I’m writing this from an airport. Our flight back to NYC was cancelled, rebooked, and the new flight has been delayed.
The joys of holiday travel.
Wife and I just spent a week at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, virtually attached to our nieces and nephew. We also spent a little over 24 hours with my “Mom” and her two golden retrievers over the weekend.
It was a long week that went by fast.
It was exhausting, exciting, stressful, frustrating, triggering, soothing, confusing, nostalgic, loving, fun, and unexpected. I would say it was both an incredibly joyful experience as well as tremendously difficult. But that’s okay, it can be both things at once. I’m trying to let it be, anyway.
It’s too hard otherwise. And this is how I went through my life – separating things into “good” and “bad” and putting huge walls between them to stay sane. But I don’t need to do that anymore, so I am trying to allow being “home” to be an experience that is complex and painful, but also really enjoyable and, quite frankly, something I need every once in a while.
I haven’t seen my nephew since he was born and he just turned nine months old. Too. Damn. Long. My nieces are growing like weeds and I HATE missing so much of their lives. My sister and brother-in-law are both wonderful people who I have a great time being around.
My sister and I actually took a few hours to go see a movie (“Sisters” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler…very funny). That is the first time we’ve done something together, just the two of us, since we were teenagers. We didn’t talk much, but we don’t need to. We find each other’s presence so reassuring and comforting that we never feel the need to fill the space with anything but that.
We did, however, have a chance to talk about some important things. It was hard, as usual, to talk about our toxic family and to drudge up old memories, but I noticed myself feeling much less activated than I usually do during such conversations.
She’s also been increasingly worried about her oldest daughter and after spending time with my niece in person, I suggested that it’s time for a professional to get involved. My niece is okay overall, but she’s notably withdrawn, very anxious (nail biting and hand wringing), a little obsessive-compulsive, and her general mood could best be described as “blue”. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but there’s been a lot of stress in that family, so it can’t hurt to get added support.
My sister was very open to this, but understandably nervous about trusting her child with a therapist (an experience she’s never had on her own). So we went through her insurance coverage and I googled every single therapist in the area to see what I could come up with. I found a licensed clinical social worker about my sister’s age who specializes in children and has a warm, comforting photo on the agency’s website. I also dug a little more and discovered this therapist has her own children and she just looks like a person I’d trust my niece with (I know that social media and photos are not much to go on, but you don’t have much more to go on when choosing a therapist!).
My nephew happened to have his nine month check up this week so when she saw the pediatrician, my sister asked about getting a referral to a therapist for my niece. Turns out the doctor was very supportive and applauded my sister for her proactive parenting (a boost of confidence she desperately needed). My niece should have an appointment within two weeks (damn holidays again!).
I feel a lot of things about this, but mostly relief. When my sister and I were talking this through, the main concern she expressed was for her daughter to miss out on being a kid because she’s so worried about everyone else all the time. My sister was very parentified as a child and although that had more to do with the environment she was living in, she’s still terrified of watching that pattern repeat itself. Especially since her mother (my Aunt) lives with them and tends to use her eldest granddaughter as a similar form of validation as she did her own daughter.
Anyway. There’s so much more to say…about this trip, about finals, about food, about therapy. But for now I think I’m just going to publish this and hope for the energy to write again soon.
I’ve missed y’all. XO.