On family, judgement and belonging

It’s been a while since I have written. Between a week long vacation, a busy work schedule and other various reasons, I haven’t been feeling inspired. But some incidents this past weekend have me brain musing again.

Over the weekend, we spent some time at a cabin owned by my mother-in-law. Also there were my brother and sister in law, among other family members. It was a tight fit and there were dogs too. So, basically hell for an introvert with an anxiety disorder.

We arrived Saturday evening after attending the wedding of a dear co-worker of mine. My MIL was nice enough to come up the day before with our daughter so we could go to this wedding. I had perhaps a couple too many cocktails at said wedding, and was a little tired as my buzz was wearing off and walking into the crowd and chaos that was more than I expected. After getting in and whatnot, I settled into my room to just chill. Nothing specific was going. My SIL, who I believe was a little lit, came up to me and said something to the effect of “why are you avoiding us?” I replied that I was tired and it had been a long day, so I just wanted to chill. She replied that “well we have been here since yesterday with YOUR KID and you need to get out here!” I replied that I was tired and just not up to socializing right then. To which she replied accusingly- “are you tired all the time?” And I said, “yea, a lot.” She then left me be. A short while later, she continued this tirade against both myself and my husband, and he brushed her off.

I was super pissed at her about the way we had been treated, and mostly because of the dig a my kid. The insinuation that my kid was some sort of extra burden outside of THE OTHER FIVE ASSORTED CHILDREN there. My kid is just a normal kiddo who doesn’t place more burden on a caregiver than any other kid her age.

In the interest of honoring myself, but also trying to keep the peace, I sent the SIL a private message stating the following:

” [Name]-
We can chat later when you have had time to wake up, but in the interest of avoiding a big “scene”, I have to say that I do not appreciate being treated the way you treated me last night. I can appreciate your desire to socialize, but I had a couple more drinks than was probably advisable at our wedding, and I was tired. I’m also an introvert with an anxiety disorder and crowds and socializing is draining. It’s just my life and I adapt to it the best I can. I would appreciate if you could be more respectful of my choices and let me make the decisions that are best for me.
I also didn’t appreciate your comment about “we’ve been here with YOUR KID since Friday, so GET OUT HERE.” I made those arrangements with [MIL], not with you, and jabs at my kid will not be tolerated. And immediately make me defensive and angry.
Thanks for your understanding.”

The next day, after a long pontoon ride in the sun, she gave all the kids, including mine, fancy organic freeze pops. MY kid accidentally dropped hers, so I went back in and got her another one, and got one for myself (there was a large box). When SIL said my daughter had already had one, I explained the drop situation and she got extremely hostile and judgy at me. At this point, I was DONE. I had kept my tongue long enough, and treatment like this is not my definition of relaxing on a holiday weekend. I informed the hubz, and we left that evening, after telling the MIL the reason.

There’s a ton of backstory on this situation here that I won’t get into, but let’s just say that this SIL and to a good extent, the BIL too, seem to believe that they are better than most people and are the “keeping up appearances” types. They are fond of expensive things. Conservative politically. You know the types. The family ( my hubz’s) is also historically conflict avoidant, where I am a more turn-and-face-it type, but I try to do it with kindness and respect.

My family is not exactly poor. I am a decently successful partner in a law firm, and my husband is quite successful at his job, which is pretty high paying, but blue collar in the type of work. We make a quite comfortable living. However, we are without pretension and are fairly mellow and basic with most things. We value experiences over expensive things. We are thrifty, but not cheap. I’m fairly liberal, and I am working on the hubs to understand that he cannot be politically agnostic. We’re genuine, flawed, but down to earth with a humorous amount of what I call, “crackerness.” We care about our people and our community and we are loving and kid. We love the north shore of Minnesota. Just good Midwestern people.

I don’t understand the need to be superior to other people, especially one’s family. I also don’t understand the need to shame and belittle others. Outside of my rage and defensiveness, I mostly just feel sad about this kind of thing. I feel sad that such people exist, and that they feel such brokenness or lack of self worth that this is how they need to function in the world. I feel so sad that this seems to be where their self worth lies. I hope that they can find a bigger, more abundant life.

I’m thankful that I appreciate more than a narrow view of while, upper middle class america as the only acceptable way to be. I am glad that I am a giving person who doesn’t put much effort into hording tangible things. I look for the “slightly irregular” types. Best people, and friends, I have ever known. These folks are my tribe.

Crap like this goes on until someone puts a stop to it. My love of self and family does not permit me to knuckle under anymore. I’m not sure what I am going to do about all this, but this is what’s on my mind today.

4 thoughts on “On family, judgement and belonging”

  1. **Please accept this as constructive and not combative, which I know will be difficult as you mention your defensive nature.**

    It sounds like your IL’s are a nightmare. At least a few of them. However, I can’t help but be confused by your “turn and face it” mentality, which sells your side nicely, but then read about texting your thoughts, or worse yet, passive aggressively posting them publicly on a forum where they can clearly be found and read (does it get more Minnesotan/Midwestern than that?). Airing out your family grievances on the internet rarely works to resolve the conflict you are so haunted by, rather, it fans the flames of the conflict while you wash your self-righteous hands.

    We all have our views, and it sounds like your life views are more similar to my own than to your BIL/SIL, still, they too have their story. One which you are not totally privy to. I do know the type you speak of, keeping up appearances, etc. Your differing set of values and means of enjoying life doesn’t make it exclusive or correct for everyone. It works for you, which is great, but to each their own.

    One last point, you mention not “understanding the need to be superior to other people”, but you fail to see that is what is happening here. You are equating superiority to material objects, money, etc. Superiority to another person is based on one’s own values and priorities. I can’t help but notice that you make many points about placing importance more on experiences, etc. You point out “politically conservative, you know the types”, etc, etc, etc. I can’t help but feel this is your version of feeling superior to others. By posting this to a blog with a mostly predicable audience, you have propped yourself up among your peers against these family members. A tactic calling out your purported moral superiority, all while criticizing the one who has wronged you.

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  2. Shockingly, you seem to have blocked my challenging comment to your post. I can only assume that if I were to agree with you, there would be a much higher likelihood of you seeing the comment. Not surprising considering your tone in the post.

    I don’t need you to allow my comment to be posted, but my sincere hope is that it challenges you to stop and think, maybe even reflecting inwards. You seem like a relatively smart person, albeit defensive. Hopefully you let your defenses down for a brief moment.

    I also sincerely hope that your hand fences with your family.

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    1. It’s hard to put into words how to describe dealing with them, and we are opposites in most ways, which in and of itself is fine, but they are the type that treats blue collar folks, and really, a lot of people who aren’t like them, as “less than.” A kind of nouveau riche elitism mixed with a false moral superiority. There’s a lot more that makes me think this, but those aren’t my stories to share.

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