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I’m Teaching My Kids That Nobody Gets To Treat Them Like Crap

My family has routinely crossed the line and the boundaries I have set.

Originally Published: 
I am teaching my kids their grandparents don't get to treat them like crap.
Dobrila Vignjevic/E+/Getty Images

A few years ago, I stopped going to family gatherings if I wasn’t feeling up for it. I’m not talking about being in a bad mood or feeling tired or just not wanting to leave the house. I’m saying if I thought it was going to affect my mental health and it was going to push me into a spiral, I wouldn’t go. The experience was just not worth it to me.

I have a strained relationship with my parents and some of my siblings. This is not anything new. My entire life I’ve always sucked it up, dealt with it, and allowed their feelings to be more important than my own.

My family has routinely crossed the line and the boundaries I have set. And so it wasn’t a huge surprise that when I decided to longer attend family gatherings it didn't go over well. My family not only talked about me behind my back, but they started talking about me to my kids. And that’s when things really blew up.

For a really long time, I allowed my family to treat me like sh*t. And in a way, I was teaching my kids it was OK by allowing it to go on. I somehow thought my parents would be different with my kids, and I hoped they would change. But they didn’t. So I decided no more; no more going to things or events just because I thought we should go.

The holidays can be a really hard time to navigate family gatherings. The family drama doesn’t go away just because you put up a tree and exchange presents. In a lot of ways it might be heightened. Your hopes that this year will be better and different might come crashing down ten minutes after you arrive. Your family members are toxic. All the lights and music in the world can’t take your anger away. And that can be really frustrating when you’ve done everything you can do, it hasn’t helped.

The naysayers might say that by opting out of the holiday get-togethers, my kids are going to be alone in the future and not be able to deal with family issues, and I should just suck it up. My kids might do the same thing to me one day.

That’s a horrible, toxic message. Because that means I am actually teaching them to “suck it up and deal with it” when someone doesn't value them. I’m teaching them that the only way to “deal” with family issues is to get stepped on. Instead, what I am teaching them is they deserve to have a peaceful holiday. To feel comfortable. To stay away from unnecessary stress and drama.

I hear things about forgiveness and forgetting and letting things go of the anger and resentment. I refuse to teach my kids that just because they’re related to someone they have to put up with something that’s unhealthy. They don’t have to like all of their relatives and neither do I. I’m not going to spend the holidays, or any other day, with them if I don’t want to.

Instead, I’ve decided to create a new pattern for my family. We will not be made to feel guilty if we don’t want to take part in something because it makes us feel horrible for days afterward. Yes, it’s incredibly hard to do this. Family members love to paint you as the Black Sheep or Trouble Maker or tell you that you are stirring the pot by not showing up because how dare you stand up for yourself and remove yourself from a toxic situation.

But I’m determined to do it because I want my kids to not only have a better childhood than I did, I want them to see it is possible to break the cycle and do what’s necessary to grow and change and heal. And for me, that means not putting up with the way my family treats me. Full stop.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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