Now that I have caught up on sleep, I can begin to work through my weekend.  The thing that is most disturbing to me was the unpleasantness from my father.  Here’s the situation:  Both of my brothers, my youngest brother’s girlfriend, my cousin and his wife, another cousin, and I went to a local bar on Sunday night.  We ate food and drank quite a bit of alcohol.  We reminisced and generally enjoyed each other’s company.  My cousin L didn’t drink any alcohol so she drove us back to my parent’s house.  When we got there, we continued drinking and having fun. 

My father and my uncle had been talking awhile at the kitchen table when suddenly my father stands up and announces how disappointed he is in me.  I was quite taken aback and at first, thought he was joking.  I think the others did as well.  However, he kept going.  He said he and my mother had such high expectations and goals for me and how I had not lived up to a single one.  He continued by adding that he paid good money for me to go to college and it seemed to have helped little.

I stood in stunned silence.  My cousin J moved closer to me and I think he realized that my father wasn’t joking and that I was on the verge of tears.  Everyone there was standing around in uncomfortable silence.  A litany of retorts, comments, comebacks, and arguments were running through my head when my mother entered the room and told him that was enough.  She then turned to me and said he was just saying that because I had been swearing.  Not once in his monologue did he mention my language, though.

My brothers, bless their hearts, started rattling off my accomplishments and doing their best to make me feel better.  However, my father had disappeared and didn’t hear any of it.

Even now I am on the verge of tears.  It’s bad enough that I have been struggling with my identity as it is.  I certainly didn’t need that, particularly from someone whom I adore.  I will say the one thing that comforted me most was my cousin J.  He merely stood closer to me and just by looking in his eyes, I could see he understood and knew how I was feeling.  He knew that if he hugged me, I would crumble and he knew what it meant that my brothers were sticking up for me.  And his smile made it easier.

My father and I have barely spoken since.  We haven’t really had an occasion to as he works second shift and is asleep when I drop off my kids and at work when I pick them up.  As has always been the case, neither of us will say anything and we’ll act as if nothing has changed.  I know I should confront him, but I don’t have the strength.

And people wonder why I’m crazy.



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6 responses to “Insult

  1. Wow. That is completely unacceptable on every possible level. If he had something to say to you, he should have said it privately — and he should have said what he actually meant, rather than putting it in terms of disappointment and blame. My guess is that he senses you’re unfulfilled in your life, and it bothers him. My further guess is that if he’d been drinking, his judgment was clouded as to how to say that. And my further further guess is that he may not be particularly well-versed in how to articulate very delicate matters to begin with.

    Based on my observation of people, particularly of parents who are “disappointed” in their children, there is often a strong element of their own guilt in that “disappointment.” What they often actually mean is that they wonder if they did a good enough job guiding and supporting the child. They may also have an inappropriate degree of identity investment in the child, and feel that the child’s life choices reflect upon them personally somehow. There is nothing wrong with your life, but if your dad was hoping you’d outstrip his achievements and become an astronaut, for example, he may have a sense of his own potential limited by your choices. This is nonsensical and unfair, and it happens all the time between parents and children. Anyway, all of these things are very complex, and especially for an older guy, it’s much easier to just blame you inappropriately than to take ownership of feelings.

    I wonder if it might somehow be possible for you to talk to him in a way that wouldn’t feel like a confrontation? I don’t know anything about your relationship with your dad, of course. But I wonder if you might be able to talk to him about something else, and bring the conversation around to the fact that you’d prefer it if he didn’t criticize you in public. And then ask him, maybe, if he wants to talk about what he said.

    Would your mother have any insight about his motivation or thought process?

  2. PS You’re not even close to being crazy.

  3. trured73

    Thank you for saying I’m not close to crazy. As for my father, a lot of what you said made sense. He has never been happy with his factory job – a job in which he has climbed the coporate ladder and is doing well now, but it wasn’t what he dreamed of doing (he dreamed of farming or becoming an architect). I do know he has never accomplished some things in his life. And yes, he had been drinking. My mother just keeps saying he meant my language. My response is that he also sent my two brothers to college and both of them swear like sailors (as my grandpa used to say) and not a word is said to them. I do have a good relationship with him, but sharing feelings is not really part of it. I think he would do one of two things: walk away and find something to do in the garage or tell me I misunderstood him and quickly change the subject. Avoidance is an art form in my family.

  4. Just thinking out loud here . . .

    If you were to broach the subject, he might well do one of those two things. One or more of the following might also ensue:

    1) Although he walked away and/or changed the subject, the message might get through to him that it wasn’t OK with you.

    2) You might feel less disempowered by speaking your mind.

    On the other hand, depending on where you are emotionally, you might also find it incredibly devastating if he refused to hear you. I think it’s a matter of your expectations and agenda if and when you were to approach it. If your intention is to honor your need to be honest with him, and you accomplish that, then you might feel a huge sense of increased personal integrity as far as how you take care of yourself. If you expect him to have a certain reaction, you’ll probably be hurt and disappointed.

    I guess my point is that speaking to him about it is unlikely to produce results as far as he’s concerned, but it might do something surprising for you personally. Or it might not.

    You strike me as someone who is largely passive, and somewhat easily intimidated — this is not in any sense meant as a criticism. I am also easily intimidated, especially by angry or judgmental people. Sometimes there are little steps you can take toward being more appropriately self-protective and assertive . . . and one of those steps is the realization that the goal of speaking up for yourself isn’t necessarily to change the situation. It’s largely to re-parent the part of yourself that is frightened, that wasn’t sufficiently protected in the past. You have to prove to yourself that you’re prepared to take care of yourself now, as an adult. You can’t control what other people do or say, but you can reassure that frightened part of you that you’re willing to bear witness.

    Does that make any sense? I’m not suggesting that you confront your dad if it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do . . . I’m just articulating a different kind of potential outcome than the one you might be focusing on.

    Much love to you, dear.

  5. BTW, feel free to edit or delete that last comment — I got going, and then realized it might have been better said in an email. But this site won’t allow me to edit my own comments. Yeesh.

  6. I’m late to this [not a party] but David’s comments strike me a fairly good ones.

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