Thursday, September 28, 2006

Awesome Times

The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe. Lots of soul-searching and repentance and stuff.

Every year at this time of year, I get this email from my dad:

The Mishnah says For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

If I have offended you or hurt you in any way in the past year, I ask your forgiveness, just as I wholeheartedly forgive you.

May you be sealed in the Book of Life and Health and Goodness and may you have a year of blessing and peace and contentment and prosperity!

I never quite know how to respond. Thanks? Back at you? Anyway. Last year, my sister-in-law sent a similar email. But there was a story there. So, gather round.

About two years ago, my brother called me to tell me that he was seeing a therapist. He'd had a bad childhood, he said. And he had now come up with new rules for communication with our parents. Basically, for several months, he severed nearly all contact with them. It was an awkward, painful time for my whole family. Then, about a year and a half ago, he sent me an email. I don't have it anymore -- I had to permanently delete it because it hurt me to know it was on my computer -- and he basically accused me of being an abusive parent. He said that he didn't like the fact that I -- wait for it -- yell at and hit my kids.

Now. I can count on one hand the TOTAL number of times ALL of my kids TOGETHER have been potched. They have NEVER been hit. They have had their hands slapped away from hot stoves (D. MANY times, because he just doesn't get it), and S. and Z. have had their bottoms potched maybe twice each. Maybe.

Yelling? Um, yeah, I do yell at my kids. You know what? I have FOUR. And at the time of the email, I had three, and I'd been parenting for quite a few years, and I have found that it's somewhat... ineffective to say, "Sweetie, please come down off the table," or "Please stop jabbing the fork into your brother's cheek."

I do not, however, yell things like, "Hey, stupid!" or whatever.

Anyway, I was -- to say I was hurt is like to say I was a little upset when the neurologist said that D. has Sotos. I cried for several days. I called my parents and my friends, and I just couldn't stop crying. But I didn't respond to the email.

A few weeks later, my brother mailed me a card saying that it was obvious his email had hurt me, and that wasn't his intention. He just wanted what was best for my kids.

A few days later, I sent him email telling him how appalled I was by the fact that someone who had NO KIDS and NO PARENTING EXPERIENCE was passing judgment on me, and WHAT THE HELL?

Then my sister-in-law got into the game. She sent an email -- again with the email, WHAT IS THAT??? -- that said that I was being difficult and that the family rift was my fault and that I should be thanking my brother for taking the time to point out the errors in my parenting. And she CC'd my brother, my husband, and MY PARENTS on the email, expecting that everyone would take her side, I'm sure.

You can imagine my response to that.

Anyway, my mom sent my SIL an email saying basically, THE HELL???

And I basically washed my hands of them.

Now, you have to understand that, prior to this incident, my brother and I were very close. We spoke almost daily on the phone, emailed each other during the day, and he and his wife often joined us for Shabbos dinner. And my SIL and I also had a pretty good relationship. It had been slightly strained when I forgot her birthday, which came out as my husband was sitting shiva for his brother, so sue me. But for the most part, our relationship was good.

So. This thing went down, we stopped speaking, and then last year she sent me an email just ahead of Yom Kippur.

This year she sent this:

With Yom Kippur approaching quickly, I wanted to make sure that I apologized to you for anything I may have done to offend, hurt, or anger you in the past. If I have, I am truly sorry. I know that we haven't had as much contact in this past year as in previous years, and I hope that with the upcoming year we can change that. Please tell the kids I said hi.

I know I have issues. I have a hard time letting go of anger. I know that's kind of stupid, but tough crap. They hurt me A LOT, and I don't know if I can move past it. I do know that we can't have what we used to, because I will always believe they are judging me. But can I let go of my hurt enough to move forward? Should I?

Most importantly, what do I write back?


lisa said...

This is a hard one. I don't have any real advice for you because I know I would have trouble letting go of my hurt as well. It seems like you should at least try...even if you don't feel 100% forgiving. As for replying to the email...I REALLY don't have an answer for you there. I agree, what's with the email??

Anonymous said...

I would write back or call and say that you have missed their company and that you would welcome them back in your life. However, I would make it clear to them that the comment they made about your parenting hurt you deeply. (it is over - move on and forgive if you want your brother back). I would tell them that as long as they provide their opinion on how you raise your kids, you are open to a relationship.

If you were that close to your brother, you need to let this go and move forward. He is your brother forever and you will miss him in the end and wish you made up. Good Luck!

PS -- your brother and SIL are cowards for writing an email instead of saying something to your face. Your brother and SIL are wrong too. (this is assuming that you are not a crazy, kid hitting/screaming mother - and I dont think you are) :) Maggie

Anonymous said...

Ok, I meant as long as they DONT provide opinions on your parenting... should have read it before sending! Maggie

Meredith said...

Wow! I am Jewish too but your family sounds way more devout than mine as I have yet to get one of these emails.

But WOW! for your brother and SIL. That is just crazy.

Personally, I think you should write back and tell them everything you feel about the situation honestly. They need to know and I don't think it would be honest for you to just say "no nothing, I forgive you" without a reason. Forgive them if you do, but don't let them get off without knowing what you feel and how hurt you feel. People should not be allowed to just make judgements left and right on others and then be suprised when those folks are hurt by it.

Rambling, sorry.

But, the HELL?

Randall Clark said...

first...I love what your father sent to you via email...that's sweet...yeah I said sweet..and I'm a MAN...not a sissyboy...X-) short...i was an abused kid...sexually outside the home....older kids....just acting out what they saw or experienced...i learned through 4 year of therapy...their hurt, then becoming my hurt was not about me. Their actions did not give me my value not did they judge my value. It wasn't about me. BUT...I took the dirty feelings, turned to fear for safety..turned to guilt..turned to anger..turned to resentment and all that ended up being me...I made it all about hurt became the filter that I ran everything through for the next 30 ish years. Nothing that happened was good enough, I was never good enough, others were not good enouth. (G-d bless my wife and child, who had to endure my "anger and really poor point of view". (today, we are a happy family, my wife thanks me daily for not being that person anymore) now that I've got a better set of life's eyes in which to view others and experience.

There's a word for it I just cant think of it. Anyway, babble babble. I try to think of it this way.... the guy or woman in traffic...who has his/her phone to his/her ear and is moving into my lane while munching a burger, and now I have to slow down or change lanes and be 2 more second late to getting home....becuase this person, this horrible inconsiderate bast...d is too busy being inconsiderate..and on and on....

I have a choice to make...either I manufacture some resentment and believe that this is really about me and it's personal....or I just ACCEPT the truth of the matter and understand that this persons actions have nothing to do with me what-so-ever. My value does not depend on someone's actions. I know who I am, I know my value. Just because.

I'm going through the same with my brother is still upset about our father and his lack of involvement in our lives as "boys". He avoided us because he was geek-ly and we took to sports. I've learned to "forget about forgiving and just accepting" after all I don't need to forgive my fathers lack of involovement...I just need to accept it was the best that he could give me..and anything else is my "judgement of his behavior". My Father in Heaven knows my name, he knows my every father on earth is just a man..and except for the grace of G-d...there go I.