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I Really Don’t Know: A Post About the Challenges to Attached Families

If you’re familiar with Attachment Theory for children, you’re probably not surprised to hear about Adult Attachment Theory.  This is a pretty new area of study, and the basics are outlined in a pretty reader-friendly book called Attached by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.  It’s really marketed as a self-help book, claiming it “can help you find- and keep- love.”  The book is interesting even if you’re in a relationship, though.  I may write a review soon enough, but for now, I just wanted to mention that adult attachment exists.

My view of attached relationships (commonly termed “co-dependency” by psychologists seeking some sort of disconnect from biological needs, treating them as bad habits needing to be broken) is that they are healthy.  The research thus far shows us that a relationship which is secure soothes our nervous systems, helping our bodies and minds function with relative ease.  Who wouldn’t want this for their marriage?  In an era of skyrocketing divorce rates and little hope for preserving life-long commitments, I think we need this science to emerge a little faster.  A lot faster.  However, what we do have right now is a foundation: marriages can be secure, attached relationships, and they can be better understood.  We have hope for improvement.

One of the biggest challenges to a healthy marriage, however, is the social atmosphere of our culture.  By this, I mean that people are just not designed for commitment or healthy social interaction these days.  Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s very rare to find a person who values relationships enough to make the effort to maintain them.  If the relationships are not even their own, such as a mother who is a peripheral part of her son’s marriage, then all bets are off- why should she try and protect or even respect that relationship?

I know that this post started off all educational and seemed like it might be an introduction to some valuable information, but this is where that stops.  This is where I say, “I do not have any of the answers I need.”

I do not know how a marriage is supposed to be a healthy one if outside relationships are competing with the marriage.  I do not know how to resolve conflict with competing people.  I do not know how some people can be over 60, yet act like they are barely more emotionally mature than a 2-year-old.  No, friends, this is not an educational post.  This is a flame fest.

This post goes out to all the baby mamas whose children have grown and started their own family, but those baby mamas somehow think they have rights to that family.  This post goes out to all the parents who insert themselves in their childrens’ marriages with the intent of dividing them.  If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you are losing.  You are probably succeeding in creating problems in that marriage, in that family, and you are definitely succeeding in creating problems in your own relationship with your child.  Everyone loses, but you are the biggest loser.  Gone are the days when the elders received unquestionable superior status- everything is questioned today, and the answer to the question of an impossible family member is simply to remove them.

Families today have to contend with so much negativity just to stay together, without people who claim to love them also attempting to destroy something they’ve worked hard to create and maintain.  We have to educate ourselves on how to have happy lives because a large portion of the previous generation has failed.  We have to sift through overwhelming amounts of bad advice and do what’s right for our families.  America is unlike other cultures in that we cannot trust the practices and knowledge of our parenting generation; it’s no fault of theirs, but their parenting and relationship advice got its roots in the worst kind of revolution.  The “medical revolution” turned our natural instincts and healthy traditions into jokes, and we have suffered for that.  Our generation faces a massive number of struggles with parents and in-laws over parenting and family choices because of the discrepancies between what we now know to be true and what was taught to previous generations as a result of the medical model for families.  (Try to explain this unbiased, scientific observation to your mother, however, and you’ll probably get scolded.)

Parents: DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for requesting that your children be cared for in the way that you know is best.  Do not accept the notion that your parents did alright with you, and thus can be trusted with your children.  Do not feel like you have to accept destructive behavior from parents or in-laws simply because they are family.  These are our challenges.  To set healthy examples for our children and help them build healthier lives for themselves, we have to stand our ground and demand that those involved in our children’s lives respect our decisions.  Same goes for marriages- a secure marriage is valuable.  Make that clear by protecting it.

And to those who oppose the notion that the older generation is “not the mama,” so to speak, I will say this once: grow the hell up.  Whatever you might have experienced, and whatever issues you might have with someone else’s (even your child’s) decisions within a marriage and a family, you have no right to take thoughtless action against them.  I am appalled by how common it is for parents, mothers especially, to try to divide a marriage, or compete with the wife.  Get over this!  If you were doing what’s truly best for your children and grandchildren, you would be supporting the marriage and listening to and respecting them.  This means there is no room for trash talking your son’s wife to everyone who will listen, including him; no room for blatantly disregarding parenting wishes; no room for manipulation with gifts and charity; no room for guilt trips; no room for treating someone like dirt and expecting there will be no consequences.

My choices are not only my own; a ridiculous number of people have cut off parents and other relatives for the same sort of problem.  We are taking a stand against this treatment.  We are protecting our families and their future.  We’re modeling the good and throwing out the bad.  And that does not make us bad people; that makes the opposition bad people.  The fact is that a family member is not going to be shoved out of another’s life based on one or even a few little mistakes- you’ve probably done many very offensive things, been asked to change your actions repeatedly, and shown no progress before someone is willing to cut a family member out of their life.

So to all the friends and family out there feeling like victims because you’ve been removed from a family’s life, this is for you: you are the problem, and you can find a solution.  It’s time to stop pretending that you shouldn’t be taking responsibility for your actions and learn how to relate meaningfully and responsibly.  It’s time to fix your mistakes or back off and let the well-meaning, hard-working parents, husbands, and wives be.

