Abuse, Behaviors, Boundaries, Communication, Contact, Disrespect, Dynamics, Emotions, Exclusion, Family, Godson, Grief, Letting go, Love, Narcissism, Pain, Respect, Responsibility, Selfish, Understanding
Recently, on Facebook, a friend posted a graphic that read:
Sometimes you just have to erase the messages, delete the numbers, and move on. You don’t have to forget who that person was to you: you just have to accept that they aren’t that person anymore.
My first thought was that perhaps they never were the person you thought them to be.
It has been nearly a year since the loss of my relationship with my Godson. This advice about moving on really spoke to me.
I had taken the position, when it came to my Godson, when he was very young, that I would be as supportive as I could be. His father had left his family with no notice and his mother truly fell apart, had a nervous break down. My husband and I are both from broken homes, we understood all the things he was going through and wanted him to know there was something steady and dependable in his life.
He struggled a lot with self-esteem issues, was bullied in school, wasn’t very social when it came to his peers, seemed to have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends. His grandparents had their own ideas about who he should be and how he should behave, but their standards and ideals just didn’t fit who he was.
Because he wasn’t a particularly social person, he found video games and writing fantasy/sci-fi, as out lets and escapes.
Once in college he immersed himself in role-playing games. His interests became more and more limited. All he would talk about were video games, role-playing games. His attitude deteriorated while in college, as he’d decided he knew more than any of us and it was his job in life to correct us. He told us our experiences meant nothing to him and he became more and more defensive and sensitive to anything we had to say, always interpreting our comments as being ‘put-downs’ against him.
Finally, after a lengthy period of very obnoxious, arrogant and selfish behavior I’d had enough. During an hour long conversation during which he monopolized the topic – his video games – I’d confided to him that I didn’t understand the draw, probably never would, as I hadn’t played the particular game he was talking about. He turned to me and said, “I’ll try to give you an analogy so you can understand.”
I was instantly hurt. I had been listening to and supporting him for years. I had no interest in his video games, the role playing games or even the genre he chose to write. I had listened, tried to show interest. His mother refused to listen, even as a courtesy. I tried to show him consideration and caring, by listening, giving him an out let to share his interests, but that wasn’t enough. When I admitted that I couldn’t understand the upset about a certain video game’s ending, I didn’t realize I HAD TO understand, that listening wasn’t enough.
I disengaged with him that day. I just shut my mouth. I knew if I kept talking, I was going to say something I would regret and I realized at that moment that the discussion was going to become an argument and would likely escalate if I continued to engage him.
He left our house, later that day, after I made him brunch and we watched movies. I told him to be careful, he really didn’t speak to me. Weeks went by without any contact. My husband and my Godson’s mother tried repeatedly to encourage him to come and talk to me, that he should apologize for being so condescending. He said he would not apologize because he had nothing to apologize for. He’d decided I was upset because of the analogy he’d made, not understanding it was a much larger issue than that.
Weeks turned to months, then I was scheduled for surgery. Everyone around me thought for sure that he would come and talk to me before the surgery, but he didn’t. He didn’t come to see me after the surgery. Months have now turned into nearly a year.
After my surgery I’d decided if he didn’t come to talk to me within a certain amount of time, it was going to be too late. There was too much hurt, it had been left unattended for too long, I felt I had to draw a line, put my foot down and let this young man know that he could not continue to treat me as he had been, could not continue to be so disrespectful and condescending, that it would not be tolerated any longer.
I’m the person who babysat him 8-10 hours a day, potty trained him, encouraged him to write and draw and to pursue his dreams. I’m the person who was always there to listen, who offered emotional support and never turned him away. I was the person that supported him through college, making sure (along with his grandparents) he had everything he needed while he was there, I taught him to drive, indulged his interests, but it was so easy for him to walk away.
When I made the decision that he had let too much time pass, that it was too late to re-establish our relationship and that it would/could never be the same, I cried, but it felt good to take a stand and look after myself, rather than sacrificing myself so that someone else could feel good about themselves… but as time has passed, I’m struggling with how easily and completely he removed me from his life, as if nothing I did for him over the course of 23 years had any value or meaning.
Now that a year is quickly approaching I find myself questioning my efforts to encourage him, empower him, support and care for him. Did any of it have any real value? Was I kidding myself, thinking I was doing the right thing, the responsible thing, but really allowing him to use me, take advantage and give nothing, even respect, in return?
Perhaps he was never the person I thought he was… perhaps he wasn’t the victim of his circumstances, but the catalyst, through his attitude and behavior.
I write this blog to share that yes, we should move on, when a relationship or person isn’t really good for us, when we’re not being respected, that yes, we should be strong enough to just put our foot down and say, “enough is enough”, protect ourselves, BUT… understand that even if you make that decision for yourself, it will still hurt, there will still be a sense of loss and even if it is absolutely the right thing to do, it may be terribly painful for a long time.
I see my Godson now, as a person I really probably would not even want to know, not as the person I thought he was. I think what I’m grieving for, what I’m missing, is the person I thought he was, the person I wanted him to be, the person I thought he had the potential to be.
I just realized, while writing this blog, that my Godson was exhibiting the same behaviors that my narcissistic mother did, having to be so competitive, having to always be right, to demonstrate that he was superior and telling us how nothing we knew or had ever done had any meaning in his life. I see now, that my disengaging from him that day, from the imminent fight that day, was a manifestation of my growth and separation from my abusive mother and childhood.