong, and it was not their fault they were not invited to go rock climbing.  I actually called my sister out when this happened and her response was “she knew we wanted to go but we didn’t make the plans to go rock climbing so she made them.”  She full well knew the boys wanted to go but because I didn’t make the plans, she wasn’t going to include them and she didn’t.  I guess she realized she ticked me off because after the rock climbing incident, she stopped talking about all the things she took my niece to do.  She just made her plans in secret.  That’s even worse.  There is this permanent shroud of secrecy around everything they say or do.  Some things come out in passing or by accident but most of the time they just pretend as if they are not purposely excluding the boys and by doing that it shows me they know exactly what they are doing.  That’s the worse.  It is premeditated.  She is purposely hurting my kids and is very aware of just how her actions are impacting my kids.  I know she took my niece and all her friends to Great Wold Lodge last week.  The boys were not invited.  They weren’t even asked.  She showed up two days later for a twenty minute pity visit with them.  Of all the things she has ever done, that was one of the most hurtful simply because she knows how to hurt them.  I tried really hard for them not to find out about that trip because if they knew, it would break their hearts.

My boys deserve better.

I have learned my lesson.  My sister is very willing to take the things I would give.  She will take and take and take but she will never give.  She will not hesitate to break my children’s hearts.  I cannot allow to hurt my children like this anymore.  I have sweet, caring, smart boys who need someone who will love and respect them.  She doesn’t want to do either.  If she did, she wouldn’t go out of her way to do things that she knows would hurt them.  I won’t give her that power over us anymore.  I will not allow her to use that power anymore.  She will never get the opportunity to share an experience with my kids again.  I can’t give her the opportunity to hurt them anymore.

Lesson #1 – Don’t do it again

When I look back at my relationship with my sister, there were all sorts of signs that she wasn’t the person I thought she was.  I just failed at recognizing her for who she was.  It was as though I had googles on and I had this distorted view of her personality.  Then when she moved out, the googles fell off and I was seeing who she was for the first time and I didn’t recognize that person.  When I talked about her behaviour with other people, they were not surprised at the things she was saying and doing because she had always behaved that way, I just never saw it.

And that is why when she said and did the things she said and did, I was surprised, hurt, bewildered, flabbergasted, angry and confused.  It’s taken a long time to process these feelings.  For a long time I held onto the hope that the person I always believed her to be would reemerge but that never happened, simply because the person I thought she was never existed.

When she and my niece first moved out, I expected the boys to be invited to a sleepover relatively quickly.  The boys were expecting to be invited to a sleep over.  They were so excited about it.  It was one of the things that made the idea of my sister and niece moving away easier to process for the boys.  They took some comfort in the idea of these sleepovers because the idea of a sleepover reinforced the belief that they weren’t really severing connections with my niece.  She had been a part of their life for every day since their birth, and now she was going away.  And that was hard for them to understand.  By adding in something fun like a sleepover, the sting of the separation did not hurt so bad.

The invitation never came.  Not once.  Summer came and went.  Weekend after weekend passed.  We were hearing stories of my niece’s friends spending nights on end but the boys were never asked to spend the night*.  The year went on and there was never an invitation.  Even when the boys asked to spend the night, she would tell them they couldn’t stay that night, they could come another night.  It’s been two years now and the boys have never been asked to spend the night.

Not of it made any sense.

Then I realized (quite recently actually) what I was expecting her to do wasn’t what she wanted to do.  She was the person who would tell me she would only babysit my boys if I bathed them, fed them and put them to bed.  If I happened to not bathe them, feed them or put them to bed before she started watching them, she wouldn’t do any of those things.  There were times when I came home late to find out that she let the boys have chips and candy for dinner and they were still awake.  Making frozen chicken nuggets, a sandwich or ordering a pizza was just too much work.  I had to either make food or buy food and leave it because even though she was capable of making them dinner, she wouldn’t.  She was the person who told me to make sure I bring food to her house because she wasn’t going to cook.  Just like that; “don’t expect me to cook when you’re here, make sure you bring food”.  She wanted to do the bare minimum.  I had to fend for myself and my kids.  She isn’t like this with everyone.  It’s just with my us.

This is when my mistake became evident.

Having a sleepover is something we would have done.  We would have invited my niece to spend the night before anyone else.  We would have invited her over because we would have wanted there.  We would have tried to keep her and the boys connected.  We would have tried.

