Saturday, July 17, 2010

Honor your father and your mother

Let's face it. It is a big one. It made the top five. There are even people who point out the parent-like qualities of G-d and believe that this commandment applies to both G-d and Mom and Dad. Both need to be honored. It is required.

But what do you do when one of the parents start acting like a slub and you are having a hard time keeping up with that commandment?

Do you still have to honor your father if he walks all over you? If he treats you like you are worthless and is rude to you every time you speak to him? At what point does this contract dissolve? At what point do you, as the child, have permission to stop honoring your parent? Or do you?

I have always tried to be a good daughter. And some day, I hope to achieve that status. But right now, in this moment, I dont' think I fit the bill.

I started writing this post about three days ago. I was angry with my father because I thought he had changed in his behavior towards me, and I was hurt. But, after visiting with my father for several days, I have discovered something. It isn't my father who has changed. It is me. I am sad, depressed, and feeling unworthy of just about everything.

My father didn't change his behaviors, he has always been this way with me. He has always been a bit of an extremist in his reactions and conversations. The ultimate pessimist, to be sure. And I have always known this and I don't fault him for that. It was just easier to deal with his extreme behaviors when my mom was alive.

During my visit, it occurred to me that my father was not acting any differently than he always has, but I was reacting differently. I realized during this visit, that the buffer is completely gone. And I realized exactly when it started.

Most people would expect me to say that it started the day that my mom passed away, but it didn't. There was too much numbness, followed by too much grief. But, as we began to work our way back to the surface after her passing, I realized that it was Mom who made it easier to deal with my father's extremisms. It was Mom who was able to see the humor and make Dad see the ridiculousness of his words. She was always able to bring him down to the necessary level of normal reactions.

After Mom passed, I still brought the kids to visit with my dad. I thought, and do think, that it is extremely important to encourage a relationship between my children and my father. (And, for what it is worth, I do the same thing with my in-law's but that is a different post altogether.) On one of the very first visits after Mom passed, I tried to talk to my father about my feelings and how I missed Mom..

He yelled at me. He belittled me. He told me that I wasn't "allowed" to be feeling what I was feeling. He hurt me tremendously.

It was at that moment that I started to "notice" his behavior towards me had changed. He was ruder and harsher in his words with me. He treated me less and less like an adult. He tried to make me feel badly for my choices in my adult life. In the end, even after he told me how foolish I was behaving, he would come around and tell me that I knew what was best for my family and my life. It just took him longer than it had in the past. Mom was the one who always showed him that I was a grown up. She was the one who helped him to see that if I were going to make a mistake, it needed to be my mistake. Mom was the one who was always able to talk reason into Dad. I didn't have that ability and I didn't have the ability to separate the hurtful words from the extreme reactions.

And so, after my visit with my father this time, I realized that I am the one who needs to change my reactions. Dad has not changed. There is no need to excuse his behavior, it is the same as it has always been. What needs to happen is that I need to separate his immediate reactions from his words and wait for him to come around to reason. He always does. And he doesn't mean to hurt me when he says the things he says.

It is my duty as a daughter to honor my father. To treat him with respect in all situations. I know that my feelings are true and real for me, and no one, not even my father has the ability to take them away or make them less than I feel that they are. But, that doesn't mean that I can be disrespectful to my father. Instead, I will honor him with my words, and with my actions.

And through that, I will also be honoring my mom, may she rest in peace.

1 comment:

The Red Headed Rebbetzin said...

You are so mature and insightful, and I am sure ths honors your mother as well.