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  • Writer's pictureTina

Please Be Sure You Are Making The Right Kind Of Memories

Well, dear reader, tomorrow is the big day! The day we gather to eat delicious food, enjoy each other's company, and perhaps watch football if you are that kind of family. With the upcoming holiday season now upon us, I want to offer you a bit of insight into the holiday season. Yes, ideally, this is a time of happiness, joy, gatherings, and warm, fuzzy feelings. However, we need to remember that our lives are not a Hallmark movie; our families do not follow a well-written, mushy, albeit predictable script, and no one is perfect. What is important is honoring yourself and your nuclear family. We must remember that even the littlest person remembers things, and we need to be protective about the memories that are created for these small, innocent vessels.

I have a family member that I don't see very often anymore. Inevitably, in the event I run into this family member, they ask me or my child if they remember them. My gracious child, who never wants to hurt anyone, always responds with a smile and an affirmative nod. However, what my child remembers about this person is not what this person would want to be remembered for, I am sure. In the previous times, when I continued trying to repair things that weren't mine to fix and help those who didn't want my help, I exposed my daughter to people I knew were not healthy. It is the way I grew up; it is the way it has always been, and sadly, it is the way it continues to be.

After years of trying to cultivate a healthy relationship between this family member, my child, and myself, if I am to be transparent, I finally understood that I could not manifest what I wanted and needed. Some things are beyond your control, like fixing other people's problems. I tried forcing a healthy and safe relationship with someone who sees no fault in their actions or behavior and refuses to take ownership of said bad behaviors. At the core, I am a people pleaser, and I will put up with a lot to maintain unhealthy relationships to have the person I love in my life. However, my child, her peace, and her well-being were a turning point for me.

I began to see the unhealthy behaviors of the aforementioned family member when my daughter was four years old. The Bean had slept over at this person's house upon this person's request. When I picked up Jordan from her sleepover, she was not her usual happy little self. I asked her if she was feeling okay. She replied yes but did not want to return to this person's house because they "talk mean." That, dear reader, was my first wake-up call, and I honored my child's request. As adults, we should not force our children into situations where they don't feel comfortable. We should not make our children build relationships with people who make them feel uncomfortable for any reason. Children have excellent instincts. Rather than ask them to dummy down their natural awareness of the vibrations of others, we should encourage them to nurture these instincts and trust their "gut."

This same family member does indeed talk mean to others when the mood strikes, and they have no accountability or remorse for their actions. This toxic behavior of "It's just how I am. You can take it or leave it." It is not healthy for children. Primarily when this behavior affects the child and their perception of self-worth and self-esteem. When we force our children into relationships with these people because they are family, we love them, it's just how our family is, and all the other excuses we make for someone's bad behavior, we send a dangerous message to our children. We are silently sending the message that it is okay for someone to belittle you, embarrass you, make you feel small, make you feel less than you are, disrespect you, physically harm you, and be submissive. That is not how I want my girl to view herself or accept toxic, destructive behavior in the name of love.

There were dozens of other unhealthy episodes my child witnessed over the years. However, the final straw was when my family member kicked me in the ass as I walked out the door, trying to escape a volatile situation. This person followed me up the sidewalk, calling me names like "an old fat sow" and a "fat old heifer." As I got into my car, I was told to get off HER property and slapped across the face with her full force. All of this was in front of my child. Jordan and I both sobbed the whole way home. At one point, I had to pull off the road to climb into the backseat to comfort her. When I returned home, I remember setting her in the living room with her favorite toys, and I went to the kitchen to slide down to the floor and cry silently behind the kitchen island so as not to alarm her further. That was the last time I permitted this person to mistreat me in front of my child. At that very low point, it hit me like a ton of bricks that these were the memories my child would carry with her throughout her life. Bitterness, rage, anger, self-loathing, and abuse are what I was exposing my beloved little girl to all in the name of family.

Soon after, this relationship dissolved completely. I tried setting boundaries for what was acceptable, but it was to no avail. Boundaries merely enraged an already volatile disposition. It was then that I understood I had to make a stand, even if it meant losing this relationship. I was forced to decide between my health and well-being and that of my daughter or a relationship that has been troubled my whole life. It was a painful and stress-filled time in my life, but now that I have put time and distance between myself and the situation, I understand it is for the best. Do I have regrets? Absolutely. Do I continue to wish for a relationship that will never be? Of course. However, I no longer have to soothe my child after an enraged outburst over something of no significance. I no longer have to explain destructive behaviors. I no longer have to protect her from the dysfunction that is an integral part of my extended family.

Our holidays are blissfully uneventful. We now select who we invite into our world. If you are among those invited into my inner circle, you are respected and valued, and your love is coveted. I no longer keep the door open for just anyone, hoping for the best and making excuses for the worst. There is nothing more valuable than peace, both inner and environmental. These days, I now experience both.

Before gathering with family and friends this holiday season, remember that memories are being made. Please ensure they are the memories you want your children to carry throughout their lives. Trust your children. Honor their requests. Covet their innocence. As an adult, I understand that setting boundaries is entirely acceptable. There is nothing wrong with saying "no" to any request. As adults, it is our job to protect those who cannot defend themselves, who don't have a big voice, who are absorbing little sponges, taking in everything, and gleaning messages whether they are being shouted or sent silently.

Family isn't just blood relations. Kindred spirits recognize the good in each other and are not afraid to lift each other up. Family is built upon not only love but also mutual respect. It matters not someone's title in your family unit. If that person does not treat you and those you love with respect, love, and acceptance, they are not your people. Find your people and hold them tightly.

I am in no way advocating for family estrangement. Trust me, if my life could be filled with relationships built on trust, mutual respect, healthy boundaries, and healthy interactions with the people I love, I would not want it any other way. However, fighting a losing battle with those who do not have the same expectations, beliefs, or morals is no longer serving me. It is a disservice to them and me for trying to force something that will never be. It is also unfair to my daughter for me to preach against those things in our home but accept them from others because they are "family." I never want my child to view me as a hypocrite.

I give you food for thought on this day before Thanksgiving and the kickoff to the holiday season. If your family gathers harmoniously and your days are filled with love and laughter, I envy you. If you walk on eggshells and have anxiety over family gatherings, I understand. If you spend your holidays alone because you have no family, your people are out there. Don't be afraid to find them, include them, and cherish them. Life is too short to spend it miserable, alone, and filled with angst. We only have a small window to create lasting memories with our children. Make sure the memories you leave with someone are memories you would be proud to call your own.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, stay safe, be smart, remember little ones absorb everything we do and say, and keep your behavior in check; it's okay to set boundaries, trust your gut, cherish your peace, it is okay to love from a distance, and keep washing your hands. Oh, don't forget to gobble 'til you wobble! Enjoy the holiday.

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