Gabbie has been seeing her boyfriend Ken for about 18 months now. They plan to move in together in June, which is great news for Gabbie because she's hoping to make him husband #2 as soon as possible.
I'm good with that, by the way... It'll be a relief for me to no longer feel responsible for her.
Because I know and support Gabbie's ambition, I wasn't at all surprised when she told me Ken would be joining us at her mother's big family Easter Brunch this Sunday. She probably even asked me if I cared if he came or not, but I can't remember. I assume she did and I assume I said, "It's fine by me," but even if she didn't ask, I don't care either way.
What I do remember is that she wanted me to talk to our two younger kids (15yo Rose and 17yo John) to make sure they don't do or say anything in front of Ken on Sunday that might embarrass her.
"Yes, I'll talk to them," I promised.
Since Easter Sunday is still days away, I hadn't planned to ask for trouble by talking to the kids too soon. I've learned through experience that it's best to provide "parental guidance" once we're all in the car on the way to whatever event I've committed them to. Of course they complain when I do that but I don't care. The way I see it, as long as I'm their only chef, chauffeur, maid and benefactor, they're required to happily comply when I ask them to do something. My requests are rare so it's not like they're being abused.
Well, as you might have guessed, they got early notice of Ken's impending Easter appearance and they're not happy about it.
At first I thought their complaints were garden-variety teenage bitching but it turns out they're more than that. My self-absorbed son's objections were especially surprising because he spoke passionately about how much he hated the idea: "It's disrespectful to you, Dad. I don't like it. I don't want him to come."
My daughter, who has strong opinions about everything - especially her mother - was somewhat less passionate, but still agreed with her brother.
I expected them to drop their objections once I made it clear that I'm happy to welcome Ken into the family. But I was wrong about that - sort of.
The problem is not with the concept, but that they don't believe me. They can't imagine that I won't be completely humiliated when Gabbie shows up with Ken on her arm. They think I'm a doormat for her. They think she treats me badly and I do whatever she wants, like a pathetic loser. She'll bring her boyfriend to show off and I'll be banished to the kids' table, where I'll try (and fail) not to look incredibly uncomfortable the whole time.
They want me to stand up to her and tell her what a terrible wife and mother she's been. They want me to make her feel bad for what she's done and the poor decisions she's made.
I understand their hurt and anger. I feel it too. But, as I explained to them, getting hostile with Gabbie won't accomplish anything. She is a flawed person. That's who she is. And as such, she will have to live with the consequences of her actions for the rest of her life. Maybe that will be a good life, maybe it won't. Either way, being mean and vindictive won't make our family any happier, nor will it make me feel better about myself, nor will it cause Gabbie to suddenly morph into a different person.
"But Dad, she's always bashing you behind your back. And all you do is defend her!"
"Yes, and the reason she bashes me is so you'll be sympathetic to her. How is that working out so far? Maybe someday she'll learn that bashing me only makes her look bad, but I can't explain that to her because it would come off as self-serving. You two will need to explain it, or, she'll have to learn it on her own. Either way, I don't need to bash her. She's an imperfect person like we all are, and I love her despite her faults.
"Also, and most importantly, I know first-hand that life is short. I don't want any of us to spend our limited time together fighting. It doesn't do us any good and the last thing I want is for something awful to happen and then be plagued with regret forever. Life is too short to be mean to other people, even when they're mean to you. Besides, when they act bad and you respond in the same way, you become ugly just like them."
I don't think the kids completely agree with me, but they get the point. Certainly my son does.
I've been telling my kids for years that life is short and they should always be kind to the people they care about. Sadly, they'll soon learn exactly what I mean...
Gabbie's sister's husband, the uncle they regard as boring and "a weenie" was diagnosed with ALS three weeks ago. Now he's already having trouble walking and swallowing. My kids don't know he's sick yet, but when they find out, they might finally begin to understand what I mean. If not, they'll learn. Watching a healthy person decline, suffer and then suffocate to death is a horrible, life-changing experience.
So no, I don't care what Gabbie says behind my back. It only reflects on her anyway. I'm not going to follow her lead. If something bad were to happen to her, I'd never forgive myself for returning her cruelty. If not having regrets makes me appear weak and doormat-like, so be it. I can live with the critical opinions of others. But I could never escape the pain of doing or saying something mean that I'd later regret.
One of the main reasons I'm writing about this is because I suspect that some of you, my loyal readers (!!!), think the kids are right. Some of you think I should tell Gabbie to go fuck herself. Well, that's never going to happen. She's already hurt me as much as I can be hurt. I'm completely impervious now. Which means there is literally no reason to sink to her level. A much more useful thing to do is model positive, uplifting behavior for her and the kids. With that goal in mind, I'll be perfectly happy to sit at the kids' table at Easter if that's most appropriate. And doing that would not be weakness, but strength. I'd be letting the tidal wave of others' opinions wash over me and doing what I think is best.
Having said all this, I expect Easter to be a non-event. There's nothing wrong with Ken. I hope he and Gabbie have a good life together. But I'm done looking backward. I have my own future to plan and consider. So who comes to Easter Brunch in 2015, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter.
On a more salacious note, here's a picture of Scott Eastwood, Clint's son. He was recently quoted as saying he loves his gay fans. I wonder if he'd also love a full-body massage...