Now I see things for what they really are.  She wanted the separation.  She wanted to do the bare minimum when it came to babysitting my kids so why would I expect her to invite them to sleep over at her house.  A sleep over will never happen, it was never going to happen.  It was something that was promised in vain, with no intention of following through.  It was said to keep the boys quiet.  Make them the promise so they stop asking but never follow through on it.  Hopefully in time, they would forget.

I just wish it didn’t take me two years to see this.

At this point I wouldn’t let the boys sleep over even if a sleep over request were to materialize.  It’s been two summers, being asked to sleep over now would be the result of outside intervention.  It would be something she did because she had to, in order to appease her perceived obligations.  it is not something she wanted to do because if she wanted to do it, it would have happened two summers ago.

*apparently she asked my then eight year old in passing if he wanted to spend the night one weekend about a year and a half ago.  No specifics were ever given, “just you wanna spend the night here one day” kind of thing.  He said he would but she had to ask me.  She never asked me.  It was something she said to keep him quiet.  I only found out about this three months ago.

Intent versus Actual

I haven’t spoken to my sister for almost a year.  The year before that, our relationship was extremely strained.  She had decided that my family and I just weren’t the people she and her daughter needed to be around.  I used to be really close to her but things have changed.  At first, I intended to use this blog as a forum to list all the ways my sister has hurt my boys and I over the last two years.  For a while it seemed like a really good idea.  I figured if I retold all the things she has done, and said, I would feel better.

Then I started writing all things out.  I wrote down the dates and incidents and I had to stop.  I couldn’t do it.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  It hurt as much as it hurt when it first happened.  And then I realized reliving all the wrongs my sister has done and said (to me, about me, to my boys and about my boys) won’t help me.

I need to move past the person I thought she was.  I need to step away from all the hurtful things she has said and done.  I have dedicated too much time and effort focusing on her.  It’s obvious that my family and I are not of her concern and I need to focus on the people that actually matter.  I won’t relive the bad, I am going to focus on the people that actually care about my family.  I am going to start healing myself.

I don’t have any ill will towards my sister.  There are times when I think I am being too forgiving when it comes to her and I should be angrier than I am but I am not.  I am disappointed.  I am hurt.  I am flabbergasted by her behaviour.  But all in all, I wish her well.  In fact, I hope she achieves whatever it is she is striving for.  I hope she impresses all the people she is so desperate to impress.  I hope she succeeds where she is fighting to succeed.

I just won’t be part of it.  Neither will my children and husband.

That was her choice.

I made a mistake

I wrote this post over a year ago but it feels like it could have been written yesterday.  I have struggled with publishing it ever since I wrote it.  This is perhaps one of the biggest things impacting my life right now.  And it has been weighing on me heavily.  It weighs on me on a daily basis.  I don’t really talk about what is going on.  I try but I just can’t articulate everything I feel.  It’s something I just deal with.  Only, now, it is getting too hard to deal with it.  I need to put this out there.  I need to start to heal.  I see now that things will never be the way they were.  I am starting to understand that the way things were was never the way I saw it.  And in order to accept the way things are meant to be, I have to start letting go.

And it all starts with this post.

*****

Once upon a time, I made a mistake.  I assumed my children could be loved by someone else just as they are loved by me.  I made this assumption because I was able to love a child that was not my own as if they were mine.  I went out of my way to be inclusive and fair and assumed that would be extended to my boys as well.  I made this assumption because I believed my children were important to people other than myself.  I made this assumption because I believed that others saw how special, dynamic and fun my boys are and they appreciated this just as I did.

I shouldn’t have made this assumption.  

It has become obvious that loving my children is not something they wanted to do.  In fact, my children are not even on their radar most of the time.  My children are now being ignored and pushed aside in favour of others.  There is time for text messages, phone calls, outings and visits but just not with my children; with everyone else but just not my boys.  Outings are discussed in front of my boys and then they are excluded from attending.  Invitations are not even extended.  They just hear about an event and know they are not welcome to join.  It’s as though they don’t even exist.  They are an afterthought or a pity phone call when the reminders of their existence become too much or there is fear of repercussion for ignoring them for too long.

And now my kids are hurting because they assumed the same things I did and can’t understand why things are not the way they were.  They remember when they were included and don’t understand why they are being excluded now.  They are too young to fully grasp just what is going on, but they do feel the hurt.

