Re: Aging, abusive parents

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There's a line-drawing problem, of course. There's horribly abusive, and then there are plenty of relationships where "My parents aren't people I'd voluntarily spend any time with if I didn't have to -- they make me unhappy" in the absence of extreme wrongdoing.

Saying there's a line-drawing problem doesn't do anything about solving any particular case, but the issue remains complicated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:49 AM
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How about parents who would be considered abusive today but who had good intentions and were following the cultural norms of their time and community? That's my parents. Not sure how I feel about spanking and religious abuse when it was the norm in a marginalized immigrant community. Were my parents to blame for not rising above their circumstances?


Posted by: Sentar | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:57 AM
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I remember a sermon at the local Unitarian Church that could have been titled Tit for Tat. It was an examination of revenge in the Bible, in history, and in game theory. The thrust of the sermon was entirely supportive of revenge.

I don't hang out with them any more, but I do love me some Unitarians.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:05 AM
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I don't totally believe the revenge health benefits, I should say. It seems to conflict with all that data that when the perpetrator is finally executed, the family of the victim doesn't actually experience any relief.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:10 AM
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I don't instinctively believe the revenge health benefits either - but I don't think there's a major conflict between 4.2 and the "healthful revenge" idea, either. The original, parenthetical comparison in the article was between revenge and forgiveness, and an execution mediated by the courts mightn't match up well with the personal quality of forgiveness. Revenge decided upon by the revenger and achieved on a more personal basis could be more meaningfully compared to forgiveness, though.


Posted by: joyslinger | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:25 AM
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I just taught the prisoners' dilemma in my intro class last week, and we had a good discussion of tit for tat and other successful strategies.

On the OP, this is a question with which I have wrestled over the past year. After a dramatic several months, this past fall I told my mother that I was taking a break from her, and that she should not contact me or expect to hear from me other than on her birthday and at Christmas. I don't intend this to be permanent, and I've been talking with my therapist about what re-establishing contact might look like, but it is f*cking hard to figure out. Residual Catholic guilt doesn't help much, either.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:28 AM
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2. A good question. My feeling is that finding an answer would start with asking, did you experience it as abusive yourself at the time? (Presidential in case I want to say some other stuff later.)


Posted by: Franklin Pierce | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:40 AM
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I can see revenge having therapeutic benefits to the extent exacting revenge involves taking back control. Loss of control is stressful, so whether it's via forgiveness or revenge, it would make sense for either to have some benefit.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:14 AM
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6.2: While I was first dating Jen, she wasn't talking to her mom. After the nth round of horribleness, she told her mom, "Call me when you grow up enough to have a civil conversation." They re-established contact 18 months later.


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:15 AM
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Yeah, this is a hard one, and I don't think there are clear lines. When I was a child, I experienced my parents as extremely abusive. But I experience everything as extremely abusive because I had some pretty serious emotional problems. I spent through my early 20s in screaming fights with my mom, and I regularly have epiphanies about ways I'm totally fucked up because of how my parents treated me. But a lot of people go through worse and don't end up as emotionally isolated as I did. It's hard to tell what was them and what was whatever is just wrong with me.

But our relationship now is better than it's ever been, partially because I talk to them once every two weeks or so. I'm physically closer than I've ever been as an adult, so I see them sometimes. My brother, on the other hand, will not see or speak to them except to hurl abuse at them. He's never forgiven them, even though I think of his childhood as the far more functional--he had friends, wasn't in constant trouble in school, didn't weep all the time.

It's also hard to call it abuse when, in very particular ways, they were amazing parents.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:21 AM
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s/b "but I experienced" I hope I don't currently experience everything as abusive.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:23 AM
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Slate's mobile site will not load on my IPhone. Infuriating.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:24 AM
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10: I know this has occurred to you, but it's possible that your experiencing everything as abusive when you were a child was a result of abuse, not something that was separately "wrong" with you.

My dad was emotionally abusive mostly to my mom, but it filtered down to the kids in different ways. And mom went along with it; seemed not to have the resources to fight back. My siblings and I all reacted differently. I'm still trying to work out some accommodation with my parents, because I still want them to be part of my life. Sometimes forgiveness can be a positive thing, a way for the victim to take some measure of control over the past and over their own present. But it's ridiculous to think that it's always the appropriate thing, or the ultimate goal for a victim of abuse.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:53 AM
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There's also a big wide gulf between forgiveness and revenge, which is where I'm pretty sure a lot of children of abusive parents are. You just stay there. Sometimes there is no narrative to it, or at least there's no narrative that finally *ends* in a climax of love or hate.

13.1: Hard to say! But I thought all kinds of things were abusive, and still do. (School, grad school, most work environments, strangers, people sitting behind me at the movies. I'm just irritable.)


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 11:00 AM
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Just to say that I am somewhat in awe of all the people who have made a damn good job of themselves despite varying levels of abuse/hostility/neglect. My parents were about as good as you can get, I think, and still I have so many faults.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 11:08 AM
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I think it's interesting that this topic hasn't taken off -- I wonder if people are more inhibited about talking about bad relationships with parents than with romantic partners.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:12 PM
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@16

After a bad romantic relationship, one's options aren't usually boiled down to "forgiveness or revenge?"

One should hope...


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:16 PM
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OT: A student just wrote to say she'd been "kind-of-sort-of stalking" me, by which she meant that she had come to my office to look at the printed schedule of office hours posted outside my door. She's a current and former student of mine, who has been to my office hours many times. Does stalking include anything you do to gain knowledge about a person outside of asking them a direct question? Like, if I look up someone's phone number in the directory, that's stalking?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:17 PM
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After a bad romantic relationship, one's options aren't usually boiled down to "forgiveness or revenge?"

Indeed, there's the all-important "suppression of traumatic memories" option to consider.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:34 PM
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After a dramatic several months, this past fall I told my mother that I was taking a break from her, and that she should not contact me or expect to hear from me other than on her birthday and at Christmas. I don't intend this to be permanent, and I've been talking with my therapist about what re-establishing contact might look like, but it is f*cking hard to figure out.

I haven't seen my mother in almost 15 years, and haven't spoken to her in... 5? (And even that was a very brief conversation mostly along the lines of "why would I want to talk to you?") She never did anything abusive, she just utterly refused to respect my boundaries, and it finally got to the point where I wasn't willing to put up with it anymore.

Best decision I ever made.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:35 PM
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I enjoyed the book Amish Grace about forgiveness.

My family has had some periods where various people dont speak with other family members. Me included.

But, after a month or two, I always feel like I am a bad example to my children so I reestablish contact. Usually on a limited basis in order to avoid the previous triggers.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:38 PM
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That isnt to imply that there are not appropriate times to cut off all contact, but I've never felt like mine were enough.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:40 PM
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I was grouchy to my parents recently because they were raving excessively about my nephew. I'm pretty sure I owe them taking care of them as they age.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:40 PM
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I go with forgiveness in the financial sense; one no longer expects the other guy to fix anything, make it better, repay, reform, whatever and etcetera. One does it for oneself so one isn't expending energy, time, emotions, resources, or bullets uselessly. This forgiveness does not necessarily mean a reset to a bad relationship, forgetting what they were or did, giving them another chance to fuck one over or anything else on the mushy side of the menu.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:40 PM
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23: But his school is sooooo goooood, heebie!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:43 PM
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18: Near as I can tell, "stalking" as become as meaningless as "stunning" or "hero".


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:43 PM
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I like this quote about resentment:

"Resentment is like setting yourself on fire and hoping the smokes hurts the other person's eyes."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:55 PM
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26:Nah, "stalking" has just been generalized and extended to something like "don't seek out information about somebody else without their consent." So it now includes both watching someone's window from behind the lamppost and also doing internet searches on a name.

18:Yes, I think so. But in this case, the information was public and posted. But if she sees you, she can ask. The fact is, she thought it was "kinda stalking," which is very strong evidence, that for her, it was a matter of knowing where you are at given times.

But it is usually used for physically following, even down a school hallway.

(Like the very fine points of bullying, stalking comes up constantly in Japanese school shows I watch. If you want to initiate something with a person, you do it in the classroom surrounded by a crowd.)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:58 PM
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My parents were pretty good to us and I've never even considered cutting off contact or anything like that.

