Sunday, 22 November 2009

Stuck In The Loop

My grandfather on my dad's side was a very intelligent man. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Research Chemist and worked towards that and achieved it. Similarly, my Dad also knew from an early age that he wanted to do the same. He was also very intelligent and before school he taught himself to read out of a medical encyclopaedia that happened to be lying about.
I don't think that he had much attention given to him as a child.
My grandfather was a very strange man, showing no emotion and would sit in silence for hours. I can remember being quite afraid of him when I was very young. By then he lived in a remote part of Lancashire in a farm house with his two sisters and a younger brother. They were all extremely shy people. My Dad's cousin also lived there, as she had looked after him when my grandmother had died before I was born and when he was only ten. I loved this person who I called Auntie M. She was badly disabled by Rheumatoid Arthritis and was often in great pain.
Grandfather and Auntie M had gone to live in the farm house to escape the bombing in Wallasey during the Second World War and when that was over, they stayed on, probably causing distress to the sisters and brother by doing so.

Grandfather was renowned for his disagreeable nature. In fact he used to grunt sometimes rather than answer and everyone gave him a wide berth. People used to *walk on eggshells* so as not to upset him.
My father also had this remoteness about him and he didn't like being touched. I can clearly remember as a toddler learning very quickly not to try and climb up on his knee because I would be pushed away and told to get down. I was never cuddled or picked up by him, though we have photos of him awkwardly holding me in a wooden sort of way.
I don't think he ever understood any of my needs or emotions. No..... he couldn't ever understand emotions.

Fortunately for me, my mother was quite a demonstrative person and gave me plenty of physical love. I went to her for everything and thought of her as the provider of all my needs and very rarely asked my father for anything. I think I was very confused about the extremes of their very different personalities and not having the strong role model of a father.
Can you see where this is going?

I don't think Asperger's Syndrome became known about until the '70s and so no one ever put a name to either of these men and lets face it we are all on the Autistic Spectrum to some degree. Both men were known to be Odd Bods........ eccentric people and accepted for what they were. My Dad had many strange obsessions ...... collecting things for the sake of it was one. Dad spent a lot of money on all the technical gadgets of that day, leaving us without money for adequate clothing. He just couldn't understand the need for such things as long as the body was covered. I was always so ashamed of having to wear the same things over and over again and was made fun of quite a bit at school. However my Mum could make something out of anything and I can remember her chopping up curtains to make shorts so that we could go away for a holiday. A bit like The Sound Of Music when the Van Trapps did the same.
At the time, I didn't think any of this was unusual until I started to see how other families interacted together and then I realised that our family was different. Other girls had a wonderful relationship with their fathers.
My dad just couldn't understand why I wasn't as intelligent as him. I suppose he wanted to have a daughter who carried on the Research Chemist tradition and was bitterly disappointed and after being told I was no good at his favourite subjects, I just gave up on them altogether. I wanted to be *normal* and concentrated on art and pop music and dancing and having a good time.

By the time I was married with children, he had mellowed into a really kind grandfather who my children loved but couldn't quite understand.
Even they knew he was eccentric but loved him anyway. It was quite common for them to be told to *grow up* if they had a view that was different from his and his favourite saying was..... *The man's a blithering idiot*.

So it was no surprise to me that my own children have been drawn to people with similar characteristics......... that zoomed along towards the Asperger's line. I cannot and will not say any more about this for obvious reasons.
However it has come to my notice that families seem to attract the very types into their fold, that they are trying to escape from.
Family members who have put up with a difficult family member for years, often subconsciously choose an identical partner to that very one, even though they feel there is no chance of it happening.
Alcoholics unwittingly choose other alcoholics, depressives go for other depressives and Aspergers are no exception to the rule. If there is an Aspergers person in the family you can get so used to this condition that you don't recognise the problems that are going to happen when you meet someone who has some of the traits. It is normal for them. They have been programmed to accept certain types of people. They are comfortable with that type of person. They deny that they ARE that type of person.

The Book *Families and How to Survive them* By Robyn Skynner and John Cleese puts all this in perspective beautifully. This is the book that made me aware of what was going on in my own family.
Walking on eggshells so as not to upset a volatile personality. We are very used to doing this in our household.

It is like being caught up in a loop. Our family members continually get hurt because they choose people who will not or cannot make them happy and it goes down the generations and the mistakes are made over and over again.
I sincerely hope that my grandchildren will be more aware of the lifelong misery that this can cause.... but I have a feeling that they will possibly stay in this loop unless they have help breaking out.........
We must recognise these family traits and beware of the pitfalls.

What is there in your family?


Frau said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I think every family has something hard to put a name to it especially from back in the day. Have a wonderful Sunday.

Monalisa said...

Very interesting. My husband has often commented that our children have similar traits as older family members, not all bad, but it explains a lot...