I should have realized sooner the type of person I was putting a lot of faith into and I should have realized sooner just how incorrect my assumptions were.  I should have realized that they were all about spending time with my boys because it was convenient for them.  I covered everything.  I was responsible for everything.  Now that they don’t need me, they don’t need my boys and they have no issues forgetting my boys exist.  

I have been dealing with a lot of pain lately, both theirs and mine.  I have been trying to show my boys just how special they are, just how loved they are.  I spend a lot of time distracting them.  Having them focus their attention on other things so they don’t have the time to feel the hurt.  And for the most part, it is working.  The hurt isn’t there as often but there are times when it does show up.  Then I have to spend nights explaining just why they weren’t invited to do the fun things or why visits are nonexistent.  I hate those conversations because I know we wouldn’t be having them if I hadn’t made the assumptions I made.  I was the one that put my faith into the wrong person and now my boys are suffering for it.

I will never do that again.

New Year, New Blog

Yes, I know the new year started 25 days ago but I figure it’s better late than never.

This blog has always been a reflection of what’s been going on in my life. The blog has never really had a focus.  It was just a hodge podge collection on everything in my life and I have always tried to be as forthcoming with what I have been going through.  Sometimes that can be hard because a lot of the things in my life involve other people and I want to keep them as anonymous as possible.

But things have been going on that have been really hard to process.  I have been internalizing a lot of things and I just can’t do it anymore.  I need to stop keeping things in and start to articulate with has been bothering me in the hopes that actually getting things out will help me process and eventually come to terms with all the feelings I am experiencing.

This blog has always been good for that.  So I am going to get personal.  I am going to let you into my head.  And that is something I have always been careful about doing but it feels like I don’t have a choice anymore.

There will still be stories about my boys, my job and other random bits of my life.  In addition to all those posts, there will also be posts about how badly I have been hurting for the past two years and the people who have hurt me.  Those will be the most difficult posts for me to write but those are the ones that I need to write.  For some of them I am going to make myself share what’s been going on.  I know it would be hard and that’s where I ask for your patience.

Bear with me.

I am trying to heal myself.

I have a notebook

Unfortunately I am not using it like I should. Most days there are things I need to remember and I used to be able to say to myself “don’t forget to do this” and I wouldn’t forget to do it.

Not anymore.

Now I forget. I walk away and start doing something else and whatever it was I was supposed to remember gets forgotten. So my fantastic idea on how to build a salad or some new way to organize the closet gets lost somewhere between here and there only to be thought of again weeks later when I will probably forget about it later on in the day. It really is quite bad. So I got myself a pocket notebook that I can use to write down all the things I have to remember and now I have writers block.

I have nothing to write down. I am subconsciously preventing myself from using the book. I had this grandiose plan of having a notebook filled with random bits of knowledge and ideas in which I could refer to later on. It would be a physical reminder of all the great things I am capable of coming up with during the day. But that just isn’t happening right now. I don’t think it has to do with me admitting my memory sucks, I know it sucks, hence me relenting and getting the book. There is more to it than that.

What the more is, I am not sure.

That time of year…..again

It;s that time of year again, end of school.  You know what that means; teacher gifts!

Teacher gifts always stress me out.  They are supposed to be easy but they are not.

I never know what to get.  I can pretty much guarantee the teachers have enough hand lotion and coffee mugs to last them three lifetimes.  So I don’t like getting them things I know they already have too many of.

Then there is just the sheer volume of gifts I have to get.  The boys each have two teachers plus three after school teachers; that’s seven teachers that I have to buy for.  That gets expensive really fast.  Because even though I intend to spend $5 a teacher, that never happens.

So now I am trying to figure out what sort of “unique” present I can get for them.  Usually I get them all the same thing.  One present across seven teachers makes organizing easier but this year I think I might switch things up.  I am thinking of getting individual gifts for each teacher and seeing if that works out better.  Maks has one teacher who really loves Nutella so she is getting the biggest jar of Nutella I can find.  The teachers who love coffee are getting Starbucks gift cards,  The only one left is the teacher who loves music.  Maks suggested a Yamaha P105

That’s not going to happen.  I just need to figure her out and I should be in good shape.  Oh, and I need to figure all this out by Wednesday.

Yikes!