I remember my grandma being partial to my brother when we were kids. It wasn’t even a secret. It was undeniable. It was loud. It was obvious. And it hurt me. I could see the difference before I learned how to speak. My 5-year old brain was trying hard to understand the reason for the different treatment my younger brother and I got from our grandmother. At first, the most logical reason, according to me, was the fact that my brother was two years younger than me. I said to myself: “He’s younger. Grandma has to baby him because he doesn’t know any better.”
However, as we grow up, I couldn’t find another reason to justify the different treatment. I couldn’t protect my heart anymore, so I had to face reality. I didn’t know the reason, but I knew that grandma loved my brother more than me. All I could do is withdraw, and that only intensified the special treatment.
My parents, other grandparents, and my aunts all noticed and tried to explain my grandma’s behavior to her. Sometimes she said it was my fault for not being too pushy as my brother; other times she promised to do better. But, she never denied her behavior. Nothing ever changed, and I was hurt over and over again. When I was in middle school, I shut down entirely when it comes to the relationship with my grandma just to protect myself. I felt like the connection that was so special to some grandmothers and their grandchildren was irreparably broken. The years of rejection numbed me, so I was just respectful and polite, nothing more. I made peace with this and I hoped the trauma was finally over. But it wasn’t.
Even though she was silently rejecting me for a decade, she noticed when I withdraw. It was as if my unsuccessful attempts for her attention and love served some weird purpose in her life. All of a sudden, I found myself carrying the burden of maintaining a relationship with my grandma that didn’t even want that relationship, and I was still a child. There was a drama every couple of months.
Oh, Jessica hasn’t been by to see mom.
You know she didn’t buy her anything for Mother’s Day?
Jessica doesn’t love mom.
More traumas. More conflicts. Only the cause for our broken relationship was never a priority to find or fix it. My parents tried to keep the peace for a while. But, one day, just before I turned 16, something changed for my parents. My dad told me I could stop doing anything to maintain that relationship and that it’s my decision if I’ll make any gestures or not.
Although unintentionally, my dad gave me the most important lesson about tolerating mistreatment and abuse in relationships – you simply don’t! No matter if that person is a friend or your family, you avoid them and love them only from a distance. You don’t deserve to be treated that way, especially if you’re still a child. We often fail to understand how vulnerable children are, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to protect them from emotional and physical abuse. So, if a relative’s personality defects or personal struggles are hurting your child, it’s better to cut back the access they have to your child. In the end, it’s your job to advocate for your child’s emotional wellbeing and teach them how a healthy relationship should look like, isn’t it?
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