So, this blog post has been in the works for a while, and I’m ashamed to say that the final draft remained in my draft folder for many months. With recent events, I’ve decided it’s past time I released this bird as it’s something many can relate to (I hope). Before you read it, I wish for you to know that I did not create this blog in order to throw shade at anyone; that was not my intention. I did, however, state that I would count my losses here, which I do consider this. An unfortunate loss. I don’t have some sweet drink suggestion to sugarcoat this, and I have no desire to bump up my word count talking about the weather. The topic needs no introduction, and I don’t wish to give it one. So, here you go.
When families come together, there is always going to be some amount of friction. Every family is different. Some are laid back while others are more controlling. Some families revolve around sports or music, and some are extremely religious. That’s why there’s always a period of transition when two are forced to merge. With my family…this is an ongoing state.
My mother Katrina remarried some three years ago. For the first time in almost 10 years, we had an adult male in the house (Oh, the horror!). My step-dad, Ben, inserted himself into our lives with ease. Like any full house, we have our ups and downs, but I’m happy to report that it took no time at all to look upon Ben as member of our small clan. We love Ben, and (though he may not admit it) he’s come to feel fondly for us as well. So, you may be wondering where the rift may emerge. I definitely hinted to a little friction, but it’s safe to say that it didn’t originate from Ben. Despite never having to live with kids, he adjusted well. He went from being a bachelor to having a house of five, three of those being teenagers/young adults. His family, on the other hand, is a different story.
At first, they welcomed us with open arms. They were enthusiastic about us feeling like one of their own, especially Ben’s parents. We celebrated birthdays with them, went to church with them, and visited them regularly. It was quite evident that Ben was close to his entire family, and that was not something we sought to hinder. My family, on my mother’s side, is very close, so we understood the importance of family. However, Ben’s family was very different from ours. Where we were relaxed and laid back, they were prone to judge and extremely critical. Easy gossip was what I was used to, but they tended to look down upon those who didn’t live their lives according to their standards. Suffice to say, they are bullies. They are extremely religious, and they were well versed in what the bible said. I, unfortunately, found them to be those people who use the bible as a weapon to embarrass and scorn those around them. Growing up around my mother’s family, I never saw this. My grandfather and absolute favorite person in the world is very religious. He was faithful to his church, and I know him to be a Godly man, but I never witnessed him tearing down those around him with his faith (Which cemented the fact that he was, indeed, a Godly man). Besides being “holier than though,” they also had an obsession with sports. Football was their second religion, and they were just as faithful. They often regarded me with suspicion and frustration because I have no interest in sports whatsoever. They didn’t understand how I could not enjoy the thing they deemed holy! Not skipping church was their 11th commandment unless it was to attend a game (You’ll find it in the footnotes of Exodus where it allows church absence in the instance of a football game). Despite their many ticks, I was nice. My parents taught me to treat people with respect and I did. I tactfully ignored their judgemental demeanor and kept my mouth shut like a good girl (for the most part). Nevertheless, there was one tick of theirs that was hard to ignore.
In the beginning, we were treated as equals. They seemed to try hard to look at us with as much respect as their own nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, but that soon changed. Our flaws were paraded and passed around their dining room table like mashed potatoes while their flesh and blood’s mistakes were overlooked. They showered their grandchildren in compliments and we were usually mentioned as an afterthought, and not always about something very pleasant. You might ask what it was that they reproached us about? Everything, but I’ll just mention a few of my atrocities. I was one of those teenagers who didn’t have the desire to drive (yes, we exist). I had no desire to take or pass the test, and the thought of driving never appealed to me. So, despite studying, I failed my permit test a few times. My mind and heart were not in it, and I soon became frustrated. I’m not one to fail a test, especially more than once. This topic became their main source of entertainment. They laughed and picked at me all the while uplifting their own. Yes, it was insulting and extremely hurtful, but I just ground my teeth and smiled. Eventually, I passed, and I silently applauded myself. I knew I wouldn’t receive any approval from them, but by that point, I didn’t give a damn about it anyway. Atrocity #2: my college selection. Well, as the time approached for me to choose a college, I set my sites high. I dreamed of going to a private university that was renowned for their English program, and I immediately fell in love with a Christian college an hour from where I lived. I was proud of myself for the scholarship I had received, and I fully intended to go there in the fall following my high school graduation. Ben’s family was very open about their disapproval. They repeatedly suggested that I wouldn’t be able to take the high level of learning, and they bet that I couldn’t take the distance from my family. Sadly, my plans fell through, and I ended up attending my local junior college. They silently pat themselves on the back, and assured me that I had chosen a better fit for me. They obviously know what is best for me…(insert murderous eye roll). Transgression #3: church attendance. These loving, blessed people are the ones I mentioned in some of my previous blog posts. They are the first to comment on my absences from church, even going so far as to say that if I were tired, I should come to church anyway (Because my snoring is definitely more pleasing to the Lord). If my siblings and I were to miss more than they deemed fit, they whispered in Ben’s ear about what they thought about it. Poor Ben, always caught in the middle. Their disapproval was selective as they never reproached their own children and grandchildren for their absences. (Apparently, they missed the sermon on fairness and equality).
I draw my monologue to a close with their by far, worst insult: their treatment of Ben. Their alienation is not exclusive to my siblings and I. Ben is the youngest of his family, and obviously the black sheep. He is mercilessly antagonized by his family for every little detail of his life from his weight to his job choice. I, being fiercely protective of my own (as Ben is one of mine now) went from tolerant to hungry for blood upon seeing their blatant disregard for Ben. In my humble opinion, Ben is one of the best men I know. He is kind, devoted to his family, an active member in the church, a hard worker, and he survived becoming a father of three teenagers overnight (that’s no small feat, let me tell you…). Needless to say, this once-welcoming family soon wore out their welcome for me. My temper, which is about as tall as I am, doesn’t do well under repeated prodding, and every time they went to tear down Ben or my siblings, I was seething right under the surface.
In a situation such as mine, there isn’t really a solution. No matter what course of action I take, someone will get their feelings hurt. I trudge on out of respect for Ben, but my efforts are not rewarded as their behavior continues to go unchecked. I can only sit aside idly, biting my tongue and wishing some people weren’t the way they are. I usually try to close these articles with some advice or solution that I found in experiencing my problems, something I could pass on to you. Unfortunately, I don’t have that here. I don’t have answers or solutions. Some people are the way they are, and some things can’t be changed. That’s life. People make it difficult and frustrating. That’s why I try to surround myself with people and things that make it seem not so terrible. People like my family and friends. They don’t eliminate the problems in life, but they make it a little bit easier to bear.