Family Style Hell

Our most recent family adventure took us to Kings Canyon National Park for the girls February break (somewhat obnoxiously dubbed “Ski Week” by wealthy Silicon Valley parents with ski cabins).

The lodge I chose caters to families, and I was the only single mom there for the 4 days.  It was great for people watching, as all meals are served Family Style at communal tables, and there is really just one central space where everyone gathers multiple times a day.

In the 4 days I was there, I witnessed constant bickering, passive aggressive contempt, disrespect, and outright anger between couples.  In fact, try as I might, I couldn’t find parents who were not harassed, overruled, and exhausted by their young offspring, and who’s lack of boundaries led to all kinds of family drama.  I saw parents desperate for time alone, hiding behind their phones, completely disengaged from their kids and spouse.  What kind of vacation is that?

One particularly memorable couple was cringeworthy.  They were constantly harassed by their young kids, who had no boundaries or rules of any kind.  The kids misbehaved, the parents yelled at the kids and each other.  Bitterness and anger was the general theme.  Their family seemed dysfunctional and unhappy.

Here’s a sample of their breakfast conversation one morning, with their 3 year old present:

Wife, looking at trail map: “Oh look!  There is a mountain named after you! Its called Mt. Baldy!”

Bald Husband:  “Well, then in all fairness they should name a mountain Mt. Bitch after you!”

My kids were shocked.  Their conversation kept on this pace, alternating from the man boasting about what a great skier he is, to insulting his wife on multiple levels and various ways, to general passive aggression on both of their parts.

In short, they had so much contempt and ugliness for each other that I could not wait to get out out of there.

This was repeated in pretty much every other family dynamic I witnessed.  For example, I overheard moms complaining about how lazy their husbands are, plotting how to stick the men with the kids for the day while they went and had a few hours peace (this was not well- received by the husbands).  I heard husband’s nitpicking on their wives, fighting over who’s turn it was to take the toddler to the bathroom, and on and on.

Anyway, I was very glad to be there solo, as an observer.  I thoroughly enjoyed my week in the snow, with no partner to fight with.  I am SO GLAD I ended things with Phil before we got to the stage where every interaction is negative and damaging!  We ended things while we still had some respect for each other, and are committed to NEVER treating each other with contempt and ugliness, especially not in front of the kids.  We have promised that our kids will only hear us speak positively about each other, even when we have disagreements.

I got to enjoy my days in the snow, fully immersed in playing and engaging with my lovely, well-behaved, and respectful girls.  I knew my time with them was precious, and soon enough it was time to go home and drop them off at daddy’s house.  Then it was his turn to love them and parent them fully and presently.  They are truly getting the best from each of us!

Watching other families hellish dynamics has made me so very thankful for the decision we made, to part amicably, lovingly, and will mutual support.

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