The Houses We Live In

mindfulness, parenting, expectations, children, disappointments

I’ve been having minor, yet irritating, disagreements with my dad the past few weeks. I’m having some minor renovations done in the house, as well as changing lots of things within the house. He’s been visiting to help me out.

And he is ruminating on the doorbell chime, the balusters and newel posts for new railing, the chandeliers, the furniture. We have very different tastes, and different priorities. It’s exhausting reminding him of this. He feels strongly about sharing his opinions.

And our opinions are very, very different. These minor disagreements are fueled with intense feelings, and lots of frustration. I realize it’s not about the doorbell chime. It’s not about the balusters. It’s not about the chandeliers. It’s about the fact that I am not the child he wanted. I will never be the child he wanted. He tells me this through light fixtures.

Before I became a parent, it was easy for me to say he should just accept who I am, and love me unconditionally for me. But now I understand, as I have two children myself who I wish were slightly different in their own separate ways. As a parent now, I feel sad for my dad. I wish I could be who he wanted me to be. But I’m not.

So here’s the thing. He absolutely loves me. And I completely love my children. But relationships, they’re messy. When we have close, intimate, authentic relationships with people–siblings, parent/child, significant others, close friends–there’s a lot of investment of ourselves in them. There’s a bit of enmeshment inherent with them. There’s expectations involved. And inevitably, we will be disappointed in them and by them. We will feel frustrated because of our investment in them. It hurts when they show they are not who you wanted them to be, or expected them to be.

I try to remember this when I feel frustrated or disappointed with my sister or my son or my mother or my boyfriend. I try to remember it’s not personal. But it is a little personal. Because I’m part of this relationship. But mostly it’s not about me. It’s about how he or she is living his or her life, and how I may not agree with it or like it.

And it’s up to me to decide if the hurts and acceptance of the other person’s true self is too much and I need to end the relationship. Or if I simply need to change the relationship. Or accept it as-is entirely.

So I try to remember to be kind and gentle when I remind my dad that this is not his house to live in. He’s made his house. And I moved out a long time ago. I’m making my house now.

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