Without going into too much detail, I grew up in a family of sh*t talkers. My parents talked badly about each other, and as we got older, they’d badmouth us siblings to each other. For a long time, I thought it was just normal. But always wondered what it felt like to be in a family that truly had each other’s backs and who would never talk unfairly about each other.
When I had kids, I wanted to break the cycle. I wanted them to know I was always there to support them, that I’d follow through when I told them I’d do something, and that I’d always put our relationship first.
There was a part of me that wanted my children to have a relationship with their grandparents, but I was also very protective of them. I didn’t trust my parents enough to have them babysit, and our time spent with them was always limited. But, as my kids have gotten older, they’ve seen for themself that my parents can be very negative, manipulative people.
They see how my mother treats me. They notice her little comments; they notice how hard it is for her to be happy for me, and how she’ll turn the conversation over to herself. They’ve asked why my father is moody and makes them feel unwanted.
Clearly, there was no keeping this from my kids. When they were younger, I never said anything. I wanted to give my parents that second chance, and I thought maybe a relationship with their grandkids could make them stop. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Our kids are smart. I have nothing to gain by lying or pretending that my childhood was magical. I want them to know you can heal from family trauma. I also want them to know that they are allowed to have whatever kind of relationship they want with their grandparents, regardless of how I feel about them. It’s completely their call.
Sometimes it’s been hard to watch. I don’t want my kids to get hurt by my own parents. But I’m glad I’ve given them the space to make their own relationships. I can’t protect my kids from everything or rewrite my family history but I can be honest with them. And something that has helped me tremendously is the realization that I wanted my parents to be different people for my children, but they aren’t. And that’s okay, because they did give me a valuable roadmap, by showing me exactly who I don’t want to be.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.