Nessa said...

We often picked spouses who's personalities match our parents and others in our family as a way to work out out childhood relationships. This should be realized more because once you see this, you can begin to change your behavior.

Sunny Sunday #7 - Say a Sunny Thank-You

It's Sunday - Do You Know Where You Are?

St Jude said...

Both of my husbands parents were well within the autism spectrum. My mother in law who is 89 is incapable of interacting on an emotional level or understanding the emotions of those around her. It is sad that her children never knew what it was like to be loved until they found their life partners. Her life revolved and still does around her routines, now my husband and I have to adapt our life to her routines too.

Rose said...

Thank you for sharing this, Maggie May; I think it's true that so much goes into family dynamics and that we often don't recognize the patterns in our own family. My parents were--and are--wonderful people, but my mother was not a very demonstrative person. We knew she loved us and showed us that in so many ways, but she wasn't a hugger. That's the way her whole family was. It took me years before I became comfortable hugging anyone other than my husband, and I know I didn't often hug my children after they got older. But I've finally loosened up, and if I ever meet you, be sure you'll be in for a big hug from me!

This is hardly on the same level as your story, but I guess I'm very lucky that that is all I can think of. Now my husband's family...well, that would need a post all its own!

Anonymous said...

A very fascinating account of your family life and extremely thought-provoking too. I don't know what my answer is. I feel as though I grew up in a very ordinary, loving and particularly close family unit and I want to carry this on in my own family. Of course however, there are many differences in my family life now due to Amy's autism, but to me, it still remains that love and closeness will always be foremost in our thoughts.

CJ xx

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

I was talking on this theme only this week...learned behaviours, family traits...

and you know Maggie I had to be honest with myself and others...WE make choices when we behave however subconscious those thoughts and feelings are that create the behaviours.. it is our choice to behave in that way. SO we CAN change.
sometimes it needs to be pointed out. I strive to do what is right, it may not be what is expected of me. It may not be liked, or agreed with, it may be thought odd or cantankerous. But it is with myself I ultimately feel I have to live with, within myself. I must take responsibility for my bad behaviour and change it.

I often say to myself, if I am coming to the end and l look back will this matter to me? Is it important in the scheme of things?
What does my conscience tell me.

I make a decision based on this. In the past introspection was considered high-faluting pshyco rubbish. A little goes a long way and is health and good for everyone.

Akelamalu said...

Very interesting post Maggie,thankyou for sharing something so personal.

Traits definitely run in families - my two sons are very much like my two brothers in ways - my eldest son is similar to my youngest brother and my youngest son is similar to my eldest brother. It's uncanny at times.

Thumbelina said...

I confess.
I have married my *father*.
And it drives me nuts some days.
(But gives true comfort others...)

Dimple said...

My family: alcoholism (father), depression(both parents), probably obsessive-compulsive disorder, definitely bipolar syndrome, possibly schizophrenia (mother).
My father loved me, and I him, but he was never able to give me the kind of love I longed for, and I struggled to please him or rebelled against him.
My first husband: alcoholic and emotionally abusive.
My current husband's family: Dry alcoholism, poverty, hyperactivity, learning disabilities.
He is hyper and easily frustrated. I am rather obsessive, I get interested in something, and spend hours (sometimes years!)learning everything I can about whatever it is. I have learned to be aware of emotions, and have become able to deal with them to a degree, but it did not come naturally.
One of our children: anxious, somewhat fearful. Currently getting along well, but married a spouse much like--
The other child: Asperger's. Not diagnosed until late teens, unable to focus on important, but uninteresting matters such as balancing a checkbook. I recognize myself in this one.
I saw difficulties in the spouse the first child chose, and gave warnings, but to no avail. I hope and pray that their relationship will be a good one.
The second child: time will tell!

I have had to take my hands off and leave them to God. I cannot save them from anything, but He can, and will.

As Frau said, we all come from families with problems. It is the human condition; and only God can do anything positive about it.

aims said...

Wow Maggie! This is quite a post. It has me thinking - and remembering.

Ayak said...

What a brilliant post Maggie, and very thought-provoking. My grandmother had 4 sons and one daughter (my mother). Sheloved her sons but not my mother. In turn my mother had me and two brothers. She adored my brothers but she made my childhood an absolute misery.

I was so determined to break this pattern when I had my children, a son and a daughter, and am happy to say that I have the most wonderful relationship with my daughter.

The book you mention looks very interesting. I'll make sure I get a copy.

Teacher's Pet said...

Maggie...thank you for sharing your story.
I have taught students with Asperger's, I am familiar with it.
Very intelligent....very.
I am so touched by your Mother's love and caring make sure that you had the physical and emotional needs met.A loving Mother...
I send you a special hug this day...and hope that you feel it and hold onto it always, Maggie.
With a smile....
I am,

Bernie said...

