Monday, August 27, 2007

Oh, the hypocrisy!

***This post has religious undertones... reader beware***

Yesterday we were out and about getting a few things and a thought occurred to me: How do I help my child forgive? I don't know if you have noticed this or not but I can hold a grudge. Shocking, I know!

It's no secret that we have been slacking in the church going department. I know my kids are missing out on something important and I am partially to blame. I'd like to think that I am teaching my kids the fundamentals of life.

But am I?

Regardless of faith and denomination, there are some things that I think parents should teach their children. But this is all my opinion, so cut me a little slack... m'kay? ;)

IMHO, one of the things that parents should teach their children is the concept forgiveness. This is where things get a little sticky for me. I have been burned so many times in my life that I am slow to forgive. It takes me a while. SOMETIMES years. So what exactly should I tell my kids?

*** From a Biblical standpoint, though love is mentioned a lot and is considered a top priority, forgiveness is crucial to having a relationship with God and man. ***

As a child I was brought up to believe that my feelings, thoughts and opinions didn't matter or amount to much. I want so much more for my children, so how can I possibly tell them that they HAVE to forgive? Right now. This very minute.

My brain understands the fundamentals of forgiveness, but my heart aches when my children have been hurt and wronged. How can I explain to my kids that they need to forgive when I struggle on a daily basis? And when my words are so poisoned with anger?

Most recently, the MIL threw a sand pail of water- full force- in the face of her 6 year old granddaughter, without Anna even knowing that she was behind her, and without warning. As you can imagine, Anna has lost all faith and trust in her grandmother.

John's mother obviously was very upset when she learned that she wouldn't be watching the kids while I was gone on my recent trip. The Saturday before my trip (and after the water incident), John and his mother just happened to be working at the hospital they bother work at. The MIL called John at his desk and asked him what time she needed to be at the house on Friday. John told her that he was going to take both days off, and that she wouldn't be needed to stay home with the kids. When she asked him why, he replied that Anna said she wanted her dad home those days.

"I guess she is still mad at me, " she said.

"Yes, "John said, "She IS only 6 years old." Then he told her that he had to go, he had a lot of work to do.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if she thought that her actions were minor and that she couldn't possibly understand why Anna would be so upset. In fact this is exactly what has happened in the past when she left Anna in a locked car on a 90+ degree day, or the time she let Anna walk on a 10 foot incline of jagged rocks at the river front, or the time I came home to find Emma wrapping a cord from the blinds around her neck for almost a whole minute while the MIL watched TV in my living room... completely oblivious. In each instance she either couldn't understand why I was so upset or lied about what happened to save face.

However, what is most shocking? The MIL- the only grandparent my kids have left since my mother has been eliminated for reasons of insanity- has not bothered to call, visit, or reassure her grandchildren in almost 3 weeks (3 weeks tomorrow). No contact of any sort, nothing. This is doing nothing to boost Anna's fallen faith. In fact, it is only fostering her sense of hurt and complacency.

What struck me about this whole incident is that by continuing to discuss our anger and frustration- over the fact that the MIL is so childish that she cannot possibly see why Anna would be so upset, and the fact that she has decided that her typical response of avoidance in hopes that the situation will mend itself is at all appropriate here- is [possibly] making things worse for Anna.

Gah, I guess that means I have to change. Lead by example right? I have to start taming my tongue and letting anger go. Which is very difficult in this particular circumstance... since we traveled a similar road with John's dad.

I don't want to ever give my kids the idea or feeling that their ideas and opinions don't matter.
But there has to be a transition between feeling the hurt and mending, and this is where forgiveness comes in. I think Anna is old and smart enough to understand that forgiveness means showing mercy for others, but it also means allowing yourself to heal. You can't heal if you let the battery acid of bitterness continue to pour over open wounds.

John and I had a short a cryptic talk in the car, where I told him my opinion... and he agreed.

So, yesterday after we got home, I had a brief talk with Anna. I explained that when she was ready to see her nana again to let me know and I would call the MIL and tell her that Anna wanted to see her. I skipped the part where Anna "should forgive" because I didn't want her to feel like I was demanding her to do so, I know my sweet girl will eventually forgive. Also, I want my daughter to know that she is every bit entitled to feel anger, pain and hurt, and that her opinions and feelings DO matter. But, last night I did ask her at bedtime if she has forgiven her grandmother at all, and she said a little. I told her that if she wanted, she could pray that God help her... and she did. :)

Forgiveness begins inside one's self, so it is no wonder that forgiveness heals the wounded and the forgiven alike.