Not sure how I feel about spanking

I got whacked with a belt a couple times as a kid by my mom but it didn't really register as abusive. Having a couple kids of my own made me hugely more sympathetic towards her occasional outburst of spanking. She had four kids in less than six years and in retrospect I'm amazed she didn't just strap us all in the car and drive off a pier or something.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 12:59 PM
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She had four kids in less than six years and in retrospect I'm amazed she didn't just strap us all in the car and drive off a pier or something.

Uh-oh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:00 PM
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And she already had my oldest sister when she met my dad, and she wanted to have six more! My dad would have been fine with two or three and when the total hit five he went and got clipped. She was pissed at the time but later on admitted he was the sane one.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:05 PM
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|| Hey will, what'd you think of the custody case the US Supreme Court decided today? I agree with the holding on mootness, but the district court ruling sure doesn't seem obviously right. |>

I guess on the OP, I'm on team open your heart if (a) there's genuine repentance and acceptance of responsibility *and* (b) unwillingness/inability to do further harm. A being a high bar, and B being low (that is, not much potential harm needed to justify cut-off).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:06 PM
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16: This is a backwards way of expanding the thread, but I know I feel that my relations with my parents are more perfectly ordinary - neurotic, a little, but very far from setting a meaningfully, uniformly good or bad example - than any other sphere of my life.

I have friends who have cut their parents off, and I trust their decision even when (in some cases) they can't quite explain it so I understand. I have friends who intimately discuss dating and careers with their parents, and I envy that but can't imagine it for myself. But I picture my own parental relationships as part of a great blurry spectrum between those frameworks (which I'm sure I've treated simplistically).


Posted by: joyslinger | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:15 PM
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(It seems relevant that I have few strong memories of childhood, either terrible or terrific, but I'm not sure if that's more cause or effect of my sense that I fall close to a median in a way that's unhelpful for the core purpose of the OP.)


Posted by: joyslinger | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:17 PM
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I had a moment during my divorce when I tried to establish meaningful but boundaried connection with my parents in a loving and open way. They got the point about respecting my boundaries, but I don't think I really ever got brave enough to manage the loving connectedness part, so mostly we just talk slightly less than usual and I can detect a note of longing in their voices but don't quite ever do anything about it.

My dad gave a beautiful eulogy for his father when he passed away--in the last year's of his dad's life they were really close. I can tell he feels a little thwarted in establishing that down the line, but I also have an inborn bratty teenage resistance to being part of his happy family fantasy. I hope he sticks around long enough for me to get over myself, because I really don't have the resources to do it right now.

My relationship with my mom fell apart a little when we had our ectopic pregnancy weeks after my sister gave birth, and there was no safe ground for any of us that include empathy and celebration both. Now I think we're all just waiting for Baby Girl K-sky to come along and then we can reset with them as doting grandparents. Though that may be optimistic.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:31 PM
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Oh let's see

Grandad and dad use fists on each other for about a decade. Twenty years later grandad died of TB in my hearing, in the bedroom below mine. Dad took me with mine to make funeral arrangements.

He was gone at my age 12, to a younger prettier woman. By 10, Dad was using a leather belt on me regularly. At five he put lipstick, eyeliner etc and a dress on me, and took me out to laugh at with his friends. The shrinks told I had repressed something even worse. I do know Mom demanded Dad stop drinking when I was three, and he did stop forever.
Verbal abuse? Laughing.

"Family are those who when they knock at the door you must let them in."

I'm not judging or disapproving or anything, but it does strike as definitional that there can be relationships that are not contractural or conditional, at least as an ideal. It is absolutely fine to not have such relationships, even admirable, to live with others "As long as you suit and please me, I'll hang around."
You can even call those relationships "family" Who is to stop you?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:39 PM
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This subject comes up all the time on the various "hoarder" reality shows. Watching those adult children struggle with trying to help their neglectful and woebegone parents, I've come to the conclusion that, while it's true that forgiveness can be tremendously liberating, there is no such thing as an obligation to volunteer to re-experience an abusive relationship with an unrepentant or just fundamentally broken person, parent or no.


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 1:57 PM
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Oh my god k-sky's comment reminds me of the stories I could tell about parents acting sort of insanely and the hope that grandparents will fix that but... I... really don't feel comfortable.

Sorry! Good comment, Sifu.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:01 PM
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My dad had a few long periods of not speaking to his mother (mostly at her instigation, but he could have mended the fences easily enough if he'd been so inclined). This included the last six years or so of her life. When she was really ailing he wanted me to broker some kind of detente before it was too late, but given her condition at that point I wasn't willing to introduce the kind of emotional turmoil that would entail, didn't feel it was my call--told him he'd have to reach out to her directly if that's what he wanted, and he ended up deciding not to. He had his reasons and they weren't bad ones, but I know he's haunted by it. (More or less literally: during that period he'd frequently dream that his long-dead father was telling him to call his mother.)

Despite their non-speaking terms he maintained a sense of financial/caretaking duty to her--he specifically told me on more than one occasion that he'd feel obliged to support her if she ran out of money. As it happens, I ended up paying for her care for the last couple years of her life, and have concealed that fact from him because I know it would really fuck with his head.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:04 PM
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She had four kids in less than six years and in retrospect I'm amazed she didn't just strap us all in the car and drive off a pier or something.

My wife occasionally comments that I grew up in an abusive household, but I don't see it that way at all. When I was four years old I had - get this - three younger siblings and four older ones. Now maybe that isn't great family planning (yes, we're Catholic), but it wasn't abuse, either. I'm very fond of my siblings.

Also: Di in 8 has it exactly right. I spent a night in jail once, and I got internal affairs to sanction the cop, who ultimately was, by the time of my trial, kicked off the force (largely for unrelated reasons). Now if I were trying to be mature about it, I might try to describe this as "justice," but in truth, it felt good because it was revenge.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:16 PM
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My wife occasionally comments that I grew up in an abusive household

Solely on the basis of family size?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:25 PM
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I was hoping for, but ultimately pretty disappointed by, the whole becoming-grandparents-changing-the-relationship-thing. Not like my relationship with my parents is particularly bad, but we have (relatively uninteresting, normal spectrum) issues, and instead of transforming into doting grandparents it just seems like we have the same old issues plus a bunch of new ones. Others may have varied mileage.

Just to say that I am somewhat in awe of all the people who have made a damn good job of themselves despite varying levels of abuse/hostility/neglect. My parents were about as good as you can get, I think, and still I have so many faults.

Whooo is that ever seconded. Given how many excellent opportunities I've managed to squander despite plenty of support, it's kind of unbelievable how bad off I'd be if I'd had an even mildly problematic upbringing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:28 PM
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Whooo is that ever seconded. Given how many excellent opportunities I've managed to squander despite plenty of support, it's kind of unbelievable how bad off I'd be if I'd had an even mildly problematic upbringing.

Thirded.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:41 PM
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WHATEVER DOESN'T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER.


Posted by: OPINIONATED SAMPLER | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:50 PM
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Solely on the basis of family size?

Many of the things she finds abusive involve attempts to economize, either on money or on time. Some of these things I remember almost sentimentally (getting school lunches consisting of leftover pancakes with jelly) or at least as being understandable (getting my paychecks and Christmas/birthday money confiscated, at least theoretically for my college education).

There was a fair amount of what some folks might call neglect, but again, most of it arises from the lack of money or time that results from the non-rich having a huge litter of kids.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:52 PM
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Whooo is that ever seconded. Given how many excellent opportunities I've managed to squander despite plenty of support, it's kind of unbelievable how bad off I'd be if I'd had an even mildly problematic upbringing.

4th. Damn.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:52 PM
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school lunches consisting of leftover pancakes with jelly

I would totally do that and we are UMC parents of one.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:54 PM
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School lunches consisting of leftover pancakes with jelly, and packed with love, or even concern, beat overpriced sushi bought as an afterthought in the supermarket any day.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:55 PM
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Fourthed. Even with my in-laws, I don't have `issues', I just have (standing) arguments.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:55 PM
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Depends how tightly they're packed. Smushed sandwiches remind me of going to the movies with my parents.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:59 PM
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Pancakes and jelly would have gone over very well in the school lunch trades of my youth -- the occasional lunchbox of cheesy popcorn did. (Veggies, not so much.)

