Tonight or rather, last night, since it is past midnight, I got into a fight with one of my nephews over a dart league matter. The contents and reasons behind the fight are unimportant for the purpose of this post. It is pertinent to mention that it was a huge blow-out.
Despite it being a “dart league matter” that was not what the fight was about. He failed to trust that I would support him in this endeavor and so he kept the entire thing a secret. I, filled with righteous indignation, lost my temper. I was angry on behalf of league, but the more we fought, the more I realized the anger was a lot less about darts and more about us. This requires a little more explanation, so hold on for a few moments, while I digress.
My family is not like most. We have never been like most and we will never be like most. Some call us dysfunctional and frankly, I don’t care, they can label us however they want. They did not fight our battles or struggle through what we struggled. I consider us family, functional, even if we are different. Which makes my shame even greater… When my parents are gone, I will be left with the boys that I raised as my immediate family and my SO. That is all. My sister and I do not have a relationship, it isn’t even close enough to a relationship to consider it a bad one. One of the boys detests me and I understand his reasoning. That leaves me with just the one and my SO.
I didn’t want to be a parent. I was offered the role when my nephews were little. I accepted the role, slightly begrudgingly, but I still accepted it. My goal was to make them thoughtful, functional members of society or some such nonsense. As a result, I often posed as opposition to their decision making, trying to make them see all the options and make the best choices possible.
To my shame, my nephew admitted tonight that he felt I didn’t always support him. And I am truly ashamed of that. It was never my intention. I wanted them to see the big picture and understand that whatever path they took, I would support that decision. Obviously, I failed. Tonight’s fight is evidence of that.
I love my SO and he is family. But he is not my nephew, who is more like a surrogate child to me than just a boy my sister gave birth to… I helped raise him and during that time, I wore a lot of different hats to trying to find my niche as his “parental figure.” Sometimes, it was the wrong hat, I made my fair share of parenting mistakes, but learning tonight that he felt I didn’t always support him was like a kick in the ass by a shoed mule. Of all the mistakes I had made, I didn’t think that was one of them. I thought he knew that I would always support him, regardless of whether I agreed with his decisions or not.
Somewhere in the process of trying to teach him to make informed decisions, I let the most important part of the lesson slip away. And I do find that shameful and callous and heart-breaking, for both of us. Because I had intended to teach him that right or wrong, in agreement or not, I would be here for him.
It is very easy to forget that even our closest family members cannot read our minds. They cannot tease out our intent without us giving them clues. Those relationships are so fragile, that our family is the easiest people for us to hurt and the hardest for us to mend.
So, I have another lesson, for myself. It does not matter that people think my family is dysfunctional. It does not matter that people consider the close relationships I keep with my mother or my nephew are weird. The only thing that matters is how I treat them and what we think of our relationships. He has grown into be a promising young man and I like to think I helped, but I wronged him by making him feel that he didn’t always have my support. It is time for me to do penance for that act.
*And now everyone knows why family is always a central theme to my books. Not all families are alike or can be considered normal. Mine certainly isn’t and I don’t care that it doesn’t fit into a mold. I always hope that someone reading one of my books can look at the abnormal families in them and go “hey, maybe my family isn’t supposed to fit into this peg hole, maybe it’s okay that we are different.”