I hope that my girl can grasp what has taken her momma so many years to figure out.

I also hope that when the time comes that the MIL will be ready with an open heart and will want to see Anna (supervised visits only), even though she has made it perfectly clear that Emma (my youngest)is her favorite grandchild. Actually, I hope that the MIL comes to accept her responsibility in this whole mess because Anna did nothing wrong, and that she attempts to reconcile with Anna soon.

If the MIL tries to place the blame on Anna or is indignant or angry when Anna is ready to see her, I am afraid that the bear in me will come out ... in order to protect my cub. If the MIL keeps on this self centered/ self destructive path, her grandchildren will one day be too busy for HER. I don't want that at all.

We'll see... I am hoping and praying for the best, though my faith in my child's remaining grandparent is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

EDIT TO ADD: (As written to a good friend just minutes ago) I will still be guarded in that I will protect my daughter , no matter what it takes. We already decided that she will no longer watch our kids for us, or take them any where... we were willing to overlook some very dangerous behaviors on her part... for what? To not rock the boat and make her upset? At what cost, our children?

We realize now- actually John mostly because with each of those instances I told John he needed to talk to his mother because I didn't want to be the bitch, but I always ended up doing it anyway not him- that that was wrong. Going to a movie is not more important than our kid's safety.

Yes, the rule is she can visit but never alone... the visits will be supervised. If she starts to act stupid and take stuff out on Anna then she can't see them anymore. If she isn't willing to get over herself- meaning accept responsibility for what happened recently- then she can't come over.

The point I want to make to Anna is that I accept that she has feelings, and that forgiving is not really for her grandmother... it's to help Anna to move on with her life despite it's ups and downs. Sure, her grandmother will need to know that Anna forgives her, when Anna is ready.

The MIL has threatened to move back to Texas... but I think she is realizing that it isn't a threat to me and John... I think she knows now that we couldn't care less.

I don't know if having her in their lives will be good for them... the jury is still out... it kind of depends on how she acts in the near future.

Also, quite frankly... I would like to know that I did everything in MY power to make things better in the event the MIL does decide to move back to Texas... then she can't blame us for moving. It'll all be on HER. I'm not saying at all that I am going to throw my kids to the wolf to make things "all better". Nope. Supervised visits only, and only if the MIL behaves herself. If she can't do that then she can't visit.

The whole point of this post though is this: I want to help ANNA heal. If she can heal by forgiving the MIL, great. I want to teach my kids to move on to bigger and better things, not to sit in the dark depressed because people can and will hurt you.

This is all exclusive of the fact that Anna may or may not feel comfortable around the MIL ever again. If Anna doesn't want to see the MIL, I will respect that. I'll just have to hope that when Anna is ready (if ever) to resume a relationship with her grandmother, that the MIL will be adult enough to accept full responsibility for what happened, and can change... and that they can both move on from there. I doubt it though, the MIL is pretty set in her ways. And that makes me sad for my kids... but maybe they are better off without her.


Hopeful Spirit said...

I gave you a blogging award yesterday. Stop by and see! :-)

maggie said...

I think people confuse forgiving and setting yourself up again.

Having had family issues with mostly my ex's family from time to time and being told I had to forgive cause they where family I learned a few things. Oh sure I can forgive you and even understand why you did..blah blah but I won't set myself up again for you to take advantage of me.

If you stole from me. I might forgive you but chances are I will lock my purse in my room the next time you come over to visit. ETC. If you did something or took my child somewhere I told you not to and you lied I might forgive you. However, it doesn't mean you will have access to my child alone again. Next time we will spend the time with you together.

Mert said...

Hopeful Spirit... thanks so much, I'm heading over to read your post right now! *blush*

Maggie, Exactly! That's why I said in my post if she does come over to visit it will be supervised... so don't worry.

I'm not a complete idiot, LOL! Just a a 1/2 an idiot. :D

Not So Anonymous Michelle said...

I think you are handling the situation correctly. Your daughters needs both the lessons about forgiveness but also about how it's not easy and praying for God's help and everything too. I think it's right to have her guide you as to when she feels ready to visit the MIL again.

Susie said...

Good post. I hear you about forgiveness. It is a hard thing to accept when you have been burned so many times.

Karen Lynch-LivethePower said...

Forgiveness needs to come from within your own heart but it does not and it never includes allowing the painful and poisonous stuff to happen again. Taking care of oneself is even more important! It is not a lack of forgiveness to not allow one child to learn that she is not the favorite. Favorites among grandchildren is not okay!

Mert said...