And if your kid earnings were returned to you for college (theoretically?), that is moredifferently controlling than the current UMC norm, but it doesn't seem abusive to me, either. (I think I was moralized into voluntarily saving 3/4 of mine. Secular Calvinists.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:59 PM
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45: That's a weird definition of "abusive."


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 2:59 PM
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I had a fortune amassed in my room until 7th or 8th grade, at which point I blew it on candy and Whoppers from burger king.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:01 PM
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What's the standard on allowances these days? (squandering a perfectly good post topic, damnit.)


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:03 PM
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I like to eat super oaty leftover pancakes with almond butter. (My father packed me extraordinarily odd school lunches. Like antipasto selections with a tiny container of olive oil.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:03 PM
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Like antipasto selections with a tiny container of olive oil.

I've done this.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:04 PM
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School lunches fell into the vast category of "things i didn't know I could speak up about and get changed for the better" and thus I basically had a sandwich and apple for thirteen years. Lovingly packed, though.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:06 PM
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See also: my oddly pink, frilly, Victorian childhood bedroom.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:07 PM
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54: hundred bucks a week-ish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:10 PM
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59: so well below the federal poverty line. Clever.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:12 PM
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54- I think we've discussed this before so don't feel bad about wasting the topic.
We have four (virtual) buckets for each kid- savings, spending, giving, and bank/long term savings. Anything they put in giving we match 1:1, at any point they can decide on a charity to give to, by default we'll pick one at the end of each year (in December they gave $377 total to Save the Children- I claim the tax deduction.) Anything they put in savings we add 10% and they can't use the savings pot until they get at least $25 in it. No match for spending. Each week the two older kids (6 and 8 years) get $3. They must put at least $1 into giving but can allocate the other $2 however they want. Any large birthday gifts or large money made from exploiting them for Sifu's research aims get split, 50% into long-term bank, 50% allocated however they want. Long term bank is an actual external custodial bank account in their name for college, car, apartment, etc. future use.
Yes, I'm sure there are ways to game this but they haven't reached that level of manipulation yet. (Or have they and we just don't know it?)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:14 PM
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large money made from exploiting them for Sifu's research aims get split, 50% into long-term bank, 50% allocated however they want.

So you're not just breaking their brains, you're INCENTIVIZING them to break their brains and then SIMULTANEOUSLY putting their exploitation-earned money in an incredibly shitty investment vehicle. Nice.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:18 PM
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I think the most abusive thing about my parents is that they were weird so it led to me being teased a lot. My dad is a low-grade hoarder.
I was spanked/restrained occasionally but I was a pretty bad kid, hitting them too.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:20 PM
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I suppose we could look into investing it in an index fund.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:21 PM
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One green casino chip every week.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:28 PM
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A friend of my mom's incentivized his high-school aged son by saying "for every dollar you save over the summer, I will contribute nine dollars towards buying a car". My mom's friend had apparently not thought through what an industrious teenager could earn in a summer if he was living at home and really motivated. Kid ended up with about two grand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:28 PM
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Since Megan hasn't been around, I'll say this on her behalf:

FUCK FORGIVENESS.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:28 PM
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My prejudice (amplified now that I am a parent) is that a lot of people are too hard on their parents, and that our culture encourages this. We're a radically individualist culture and from the perspective of radical individualism the very act of parenting is a massive boundary violation. Even if they're nice, your parents are automatically all up in your shit at a very deep level, so whatever shit you have, it's very tempting to pin it on your parents. Then add normal imperfections -- I know I'm not going to be an abusive parent, but I'm also quite sure I will not be a perfect parent.

But then I hear stories of massive abuse, and I'm like OK, maybe you should just shoot your parent in the head, that seems reasonable.

There's a line-drawing problem, of course. There's horribly abusive, and then there are plenty of relationships where "My parents aren't people I'd voluntarily spend any time with if I didn't have to -- they make me unhappy" in the absence of extreme wrongdoing.

This. A fair number of times that I hear about people wanting to cut off from their parents it seems to be a case of 'they make me unhappy' without clear grevious wrongdoing to point to. Then there are other times where it's the jawdropping abuse.

I had a case against my father and I never quite dropped my resentment/blame of him, but I also stayed in touch regularly and was there for him when he died. I'm glad of that, but also glad that it didn't come down to my having to take care of him through the illness.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:32 PM
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Many of the things she finds abusive involve attempts to economize, either on money or on time.

I definitely encountered people in college who thought it was very cruel, if not borderline abusive of my parents to have given me a set amount of money for college and then let me make my own decisions factoring in tuition, scholarships, and my own willingness to take on outside jobs. I was naïve enough at the time that my reaction was "you don't understand how my family works" rather than "you're an entitled asshole."


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:33 PM
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69: Wow.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:39 PM
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A fair number of times that I hear about people wanting to cut off from their parents it seems to be a case of 'they make me unhappy' without clear grevious wrongdoing to point to.

Eh, I'm pretty sympathetic to a lot of these cases. If you've got someone who isn't respectful of you, in the ways you'd usually expect people you keep in your life to respect you, and then you compound that with the kind of approval-seeking that it's hard to ever completely give up with your own parents, the levels of "they make me unhappy" can be pretty dire.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:40 PM
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A fair number of times that I hear about people wanting to cut off from their parents it seems to be a case of 'they make me unhappy' without clear grevious wrongdoing to point to.

Well, what constitutes "clear grevious wrongdoing"? And does it matter? I mean, I'm pretty clear that my mother was never outright abusive, but dealing with her made me profoundly angry and unhappy; how much of that should I put up with before it's okay to cut off contact?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:41 PM
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71: That's what makes the issue so fraught. Your parents can fuck with you like no one else on earth, even without doing anything grievously wrong. OTOH, cutting your parents off is nuclear in a way that dropping a friend who makes you unhappy isn't, both emotionally and, when they get older and need care, practically.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:44 PM
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My parents are/were great*, so I have nothing to add on that front, but on the Woo Damn front, my first boss was/is a very fucked up parent (and pretty weird on other fronts), and his son (a peer and colleague of mine) has been coping with this his whole life. He's incredibly sane for what an insane (not abusive, but just unreasonable) environment he grew up in. Last time we talked about it, he was saying that, basically, the only reason he's at all socialized is that he was raised in a UMC milieu, so that he was exposed to enough non-crazy adults (and enough material comfort) that he was able to end up with his shit together. But the joke is that, basically, any amount of privation or disadvantage would have led him to ending up a pretty awful person.

His dad recently broke down and begged forgiveness, and his response (internally) was, "You fucker, now I have to [start to] forgive you." Because, deep down, that's what he wanted, you know? Love and approval and all that therapy shit.

*my sister had a lot of issues with our mom, on account of being different people and my sister being in the closet and probably resenting that, while my mom was incredibly open and loving with all of my sisters fucked up friends, she might not be open and loving about my sister's gayness. And of course this can never be truly resolved because, the T-giving break that my sister was finally going to come out, my mom had her accident and was never herself again. Boy howdy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:45 PM
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My grandmother falls into the "no clear grevious wrongdoing" but still highly overbearing and a really rough parent, for my mom in particular (and less so for her two brothers). My mom is very involved in her care-taking, but when it came time for Grandma to relocate to be near one of her kids, she definitely was guided to a different part of the country from my parents.

I'm always amazed that my mom did such an introspective, conscious job of not re-creating the things my grandmother did. It is certainly not set in cement that having a rough time with one or two parents will condemn you to be rough parent yourself.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:48 PM
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There was a decade or so when dealing with either of my parents made me pretty unhappy. I think that a long stretch like this is a pretty common feature of real independence.

Obviously, no need to give into disrespect or problems recognizing boundaries. But discarding family because it doesn't feel good to hang out seems pretty fucked up to me.

I think there may be an age gradient on the responses to this one, I would have written something much harsher 15 years ago. My parents are both well-meaning and pretty deeply flawed people for whatever that's worth, I see them now as having done the best they could in difficult circumstances, don't take their neuroses personally any more.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:54 PM
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As noted in 74.1, I'm in no position to judge, but 68 rings a bit true to me. "My parents are/were awful" is the "gluten sensitivity" of the emotional world.

