Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Happy Family Myth Shattered

I find my eyes filling up with tears tonight as I process all that I learned today about what I had thought was the perfect family. It’s likely that the perfect family only existed in the sitcoms of the 1950's and never in real life.

This was a family of four children who came from parents who were married for decades and to all appearances were deeply in love.

But what I have come to know is that the husband-father had at least one serious affair, beat his children with a belt, beat up his wife, and verbally abused everyone in the family. The mother was more of a pal than a parent, refusing to stand up for her children in distress.

This was a family that had great intellectual talks at dinner, especially about all aspects of current and past history. But the father also questioned the use of a particular metaphor in a 10-year-old’s poem. And he humiliated his wife by labeling her remarks as “stupid” in front of dinner guests.

It was a troubled family where two members tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. And there was a problem with alcoholism.

The father went into psychotherapy at a very late age in life. He and his adult daughter compared notes on their progress in therapy from time to time. At one point he asked her if he had really made life so difficult for the rest of the family to which she replied “Yes,” and then commenced to cry.

Although I’m a relative newcomer to this family, after today I feel I know them so much better and in an entirely different light. I can’t heal the scars that any of those four children bear, but I can feel so sorry for them. They did know they were loved, but it was love with a high emotional price tag.

Sometimes the truth is so incredibly painful.


Blogger Velvet said...

There are dirty secrets inside many family and intimate relationships. I may have a nutty Greek family, but we have no skeletons, thank goodness.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Nothing's ever as it seems to be. I'm sorry to hear about your loss of the ideal as well as the apparent horrors these children faced.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

There's no such thing as a perfect family, and too remember you were dealing with a person who is extremely angry and terribly sad right now.

Please get some exfoliant with a nice smell like coconut oil or something, take a big shower and scrape off all the energy to took on yesterday.

You went above and beyond what anyone could expect. But don't take it on! OK?? The Body Shop makes some nice exfoliants.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Velvet -- I'm glad your family closets are clean. A lot are not.

Kristin -- Other people's problems make mine seem insignificant.

Reya -- I have some wonderful exfoliant from the Body Shop which I will use liberally in my morning shower. Getting my hair cut today will also be a nice way to shed the extra energy.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Laura Stamps said...

After 50 years I have run into lots of families that were good ones. No one is perfect here on Earth, but there are plenty of families out there where the children are loved and nourished by their parents. Sadly, I didn't come from one of those. My parents dealt with paranoid personality disorders, alcoholism, and were/are delusional. As the children of these parents we suffered physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. It was such a relief to finally be old enough legally to get out of there!

Of course, that doesn't mean I left all that behind. It took years and years to work through it all and finally create a nourishing life for myself. Oddly enough, like the famnily you described, mine seemed on the outside like the "perfect family" when we walked out the front door. I remember adults used to say to my mom, "Your children are so well wonderful!" They never knew we were terrified to step out of line and were pleading with our eyes for any kind adult to adopt us and take us away from this terror. Ha! Seems like a million years ago now. And that's a verrrrry good thing. :)

9:26 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Nothing is ever what it seems- where families are concerned.

We all have dysfuntional families in someone's eyes.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Most families have skeletons. I judge the health of a family (or any other unit) by the results, not the outward appearance. I find children to be a good indicator of what is really going on in the family.

8:21 AM  

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