I just wanted to let you know how much your book has helped me recently with my relationship with my older sister. My husband is away for a few months at the moment with work, I miss him a lot, and have two young children so my parents came to help me for a few weeks, as I live a long way from home.
There was a day when my daughter misbehaved at school. I saw the teacher at the end of the day, and we talked about it, and I talked it through with my daughter in her room after school at home, and, because this is not the first time, and because she got very little work done at school that day, I said that I wasn’t going to let her go to ballet class that evening. She was very upset, more so than I thought she would be, and I was surprised, but then again, I thought that perhaps this meant she would learn that she needs to behave in school this time.
I came downstairs and my mum could hear her sobbing in her room, she asked if she could help, and I said ‘go for it’ because, with my husband away a lot, I can use all the help or ‘advice’ I can get. Mum went to talk to her, and then she came down and said that my daughter wanted to apologise, and that they had discussed talking with mummy about how she might still be able to go to ballet. I was a little miffed that mum had put that possibility in her head, as I felt she shouldn’t go once I had said it, but I went upstairs and we agreed that if she came down and did an hour’s good work with Granny, in her school work-book, that she could go to ballet after all, but that she must remember that she might not be so lucky on another occasion, so she should behave well at school and write a letter of apology to her teacher for her behaviour that day.
We moved on from the incident, looking back I felt a ‘win win’ was the best outcome, my daughter understood she had disappointed me, she made amends, and we were both happy in the end.
The ‘incident’ with my older sister came yesterday…
I have always looked up to my older sister (let’s call her Sally), but have also felt judged and criticised by her over the years. We are very different from each other, and often that has felt like she thinks she is ‘better’ than me. She has also been critical of my parents over the years, they don’t get on particularly well with her husband, so there have been some tense times.
Yesterday she called me about the incident with my daughter because, when mum and dad got home they mentioned what had happened with ballet, but that mum had helped out, and my daughter had gone in the end.
Sally, although she doesn’t have children yet (she is pregnant), rang me to say that “I think you were right to say she couldn’t go to ballet”… I was confused about why Sally had called about this to be honest, I thought, why is she bringing this up? Is she calling to criticise mum for getting involved, or to criticise me for ‘giving in’ and letting her go? I explained the situation as clearly as I could, and that I felt a ‘ win win’ solution had been achieved, but afterwards I felt angry at Sally for calling and making me feel criticised, or that she was criticising mum again, as usual.
I re-read parts of your book and thought carefully about what I should do. I wanted to improve my relationship with Sally, rather than just ‘leave it’, it is important to me that we start to get on better, and understand each other more, as I think it’s about time, and particularly since my nephew or niece is about to arrive.
I thought about the call from Sally’s perspective, and decided that her intentions had been good, she had wanted to show ‘support’ of me and my actions, so I sent this email…
Hi, Thanks for your call. I think I get what you were saying now, that you agreed with my ‘taking away ballet’. Sorry, I didn’t really understand what you were saying at the time, I kind of heard a combination of “I am bringing this up because… a) I don’t think mum should have interfered and b) you shouldn’t have changed your mind and let her go… ” – so I think the rest of the conversation was about me trying to explain the whole scenario and why I changed my mind, and how difficult parenting is and life here in general with Stuart away. Just thought I would let you know that, on reflection, I think I understand what you meant in the first place!
This was Sally’s reply…
Yes that was basically it
I agreed with sending a clear message to ……….. that her playing up at school was not in her best interest and would have consequences that she did not like, so that she learns to co-operate at school for her own long term benefit. I feared that maybe Mum undermined that and stopped her learning that lesson fully so wanted to validate your approach cause it seemed that Mum maybe didn’t back you up at the time. I felt awkward bringing it up but would have felt bad about not saying anything since I feel for you with these difficult situations.
On hearing your side it sounds like the ‘win, win’ worked well all things considered.
Glad we could talk it through. All’s well that ends well!
I wanted to say more, because I still felt annoyed that she had assumed mum had been ‘in the wrong’ so, based on your book, I sent this reply….
I think the thing that bothered me, and caused me to feel defensive of mum, and myself, was that, at the time, it came across that you felt critical of mum for getting involved, and wanted to call to support me, but also to imply that mum had been in the ‘wrong’. This implication, which might have been unintentional, made me want to defend her, and my own resulting actions. It was a tricky situation with ……….., and I feel critical of mum occasionally too, but then I stop myself because I am being horribly hypocritical if I am criticizing her for being critical! I express my feelings if I feel hurt or upset (and I did very much on one occasion in the first week) but I don’t criticize her because there is always a reason, which I need to try to understand, she is never deliberately ‘being mean’ or trying to be unhelpful.