I've told this story before, but: first girl I ever kissed* was a neighbor who'd just moved from another town, and she was basically a UMC Jewish girl who dabbled in gothware for shock purposes. Anyway, we kissed and went on a date or two leading up to Valentine's Day, and I got my mom to drive me to the mall to buy a heart-shaped box. On the way back I was telling her some story from the girl about allegedly awful parents, and my mom said, with extraordinary deftness (and better phrasing), "Do you think her parents are that bad, or do you think she exaggerates?" BOOM. I just ate the chocolates myself.

Point being, she entertained herself with a narrative about how awful her parents were, and it was basically that they didn't treat her as an autonomous adult. Which, to be sure, is a problem when the children become autonomous adults. But I think a lot of the pathologies set in much earlier, when kids have fallacious notions of what the parent-child dynamic should be.

But I don't judge anyone for cutting off parents. I'm a small-circle person, emotionally, and I see no reason to let anyone stay in touch who doesn't deserve it.

*Inauguration Day 1989, I'll always remember you, GHWB


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:56 PM
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At this point in my life I think my mom's various lunacies are worse for other people than they are for me, since by now I have a lot of experience dealing with them. Took some decades to reach this point, though, and of course she still regularly fails to live up to the minimal standard of behavior I would expect out of anybody else in my life.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:56 PM
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As noted in 74.1, I'm in no position to judge

Not gonna let that stop you, though, eh?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:59 PM
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73: that nails my view. Cutting your parents off is an intense thing to do to them, and I do believe we owe our parents something back for having raised us. But this is a very personal thing, can't judge for other people.

It helped me personally to emphathize with my parents human imperfections even when they involved things that had hurt me, it was a personal growth type experience in the end. But if they had been less loving or crueler people that they were/are the equation might have been different.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 3:59 PM
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77: I mean, hang on. Teenagers get a pass on exaggerating how awful their parents are. Or else I have a lot of apologizing to do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:00 PM
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24 is full of wisdom.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:04 PM
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I am astonished by how inhibited I am on this subject. My issues with my parents are well within the ordinary in any objective sense, no grievous wrongdoing, but emotionally intense enough that it does not feel okay at all to talk about them in this context. Even owning up to the intensity is something I wouldn't do under my normal name.


Posted by: Abigail Adams | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:06 PM
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Teenagers get a pass on exaggerating how awful their parents are.

In college I lived with a guy who told his own mother she was a cunt after she refused to give him her old car. (She was willing to sell it, but not give it.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:07 PM
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If you've got someone who isn't respectful of you, in the ways you'd usually expect people you keep in your life to respect you

But is it reasonable to think your parents will ever be just another person in your life? Every time I see my mother she shares many suggestions about my diet, health, childrearing, etc. She's just helplessly overinvolved with me in a way that it would be crazy for anyone else to be. But it comes from a place of love, and when I tell her it's time to shut up, she shuts up. Even looks a little guilty. Just like no one else in my life would volley me with 'advice' like that, I couldn't tell anyone else in my life to shut up quite as directly. So it works out.

it was basically that they didn't treat her as an autonomous adult. Which, to be sure, is a problem when the children become autonomous adults. But I think a lot of the pathologies set in much earlier, when kids have fallacious notions of what the parent-child dynamic should be.

Seems to me an issue is that we get such a strong cultural message that we are/are supposed to be 'autonomous'. In reality no one is ever truly autonomous. Parental relationships are often one of the biggest demonstrations of that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:07 PM
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Obviously, no need to give into disrespect or problems recognizing boundaries. But discarding family because it doesn't feel good to hang out seems pretty fucked up to me.

Well, sometimes the only way to not give in to disrespect is to cut ties - it just depends on how far your parents are willing to go to preserve their right to treat you poorly.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:09 PM
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84: compared to that, I was awesome!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:10 PM
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So does telling your (anxiety- and hypochondria-inclined) kid that they need to deal with their difficult, unpleasant, and unsightly skin condition because otherwise they might get a flesh-eating bacterial infection qualify as "grievous wrongdoing" or not? What about stealing your ex's possessions and shipping them to your kid in the course of the divorce?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:11 PM
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I'm in kind of a difficult spot with my folks right now. I think they're overly judgmental towards my children. And I really can't stand that: anyone with a negative opinion about either of my children is more than welcome to keep it to themselves. I, and they, know all about their flaws.

I'm not cutting them off, but not doing much to seek them out, either. Except to visit them in August for my dad's birthday. Which we may or may not make this year.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:11 PM
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(She was willing to sell it, but not give it.)

My older brother will still kvetch about the fact that my father, when selling him his old car, charged him for the gas in the tank.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:14 PM
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90 -- OK, that is pretty damn cheap.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:19 PM
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My parents tried to tell our baby-sitter that she needed to go on Accutane, but I ran interference. They do have a meddlesome streak.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:20 PM
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Not so much cheap, as petty. I mean, charge whatever you like for the car/gas combo as a unit, but announcing one price for the car and then slapping on thirty bucks for the gas in the tank sounds like actively trying to mess with the kid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:21 PM
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I told my kids to get a notebook and write their grievances down 'cause it will save time and money at their therapist's office later on.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:25 PM
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Was the gas for driving, or huffing? Nobody wants to give their kids free drugs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:25 PM
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81: Oh, of course - I"m not judging that girl at this remove. My mom just did a great job at making me see that she was, at the time, maybe not the best choice (and she emphatically wasn't).

My point beyond that is that I think that in nonabusive situations, a lot of the pathology sets in during those teenage years (and on both sides; AB loves her dad, but he's clearly still hurt by what happened to their relationship when she became a teen which, near as I can tell, was in no way traumatic - but he's an old-fashioned German and she is/was a thoroughly modern American, and I don't think he could cope with/understand the way she acted).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:29 PM
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I'm not clear on why that made that girl such a bad choice...something else going on too?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:30 PM
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What about stealing your ex's possessions and shipping them to your kid in the course of the divorce?

I initially read this as stealing your kid's ex's possessions to ship to your kid, which would be an awesomely ninja move.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:31 PM
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Also this whole "grievous wrongdoing" standard sounds an awful lot like "articulable reason that will convince bystanders to accept your choice." If someone decides that not having a relationship with a parent is the right decision for them, so be it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:33 PM
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97: Just immaturity/incompatibility. But raising that point did an effective job at helping me see the ways in which she was incompatible.

Although now that I think of it, I kind of fell off the other side of the horse by next dating a girl whose parents were awful (in a controlling, nonabusive way) but who wouldn't/couldn't acknowledge it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:34 PM
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98: The punchline: I was the best man at the ex's wedding (after he and my mother divorced).


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:39 PM
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If someone decides that not having a relationship with a parent is the right decision for them, so be it.

Can't really argue with that, of course. I guess I do find myself sometimes eye-rolling a little at certain weak sauce stories of awful parents by UMC folks (not just teenagers). My sister tried to pull that on me once and I was like, Dude, they literally bought you a pony. (They did!)


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:41 PM
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I've been thinking about the difference between autonomy and usefulness; after all, in a lot of places, _obviously_ no-one is autonomous, but kids also know they're useful to the family/group much earlier than UMC USians do (after the second Master's?...). Lots of utility and no autonomy isn't healthy, but being useful seems to make being still-a-teen less painful. For one thing, it becomes obvious that being grown-up isn't all pajamas and spending money. For another, I think not being useful makes a person slightly insane, though I may be projecting from my understanding of dogs and am no role model.

But being useful is marked as incredibly lower-class in a lot of UMC parents of my acquaintance -- even unto expecting the kids to set the dinner table -- and it sounds like some people mentioned above would call it abusive. So we get give-and-take kids in the healthy lower class, e.g. immigrant or farming, and in the really tippy toppy upper classes who can give the kids real work to practice on.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:44 PM
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A 13 year old first kiss can be too immature?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:45 PM
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I mean, mine was really poignant and meaningful, because camp was ending and I wouldn't see Pablo again for 11 months. But YMMV.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:46 PM
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But being useful is marked as incredibly lower-class in a lot of UMC parents of my acquaintance -- even unto expecting the kids to set the dinner table

Do these people have servants?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:56 PM
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91, 93: They agreed on a price before my father filled up the tank. My father would have been fine with driving the car for a little while longer, then turning it over to my brother at the agreed-upon price.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 4:59 PM
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104: I was embarrassingly older than that. But no, that wasn't the immaturity.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:00 PM
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106: no! They're incredibly frazzled & eat a lot of take-out and feel bad about it. Then they're puzzled when the kids don't morph into responsible adults in one step at 17 1/2. All of this is hard enough, romanticizing the practice away doesn't seem to help.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:13 PM
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109 describes people I know. Their kids are younger though, so I don't know how they'll turn out.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:18 PM
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98: The punchline: I was the best man at the ex's wedding (after he and my mother divorced).

