Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Family Drama

After three years, she has made her decision. After what seemed like an eternity of dramatic and passionate outbursts (to me), of finger pointing, of unfair comparisons, and of barely hidden bitterness, it's almost over.

My mom has decided to leave Canada and go back to the Philippines after all.

Contrary to popular beliefs, I'm hurt that she had come to that decision after only three years. I'm hurt that she based her decision on her emotions alone. I'm hurt that nobody in the family - not my mom, not my sister, not my brother, not me - did anything to solve all the problems. We all tried to forget that unhealthy conflict exists between the four remaining members of the nuclear family. Sadly, we all tried to sweep the bitterness and the hurt under the rug.

We all contributed to this conflict. My father, who was brought up the old school Roman Catholic way, was the stereotypical macho father and the one all three siblings fear. Though he didn't spank us as much as my mother did, his anger was more fearful because, as the head of the family, he took it upon himself to discipline us by corporal punishment and verbal abuse. And though he was faithful to us, he let us make fun of him, and he still believed in God, he wasn't much of an influence - to me, at least.

Now, my mom was also brought up the old school Roman Catholic way. Sadly, that brought my sister and me a lot of grief, though I wasn't really aware of the building conflict between my mom and my sister when I was growing up. You see, my mom believed that it's better to bear sons than daughters. She believed that, since sons carry the name of the family, they are superior to daughters. She always pointed out that she experienced painful labour when she was giving birth to my sister and me, as opposed to almost painless labour when she gave birth to my brother. She even told me when I was in my early teens that if her firstborn were a son, she would have more luck than she had, she would have a house of her own, and she would be more financially stable. Imagine how I felt when she told me that.

What I didn't know then was that my sister was hurt when my mom began to show her preference. My sister felt that my mom was being unfair. Then I came along; as the youngest, I became everybody's favourite - which didn't help. So my sister "rebelled" in a positive way. She became involved in more extracurricular activities than I had ever done. Then she found Christ and converted from Catholicism to Protestantism. And she went to college in University of the Philippines Los Banos, which meant that she was out of the house most of the time. She chose to be involved in worthwhile activities to get out of the house that didn't bring the comfort and love that she wanted.

So when I was growing up, I didn't notice any of my sister's pain or my mom's favouritism. (Because even I got as much corporal punishment and verbal abuse as they got.) But during my pre-teen years and early teen years, I finally noticed that my mom was more worried about my brother than about my sister. I remember when my brother first went to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to work; my mom would cry and get anxious about him. A few years after (when I was in mid-teens) when I asked her why she worried more about my brother than my sister, she gave me the same old crap that she thought my sister could take care of herself better than my brother could for himself. My mother couldn't be farther from the truth. Then, towards the end of my freshman year in high school, the dam containing my sister's pain and bitterness started to leak. She and my mom had a big fight in front of my brother-in-law, my infant nephew, and me. It was the first time she ever mentioned that my mother was playing favourites.

Fast forward to February 2002. We had just immigrated in Canada. Before we left the Philippines, my mother was so excited. Why? Because she thought that living with my sister would ease my brother's financial burden. (Aside from providing for his own family, my brother also provided for us and sent me to school.) When she was eventually disillusioned, she started telling me that she wanted to go back to the Philippines. Stupid me, I ignored that and turned to my own pleasures and personal pursuits.

Then in 2004, my brother and his family moved to the United States. She loved my brother so much that she stayed in Louisiana for nearly three months to help them out. When she came back, she complained to me about my brother's stubbornness, among other things. Of course, selfish as I am, I still ignored her complaints and focused more on my personal pursuits.

All those times, I was thinking: my mother has never realized that all three of us are grown adults. She never accepted that she was just overreacting. And that her twisted belief about sons and daughters is the root of this evil. She is in denial.

Yes, my sister hinted a lot of times that it was entirely my mother's fault. If she only changed her attitude towards her daughters, among other things, she wouldn't feel the need to go back to the Philippines. No, my brother never mentioned anything about it. I don't think he's even aware that her's the reason our mom and our sister are in deep conflict. He only lived his live the way my mother wanted - most of the time, that is. And no, I didn't mediate before because I felt that each contributed to the problem!

Of course, it always boils down to the fact that my mother is in denial about all of this. Bottom-line: nobody tried to communicate in an adult manner regarding the problem. Nobody tried to resolve the conflict in an adult manner. Nobody.

And now that my mother's decision is practically final, I feel both sadness and relief. I'm sad because I would miss my mom terribly. Annoying and irritating as she is most of the time, she's still my mother. She still sacrificed a lot for me and she still raised me (though not properly). But I'm also relieved that this particular problem is almost resolved. As much as I hate the thought of my mom being permanently away from me, I also feel that it could be God's only way of easing everybody's pain, of resolving the problem. Who knows, it could be a blessing-in-disguise (which I think it is). It would make me more independent than I am. It would make my mom happier. It could bring us sisters closer.

Every time we snarl at each other (figuratively), I pray to God that he resolve the problem. I pray that I'll accept what he thinks is best for my family. Filled with frustration, hurt and despair, I gave it up to God. I let him bear the burden that I used to bear for my family.

It appears God has answered my prayers.

At last, a new phase in my life.

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