Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reaching out

It's been years since the last time I tried, so why not?

Got this email from my dad a few days ago about my second cousin's wedding:
Hi Abandoning Eden,

How's it going?

I wanted to keep you in the loop. D_, Cousin S_'s son, has planned a wedding to A_ the night before Thanksgiving day. The invitation sent to us was to Mom and me "and family." (I'm not sure if that includes you or not.) My sister, Aunt T, is writing me that she is planning to fly in from Israel to attend this wedding. She will be staying for 2 weeks.

All the best,

Just sent this reply:
Hi Abba,

I'm sure when S_ sent an invite to you and "family" she included me. Because I AM part of your family! And so is B, whether you want to admit it or not. :) (if your daughter and son in law aren't included in "and family" then who is your family?). S_ and D_ probably know about me being married, since we're facebook friends and all.

But unfortunately we already have plans to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving. Plus what would we do for Thanksgiving the next day? Unless you're inviting B and I over for Thanksgiving. :)

Speaking of which, when are we going to get over all this awkwardness about B already? Yeah I get it, you didn't condone my decision to marry B, but it's done, we're married, so what, now we're just going to talk like twice a year for the rest of our lives and never see each other again? And mom's never going to talk to me again? What's the point of that exactly? I mean I'm just as stubborn as you and mom are, and I'm sure we can both keep up this stand-off indefinitely, but it seems kind of silly. I'm never going to convince you that religion is wrong and you're never going to convince me that religion is right, and we can't travel back in time so that you come to my wedding, so why don't we just accept that we made different choices in life and that's ok? Can't we get along and have a normal relationship despite our different religious beliefs, so that you won't have to wonder whether your daughter is part of your family or not?

You should come visit us sometime, you and mom have an open invitation.

-Abandoning Eden

I predict my dad will reply with some sort of lecture about how important their religion is and they can't condone my decisions blah blah blah. But maybe he'll surprise me.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I, for one, am looking forward to you being pleasantly surprised (although, admittedly, I haven't bet the farm on it - not that I have a farm anyway, but you know what I mean).

  3. Why would you want to try to convince them that religion is wrong, and why would they want to try to convince you that religion is right?

    Why can't you both just own up to the fact that religion works for some people and not for others, and agree that to each his/her own? Neither way is universally right or universally wrong. There don't have to be winners and losers here.

    You do your thing, they do their thing, and you accept each other and yourselves as you are.

    I know you have no control over them or what they think, but if you move in this direction, maybe they'll follow your lead.

  4. I guess it is a bit late now, but I would have recommended a less confrontational approach. Perhaps something along the lines of:

    "Dear Abba,

    I have been thinking about you and Ima a lot recently, and I rwould really like to work on improving our relationship. While I know that you disapprove of my marriage to B, would it be possible for you to accept that he is married to me now and accept us back into the family?"

  5. My first reaction was that this WAS your dad reaching out to you. I know it wasn't the most pleasant way to do so, but letting you know about the wedding and the fact you're (probably) invited sounds like an overture to me. Based on what I've read on your blog before, you and your dad can be kind of caustic to each other (hence the "I'm not sure if that includes you or not"), but he didn't have to tell you at all. Your mom certainly wouldn't have. He made an overture. Why didn't you just say something like, "Oh, we can't make the wedding because we're going to the in-laws, but maybe we can see you and Aunt T afterwards on day x or day y"?
    I agree with Susan B. Why do you guys have to validate and/or convince each other? If you and B hung out with your dad and a few other family members every once and a while, would that be so bad? What if you hung out rather than talking about hanging out and then getting into fights and then not hanging out?

  6. fence sitter, Frankly in terms of a relationship with my parents, I could take it or leave it. I'm still very angry over the way my parents treated me when I was engaged and getting married, and the way they've treated B the entire time we've been married (and of course before that). I'm not willing to have a relationship in which it's me begging to be "accepted" into the family. If my parents want to have a relationship with me, they can do so by accepting reality- that I'm married, and that B is part of my life. The reason me and my mom stopped talking is because my mom said if I wanted to talk to her I could never mention B. If my parents want to continue that policy then I'm fine to continue not talking to them.

    Katrina, my dad sends me emails about family news all the time (he didn't stop talking to me, my mom did, we email back and forth occasionally and talk on the phone about 2x per year) so I don't see this letter as really reaching out, especailly cause he made a point of being like "you might be invited but I don't know if your REALLY invited."

    Second, it's not as easy as just hanging out with a few family members with my parents there or not- my parents live 10+ hours away from where we live, my dad can't just drop by some time.

    susan B and katrina- I said in my letter that I was tired about arguing about religion and we should just accept that we made different choices in life and that that's ok. Was it that unclear?

  7. I think that the e-mail itself was argumentative, and that therefore writing at the end that you didn't want to argue anymore was not convincing.

    I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, AE; I'm just being honest, since you asked. I know it's not comparable, but my MIL really doesn't like me because I'm religious and she's not. We tried talking about it, and now we don't talk about it, and though it's not easy, at least we can be in the same room together five times a year.