Did you give him back his stuff?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:19 PM
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Josh, your Mom literally stole for you. That's awesome. Who doesn't want a ride-or-die chick?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:22 PM
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I make my 5 year old set the table before dinner every night, but Jesus Fucking Christ would it be easier to just do it myself.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:24 PM
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111: I offered, but he declined. Would have made an awesome wedding present, though!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:39 PM
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Setting the table means laying the traps for the wildebeest?


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:42 PM
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The UMC kids who are expected to magically morph into responsible adults despite never having been given any responsibility or expected to act like it is a common bugbear of mine. I remember a few peers (friends of friends) who were like that growing up, and it drove me crazy even then. I was a massive-chip-on-the-shoulder type even then, though, so it was probably partly jealousy.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:54 PM
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Actually, just the other night she was like "You don't like grains! I love grains! Grains grains grains GRAINS GRAINS."

It will be like this for at least another 13 years. [Actually the poor thing has chicken pox now and I feel bad making even light fun of her extreme cuteness]


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:55 PM
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I have strong opinions! I realize they are random insofar as they are totally dichotomous. in or out. when you're in, you're in, and I'm obligated to fly to new york and help you bury someone in floral park. when you're out, I'm not speaking to you. my brother and I, when we were not plotting the murder of our step-dad (which, it's a good thing we didn't go through with that, probably) used to fantasize about when he was old, and we would check his brittle frame out of the old folks home and take him to the state fair and strap him into a terrifying, ancient rocket ride with 3g of acceleration, for 20 or so turns.

he (and my mom, let us be fair!) did this to me and my brother when he was too little and really scared, and crying and pleading, maybe 6 or something? really, truly pleading, and I was scared also but I had to pretend not to be scared so I could hold him and tell him it was going to be ok. and that motherfucker at the sc state fair thought it was it was the funniest thing he had seen in his life. so: NO MERCY.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 5:58 PM
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but lo, what light of reason at yon window breaks? it's my motherfucking mom, standing right by the sonofabitch, also laughing! and it's my dad, knowing the whole time and apparently having all of .025 fucks to give. why do I think I have to wipe these peoples asses when they are old? because I do feel that, strongly? what am I, the sisters of mercy except with a real drummer? and that's not to speak of my dad separately being an abusive asshole. it's convenient for everyone that my step-dad died; I really don't know how we were going to finesse it otherwise.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:01 PM
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117: Mimi smartypants has some story about how her kid would spontaneously rhapsodize about how much she loves MEAT. Mimi being a vegetarian, of course.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:02 PM
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My mother, should she live long enough, will never be allowed near any children of mine.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:06 PM
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Nia's lawyer and caseworker were over today to tell us that they're both recommending the judge change her case goal from reunification with her mom to termination of her parents' rights and thus adoption. I understand why they're doing it and I expected today to be the day, but it still makes me so sad. It's been hard to watch Nia distance herself from her mom and some of her mom's bad parenting decisions as she gets more used to us and how we do things. I have no idea what she'll think as an adult. I suspect her mom will go on thinking of herself as the victim of an unfeeling, racist system, but I think Nia is aware enough of what's going on that TPR feels more like justice to her. She doesn't want revenge, but that's partly because she has sort of maternal feelings toward her mom anyway and wishes she could have taken better care of her mom even though she also knows that's not a kid job. Ugh.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:30 PM
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Interesting that most people's problems with their parents are that the parents are too meddlesome or controlling. My parents are annoying because they're so self absorbed, although it doesn't bother me so much as my wife. I'll be talking on the phone with my mom and it's all about the trip they took or the art they bought yadda yadda, she rarely asks about us or the kids. They'll come to town if there's an art show around or something else they're interested in, and they'll stop by to see the grandkids if it's convenient, but otherwise not- one time they were planning to come, their event was canceled, so they said never mind. They're also always late, don't consider kids schedules, etc. in getting together with us.
Maybe they're posting on some grandparents blog about how annoying their kids are in expecting them to be so involved with their grandkids.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:40 PM
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Interesting that most people's problems with their parents are that the parents are too meddlesome or controlling.

Where my mind goes is JEWS but maybe that's an unfair stereotype.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:49 PM
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Mine are quite Jewish but opposite of the meddlesome stereotype. My grandmothers, on the other hand, are stereotypical Jewish mothers. Maybe my parents are overcompensating in the other direction.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:51 PM
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My parents are actually also fairly uninterested in being grandparents. They're quite curious about my life, and will come sit in on my classes, etc, while the kids go to daycare. Whereas Jammies' mom will keep the kids home from daycare when she visits.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 6:58 PM
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They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.


Posted by: OPINIONATED PHILIP LARKIN | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:02 PM
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117: I thought kidlets didn't get chickenpox anymore?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:07 PM
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The deep biological meaning of that poem is so gripping.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:08 PM
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I have the first stanza down pat but I never seem to recall the last two lines. Especially not when it matters.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:09 PM
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128 -- she wasn't vaccinated for that because [not going to discuss].


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:09 PM
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35: I hope he sticks around long enough for me to get over myself, because I really don't have the resources to do it right now.

This and lw's comment in 76 about there being an age gradient regarding forgiveness of one's parents resonate most for me: I spent at least a decade (my 20s, roughly) in as little contact with my parents as possible. I know, and knew, that this hurt them, and I didn't get a hell of a lot better about it into my 30s, either. They sucked it up for the most part, and didn't kvetch about it.

I register this now as a failure of empathy on my part. I will never think my parents' efforts to force conformity on myself and my brother was awesome, but truth: they thought they were doing right by us, teaching and training us the way of the world as they knew it. (It did not allow for gayness, e.g.) Okay, fair enough.

Maturing enough to notice that my parents were individuals was kind of liberating -- I stopped being pissed off with them so much. I think I just stopped wanting my mom to be anyone other than herself, that individual woman who had a past, an internal life, a personal life, issues of her own. I think we'd actually become friends by the time she died, but my dad died before I'd quite gotten there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:14 PM
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131 is probably what I was assuming, then. Rob, you can share Mara's (and Lee's) current favorite song with her.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:16 PM
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I can't tell if that reads as horribly maudlin; it's not meant to be.

Obviously none of 132 applies to truly abusive parents.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:17 PM
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My father fucked with my life so bad when I was so vulnerable. He stepped in to help me when I needed it badly. And he helped me. Which was good. But he took control. As he always did. And he stole my autonomy. When I needed it most. To get well. To defend myself. To reclaim my life. Which was bad. And I was an adult at the time. Had been. For a while. It destroyed me at a time I was already destroyed.

I used to fantasize about shitting on his face when he died. I'd stay at the grave site after the ceremony. I'd pry open the coffin. And I'd take a massive steaming shit on his face. I had it all figured out. I'd have a few hundred dollar bills on me to pay off any gravediggers if need be.

That was then. Now, I've climbed back. And I've regained my life. Frankly, it''s amazing I'm still alive. And I have a good relationship with my father. He remains who he is. A hard man with hard rules. But I love him. I don't know that means that I've forgiven him. It seems kind of pointless now. It's all in the past. And thanks be for that.


Posted by: Ulysses S Grant | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:25 PM
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Where my mind goes is JEWS...

Ve haf much to discuss.


Posted by: OPINIONATED RAINER WOLFCASTLE | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:30 PM
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132: Empathy is relevant, but not the whole story. You can realize all those things about a parent being human and flawed and well-intentioned and still make a healthy choice to walk away. Sometimes that's the only way to effectively establish reasonable boundaries. And sometimes that's what paves the way for better things in the future. I know I'm stating the obvious.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:37 PM
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123: that's sort of how my mom is, but then she used to be much too intensely involved; I think basically she has to be in charge or she doesn't really pay attention, and insofar as she tried to help me (succeeded, at some key moments!), it was by trying to take charge. This characterization does not apply purely to her life as a parent; in many areas of her life it's perfectly fine that she needs to be in charge, as that is in fact her defined role. It is less helpful when dealing with her siblings, for instance. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out with her grandchild.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 7:59 PM
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I feel pretty lucky that I have such an unproblematic relationship with my parents. My dad had a tendency to be too controlling when I was a teenager, but he recognized it was a problem and fixed it (possibly with some prodding from my mom behind the scenes). I'm sure I was part of the problem in ways I can't really identify looking back. But it was such a mildly problematic thing for such a short interval of time it's hardly worth bringing up.

