Disabled family cohesion

Yesterday was my daughter’s last high school holiday choir concert. My mom went and some close friends. You can really tell how close your friends are if they offer to go to see your child perform. I really appreciate that. Our family is a little more sketchy. My mom makes it out to 99.9% of my kids events. My mother-in-law says she is going to 50% of things and usually would cancel out last minute and make it to 20% of things. I think that not showing up at all is better than saying you are going and not showing up or giving a lame excuse not to go. My dad and brothers are very sporadic about showing up to events.

My kids all have late spring/summer birthdays, so year after year I would throw a family party for them all at one time. A couple of years back I decided to cancel the family birthday party due to lack of interest. I felt very frustrated and angry about the whole thing.

Then a couple of days ago I really started to examine the reason why there is this lack of cohesion within my family. Then I remembered every time that we went on family vacations together, all of the times that we went out to eat as a family, the hugs, the laughter, the times that my whole family came out to see my concerts, my graduation. Then I realized that none of that happened. No family vacations, I can’t remember ever going out to eat as a family when I was young. Those things didn’t happen.

This is what REALLY happened. My mom had to find someone to take care of my brother Matt to come to my events. Lots of times my dad would stay home with him. Matt has autism and Tourettes. Taking him out in public to an event such as a concert or graduation was nearly impossible when he was younger. He would often have a melt down in public. He was hyper with a lot of anxiety that he would have a melt down. His anxiety caused his tics to be worse. Tics included hand flapping, eye twitching, and throat clearing. At the very worst, he would injure himself or others and had so much anxiety that after going to an event he would be nervous and throw up for two days afterwards. People were a lot less sympathetic towards those behaviors back when I was young.

So my brothers and I grew up living separate lives. We went to separate schools. We did not support each other. We never learned how. Luke didn’t go to my college graduation or party that followed it because he chose to be with his friends instead. When Luke graduated from college, I went but had my husband stay home to help take care of Matt. When Mark graduated from high school, I didn’t go and went to work that evening instead. Mark never went on to school and I missed his only graduation. It was only later that I learned that family events are important but I can’t go back.

But I can move forward. I can show my children how important it is to support their siblings. I can encourage them to attend their events. I tolerate them saying that they are bored. When is it going to be over? Is it almost done? I am trying to teach them this lesson now so they won’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.

It took me a long time to get over the hurt, depression, and worry involved in extended family events. I can finally say that I get along with my parent and brothers the best that I have ever gotten along with them. I do see my brothers, especially Luke, making more effort to have a relationship. Matt has an easier time going out to events. Things are finally coming together in my story.



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