what would you do in their shoes?


Today I'm creating a log file to record unwanted contact from my mother and father, so that I have a running record. This is both so that I can see the frequency/type in black and white, and also so that I have the information if I ever need documentation of their harassment.

Last year they sent an evite invitation to their home for Easter. This has become a de facto annual tradition - mostly because they declared it to be so. We went there for Easter a few times when my oldest son was little. At the time I remember my oldest brother and I were both hoping to start our own family traditions rather than feeling like we have to report for duty on specific holidays, but now that I'm not on speaking terms with my parents and that brother, it's suddenly an annual tradition that nobody can part with, and we're the killjoys who rain on everybody's parade by not showing up (as if it would be pleasant for anyone if we did).

This year's invitation arrived in my email inbox today. UGH. I hate taking a quick dip into my gmail account to discover their names staring back at me. It makes me mad that she inserts herself into my life in this way. It's an unnecessary little spoonful of yuck added to my day. I deleted the message and will not view that evite. But the whole thing - the invitation, the new contact log, re-reading a message I sent to my brother about a year ago, the continued contact - has me wondering: what would I do if I were the parent, and my child wanted me to leave them alone? Would I do it? Would I continue to "reach out" by sending birthday cards and invitations?

I really don't know.

On the one hand, I do think a kind person reaches out and says "there is always a space for you here." I know my mother feels like she's the wronged party, and that I'm the prodigal daughter, and that someday maybe I'll come to my senses and run (grovel) back to her. So from her point of view, she's being a good mother.

But on the other hand, she ISN'T the wronged party. Nothing in her history with me is actually welcoming or reaching out. These cards and invitations are empty gestures. Whether or not she knows it, I know it. And if I were a delusional-enough person to parent badly and not own up to it, and my child asked me not to contact him, and I still did it, he would absolutely be justified in thinking that I'm an asshole for not going away.

And the thing is, I wouldn't be in this situation, because I would have chosen option C: get therapy for my own issues and figure out what I did to alienate my child. I would 100% believe that I owned at least a sizable chunk of the problem, if not the whole thing.

Please please please let me never end up in their shoes.

And now another question - have you ever figured out a way to block an evite user from inviting you to their events? I tried sending a customer support request last year but I don't think it worked.


  1. Claire,
    This is a fantastic post. I couldn't help but think of the movie Dead Poet's Society and the scene in the courtyard where one individual expresses his personal style in movement as they've been directed to walk around doing so by leaning up against a column and "choosing the right not to walk, sir."

    I think you nailed it with your option C. Choosing to be introspective and willing to participate in our relationships with our children on human terms rather than narcissistic terms is a game changer. If my children ask for NC, I'll be honest enough to recognize that I am the likely cause and will let them know that I am willing to work and change to repair a relationship AND let them set the terms for doing so.

    Which is sort of the opposite of No Contact, isn't it?


  2. My mom had to submit to a tyrannical authoritarian father when she was a child, and I think somewhere in there she (1) got stuck/arrested developmentally and (2) decided, perhaps even unconsciously, that she would never submit to anybody ever again. So this whole thing is about winning for her, about besting me, about not being wrong. If I were in her shoes, I would be in therapy trying to address those very long-held beliefs about submission and control, but the issues themselves stand in the way of her wanting to do that. It's very painful - for her and for me. She just doesn't have the willingness or desire to go there. I'm learning to accept that. It doesn't make me want contact with her, it doesn't make the fact that my dad and brother have "taken her side" (by her force or just because it's the path of least resistance) any easier to work through - but it does feel like progress.

    We deserve to live without the devaluing. We deserve to live without the pressure. We deserve to be the captains of our own ships. The fact that our families will probably never understand that doesn't nullify the truth of it. It's just one more thing to grieve, and grieve it we will.

    all my love and support,