If I ever have a kid, though, I'm not really sure if it'll be a good or bad thing for my relationship with my parents. I could imagine them being persistent about wanting a grandchild to go to church, for one thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:30 PM
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I will resist the temptation to threadjack by talking about aging, abusive colleagues.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:33 PM
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Give in to temptation, essy.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:34 PM
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Yesss.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:36 PM
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||

So I asked someone for a letter of recommendation for a position I really want (and found out through him, he's got an inside line on this thing) and he said just write something and send it to me and I'll tweak it and send it on. I balked and he said, well, isn't that how it works. I'm very uncomfortable doing that. Also there is the problem of avoiding sounding too much like my cover letter. Is this done? What should I do?

l>


Posted by: Abraham Lincoln | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:39 PM
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137: You can realize all those things about a parent being human and flawed and well-intentioned and still make a healthy choice to walk away.

Certainly. In my own case, my mom had to do some work as well: she had to confess to some things.

To give some context if it's helpful: eventually my mom openly acknowledged that my brother is gay, and confessed to me that she felt like a failure as a mother. She'd failed to ?raise him right? ?steer him from sin? She felt she'd raised an abomination; she was a total failure.

Anyway, we had a long, long talk, she and I, and she cried, and I observed that there was nothing abominable about our beloved son/brother, and she agreed that that was true. I had to tell her how much she was hurting son/brother, because he knew she felt this way about him. She had to face that stuff.

Until we had that discussion -- pretty remarkable, for me, to be talking my mom through her crying -- I didn't fully allow her to be the individual she was. So! It worked out in the end. Had she not done that work, it would have been a different story altogether.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:39 PM
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143: I would also be really uncomfortable doing that. I hear it's the standard thing in China, but otherwise, no, I don't think that's "how it works".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:40 PM
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Give in to temptation, essy.

So today one of my collaborators (the one who annoyed me about typefaces) sent an email making a totally innocuous and reasonable suggestion that, even though our senior collaborator was making some minor revisions to the paper, since it's very close to being finished maybe we should go ahead and send the draft to a few people we'd like to ask for comments before we post it. He has a job interview coming up soon and hopes to get the paper out first, so he would like us to do this sooner rather than later. Response from the senior collaborator: "no I am working on it there is no need to be rude".

This from by far the rudest person I have ever worked with, who seems to interpret everything anyone else does as a personal affront even while regularly insulting us all, walking away in the middle of conversations, telling us we're wasting time and everything we've written is crap, etc.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:46 PM
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And who is apparently giving public talks and tweeting to publicize our work, all the while presenting it from a completely wrongheaded angle that totally misrepresents what we're trying to do and why.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:47 PM
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Sorry. Totally boring threadjack. Back to parents.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:52 PM
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My father (primarily) and I went through a process of brinksmanship that ended up with me in and off the streets for a few years in my mid teens. There was other stuff going on, and in retrospect it was avoidable I'm sure, but there it is. We didn't have any relationship (either parent) at all for a while, now we do. It's easy with us living far apart, but there is structural damage, and things (and years) we'll probably never speak of. I don't blame them any more than I do myself, and bygones are what they are, but that doesn't fix anything really, so much as it gives distance.

I'm not quite sure what will happen if life decides to ask something not easy of the relationship.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:54 PM
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This topic is making me sad because my parents are great by any standard, only missteps were sheltering me some and I'd say my dad, like many people with authority issues, wielded authority badly some of the time, giving me horrible authority issues, yay. But so otherwise they were totally great and yet...I'm not warm or emotionally open with them. We talk once a week and I make them laugh but it's just somehow a lot like what K-sky described above maybe.

(I feel equally bad about having a kind of limited relationship with my sister, who was my best friend when we were kids, and who is very warm toward me, but something makes it hard to respond in kind.)

I am on a train through the desert drinking whiskey and ginger ale and now feeling bad about my family.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 8:57 PM
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143 -- Write the letter, I say. What the worst that can happen?

I've heard of people doing this, but maybe not in your field . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:03 PM
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Actually here is something else funny and stupid and weird about the whole thing, brought to you by scotch:

One way I experience my parents that makes it hard to have a normal relationship with them is that they seem to want me to have an ok life, as parents do, and occasionally it occurs to me I can't live out some of my weird escape fantasies because they'd be disappointed. A special case of this is that throughout my life my father has intoned "a parent should never outlive his children." So it always strikes me that if I were to die, I'd be like "great, I've failed my parents again."


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:03 PM
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This thread is depressing the shit out of me because oh yay! what I have to look forward to as being an inevitable total failure to my child.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:08 PM
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FWIW, I've always thought of "have the candidate write their own letter" as laziness, and believe it shows in the details. Can be hard to get started though, so you might provide your reference with some details of the position, why you want it, and what would make a particularly good fit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:08 PM
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146, 147: if it helps, 146.2 is shit my mom does, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:09 PM
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152: I have always heard that as "no parent wants to outlive their children" which is maybe a little less blame-y. I am kind of entertained by alternate universe smearcase going out in a blaze of glory (wing walking accident, say) and thinking, at the last, "so there, dad!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:12 PM
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154 Part of the problem is that my reference is very familiar with the details of the position (they reached out to him for students to fill it) and why I want it but perhaps doesn't know why I would make a good fit as while I work with him (way under him but though he is not my supervisor) I have not taken a class with him. I have asked my supervisor for a letter and she understands, she's also much more familiar with my work.


Posted by: Abraham Lincoln | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:14 PM
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In 149 I probably should have made clear that I do not consider my folks to have been "abusive", might sound that way in this context.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:16 PM
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Abe write something so fucking ridiculously glowing that it would be absurd for him to send it as is. Then let him do whatever the hell he wants with it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:17 PM
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Where's Von Wafer when you need him?


Posted by: Abraham Lincoln | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:20 PM
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It's interesting how on-topic this thread has stayed.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:20 PM
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159: "Passed his orals via conference call while wing-walking."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:26 PM
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"Wrote out out the answers to a problem set via sky-writing. In Garamond."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:28 PM
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163: those serifs are tricky, A+


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:32 PM
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My parents were both on the side of clear wrongdoing--nothing ambiguous about it, and when I cut off contact with them (one at age 15, the other in my late 20s) it was unquestionably a matter of desperation, revenge, and all kinds of unprocessed crap. But it's not any of that anymore. I loved them, because any kid does. I hated them, because any kid in crappy enough circumstances eventually does. Am I past it? No one ever is completely. But I'm okay, and whole, and my heart is elsewhere--both loves and hates. I feel no temptation to 'reconnect' (the "re" would be fantasy if I did) One of them reached out recently after years of silence in a bizarre, non-apologetic, sending randomness fashion. A friend was utterly mystified that I felt no temptation to respond. All of which leads me to wonder if some people who say things like 'they make me unhappy' just don't want to go into details, or try to explain a decision that a lot of people do find mystifying.


Posted by: backwardsinheels | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:32 PM
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159: "Once—nay, twice—got busy in a Burger King bathroom."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:42 PM
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165.last makes sense to me.

This stuff is hard to talk about and hard to explain sometimes.

For myself, I guess I found out exactly how much worse it could have been from them. I still think they screwed up, but at least mostly for the right reasons. Rapprochement wasn't so hard then, given a few years distance. Even so, it's a bit of an odd relationship. I haven't lived near to them for a long time now, so I suppose it's easy to say its just the distance, but I don't think it is.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:46 PM
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I've written drafts of letters before. Partly it's that math letters are unnecessarily long and detailed, so it seems reasonable to give them a draft of the summary of work which they can then add the value-descriptions to.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:46 PM
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153: I have felt sort of bad participating in this thread because also my mom's great and there's not a thing bad to be said about her. Oh well human relations are complicated just so long as many of us can try not to be like essear's senior colleague.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:49 PM
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167-- yeah, I get that.


