“When I was your age I jumped at every opportunity I could to make money--” my grandfather grumbled through his chicken and diced potatoes. “--given the ability, I would always do it.” The silverware clattered against our plates in discord with his grouching. Papa, normally a quite amiable man, always seemed to turn sour when subjects such as these arose. Constantly conducting one of his many multiple hundred dollar house projects, I always find him muttering about how he’s too old to be doing this and back in his day kids wouldn’t slump around as much.
My grandparents live on a golf course in a rather nice two story house, it’s no secret that they’re well off. My sweet Italian grandmother always managed her money excellently in her youth and my grandpa jumped jobs until he found himself in charge of a prestigious company. I myself have come to the conclusion that these continuous renovations to their are simply my grandfather searching for things to get out of this world and always wanting something bigger; better. This is obviously not going to get him anywhere as nothing in this wild flaming world can satisfy his fleshly desires.
“I could offer Jesse a pretty penny and he’s still far too busy to help a man out,” he continued in his carping. My sweet boyfriend was just about the hardest working man-- if you can call a 17-year-old a man, then that’s what he was, otherwise just about the most mature teenager I’ve ever met-- and perhaps it is my bias speaking, but Papa’s prick at my boy that I was perfectly picturing in my mind’s eye in these moments…bothered me to say the least. There he was, reflecting God’s light with simply his smile and suddenly he frowned. He frowned. He never frowns, especially not within the projection of him behind my eyelids. I frowned at my grandfather.
“He has his own job to worry about, you know,” I mumbled, careful with my words. The last thing I wanted to do was start a family meal bicker. Not again.
“What? Oh his own job?” Papa rumbled, “And how often is he busy with that? How much is he getting paid. Hell, how often is he getting paid?” he snarked. I looked down not quite knowing how to respond. He worked for his dad with a family owned company that runs through our whole county and I knew well enough he was already rather pressed with his own dad teaching him how to take up the business. Grandma murmured something to him and slid her hand down his arm, motioning for him to stop. “No, no, I’m not having it. Back in my day--” there it was again, “--I had my first job by the time I was 12. In my house it was 18 and out. We never had any of this--” he gestured wildly at me. I blinked in shock. Where had I gone wrong? “What’s the problem? It’s that face again,” he looked at Grandma pointing at me with his fork, the silver gleaming in the afternoon light. “they always make that face, they don’t think I’m serious.”
“There’s no need to get all cranked up about thi–”
“I’m not cranked up! I ain’t cranky,” he groused.
“Yes you are!” my younger sister butted in, ketchup covering her sticky fingers. “You’re always cranky now.”
Grandma sighed and brought up something about it being quite cold this morning. Conversation went on in the background as my mind blanked and went off somewhere beyond the kitchen window.
“When I didn’t immediately listen to my dad when I was a kid, you know what he did?” my own father echoed in my mind, lifting up his shirt to reveal his belt. “I got the whippings of my life. Is that how you want to escalate things? Don’t you realize how privileged you are?”
How priviliged I am… if privileged means being a trash can for my family to dump their generational trauma in, gee am I the luckiest young woman to be alive. As if the only thing that was stopping them from giving me the whippings of my life was the Penal Code in Section 273a of our country’s lawbook.
Of course, discipline is necessary, but at what cost? The trust and safety of your children? “Teaching” them a lesson when all they’re really getting is desensitization, invalidation, and overall disrespect towards their own concerns? We teach children to respect their parents, it is after all a Biblical law, but is not respect too a God given right for all? Perhaps it would be a lot easier to respect our elders if we all simply had genuine love towards each other instead of some sort of strangled power hold over the fact that they’re older and therefore deserve more respect than most.
“How do you expect to get respect when you act like that?!” Dad shouted, glaring at the fury and hurt in my eyes. “Respect is a God given right, you are not your sister’s mother.”
“Your previous point contradicts that.”
“You said something that claims respect is earned.” Boy did his eyes burn into my very soul after that. If I didn’t know better, I bet he would have torn my hair out of my scalp at that exact second.
“That is an illusion of this world. That isn’t true. Everyone deserves respect,” he spat coldly. Except me, I suppose? Because how do I expect to get respect when I make valid points toward my problem, and somehow I am still talking back? I am not my sister’s mother but she cannot respect when I would like my cat to be outside, safe from her strangling hold. Specifically when she has her own cat to torment in its place? “Go to your room.”
But I didn’t, I couldn’t, this was no way to resolve something. Hide it away, brush it under the carpet, no, no… but I would have to escape in there anyways to hide away from his booming words. I was wrong, he was right. I had no right, so I paid the price. As my sister stood there in the background blank faced strangling the cat. “You’ll never get anywhere with anyone if you keep acting like this. Especially not with Jesse.” With Jesse? With Jesse? When had anyone mentioned him? At least I can talk to him, to any of my friends really. At least we can talk about our problems and try to find a solution together. At least we can communicate when one hurt the other. At least I can hug them, tell them I love them, cry in front of them without fear or hesitation. You grapple my healthiest relationships into this chain of an instance. One instance. Have you seen my love for them? No. No you have no right to say that-- SLAM. And into my room I went.
“Lazy, lazy is all kids are nowadays,” I heard as I tuned back into Sunday afternoon on October 22, 2023. Lazy? More like traumatized. Pressures from the media, constant lack of needed attention from parents, crooked school system. Suicide rates were up 33% from 2001 to 2018 alone, how do they compare from “back in my day” to now? Not to even mention the divorce rates. Where is a family’s love for God now? So few of these golden families are there left. One of many instances where I am truly lucky is to be able to learn from Jesse’s. Strange how his parents say genuine “I love yous” and how I can say it back easily. Granted, this is without the struggles of mistrust and broken family bonds, but these people have been a part of my life for a rough ten months. Ten months compared to sixteen years. Ten months and I’ve learned more from them about healthy relationships by just watching than from my parents’ constant snipping at me.
Learning and respecting our family’s past is indeed one of the most important things when you’re raising a family, after all, how can you raise someone without telling them how you were raised? Family history, cultures, you just can’t miss out on that. But that is not something to take advantage of in your relationships with your children. Another thing to discern is just how much things have changed over the decades. I feel it shouldn’t be “when I was your age” but “back in my age.” That may make you sound like a prehistoric being of sorts, but it’s the best and most accurate thing I can come up with on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I have no doubt my family and ancestors before them greatly suffered in their families before ours, I am lucky enough to hear it from them nearly every day. I empathsize with them and their suffering, but truly I pray that one day they’ll be able to move past that resent and maybe have time to teach me something of value instead of guilting me into submission. Dad still wonders why I can’t communicate with him. Mom still wonders why I don’t go to her house anymore. Papa wonders why I always make that face. Is not the reason of raising children to give them a better life than your own? Better opportunities? Better caring? Better love? These are my sole reasons for having children of my own one day. Prayerfully they’ll be able to stand a better chance than I did against this wild flaming world.