Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten…?

Well, hello again world.

I have some family issues. Doesn’t everyone? I know, I really know, that it doesn’t make me special, or different, and I am positive that so many people out there have it so much worse than I do.

But this is my blog, and my stories, so deal with it or go home.

I’ve always felt like a bit of a black sheep in my family. I know that this has more to do with my perception of myself than anything my family have done, or not done. Looking at it objectively, especially now that I’m an adult with a family of my own, I know how lucky I was, and am, to have the family I do. I have seen first hand what my life could have been, in so many different regards.

I have mild cerebral palsy. I was diagnosed when I was about two. From then on, my parents and my paternal grandparents did absolutely everything that could be done to ensure this disability would have as limited an impact on my life as possible. My parents both worked full time to ensure I received the best possible specialist and private healthcare, and while they were working my grandparents took me to doctors, specialist and physiotherapist appointments. Because they (and these appointments) were in Sydney, and my family lived on the Central Coast, my mother also had to drive out of her way before and after work to drop me off and pick me up from my grandparents’ house on these occasions.

Besides these practicalities, I always knew I was loved, and special, and amazing. My parents loved me, and never ceased to be impressed by the strides I would make, or by my fiery, independent and determined personality. My grandparents doted on me, my teachers marvelled at my drive to fit in and my intelligence. I had a small but tightly-knit circle of friends and I always knew that I was the ring-leader, the head of the group. I inherited my mother’s empathy and compassion and my father’s charisma and intelligence.

I (thankfully) don’t know what kind of person I would be without this upbringing. I don’t know how independent I would be capable of being, and I don’t know if the little family I have built for myself would exist without everything my family did for me when I was young.

However, like any family, we have problems.

The biggest chasm is between myself and my father, and as a result, his parents as well. This is really difficult for me, because I was brought up in such a close family environment, and was taught almost on a subconscious level that keeping the family together and happy is paramount. Plus, I love my father and my grandparents, they make up an intrinsic part of who I am.

My father’s family is Greek. My grandparents immigrated with their families when they were children, but have continued to visit Greece very regularly, and have owned property over there (which they rent out) their entire married life. Anyone who knows anything about the Greek culture can tell you how important family is to them, and also how fraught their families generally are with drama. And so, my childhood was full of massive family get-togethers, with avalanches of food and lots of uncomfortable hugs from people I was told were somehow related to me.

I loved it, and I want it so much for my son.

I want it so badly for him, that even though my husband and I are not religious, we had our son baptised Greek Orthodox (like I was) because it was so important to me that he be included in the Greek culture and it seemed like a good way to welcome him into it.

My father hasn’t seen or spoken to any of us since Thomas was three months old, and my grandparents have laid eyes on him three times in his short little life.

They are missing so much.

Even though I maintain that this distance doesn’t bother me too much, my psychologist thinks it’s important, for some reason. I think I’m used to it; my father and I have had a very on-off relationship since I was 13. I have said that he was charismatic and intelligent, and he absolutely is. He also has his bad points: he is incredibly opinionated and really seems to struggle with empathy. I think my mother balanced him out in that way, and when they separated (when I was 9) I think I was old enough to understand how to navigate him, most of the time.

However, when he met and eventually moved in with and married my step mother, I (and my younger brother and sister) really began to struggle.

My father and step mother are an excellent couple, and I’ve always been happy that he found someone who makes him happy after my mother. She has her good points too, she has been an wonderful provider for us and always strived to ensure we never felt inferior to her own son, who is a year older than my sister. But, and this is just my opinion, everything that my mother balanced in my father, my step mother exacerbates, sometimes to the extreme.

I’m not blaming her, not at all. This is not a step parent bashing blogpost. I will always believe that all my parents loved us infinitely, and did the absolute best that they were capable of. Really, I don’t think I can blame anyone. Yes, since I was a teenager my relationship with my father and his family has been very rocky, but especially as I’ve gotten older, could there be more that I should have done to fix things? I just don’t know.

I think it comes down to how many sacrifices I (and my husband, now) am willing to make in order to keep the peace. My brother and sister, despite also having falling-outs with my father and step mother, have always forgone boundaries more than I have ever been willing to in order to maintain the status quo. When he is a part of you life, my father generally improves that life significantly; with good humour, conversation, money, a car, a place to live, a job, whatever anyone could possibly need. But, I have learnt over the course of the past 15 years or so that these advantages are never given, but come with a price, whether that be a curfew for my 21 year old brother, or autonomy over who my 17 year old sister dates, or first choice for activities on significant days, like Christmas and birthdays. My siblings have found a way to navigate these demands and boundaries in a way my husband and I were never comfortable with, and they reap all the benefits of that. If they’re happy, then I’m happy for them.

The last time my father and step mother did something for me, it was incredibly significant, and my husband and I will never forget it. They heard we were expecting, got back in touch and offered to pay for private healthcare for my pregnancy and birth, furnished us with a car which they would maintain, and allowed us to move into their investment property with substantially reduced rent.

We accepted, in the perhaps naive attempt to do what was best for our new addition, and also because I really did miss my father and grandparents and loved the idea of having my complete family take part in the pregnancy and birth of my child. However, as perhaps I should have known, we proved once again that we couldn’t exist in close quarters, and again, I asked for space.

This time, however, I maintained that I had no wish to sever contact, I just wanted the independence of my own house and car, and that I felt this distance would be imperative for my husband and myself to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with my father and step mother. This was rebuffed in no uncertain terms, and unfortunately we have not spoken since.

I really miss them all. More to the point though, I don’t think they know what they’re missing.

My family was a beautiful one, for all its flaws, and my little family now is even more so. I don’t know if they’ve left me behind, or I them, but I wish things could be different.

Hey, there’s always tomorrow, right?

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