If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

It was my son’s birthday on Thursday. He is now a fully fledged teenager. I am not worried about dealing with a teenager because I deal with teenage-like behaviour from my parents and sister on a regular basis. I am expecting that my son will give me much less trouble.

My mother left a garbled, breathless message on the answering machine a week ago. At first I was worried, thinking that she was ill. As it turned out she was merely in a hurry to get everything out.

You’ve probably done it yourself. You know that way you feel when you have to call someone you don’t really want to speak to and you do a mental high five when you realise they’re not in and you’ve got the machine? So you speak really quickly in case they come home as you’re leaving the message and actually pick up the phone.

I had called my mother to ask her if she’d like to come over on her grandson’s birthday. I didn’t think it was that outrageous a request but my request was met with a cursory : You don’t need to ask me because you think you have to.

So I hit the ball firmly back into her court, saying : I asked you because I wanted to. Whether or not you come over is entirely up to you.

She and my Dad came over for Nick’s birthday. I was pleased. I was also perturbed. I don’t want any bad blood between us but it lingers as if my mind was a table and someone had carved the sour memory into it.

For an hour or so it went well. We laughed and joked just like the old days. But it seems that past and present are tied together more tightly than I thought because the old accusations started creeping in.

I was proud of myself. I sidestepped as skilfully as any dancer. Some people just can’t help but play the same old games, but I have dealt myself out. Permanently.

When they saw I wasn’t going to bite they changed their tune. Relaxing into neutral topics like discussing the weather. I offered a silent prayer to the rain gods that they had been as active as they had of late as we talked of muddy roads and methods for getting laundry dry.

I don’t know how I’m going to traverse meetings with my parents in the future. I think I’ll just take it a minute at a time. I’ll keep a list of safe topics in my pocket or images in my head that will keep me safe.

Like the sunset I saw tonight. Fingertips dipped in pink and orange paint then swept in parallel lines across the darkening sky. Or the little girl I saw with a red skirt and tights and bright yellow gumboots. Images so colourful they can’t help but cheer.

I know what I won’t do. I won’t wear the shoes they’ve picked out for me. Those shoes will pinch and pull at my feet. So I’ll keep on believing that if the shoe doesn’t fit, you just shouldn’t wear it.

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18 thoughts on “If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

  1. It’s hard to stick to the path when the shoes don’t fit…

    I have much the same dance with my family, slowly they are shifting to my pace but yeah. some tough conversation along the way.

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  2. I just don’t get it Sel. Why would your parents want to “rain on your parade” at any time? From what I’ve read, they are so blessed to have a wonderful daughter like you. Not to mention your husband and son, they sound like gems too. I think you are taking the right approach. As the saying goes: “we can’t control anyone’s actions but we can control our reactions”.

    Hugs and Happy Weekend, G

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  3. First, Happy Birthday to you son!

    Unfortunately, when it comes to your family I think you should walk barefoot. Wait, maybe not. Then it’ll just be easier for them to step on your toes. You need the Doc Martins!

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  4. Good for you for putting out the olive branch, but what a pity it was taken with such bad grace.

    Maybe they’ll eventually see you for what you are, rather than what they want you to be .. (have patience; it took me over 30 years! :D)

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  5. Two sayings come to mind: “The willow knows what the storm does not: that the power to endure harm outlives the power to inflict it. ” Blood of the Martyr. But most important: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Unknown. DO NOT LET ANYONE TAKE YOUR PEACE!!! Hang in there!

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  6. NAT:
    And you can’t give up, can you? You have to just keep pushing away or else you’re back where you started. I am exhausted thinking of the work that lies ahead.

    GERALDINE:
    My friend, Mel, hit it on the head the other day. She said that my parents don’t like that I don’t cling to them emotionally. It makes them feel they can’t control me. I definitely think there is an element of truth in that. But what a skewed line of thinking!

    EMPLOYEE 3699:
    I need the steel capped work boots, I think.
    Thanks for the birthday wishes. Nick will be pleased.

    TRAVELRAT:
    That’s the key, isn’t it? Seeing me for who I actually am. Who would’ve thought it would be so difficult. I know it took you a long time. That’s one of the reasons I really value your advice!

    KATHI:
    You are awesome. Both of those quotes are beautiful and uplifting. Thank you for your support and kindness. I am really grateful!

    MOTHER HEN:
    It wasn’t easy. I actually felt sick before they came over. I’m glad I did it but it was tough. Don’t be too hard on yourself. These relationships are difficult to traverse. Give yourself some time!

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  7. Have I ever recommended the book “Boundaries” to you? It’s an excellent look at postive ways to deal with difficult people – especially if they’re family members!

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  8. ANTHONY:
    I do try to do that but sometimes IT IS HARD. No point in dwelling on the gloomy side of things though because there is always chocolate and Monty Python!

    GROOVY:
    I need that book. I’ll see if I can find it on Amazon. Thanks for the tip!

    MELEAH:
    What you just said has really struck me because I realise my parents aren’t being all that grown up. It puts things into perspective a bit more.
    Cheers, hon!

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  9. Happy Birthday Nick! I feel for you Sel; I too have to do a mental list of safe topics before I make a call to any of my family. It’s awkward and demoralising – and then they wonder why I call so seldom… Chin up – you’re right to ditch those shoes.

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  10. I admire you so much for being the bigger person Sel. I can only imagine what a strain the whole ordeal must have been but you can always hold your head up high. I’m proud of you.

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  11. why must familial relationships be so complicated.. it seems like mine have always been complicated and thus i can empathize with you on the wearing of a shoe that just doesn’t fit when dealing with family…

    good for you selma,, just dont even bother trying it on any more….

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  12. It’s rocky but the boat is still sailing isn’t it? You’re attempting to bring ur mom into ur life and hopefully she understands and will be reasonable henceforth. Good job Selma!

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  13. Oh this makes me so happy! I don’t think you realize what you’re doing, Selma. You’re breaking the patterns, freeing yourself and future generations from that damaging pattern. It’s not an easy thing you’re doing, and there will be pitfalls along the way, but you’re smart and you’ll see them. Go Selma! Go Selma! (See, you have a personal cheerleading system too!)

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  14. DAOINE:
    It is demoralising, isn’t it? It just doesn’t have to be that way. The games people play, eh?

    THE HURRICANE:
    I love those days because usually they fling in the bait, I take it and they reel me in. Love being on my toes. Oh yeah!

    ROMANY:
    I do want to do the right thing. But it is so exhausting. I had to have a little lie down afterwards!

    PAISLEY:
    I know that shoe isn’t going to fit just by looking at it. I don’t need the aggravation anymore. I’m going barefoot!

    ROSHAN:
    You’re right. The boat is still sailing. It’s a bit choppy out there but at least I have set sail!

    TEXASBLU:
    I hope this cheerleading system has pom poms. I need pom poms!!

    It has made me feel I am doing the right thing after reading your comment. Breaking the patterns of negative behaviour is very important to me. I won’t give up now 😀

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