I'm currently sitting in our lovely master bedroom in Hilton Head, SC. We drove down yesterday (11 hours baby!) after the girls' swim meet. The trip was relatively easy with only 3 bathroom breaks, 3 gas fill ups and one dinner break. We only had a slight breakdown from L with about 20 minutes left when he woke up and was confused. Today was a great day. Beautiful weather with a nature walk in the morning, afternoon beach and pool, and mini golf in the evening.
The only thing missing from the equation is E. She didn't want to come. We didn't know what to do. We gave her the option of coming down for part of the time and then flying her home, but she chose to stay. She's spending part of the days at home so she can coach, lifeguard and swim (and take care of the animals) and then her nights at either C's or S's depending on who is doing her early morning swim the next day.
It felt so wrong to leave on Saturday without her. Our family vacation should be the entire family and even though she doesn't feel like part of our family, we feel her absence. L has been very worried about her and has talked a lot about her being lonely at home. All the kids are confused about why she isn't here. I don't think we did a very good job at explaining it to them. M seems happy her sister isn't here. M came on the trip last year with us and had a great time. A declared tonight that he misses Oreo our cat, but not E. D hasn't talked about her at all. I tried to explain that she had swimming and wanted to work, but they're too smart to buy it anymore. They know she doesn't want to be with us.
To be perfectly honest, it's nice to have a break from E. Our last two weeks have had some real tense moments. For the first time in a while, I've said no to her and shown my frustration at her behavior. Twice she's been openly defiant, including not answering her cell phone and not coming home when she was supposed to. Not during any of these times, did I raise my voice, but I did act normal with her and reacted to her behavior. At the time, it actually felt good to deal with E like a normal parent and not treat her with kid gloves.
Then I got the bombshell from her therapist. E requested that I talk to Lynne her therapist one-on-one without E. I went to her normal session on Thursday and heard an earful. E told Lynne that she was confused by my anger at her and presented me as someone getting mad at her for no reason. The example she gave, actually, only gave part of the story without me going up to E afterwards and calmly explaining why I was angry. E has presented her home life to Lynne as isolated and with no attention for her. I was dumbfounded. I calmly explained to Lynne what our days really are like. How E and M are constantly demanding attention and all of the things I do for E on a daily basis, including fielding constant texts and commentary on every aspect of her day. Lynne was very surprised. I have to admit it really hurt my feelings that she was telling Lynne these things. We talked a lot about why E is doing this. We figure it was almost like E was trying to get me in trouble rather than deal with the hard things. Maybe her confusion with me was that I was finally treating her normally and not walking on eggshells. Maybe she's deflecting attention away from the stuff really going on. We rented the house. Father's day. Missing her little sisters. Missing her neighborhood swim team. She's also working herself too hard and not getting enough sleep. All of this creates a toxic combination.
She continues to push us away. She has these moments, like in Florida, where she settles and seems happy with us. I got cocky, though, and thought we had turned a corner. I've worked really hard not to take it personally. I understand why she acts this way, but it doesn't make it any less annoying and hurtful. I love E so much, but at times it still feels like a stranger in living in our house.
She did text us all day yesterday while we were driving. She looked sad and uncomfortable that we were leaving without her. I didn't talk to her today, but got a few texts. Part of me misses her, but part of me is happy for this break. Her constant neediness is exhausting.
So, we're all trying to have a good time. It still feels like to me that something is missing. But maybe what's missing other than E, is a bit of the tension and stress she brings with her. I hope the break is good for all of us.