  8. Eh, I think this is the way AE's family communicates. My family is also on the argumentative side, so i can relate.

    I liked the email. It was direct and honest. Maybe he'll surprise you.

  9. Why can't you grow up already and just live your life without trying to force your parents to accept what you do? Your parents don't owe you anything. THey are adults with the right to believe what they believe and to act accordingly, just as you have that right. You made your choices and now you are going to have to accept the fact that some people, including your parents, are not going to validate you. Your validation has to come from within. If you folks don't want anything to do with B, then that's just too bad for you both, but accept it.

    You seem to be very self-absorbed. Everything is about you. Why can't you be grateful that your father reached out to you without slamming it back down his throat because it wasn't exactly the way you want it? Grow up already.

  10. The weirdest thing is the invitation sent to your parents "and family". I'm not concerned with etiquette, but that form of address only makes sense when there are underage children living at home. Otherwise, it becomes too confusing determining who's included in the invitation and who isn't - as your father's note makes clear.

    I would feel very infantilized if I were addressed in that way. What, you don't have your own family?

  11. Oh, and I like your note to your dad, it's very straight and to the point. It's direct, but not confrontational. Good for you for taking this step and putting the ball in their court!

  12. After leaving religion, I married a Jew, whose father is not Jewish. I am a Cohen so according to my parents, this was forbidden, as such, we have not spoken in about 2 years. In my opinion it is not worth it to establish relationships with fundamentalist people, even though they are our closest family. We will always end up getting hurt, and in my opinion the angst is not worth the benefit such relationships have on our lives.

  13. Hmm...I like the end part of the letter, but the part before you suggest putting differences aside IS argumentative.

    I think the idea of reaching out is good. Life is too short for endless grudges.

    At the same time, I think you need to be realistic in your expectations. Religion really wasn't the only issue here. It was the flashpoint for arguments that arose during adolescent parents/child conflict, in a family where everyone was stubborn and argumentative and focused on control. Those dynamics aren't going to disappear just because religion itself is shelved.

    Do you have any friends or family who could be your role models for functional family relationships even where there are religious differences? It would be helpful if they were also Jewish, since B's family may simply be too far from your cultural reference point (I mean, your parents aren't suddenly going to act like midwesterners).

    BTW - thought you would enjoy this:

  14. "
    Do you have any friends or family who could be your role models for functional family relationships even where there are religious differences? It would be helpful if they were also Jewish, since B's family may simply be too far from your cultural reference point (I mean, your parents aren't suddenly going to act like midwesterners)"

    Yeah I do, B's family! Lol, why would midwesterners be so "culturally different" exactly? I've spent lots of time in the midwest and have lived in the Northeast and the South, and culturally everyone is pretty much the same with some minor superficial differences. :)

    But yeah, the first time I went to B's house I was struck by how NORMAL their relationship B talks to his parents like an adult talking to another adult. And I talk to them like that too. It's nice. (in fact B's dad reads this blog and emailed m that he thinks it's funny that you think midwesterners are so different, heh). That's what I would like my relationship with my parents if possible. Same type of relationship I have with my inlaws- we are honest with each other, we talk to each other like adults, but we don't try to push any agendas on each other usually, even though we might sometimes disagree on things. It's just..pleasant. :)

  15. *and B and his mom had had lots of religious arguments growing up- and his mom is catholic while he is a raging atheist, but they can even talk about religion without getting into an argument.

  16. I've never met either family, and haven't been to the midwest, so take my comments with a grain of salt, lol.

    I was just thinking that the volume of a normal conversation, for example, may be different. I can tell New York tourists in a flash, because one will be as loud as 20 Canadians in public. As someone in a mixed Canadian/Israeli marriage, I know that my ILs will never communicate the same way that my parents do. The volume, the gestures, the way that they relate the personal space and privacy - it's just WAAAYY different. Not better or worse, just different.

    It may also be helpful to see how specific hot topics are managed. I don't know if B's family can really demonstrate what to do when someone mentions the Holocaust, for example. It could be useful to see a normal conversation where it doesn't turn into a bomb.

    OTOH - if he's from Italian stock, there may indeed be some similarities. I live in a city that's basically Italian on one side, Jewish on the other.

  17. Seriously? Your father is an ass. There's no other reason for him to tell you about the wedding invitation so snidely.
    After your last post, I was going to suggest that you call him every now and then, instead of waiting for him to call you before holidays, but I honestly think you and B are better off not having anything to do with your crazy parents. I can read through the lines and see how sad this makes you, but neither you nor your parents are going to change at this point. And, each time he calls and you answer the phone, your hopes are soon dashed. And, your mother - well, I won't go there. As a mother myself, there is no way I could ever cut off contact with my children, even if they were convicted serial killers.
    So sorry for your loss in the parent department.

  18. tesya- neither of my brothers live with my parents anymore (and I'm the only kid that's married) so I can only assume "and family" means all the kids, including me, and probably including B.

  19. I sincerely hope he surprises you. And I liked your straightforward approach. It seems like the passive aggressive tactics (he's not sure if you're family? seriously?) have gotten nowhere. At the very least you have unburdened this.