Maggie, I think all families suffer from some form of eccentric has only been in recent years that behaviors have been given a name....all not good, all not bad but when identified all can be treated...stay well my friend......:-) Hugs

SandyCarlson said...

That is quite a story. I enjoyed reading it and could relate to a lot of it. Just now I am wearing my father's mother's wedding ring--the one my father's father gave her. I never knew him because she was a mean old lady, and I wonder about this grandfather she chased away. I wear the ring to remind me no story is ever complete.

Eddie Bluelights said...

I was away at boarding school, Maggie, so I did not experience the same abnormalities of home life as you did, big sis. Yes, dad was very eccentric and had a short fuse ocassionally but I usually managed to scramble for cover and could run a lot faster than him!! LOL
Problem was I had to experience another set of weird circumstances whilst away at school.
When all said and done neither of us turned out too bad but I take your point about a girl usually chosing a spouse rather like her father.
Enjoyed the post, Maggie ~ Eddie x

Wendy said...

Oh yes, family traits. We all have them. My upbringing sounded somewhat like yours, in that I ran to my mother for everything. She was the loving, huggable one. Dad was more distant. I could climb up on his lap as a toddler, but he just did not hug the same way. I also looked at other families and wished I could get closer to Dad. Then as a teenager, I just tuned him out.

I think it must have been hard times for everyone when we were growing up, for I used to wear my brothers cast off clothing. We had school uniforms, so it was just play clothes where I had hand-me-downs.

Marguerite said...

Thanks for such an interesting post. They say that it's all in the genes!

Hilary said...

A very interesting post, Maggie. I think you're so right about those kinds of dynamics playing themselves over and over again through the generations. Thank you for being so open by sharing yours.

Anonymous said...


This post is haunting because I know how true it is. Let's play it safe. My husband's (not mine, you may notice :))family refuses to acknowlege pain, and see saying one is in it as a weakness. My husnband's parents and most of his siblings value not admittng weakness ~as a very high value. Hard to know if this will continue in the next generations, but I am seeing it in some of the neices and nephews already.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Nature versus nurture - the debate goes on. I read that book about 15 years ago. It answered a lot of questions and raised even more which is why I undertook a Psychology degree and that raised even more questions! There are several theories out there, each contradicting each other. But I fall into the Constructionist's view that it we have agency and free will to shape our lives and our behaviour. I plotted out the behavioural traits in my extended family and it is amazing how we ape our elders. Clearly we learn behaviour from our parents, carers and we inherit physical attributes such as syndromes - nature and nurture. Studies on identical twins seperated at birth show amazing similarities in behaviour and life choices when they were raised by different families. It's a hugely complex area and the debate rages on. great post Maggie.

Alix said...

Hi Maggie May!

Thank you so much for wandering over to Casa Hice and leaving such a nice comment about my Sunday Roast at Eddie's. What fun that whole thing was - but the best part was the comments that came rolling in. They made me feel like a freaking rock star!

Anyway, I see your darling self everywhere in the Blogosphere, so imagine my delight and surprise to get a comment from you. Made me super happy. Isn't it funny and delightful how simple acts of kindness make all the difference?

I have subscribed to your blog and I very much look forward to getting better acquainted. Cheers!

Granny on the Web said...

Fascinating story Maggie, and very interesting point.
Love Granny

cheshire wife said...

I have never really looked at my family from this point of view. However, I have married a man similar to my father and my brother married a girl who was once referred to as my sister, but I do not have a sister!

jinksy said...

A very honest and intriguing post. I think families are complex things anyway, but love goes a long way to make them work as best they can! :)

Lena said...

My mother and my twin sister had very similar characteristics. Wild, eccentric and manic sometimes, and both unfaithful to their partners.

I took after my dad where family and marriage comes first - despite how hard life gets.

Strangely enough my twin and I were both named after our respective grandmothers, too.

Expat mum said...

It is interesting to discuss the nature versus nurture thing - a lot of what we are as adults, we saw being played out as we grew up. In my family it's passive agressiveness, the silent seething yet saying nothing and allowing literally years of resentment to build up. I work very hard to break out of that.
The most interesting thing in my family is that two of my kids (and possibly all three) plus my brother's son have forms of dyslexia. With one it's quite severe and with the others they can work around it. If it's genetic, we have no idea who in the older generations had it, but then even when I was a child, most dyslexics were just regarded as thick.

Suburbia said...

Just catching up, missed this first time around!

Thanks for sharing, I think you are right about the choices we make. Things like Aspergers and Dyslexia, which are on the same spectrum (my 2 and Husband are dyslxic)also run in families too.

It is interesting to look at how our choices of partner may be mirrored in our parents too.

That looks a good book.