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I have...

...the most unnerving feeling my parents are pouting at me.

The Scenario:

Parent's Anniversary. I catch one of them online, wish them "Happy Anniversary" and think nothing more of it. It does not occur to me that I should send them a gift or anything like that, since I have in my head that anniversaries are a between-the-couple thing and not a family-sends-you-gifts thing.

The Next Day. In the middle of a powerpoint presentation to a professor, a wee iChat window pops up because there is apparently a wireless network which my laptop has lovingly found and logged me onto and turned on iChat and advertised me as "Available". I am vaguely mortified, type out a quick "Ack - in a meeting - Bye!" before closing the window and shutting down iChat. I continue my presentation, feeling slightly addled.

An Hour Later. Checking my email, I see a message from my parents timed 5 minutes after the iChat window incident. It is a Formidable Insidious Guilt Trip (TM) from my parents. It has a "sorry we *interrupted* you [sniff!]" portion, a "look at how helpful and supportive we've been for you" portion, and a "you didn't send us a gift (WAH!)" portion which dovetails nicely with the "how thoughtless and insensitive you are! What a bad daughter!" portion.

I am mortified. My face burns. I have never been the Bad Child before. It is a strange feeling.

Several Hours Later. Having surveyed various and sundry surrounding peers, I determine that it is not, in fact, a generally expected thing to send your parents a gift on their anniversary. I conclude that the guilt trip stemmed from the curt response I gave during the iChat window business. I get quite angry and think this is decidedly (and surprisingly) childish of them to guilt trip me about anniversary presents when what they were really sore about was the curt response. Nonetheless, I send them a painstakingly warm and polite email back which includes a "well, this is why my response was so abrupt - sorry about that" portion and a "sorry you felt hurt and sad and unloved - I didn't realize you expected a gift in addition to warm anniversary wishes" portion.

I have heard nothing since. In fact, the three times they have been online, as soon as I have gone from away to available, they have mysteriously chosen that time to sign off.

I begin to think decidedly uncharitable thoughts about retired people who have far too much time to brood about not getting gifts from their ungrateful children and crafting subtlely acidic guilt-mail.

And still, I feel guilty. Which is the most aggravating thing at all. Well, besides the parental pouting. That's just friggin' unnerving. It's the sort of thing my parents complained their parents did to them and, oh, how they hated it.

I am chagrined (and vaguely chilled) by the thought that perhaps the retirement and being surrounded by people decades older than themselves has turned my parents into the sort of people they themselves used to despise.

And really, I just can't get over the pouting and the omnipresent sense of having my cheeks burn at the thought of that guilt-mail.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2004 07:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear. :( *hugs*
Feb. 27th, 2004 03:52 am (UTC)
[hug back] Thanks. :)
Feb. 26th, 2004 08:49 pm (UTC)

I'm sorry, love... I've ended up on the recieving end of such redirected/invented guilt as well. It does the pearl thing.. something tiny grows into something huge (and in this case, a) imagined and b) really ugly/unpleasant). the only way I know to deal with it if they're not going to make it possible for you to talk to them about it is to really believe what you said in your post above: That they are, through the people they are surrounded by, becoming the bored and petty people that they couldn't stand in the first place.

Added to that, I'll give you the useful but difficult-to-follow advice that my mom gave me when people would say things to hurt my feelings when I was in elementary school: Let it roll off of you like water off a duck. If that's what they spend their time with you trying to do, then they don't get that time with you. Now, the fact that it's your parents makes it much more unpleasant that when it's schoolyard bullies and taunting classmates... but they're still taking your time, instead of giving you theirs, and that makes all the diference.

Lots of love from the local contingent, along wth unending depths of hugs and scritchies and cuddles, and whatever else I can summon up for you to make things better. Keep in touch...
Feb. 27th, 2004 03:57 am (UTC)
Yeah, the pearl analogy is apt (and a horrible pun, besides - points for you ;) ) - it seems like such a big deal to make out of something which is small. Or at least, it seems the wrong way to deal with them feeling lonely because they don't have so much to do - if they want to talk to me and I don't have the time at just that moment, it shouldn't turn into a guilt-mail. It would seem sensible to me to instead follow up with a , "Hey, we don't get to talk to you much - can you give us a call or an email to let us know about your life?" mail.

I think what really gets me is the bitching about one thing when it's another that's really bothering them. That's something I can't recall them ever having done.

[hug] Thanks for good advice things and unending virtual affection. :)

And I swear, we need to have another bridge night at some point... ;)

Feb. 26th, 2004 10:17 pm (UTC)
That's just... weird... I don't even know my parents' anniversary. I mean, for their 50th or something I'll throw a party for 'em, but otherwise I'd never be expected to do that. Heck, they already try and get me to lay off with the other gifts. Weird.

And in related news, this is why I only give my parents one email address that I have (not the school one) and no other chat-type info. Heck, I don't even give out the phone number of the lab...
Feb. 27th, 2004 03:59 am (UTC)
[grin] Yeah, I admit the iChat info has been somewhat more annoying than useful for them to have. On the other hand, it saves mightily on phone bills since I only have a cell phone.
Feb. 27th, 2004 10:36 am (UTC)
Also one of the reasons I avoid having a cell phone as well. That, and my general avoidance of financial ties (got my first credit card at 25) and such.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


Owl Side
Jalen Strix

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