For all the parents/grandparents who have respected their children’s family and marriage, KUDOS!  Congratulations on being a thoughtful, caring individual who your children probably look up to and respect tremendously.  Keep on setting the example you set, and one day we will aspire to be the kind of grandparent/parent you are being.  We need many, many more of you…

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Isaac…

I could cry right now.  I’ve done it quite a few times in the last few days.  As a pregnant woman, I should be used to crying, but no.  I’m not a crier.  So when frustration comes out in the form of tears more than once a month, and even more than once a week, I’m left feeling shaken and out of control.

Maybe staying for the storm wasn’t such a good idea.

When we began to make decisions and preparations, I asked my husband if he thought we’d lose power.  His answer was no.  Since he has lived in the Metairie and New Orleans areas for much longer than I have, I felt like there was a good possibility he was right.  I also didn’t hear anything about our area needing to evacuate, and I thought that surely there would be an order issued if the danger was real.  So we (I) cooked all our food, made lists of what to stock up on, did all the cleaning I could before the power possibly went out.

We were originally told that the storm would hit Tuesday morning.  We waited all through Tuesday watching the drizzle stop and start, watching a breeze come up from the summer still.  The new estimate was Wednesday morning- the storm had slowed down.  Tuesday evening, in the midst of light rain and light breeze, people started to lose power.  Mother in law lost power 5:30 PM on Tuesday.  Winds didn’t start coming in until about midnight, when we lost power.  Believe me when I say that summer thunderstorms are worse than what we experienced when we lost power.  We woke up the next morning hot and cranky.  We opened all the windows to let in the breeze, but there was no cross-ventilation (all of our windows are on one side of our apartment).  It was miserable.

Gwenna was the exception- she continued chirping and chatting even as her hair became matted with sweat, and through the whole thing, rarely asked about the lights.  At night, we’d put her to bed naked, and she’d insist on covers.  We’d wait until she was asleep to take them (which I felt was a sad betrayal, but necessary) and I wiped her skin down with a wet rag to cool her off through the night.  So many times, our hearts caught in our throats as we watched her chest rise so slowly, we were so worried that she would be badly affected by the heat.  But she pulled through, happily.

The light rain continued for the rest of the day and night on Wednesday.  We got reports of areas family lived being affected by flooding.  Thankfully, everyone is safe, but my heart hurts for the people the government decided to leave out of the new levee system (“Yeah, we’re building a great new levee!  But you’re not important enough for us to worry about placing it outside of your homes!”)  The next day (Thursday), it stopped and started, but the breeze was weak.  Friday was bright and sunny, with no breeze.  We couldn’t take it on faith anymore that we would have power back soon, and fled to Gulfport, where Zack’s aunt pulled the Wonder Woman move of negotiating a low price for a beachfront condo rental.

I’d like to say it’s been heavenly here, and mostly it has.  The condo is beautiful.  The a/c works.  There’s a kiddie pool, large swimming pool, hot tub, and playground right outside of our condo.  The beach is across the street.  Zack’s aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandmother are nearby, and it’s always nice to see them.

But the fact remains that I am 8 months pregnant with unmedicated anxiety and still trying to process the way my family has suffered in the past week.  Presently I’m still swollen to a ridiculous degree from all of the preservatives and sodium a hurricane diet is filled with.  I’m emotionally unstable, worrying about what mess awaits at home- a broken front door, a wet kitchen (refrigerator/freezer thawing), kitchen stench (water conservation is important when you don’t know how stable the sewage system is- so no dishwashing for us), possible mold in the house (rain and humidity got in when the a/c went out, and we do have nothing but carpet floors), catching up on work and anticipating a hard few weeks catching up at school, the mess we left across our home in our rush to get out, birthday party invitations to write and send for Gwenna’s party in exactly one week, and an empty pantry and refrigerator to re-stock.

Then there was the incident involving a certain sweet child and a recliner.  Gwenna grabbed the extended foot of the recliner Zack was in and he responded with, “No, Gwenna!”, and just as soon, she shrieked out in pain.  I grabbed her immediately and saw blood covering her hand and couldn’t bring myself to look at it, I just ran to the bedroom to comfortably hold her close and calm her, and sent Zack to get a rag that I could use to put pressure on her hand, on which I still wasn’t sure where her injury was.  I shook and cried right along with her.  We were all relieved to find that she kept all of her fingers, but a big chunk was taken out of her pointer finger.  Zack’s aunt called the doctor who lives next door to her, and we went to see what he’d say.  My maternal instinct was to go straight to the emergency room and have them clean and fix it up and make sure it wasn’t broken, but there is no children’s hospital here.  Maternal confusion.  The doctor said that she was fine apart from the cut, and just to keep it bandaged and clean.  I still shudder when I think of it.

The visit here has been marred by obvious trauma as well as more subtle erosion of the patience, and I won’t get into that right now.  I will say that people tend to forget that I am 8 months pregnant and my husband is one of them (I love you honey).

We are still waiting on our power to come back on.  This is day 5.  For a barely-hurricane/mostly tropical storm to leave us in this way, I find myself feeling hopelessly angry with the energy company.  Our power went out before the storm even got there- a sign that they should have put more money into prevention measures.  Men are working long days and taking nights off, rather than the company bringing in even more men to work around the clock.  Because they won’t send men out at night, the restoration process began a number of hours after it could have started.  The small amount of money we will save over not having power for a week will in no way amount to the money we’ve had to spend to survive away from home.

So there’s my update.  We’re alive an well, albeit cranky and angry.  Too bad I can’t have a goddang margarita.