Posted by: backwardsinheels | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:51 PM
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167 sounds colder than it should.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 9:54 PM
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Or, more likely, it sounds right but there is something stark about it, maybe just wishing it wasn't.

A funny thing about relationships is that you never really know where you stand until they are tested somehow. I guess the thing about my folks and I is that we silently entered an agreement to never do that. So it is strangely intimate and superficial at turns.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:00 PM
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still all makes sense to me, soup.


Posted by: backwardsinheels | Link to this comment | 02-19-13 10:16 PM
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143: this is utterly typical in the circles in which I travel. If someone asked me for a recommendation and it was someone who I felt comfortable recommending but not inspired or excited to recommend, I would do that.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 12:20 AM
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One of them reached out recently after years of silence in a bizarre, non-apologetic, sending randomness fashion.

Yeah, my mom periodically does this. One of my favorite times was when she mailed me a newspaper column about a woman who was estranged from her son, with a passage highlighted about how the door wasn't open but the porch light was still on. That was it, nothing more.

I briefly cut off contact with my father in college. We started talking again because he sent me a letter, the very first sentence of which was "I'm sorry." Not only has my mother never done anything similar, she's never evinced even the slightest curiosity in why exactly it is I haven't responded to her various attempts to get back in touch.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 12:25 AM
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Reading the thread I'm glad my parents were OK. I liked them when I was a kid and I still like them now, although like any parents they occasionally piss me off. On the other hand, we were very poor, and while some of that was basically Thatcherism and de-industrialisation, some of it was just my Dad preferring not working at all over working in the crappy jobs that were available at the time, and the burden of that fell a lot more on my Mum and the kids than on him. I can't say that I resented it at the time, though, or have resented it much since.

My wife does get a bit pissed off about it, though. She thinks that they (my parents and especially my sister) think I've sorted of coasted easily through life on the back of being smart. When, the reality was that it was bastard hard a lot of the time, with no financial or material support of any kind from family, and involved years of long hours and crappy jobs and debt. She, my wife, thinks that they should have been more supporting (financially, or in other ways) and are basically clueless about the reality of much of what went on in my teens and early 20s (or even graduate school). She's right, but it's not something that I invest much emotion in.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 1:39 AM
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K-sky's 35.1 and .2 is very me, minus the divorce and dead grandparent bits.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 1:55 AM
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Great post timing! I cut off contact with my mom about two weeks ago. I know that this is a temporary measure, and I'm hoping it will be effective in curbing her controlling nature and tendency to say almost solely mean and critical things to me whenever we meet. I'm scared it will develop into something longer than a month or two, and I know she's probably struggling with some cognitive dissonance, because she doesn't realize what happened this time of all times to have set this off, and I imagine she doesn't really want to think about it because she'd be forced to recognize her problematic behavior. I'm not sure if she's capable of that or not. And even though she's only in her early sixties, and we haven't been speaking for only two weeks, I'm terrified of this becoming some version of 39.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 2:08 AM
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Maybe someone's already brought referenced this--only halfway through the thread, and likely to fall asleep before catching up--but my relationship with my parents is a great example of that Rochefoucauld maxim, "We often forgive those that have injured us, but we can never pardon those that we have injured." Any interaction I have with them--even the anticipation of interacting--causes me to be so suffused with shame for having squandered the advantages and resources they gave me, and for having been such an ungrateful brat as an adolescent, that I'm inevitably tetchy and irritable, when I'm not distant well beyond the point of incivility. I've gotten better at faking it, though, largely thanks to finding activities "we" can do "together" that actually involve no such joint agency (biking FTW!). Being able to discuss local sports teams helps, too.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 2:27 AM
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I think not being useful makes a person slightly insane

This thread is just full of sentiments I wholeheartedly endorse!


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 2:34 AM
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x., every adolescent is an ungrateful brat; some far more than others, but every one. It's just not something you're fully in control of. I hope you can give yourself a break at some point.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 3:02 AM
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168 is making me insecure. I didn't know that. God I hope I haven't sabotaged our rare really fantastic students.

It also makes me newly mad that I wasn't on the search committee in our department a few years ago, because that's the only point I might have found that out, and there won't be another search for a very long time.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 3:52 AM
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Abe, I just woke from a dream in which (inter alia) I was worrying about your question. (In the dream, it was essear's question, though.) Anyway, my brilliant dream insight fwiw was that the things people choose to brag about when they brag about themselves are rarely the things other people are impressed by. No, I don't know what that means exactly.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 4:39 AM
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I've been having a lot of dreams where I'm playing soccer. I'm so agile and have so much energy and it's so much fun...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 4:42 AM
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174 is probably a better characterization than "laziness" I used before. If I read a recommendation and think the candidate wrote it, I mark that as the person not being particularly excited about this candidate, but willing to put in a good word. It doesn't count against them, exactly, but not for them either. In myself I see it as laziness or avoidance of conflict as I should either make the effort or encourage the candidate to find someone who can.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 4:53 AM
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you know, my dad has actually tried to kill me one time. that I know of. when I was 3 or whatever, 2 1/2, straight down the stairs in one of those stupid exersaucer things people thought were a good idea for 10 minutes in the 1970s. I guess kids are just, you know, bendy, and stuff? flexible? resilient, maybe we should use them more in nanotech? and he totally tried to kill my mom in the most drama way ever with the axe, as I'm sure you all know, hacking the phone out of the kitchen wall while she was talking to her mom and dad about leaving him but then my godfather george came up behind him and just gave him a big bear hug so he couldn't put any swing into the axe any more. george is a big guy, 6'2" or so but broad and big every which way. he used to have a mountain man beard and he had a black cast-iron stove in his little house that was all the heat it had. he had a great voice and could play the banjo, and he would play me all kind of songs like "froggy went a courting." I do miss the live music. but the less attempted murder is good.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:08 AM
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That's pretty bad, al, but maybe you missed it above where I said my parents rave excessively about their grandkids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:17 AM
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159- Oh god, I let someone who used to work for me and is applying to some program in foreign country that I know nothing about write his own letter and he totally did that but I think he meant it sincerely. He was kind of a fuck up but I was willing to write him a decent letter, but the shit he came back with, I edited it so that it was subtly saying that no, he's kind of a fuck up, actually. The worst thing he wrote was something along the lines of not only was he the greatest person to ever work in this group, he had to fix the problems that other (non-fuckups) in the group caused. When you start criticizing your coworkers in your own letter of recommendation, you suck.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:22 AM
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Hmm, maybe that was too much identifying information...


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:23 AM
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183 Made me laugh and gave me pause.

185 & 174 fits the case. I work in the same place with the person (he being head honcho but off in his office doing cool stuff and not my direct supervisor and me low on the totem pole) and while he teaches the topic I have not been one of his students so he really doesn't know my work. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to ask him for the recommendation and I initially wasn't going to but when I asked my supervisor she asked me if I was going to ask him which made me think I probably should (I'm sure he heard that conversation, their offices are adjoining and while not truly cubicle like they have no individual ceilings).

186 Holy shit, that's terrible. I probably should have dropped that query in another thread but things were slow last night).


Posted by: Abraham Lincoln | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:27 AM
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my mom said that when she send me and my bro off for our first court-mandated visit with my dad she was pretty terrified he was going to kill us and then him. "why did you let us go?" eh...? why do people do anything? FUCK I HATE UNFOGGED SOMETIMES I just remembered something I haven't thought of in forever. we all have all these sabatier carbon steel knives because KNIVES, right? (my dad gave me a whole set for my wedding, first checking if it was cool to break with tradition like that and I said it was ok. but narnia is cruel to them. I need to keep them oiled.) so you have a whetstone and then a rod to keep the edge on it. my stepfather really could be entertaining sometimes (I realize this seems improbable, but really, he could.) he was teaching me how to sharpen a knife properly one time, and we were drinking beer in the kitchen. we were folding paper to get different angles, and sharpening up a couple knives but good, including a hunting knife, I guess, because it had a horn handle. I had done a good job on it, I thought, so I handed it to him (hilt first, accepted official way of knife-handing-to-people). he just pushed me back onto the wall (it's a tiny room) and put the fucking knife right up under my jawbone. and then...nothing. just smirking. nothing. it wasn't sharp enough to cut me just from my blood beating against it, but it was an unpleasant sensation to have it so cold and razorlike on there. then he just pulled it off and went back to drinking beer: "I thought you would cry!" @#$%@3$%%^&*9&^$#$%^^4#23#$%%%&*&(


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:28 AM
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oh wait, heeb pwned, sorry. that's a trillion times worse, clearly. sorry for the thread derailment.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:28 AM
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190.3 no, see, the funny thing is, I'm on good terms with my dad! and he never tried to kill my brother that I know of; that would fucking piss me off bad.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:31 AM
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It's true that my parents are monsters, but no one's ever tried to kill me, so I'm okay saying these things are hard to compare.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:32 AM
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When you start criticizing your coworkers in your own letter of recommendation, you suck.

