Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Not Really That Much Fun in Dysfunction

Chickenhead's birthday party is coming up this weekend, and it's a bit bittersweet. My brother and his family will be here, which I'm really looking forward to. I've contacted my ex-sister-in-law, and she's going to bring our nephews to the party. Which is all good, but I still feel a bit sad.

The Husband's family is in tatters. He has a grandfather who is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer, and a grandmother who's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. My MIL, who's often been the centerpiece to many of my stories, is rapidly descending into a black hole of drug addiction and mental illness. My brother in law(the Husband's brother) won't speak to us at all, and my FIL doesn't have much to say, either.

I see how much all of this hurts the Husband and it saddens me. I see how much it upsets Chickenhead and that saddens me even more. It's hard to explain to my son why his uncle won't speak to us, or why his grandfather doesn't call or contact him. The Husband has been taking Chickenhead over to my FIL's house to go swimming, which I guess is some progress, but Chickenhead notices that his grandfather and dad hardly speak to each other. Chickenhead notices that we're not invited to family events. I find myself flip-flopping between thinking maybe it's better if Chickenhead isn't around such dysfunction so much, or thinking that good or bad, this is the only family he's got.

As our children grow, they become much more aware of their environment, and the interactions of their family members. Kids can sense tension, anger and resentment. I hate to just dismiss Chickenhead's questions with, 'you're too young to understand', but how much do I tell him? How do you deal with sticky family situations and your kids? Thoughts?


Roving Lemon said...

This is a tough one....I tend to give one-sentence, simple answers and wait and see if those generate further questions. As in, "X and Y don't agree about some things, and are having a hard time getting along right now." I might also talk about an example of conflict she has witnessed among her own peers, and then say that adults have the same kinds of problems sometimes.

Hope that helps. Good luck with it all.

Carol said...

I have always told my kids the truth...even the ugly stuff...then I would help them see both sides of the story. No one side is ever 100% in the right. No one ever really tells the whole truth either. If their feelings are hurt, I let them express it...and help them work through it. They will experience many heart breaks and disappointments in life. Sad, but true.

Lurker Girl said...

well, you know my story with my outlaws. If you figure it out, let me in on the secret because I am at a loss to explain the crazy to my DD. Kids are not stupid, they figure stuff out. I try not to impart my personal feeling on my DD because they are her family. They can hate me all they want, I don't care, but I let me dd form her own opinions on them.

Mrs. G. said...

I'm like Carol in that I tended to tell the truth in age appropriate way--Uncle Hugh is just not right in his brain, his brain works differently. Oh, Uncle Pat has one leg not because he was bitten by a shark as he told you but because he was in a car accident. I think as moms we all instinctively know what our kids can handle. Good luck!