Basically, I don’t want to feel criticized, or to feel that mum or dad are being criticized, I’m sure you didn’t mean it to sound that way. There is a reason for mum being who she is and doing or saying what she does. She ‘got involved’ because she loves me, loves the children, and wanted to be helpful.
If I had been ‘threatened’ by that and had said something like “thanks mum but I can handle this myself” then in my opinion I would have been being over sensitive and not open minded about the possibility of another way to handle the situation. I would have potentially caused damage to my relationship with her because of my ‘need to be in control’ and my unwillingness to hear a different perspective. I asked mum and dad to come, so to then not welcome their involvement, no matter what I initially felt about it, would not have worked. I think a balanced ‘win win’ approach achieved the best outcome in the end, so she was right to become involved and to offer her opinion, and I was right to listen.
I am just mentioning this because she is still very aware of ‘doing the wrong thing’, especially where you are concerned, and especially with the baby coming along. She wants to love you all, feel loved in return, love your baby, and be as helpful and supportive as she can, but she fears being misinterpreted. We need to love her and accept her just as she is, because that is what we wish for from her, and she is doing her best, just as we all are.
I feel awkward saying this too and if it comes across as criticism, then I am being hypocritical, so I apologize. I care very much how loved our family feels by each other, so I just want to explain my thoughts. Forgive me.
Lots of love, and I love you just as you are, I know you were being supportive and I thank you for that; life, families, and parenting are certainly tricky! As I said, living here and being on my own a lot of the time is causing me to feel the lowest I have ever felt, but I am learning a lot from it and I love that we are communicating more than I think we ever have before. I love that we can express our perspectives openly so I hope it’s ok, thanks, xxxxxxxxx
I was anxious about how Sally would respond to this, but here is her reply….
I didn’t want to criticize and I think we all want what is best for you and the children, so if you are happy with how it all went in the end that is fine. I just wanted to check really. I know Mum has the best of intentions.
I think both you and I want the best for each other and our parents and are all trying to do the ‘right thing’ as we see it from our different perspectives with the best of intentions.
I am glad that we can talk about things and I certainly didn’t mean to come across as critical though I am not so good at talking about these kind of things and don’t always express myself very well so thanks for listening and replying. Mike and I feel confident that things will work out well with Mum and Dad with the baby coming along (though there may be a few bumps along the way) and it was very helpful me going up by myself a few months ago to talk through things. There will I am sure be things that both of us do regarding parenting that others in the family will feel could be handled differently. I think discussing things is healthy and sometimes we will just have to agree to disagree which is to be expected.
I agree that we love people as they are though obviously part of love is letting people know if something they are doing is hurting somebody unintentionally. So please continue to let me know if I am coming across in a hurtful way and encourage mum or Dad to bring things up with us. We try to be good listeners and know that Mum and Dad want what is best for us all so want to talk things through if and when necessary.
Really glad we could talk and listen to each other.
Lots of love
Here is my reply……….
Thanks Sally, tears welled reading that… the strain of desperately wanting Stuart to come home is getting to me. We both want the same thing, and I love that. We can talk openly about things more now, and that is so good. I guess you might not realise but your opinion of me has always mattered to me, almost more than anyone else’s, that’s why I am sensitive to any implication of criticism, even if it isn’t there! I know we are different in many ways, and so, over the years I have felt judged and ‘not good enough’ in your eyes. Your praise of me, and your understanding and acceptance means everything. I do my best to be the best person, wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister etc etc that I can be, I know you know that, and I know you try to be the same. We are different, but that’s ok! Lots of love to you both, xxx
Cat, I just wanted to say thank you to you for writing your book. If you hadn’t then this email exchange, and the understanding myself and my sister have reached, would never have happened. In the past I would have felt defensive after her initial ‘interfering’ phone call, and I would have either a) not said anything and resented her or b) criticised her because I had felt criticised.
Instead, I have, for the first time, the beginnings of a fantastic, honest, and loving relationship with my sister, and that means the world to me!! Thank you.
Dear ‘Michelle’ as I will call you!
Thank you so much for getting in touch and sharing your recent situation.
I am so pleased you have become closer to your sister, and I am so impressed by the way that you turned a potential conflict, into a way of expressing love and understanding to one another, that’s brilliant. I wish you all the best for your future, and I hope your husband returns home soon. Well done, and once again, thank you for sharing this. Best wishes, Cat x
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