Thanks Michelle and Susie... I'm still struggling with the whole thing though.

Karen- I know what you mean... I'm not sure if Anna has noticed that Emma is the favorite, but I sure have. I don't want to bring it up because if she doesn't know, she doesn't need to know. I hope my MIL CAN change, I really do... but I'm not going to sacrifice my child. If Anna is OK with seeing her... good. I will call the MIL.

If not, there is not much I can do but help my child to move on by forgiving the best she can. If she says that she doesn't want to see the MIL, I will have to honor that because I respect my child as an individual- she isn't my possession.

Trust me, I'm not putting the responsibility on my daughter, she isn't the adult here in this situation, and she certainly isn't responsible.

M "now with significantly less fat" said...

She sounds unstable.
Who does that to a child?
I would not leave the children alone with her ever again.

There doesn't have to be any anger or whatever... it is what it is and she will not be with them alone.


wolfbaby said...

maybe im just a bad and unforgiving person but if it were me i'd rather have someone like that outta the kids life then scar them with memories of someone like this hurting them and favering them... you have the right idea i think.. i also think my own war wounds rear there ugly head at times like this.

Karmyn R said...

This is a very tough situation. Anna is only 6 years old and shouldn't have to deal with this crap...but, I understand how you, as a parent, need to help guide her so she will be able to deal with these situations as an adult.

Part of me wants to say "cut contact with your MIL" - but I know that is not possible.

Anna is probably a lot more aware than you realize. Talk it over with her and see what SHE has to say. You are doing a great job, Mary - don't ever forget that, EVER.

maggie said...

I was thinking about this again. I had something to say but i'm having a hard time wording it. I was thinking if you explain to Anna that her feelings and insticts about people mean alot while you grow and get older. Sometimes you know instantly what kind of person someone is and other times you have to learn from getting burnt. and even though these feelings are important it is important not to burn and bridges (that will need another 6 year old explanation) and sometimes you just need to approach a person guarded. Even though what grandma did was wrong and more childish than you the 6 year old grandma made a mistake. She might not admit that mistake but we need to let her know how you felt about that.

~Virginia~ said...

It's things like this that make me think I'm going to be a crappy parental figure. In a fit of righteous indignation I'll be like, "Who cares?! Screw them!" and march my 2 year old across the street...or something like that. :)

Forgiveness is a complicated thing. On the one hand, you want to let go of the grudge for your own peace of mind, but then you don't want to look like a pushover. Sigh. Complicated.

But where would we be without our conscience?

Dorky Dad said...

I think you are doing fine. You are certainly making an effort. Forgiveness is very important. If you don't forgive, then you're just shackled to the past. As corny as it seems sometimes, forgiveness does help us move past those events so we can simply get on with our lives. The Bible preaches forgiveness for a reason ...

That said, forgiveness doesn't mean that you forget things so they possibly happen again. I'd do the exact same thing you did with your MIL if mine did the same thing to my kid. She seems like a danger to your child. You SHOULD be taking steps to protect her. And Anna should take steps to protect herself, too.

Holly Schwendiman said...

Awww so much thought and emotions in your post. I think it's good to work a lot of it just for having written it down. The fact that you are aware of the things you are, wanting the things you do and working it out is the magic. :)


kailani said...

From the day I found out I was pregnant with Girlie Girl, I made it clear in no uncertain terms that MIL was not to watch my kids unsupervised. I'm still amazed that DH and his brothers survived their childhood!

I say, your children come first no matter who gets upset about it.

Jeremy said...

While the bible stresses love and forgiveness, one of Gods primary attributes and a important fruitage of the spirit is "wisdom".

Using discernment in the protection of your child by determining who you can and can't entrust her care to is not a failure to forgive because past errors of another poke at you.

If your reasons are not malicious but for self preservation and the well being of your daughter you are on the right track.

Marci said...

Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way.
Real Live Preacher,

Hey sis,
Here is a quote that I found. I too have a hard time with the forgiveness part of my life. As you know, I have been burned more times that I would like to admit and usually when I forgive someone, it's more like.... I forgive you for being so stupid, I forgive you for not seeing that we are the best thing in your sorry life.
I have learned to forgive however over the years and I really think you are on the right track with your MIL and letting Anna know that she has the right to expect better from her grandmother.

Love you bunches

Anonymous said...

Wow. I would of stopped unsupervised visits after she left your daughter in the car alone.

This is good though. It's something I also have battled with since having my daughter. There are still people I haven't been able to forgive and I'm not sure how I should teach it when I can't even do it.