The B(itch)’s Cave

I’m sure most of you have heard the parable of the cave before. I often feel like this very simple story is what inspired me to go to graduate school in philosophy – that I had seen a glimpse of what many other “thinkers” before me had and was then shoved back into the cave, so I needed to search for the truth outside, whatever that may be. Possibly that was a pie in the sky dream that I had: to study philosophy, teach political philosophy, write books, and hide behind my ivory towers forever. Or maybe it was a realistic goal that I was going about the right way and no one had the right to tell me that it was wrong to want to do that, or to be so unsupportive – especially after I worked so hard to get to the point that I did. Whatever the case may be, I had yet to figure out until recently just what happened when I left graduate school. It wasn’t until I got out of the mire for a little bit and went on vacation to my sweet, home Chicago that I realized what I had done was constructed and allowed myself to be chained in my own cave again. Since returning, I feel like I have been stuck again in the B(itch)’s Cave.

I identify my ultimate unhappiness so much with my geographic location in California because for years I have been stuck here inside the B(itch)’s Cave. It seems to have been a cave built especially for me – possibly I was the one who built it. In it are all the people around me: my Trailer Trash Mom, her trailer trash family, Hello Kitty Toaster, and my husband’s family. My friends out here are not a part of the cave, though, which is probably why I rarely get to see them. In any event, I always say to my husband that all these petty annoyances in life would be manageable if only it weren’t for that B(itch)’s Cave we seem to be stuck in.

Despite the fact that we were all ultimately cheated out of a grand finale to the Jerry Springer-esque Mother’s Day brawl that my Trailer Trash Mom was organizing, that whole ordeal was just another one of my mother’s typical dramatics. In many ways, my husband’s family is similarly as dramatic and dysfunctional as my mother and hers. I am sure I chose my husband because subconsciously I could tell these people were all alike – and while the drama is always at a fever pitch, I do know how to handle it. For those of you unaware, Hello Kitty Toaster is my sister in law, and the woman whose pseudo-Italian food I need three doses of Pepto Bismol to stomach is my mother-in-law. (No, Hello Kitty Toaster does not read, and while my mother-in-law is an email subscriber, I’m fairly certain she stopped reading these a long time ago … if not, oh well.) So I am sure all of you faithful blog followers can imagine that the real chains keeping this B(itch) down are the ongoing dramatics of these factions. As my mother’s drama phases out, the in-law’s drama phases in.

Anyone surprised that this has now occurred?

Yesterday my husband came home from work, acting particularly depressed. There are usually about three reasons why this would be, the first two of which I ran through as he ate dinner. “Did something happen at work?” No. “You’re mad I bought a new set of sheets, aren’t you?” No. There was only one other possibility: “you heard from one of your parents, didn’t you?” Yeppers.

Without going into all of the unnecessary and pathetic details of it all, my husband has not communicated with his family for a few months now – since sometime before Christmas. He did this of his own accord because he was tired of the ups and downs, and the dramatic roller coaster ride that is a relationship with his family. Before I met him, he kept his family at an emotional distance for the reason of avoiding their dramatics. One time very early on I asked why he was so cold around his parents and he said that if he showed any emotion he would get sucked into his mother’s emotional tirades – that is what we are dealing with here. Flashing back to now, I never told him to stop calling them. I never implied that he should do anything except for stop standing by while his mother verbally thrashed us over email because we didn’t do something she wanted. While I was willing to go head first into the hillbilly brawl my mother was working her way up to over Mother’s Day, my husband is quite the opposite by wanting to just run away from it all with regards to his family. So run is exactly what he did.

He didn’t call his mother on Mother’s Day, though, which was apparently the final straw for them. I’m not sure why they thought he was going to – he hasn’t called on any other significant day in the last few months, they emailed him and said he was “cruel and mean” for not contacting them about a month ago, and they sent him cards for his birthday and to invite us to his grandparent’s anniversary as if nothing was going on, while ignoring the kid’s birthday as well as my 30th.

What my husband then admitted to me, though, is that his father had called him and left a message last week demanding that he call his mother. In it, his dad blamed me for all of their family problems. His dad made it clear that they all believe I don’t let my husband go to their home to visit. He had saved the voicemail and played it for me last night; every time his dad said my name it made me cringe more and more. In the meanest and most malicious point, his father said that my husband needed to call his mother “to let her know you are still her son, regardless of what Heather has to do or say about it.”

This morning when I woke up, I felt as though I had been publicly flogged.

There is absolutely no reason for the people in my mother’s or my husband’s family to act towards me the way that they do. I am a good person. I have worked very hard for what I have. I know what is right in many instances, and when I don’t I am not afraid to admit it. I try very hard to take care of the people that I love most and that are most important to me. I do not gossip (except for on this blog, which is done in more of an hilarious way than anything) and I refuse to let injustice go on just for the sake of keeping the peace. My husband last night asked me if I had proof now that the world hates me, since he seems to think I believe that. I don’t believe the world hates me at all, though, with the exception of course of this world within my cave. I’m not sure why and quite frankly I no longer care.

When I got up this morning and felt as though I had been emotionally beaten to a bloody pulp, I decided that this nonsense will not be tolerated anymore. Much in the way I went into my Trailer Trash Mom’s Mother’s Day Mayhem expecting a battle, I fully expect this new chapter in the saga of the B(itch)’s Cave to be just as ugly. The bottom line is that I know I am a good person who deserves a lot more than what I have right now. All of us should stand firm in knowing that about ourselves. Letting others make us question ourselves such as my mother’s and my husband’s families have in recent years since I left graduate school is one of the worst things I could have ever done for myself. I can only hope you faithful blog followers do not let others do this to you.

I am sure that we will have another dramatic, hillbilly-esque saga for you faithful blog followers to roll around on the floor laughing over soon enough. I, myself, laughed harder during the episodic stories of my Trailer Trash Mom than I think I have ever laughed before. For those of you that came today looking for a laugh, I apologize sincerely for the seriousness of my cave story. Life is way too short to be so serious and living in the doldrums of a dark and dismal cave. We are all good people of our own right, unless we blame our problems on those that have done nothing wrong. I know I let myself be chained into this cave, which I probably built of my own accord without even realizing it. For today, we are less than happy and silly, but tomorrow we move out into the open, out of this cave of nonsense.

Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.