“Hey, can we come get the boys for a play date?”
A simple request from my husband’s sister-in-law, one we were eager to agree to. The next day was Michael’s third birthday party, and we still had some things to pick up—which meant a long walk to the store in cold January weather.
We got home exactly at 7:00pm. The kids were supposed to be back at 7:00, so we were expecting to see my brother-in-law or his wife waiting for us. We called to see if we’d missed them.
Dan’s brother answered the phone.
“No, we’re not quite done yet. We’ll have them back in a little bit.”
When the knock came, Dan opened to door to see his brother and our two boys standing on our step. Aaron’s little five-year-old face was streaked with tears, and his breathing was jagged. In front of them was a stack of toys…the obvious detritus of a birthday party.
Dan sent the kids upstairs. When he turned back to his brother, I saw the unfamiliar flush of anger on his face.
“We’re having a birthday party tomorrow—we’ve already got the cake made.”
His brother shrugged. “We took care of it,” he remarked, and walked away.
Later, after the worst of the anger and hurt burned away, cold reality set in. Our oldest had begged to call us, upset that everyone was at a party his mom and dad weren’t invited to…they’d ignored him.
“I’m done,” I said. “I’m sorry. You can keep dealing with these people, they’re your family—I won’t stop you—but the boys and I can’t. Not after this. I can’t trust them, and that’s not healthy.”
“I know. I never thought they’d do anything to hurt the boys, but they just did.” Dan met my eyes. “We’re all done.”
This post is a response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write a memoir piece about cleaning house, figuratively speaking.
Up until this incident, everything my husband’s family had done had been directed at me or Dan, and we thought we were handling it. (We were SO wrong!) This opened our eyes. Aaron’s tears started up again the next night when we had the birthday party we’d planned, and it was just us and a LOT of homemade cake and ice cream (we’d planned on having Dan’s parents, his grandfather, his brothers, and his sister-in-law there, but of course, they’d all been at the other party). It seems so minor, I suppose, but we weren’t waiting around for major.
We were done…for a long time. We cut off all contact with my husband’s family. We moved from Wyoming to North Carolina without telling anyone except my family. It wasn’t until my husband’s grandfather passed away a few years ago that lines of communication were opened again. We’ve forgiven them, even though they’ve never apologized and I doubt they see anything wrong in what they did that night…much less everything that happened before. We will never trust them completely. We can’t.
People ask, “How can you just cut yourself off from family like that?”
Simple. You clean house. We wouldn’t keep toxic mold around our kids, why would we keep a toxic relationship around them? My only regret is that we gave them the opportunity to hurt our kids first.
Once again, thank you for stopping by and sharing my life with me! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you had to clean house to evict a toxic family member or friend?