Or in any other context except to their face or, if they're actually sabotaging shit, to their manager. Or on eclectic web magazines, anonymously. In your shoes I would have torn up the letter and sent off a note saying that he is such a guy as will criticize his coworkers in his own letter of recommendation. And left it there.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:35 AM
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193 is where my psychiatrist is like, why do you suck so bad? if it would be totally unacceptable if your dad tried to kill your brother, why is it cool he tried to kill you, eh? and I'm like, "he had a difficult childhood?" I'm...not sure, actually. he did lie to my brother and say he was an accidental pregnancy and that they hadn't wanted him when he was, in fact, a planned pregnancy. that was pretty epically shitty also. yeah. my dad. there's a tiny part of me that thinks he'd seem less forgivable without 10 million dollars. that reflects poorly on me probably? but maybe I had a difficult childhood? no, I'm going for definitely.

I'm meeting the AETN network execs tomorrow; I'll let y'all know if they're lizard people with black dick cheney robot hearts.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:51 AM
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191: Weird. I had something similar happen with cleaning handguns (and not-my-dad). I'd almost forgotten that. I guess it's a thing?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 5:52 AM
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I was sitting the car and I was just like staring out the window looking at everything, but then again I was thinking about nothing. And then I saw a billboard for the Blue Hole of Castalia, and I had always wanted to see it. So I asked my Dad and he pretended he didn't hear me and then I started screaming "Dad, Dad!" And he goes "what? What's the matter?" He goes "what's the matter with you?" I go "there's nothing wrong with me, dad, I just want to see the Blue Hole of Castalia." He's all "don't tell me that! You're on drugs just bored!" I go "no dad, I'm not on bored. I'm ok, I'm just curious, you know? Why can't we see the Blue Hole of Castalia?" He goes "No! You're bored!" I go "dad, it's ok. I'm just thinking I'd like to see it." He goes "No! You're not curious, you're bored! Normal people don't use wire hangers get off the turnpike, ever!" I go "dad, just let me see the Blue Hole of Castalia! Please, all I want is to see it!" And he wouldn't get off the turnpike! All I wanted was too see the Blue Hole of Castalia, just one time, and he wouldn't do it! Just one time!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:06 AM
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And I have still never seen the Blue Hole of Castalia.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:06 AM
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Not that our situations were generally similar, al; that was messed up.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:07 AM
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199. Too late.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:11 AM
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201: Just saw that this morning. However, [i]t is to be distinguished from another hole similar in size and eerie bluish-green color. This latter hole is owned by the Castalia State Fish Hatchery operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife and is open for public viewing.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:13 AM
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but perhaps doesn't know why I would make a good fit as while I work with him (way under him but though he is not my supervisor) I have not taken a class with him.

Seems to me that if you're asking for a reference from someone who's not really familiar with your work, you've achieved the best possible outcome.

Me, I've never asked someone to write their own recommendation, but if the person is worth recommending, I'm not terribly worried about presenting a nuanced view of their work. I think: What would applicant want me to write? Then I write it. Having the applicant write it would, in my case, merely cut out the middleman.

Anything I sign, I take responsibility for, regardless of whether someone else wrote it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 6:30 AM
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I love 187 so much.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 8:45 AM
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Isn't the point of a recommendation for someone you're not that impressed with to get them a different job? Away from you? Hard to think of much that would be worse than writing a mediocre letter, the guy not getting the job, eventually finding the letter or the reason for not getting the job, and still being in your vicinity.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 8:52 AM
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"I just can't bear for Job Candidate X to be forced to continue to toil away in a dead-end position in our department/ It would me so much to me, personally, to see him advance to your organization. As soon as possible."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 9:07 AM
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The little dear
Has been working here,
For a year,
No, almost two.
And you couldn't foresee
How glad we'd be
To send him to work on for you.

Apologies to John Ciardi.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 12:48 PM
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There's always the classic: "You will be very fortunate if you can get this person to work for you."


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 8:07 PM
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197: wait, how would that not be totally horrible?
also, 153, redfox: you should be thinking instead, "well, even if I try to kill one of them, as long as I don't try to kill both they'll have conflicting loyalties and it'll all work out on my side." you don't need ten million dollars either. my dad had me when he was really young; I don't expect to ever inherit anything from him till I'm 75 or something. he's just--my dad, right? I'm obligated. ah, I'm obligated, because he took care of my grandmother. I loved her so much, and he took care of her, but not good enough care. I need to take better care of him, for things to work out. for my children to see how it ought to be done from start to finish.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 8:54 PM
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redfox: you should be thinking instead, "well, even if I try to kill one of them, as long as I don't try to kill both they'll have conflicting loyalties and it'll all work out on my side."

So far she only has one though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 10:35 PM
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she should totes have more kids!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-20-13 10:49 PM
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Some parents are truly awful, because, let's face it, some people are truly awful, and some of those people are parents, and parents have an awful lot of power over their children, in all sorts of strange and surprising ways.

That said, I believe the bar should be set rather high for a complete abandonment of one's parents in their hour of need.

When I was in my teens and twenties, way back in the mists of time, I thought my mother was horrible because she didn't "understand" me. God, what a ridiculous little narcissist I once was, when I thought along the lines of, 'How dare she apply her petite bourgeoisie standards to me, a very special snowflake?' I was especially offended by her constant suggestions that I marry and have children/grandchildren. I didn't yet understand death, hadn't yet experienced the bewildering absence of someone I had always thought would be ever-present. It was very anti-feminist of me, and quite anti-historical too, to have been indulging certain grievances along such lines. I was selfish and shallow, and utterly clueless about the finality of death.

Not two months ago, I watched my mother die before my very eyes, of metastatic breast cancer. The death rattle? That shit is real, and not just a touching scene in a Dickens novel: I heard it, I saw it, and I would give a limb, truly, no word of a lie, to have my mum with me still in this our world, no matter how much she once irritated me with her recommendations to marriage and childbearing. I miss my mother so much now, my dear little mum, who never, frankly, 'understood' me, but who loved me, and she was my mother, after all. She had a wry, dry, self-deprecating sense of humour, and a wonderful sense of mischief too. She grew up as an Irish Catholic in a Scottish Presbyterian town in small-town Ontario, and she used to laugh at those whose upbringing was as "an Orange picnic."

Two nights before she died, I said to my mother on the phone, 'Mum, I'm coming up tomorrow, and I'm going to sing you Carrickfergus.' And she croaked out, on the phone, 'Love you with my heart and soul.'

And I can't get beyond that, just now. Whatever complaints or grievances I once had, to watch my mother die is what I now most vividly remember. And the things I should have said, the things I wish I had said?...Well, you need not believe in the supernatural to feel haunted...

The bar should be set very high indeed, because death? it leaves an absence in its wake, and you can't go back to the present and argue just that one last time or get in that final word...sometimes the end really is the end, and how would you want to remember it?


Posted by: Zoé Lafontaine, épouse de Wilfrid Laurier | Link to this comment | 02-21-13 12:06 AM
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I'm so sorry, Zoé Lafontaine, épouse de Wilfrid Laurier. that's just heart-breaking. please accept my condolences. I can only imagine that there are many things you wish you had said and done, or not done, but if you called and she told you she loved you heart and soul, and you were there with her at the bitter last, then--it seems to me you did very well. that painful death must be dominating your memories now; but how much worse would you have felt if you hadn't been there? in any case, best wishes.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 02-21-13 5:53 AM
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