    And what the hell is wrong with with being argumentative? You're standing up for yourself.

  20. It effing pisses me off that everyone is telling you to "grow up" because you have a troubled relationship with your parents. Why, when something goes wrong, do people always put the blame on the younger people? Frankly, your dad's e-mail, even though it was "reaching out" was reaching out pretty rudely. Your parents have said and done terrible things to you over the years, and said terrible things to your husband. Your husband is your primary family now and you are right to side with him if your family is hateful. And to the person who commented about how you can't reject religion and be part of a religious family, well, if that is the case, then the fault lies with that family. If your "morals" are so much more important to you than your own child, then you're the screwed up one.

    Hang in there, AE.

  21. I had many friends growing up that were Christian or Catholic, but families were from areas of the south. Going to meals at their families was total culture shock... to the point we joked about it. Being from a family of New York Jews, of various levels of religiosity, I took for granted that at a dinner table, voices got loud, different conversations took place, etc. Sitting at a table where one person spoke at a time, people respectfully waited until they finished, etc., was total culture shock.

    Midwesterners have a level of politeness totally missing from people in the Northeast, particularly the mid-atlantic corridor.

    So even if your parents were to totally accept B, they'd NEVER act like B, because their culture is to argue and maintain their ground, not act gracious and polite. So B's relationship with his mother was less confrontational, not because the disagreement was less (as you pointed out, it was just as strong), but because the behavior was different.

    Inviting adult children as "and family" is definitely a breach of etiquette, and it isn't clear if you are part of "and family." Including unmarried but adult children as part of their father's household is a distinct from cultural phenomenon, that has disappeared from western etiquette, but nonetheless is part of from culture.

    And family DEFINITELY includes minor children, in Frum circles PROBABLY includes unmarried children that have obtained legal majority (but not, in Frum circles, social majority), but the inclusion of a married child is hit or miss, especially with spouses and children in the mix.

    If I had to guess, your father probably wasn't intending to be antagonistic, he seems to simply write/talk that way. If you were interested, he'd probably inquire about you and B, but it is totally unclear if his "family" includes his sort-of married daughter, sort of because his religion doesn't recognize your marriage.

    I mean, if they wanted to include you and your spouse, the "correct" response would be an invitation to Mr. and Mrs. B, if they wanted to hedge, it would be to Dr. AE plus one, and if they wanted to be antagonistic, it would be to Dr. AE... it seems they took a neutral approach "and family" and dumped the pile of crap on your father, who sent it to you, who proceeded to light it on fire... so now we have a burning pile of poo for absolutely no reason other than nobody wants to take responsibility for EITHER including you+B or excluding you all together.

  22. easter,

    The reason everyone is telling AE to "grow up" is because that is the best course of action for her. Would it be best for everyone if her parents "got over it?" Sure. But AE can only control AE's actions, she can't control AE's father's actions.

    What's the point of "assigning blame" as you are doing? Sure, her dad's a prick and mom's a whack-job, but that's the way they are.

    Does AE want a relationship with her father?

    She seems to want a relationship with a man that looks like her father, but has better manners and is a more considerate person. Well, he doesn't exist, the only father she has is the one that seems to want a relationship with her but is kind of a prick. Holding out for him to change is likely to result in her crashing his funeral, but changing her own actions might result in more of a relationship with him, though it is questionable if that would be a benefit.

    As an adult with children, I've had to reassess my relationship with my parents. I wish they'd be different, as people, but they aren't. However, I have a relationship with them as who they are.

    AE seems to wish she had different parents, that ship sailed 9 months before she was born. The only option is to decide what to do with the people that there are.

  23. AE - I always enjoy reading your blog. I am in my 50s and grew up in a family that was Jewish lite. Actually, my parents both grew up in observant homes. My father's family gave up when they were going to lose their business becasue a similar store opened up across the street and was open on Saturday. My mother just sort of gave up I suppose when she and my father got married. The Jewish lite part came about because while almost anything else was acceptable, marrying a non Jew was not. My oldest brother returned to Orthodoxy as an adult and is as irrational as any born again can be. My parents both passed when I was in my early thirties, I subsequently met my non Jewish husband and married at 37, an age when most families are just happy that their child/sibling found someone decent to spend their life with. My oldest brother, who somehow felt he had acquired the role of patriarch in the family, objected and refused to come to our wedding, which was OK because my brother would have spent the entire time sulking in the corner and making negative comments. However, after the wedding, he treated my husband very well, even better than he treated me. He was still nasty and mean about any things and is very controlling. Things began to even out after I had a child. Finally, we are back at the point where we really don't communicate because I just can't deal with him. They moved to Israel a few years ago and I have had some contact with my brother, absolutely none with my sister in law. In any event, perhaps you and your father (and even B) can find some neutral place to meet up (not their home and not yours) during a time when there is no other family event taking place and just try to get to know each other as adults and not members of a family.

  24. "AE seems to wish she had different parents, that ship sailed 9 months before she was born. The only option is to decide what to do with the people that there are"

    That pretty much sums it up.


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