I was talking to little sister C yesterday on the phone and stating with disbelief that CA had gone to Brunei (yes you heard that right) for 10 days, leaving the girls with the au pair and KM. She did not have to go on this trip. It is not work related (she is a high school history teacher). But she wanted to go and so she did. Leaving, knowing that her wife has been struggling with her role in parenting (doesn't really like kids) and had just started a new job after almost 2 years without work. Purposely missing Easter with the girls and with our family.
During my ramblings of disbelief, C finally interjected and said, "Peg, we just have to come to terms with the fact that CA sees her role as a caregiver not a mom. We can't possibly understand her decisions because we parent and she sees herself as merely a caregiver. The family needed her to take the girls and she did, but this sacrifice isn't going to keep her from doing what she wants to do. In her mind, she took the girls so she deserves to go away and get a break. In her mind, she is leaving the girls with two other caregivers so what does it matter. We have to face facts that KT and MG are being taken care of, but not mothered in the way Jeanne or the rest of us would. That completely sucks, but that's just the way it is."
Yes, it completely sucks. It really sucks for KT and MG who are getting adequately cared for (at times still debatable), but not getting an intimate relationship with their parents. Even the latest au pair has the personality of a brick and there doesn't appear to be any real affection between her and the girls. This is the third au pair the girls have had in two years with the first one being let go after consistent partying and the second one leaving before her contract was done without saying goodbye to the girls. CA and KM have consistently pick au pairs that they can get along with without considering how they'll interact with a 5 and 6 year old. All of this for two children who have lost their parents, been in three different living situations since the accident and not living with their biological siblings. As a result, the girls behavior at times is atrocious. They often hit, bite,and destroy their way through family get togethers. MG in particular is withdrawn, and throws killer temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way.
Unfortunately, this also carries over to our house. We've gotten used to "sister hangovers" from M after she spends any time with them. She worries about her little sisters and sees the obvious differences between our two families. "Is KT happy?" "Are they going to be okay?" "Why can't Aunt CA just dress them in clothes that fit and aren't dirty or make them look like boys?"
E asked me yesterday what our plans for Easter were. I explained our normal schedule and then mentioned that I was hoping to have KT and MG overnight at some point. I told her that I still had to talk to KM. "Why aren't you asking Aunt CA?" she questioned, "Isn't she going to be around for Easter?" I had to explain to her about the random trip to Brunei. "This is just so wrong Aunt Peg, it always has been and it always will."
How do I respond to that? I simply stated, "I know honey and I'm really sorry. I'll do my best to make sure you're with your sisters this weekend."
I finally got hold of KM last night and convinced her to let the little girls come home with us on Sunday night and I'll bring them home on Monday. Their spring break doesn't coincide with ours so that's about as good as we can do. It was pretty apparent that KM isn't happy about C being gone. During our conversation, she repeatedly excused herself to yell at MG for not finishing her dinner. Awkward to say the least. She seemed pretty stressed out. I totally get that, but hearing how she talks to the girls is often so hard to stomach, since I rarely hear her talk about or to them with any real signs of affection.
What makes the whole situation harder is that CA presents such a different front to the family (especially my parents) when we get the rare occasion to see them. Her words just don't reflect her actions. She hides away from us and is afraid to have authentic interactions with us. For example, KT was brought to the emergency room for burns and we heard nothing about it. Her recent diagnosis of severe nut allergies was glossed over, but I have to listen ad nauseaum about how they are both learning Latin in school (pre-K and 1st grade??). I get lectures about how dangerous the "princess culture" is. I'm told not to get them books as Christmas or birthday presents because they already have too many (they have one small shelf of books that are way too young for them at this point with no early readers for MG). I am talked down to like I haven't been parenting for almost 13 years. I know I don't see the whole picture and don't see them on a day-to-day basis. The fact, however, that I don't really know them anymore and that CA doesn't share their family life with us is so troublesome. The rest of us just don't operate like that.
I try to have empathy to her situation. I try to understand how her life of growing up gay in our family has effected her behavior. What makes it hard is seeing how it's affected the girls. It's hard to separate my feelings of empathy with my guilt over not taking the girls ourselves. These are Jeanne's little girls. Up until the accident, I knew them intimately through my relationship with their mom. For the first year after the accident, I often cared for them like I was their mom, bringing them to doctor's appointments, reading to them before bed, changing diapers and cuddling on the couch. I am now mothering their big sisters.
C is right. I can't make CA be a mom when she had lived 20+ years as an adult choosing not to have kids. I can't make KM like kids.
I can try to get them over with us when we can. I guess when you already have 5 kids, what's 7? I can try to keep a positive relationship between the sisters and try to help my girls when they get upset. I can continue to reach out to CA and try to model for her a positive sister relationship so we can improve our connection.
Our new family life is already hard enough and the bleed over from theirs makes things even more complicated. I just wish things were different.