On Thanksgiving day, our family spent the day with my mom and dad. My parents live just over ten miles away from us in a semi-rural area where they raise chickens, ducks and geese and grow a good deal of their own produce. As my mom and I did the cooking and the hubby worked on a repair project with my dad, I asked Michael and Blake to write up a list of questions that we could go around the table and ask while we ate. They were questions like, “What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?” “What holiday gift was most memorable?” “What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?”
When we all sat down to eat, the boys asked their questions and we went around the table sharing. As we each shared our memories, it became clear that my dad was having a tough time with some of the questions that were about childhood. Mostly, he just plain couldn’t seem to remember. Blake, being quite sensitive to other people, pulled me aside.
“Mom, I’m getting the feeling that Grandpa didn’t have best childhood. What’s the story?”
I answered that we could talk about it later, not in front of everyone, particularly his grandfather. I also suggested, if he wanted to know right then, that he ask Grandpa directly. He felt reluctant to bring up what might be a painful subject, so he decided to wait.
My dad and I ended up having a quiet moment alone and I shared Blake’s suspicions with him. Dad confirmed what he and I had already talked about in the past. His childhood home was not a pleasant place to grow up, and many of his memories are lost to him.
As we drove home, Blake had me make good on my promise to share about Grandpa’s upbringing. I obliged, trying to sensitively tell him and Michael about the conflict and difficulties my father experienced as a child in his home. They listened intently, and our conversation evolved to where we talked about some of the many kinds of difficult childhood experiences people we’ve encountered grew up with. And we spoke of the resilience that many human beings possess to thrive despite painful early years.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will understand the significance of what came next. For those who are new, I’ll briefly explain that Blake blames my husband and I for any conflict between us and is angry that we see his many rituals as being OCD. He has told us a number of times that we are not the family for him, and he’s been out the door, running away more than once. He holds onto his OCD like a badge of honor, fighting us if we ever point out a ritual. He believes that Mom and Dad are the ones with problems when it comes to OCD – he has none (except us).
A moment of silence fell over the car. We drew closer to home. From the back seat, I overheard Blake talking with Michael.
“We’re lucky to have them for our parents,” Blake noted.
We arrived at our home and began the job of unpacking the leftovers from the evening. Blake walked over to my husband and gave him a big hug and then came over to me and did the same.
“I am so glad that you are my mom and dad,” he said, and I realized that this evening had given Blake the opportunity to realize that he had a reason to be thankful. He realized his parents are not quite so bad as he imagined us to be. Of course, I drank the moment in.
Rest assured, I have no illusions that all will be sunshine from here on out. I know that this is but a brief, shining moment in Blake’s adolescent development. At the same time, I see this as a significant moment – one in which he came to the realization, on his own, that maybe mom and dad aren’t such horrible people. I hope that, in that moment, he also recognized how loved he is and that somewhere, deep down inside, he knows that we are pulling for him to live a healthy, meaningful life.