What is unresolved in childhood resurfaces in adult relationships; it rears its head with all the finesse and grace of a child throwing a tantrum.
I am guilty of such behaviour.
Movie nights with Mom happened once a week. Dad would be at work, and Mom would make a big pot of buttered popcorn and a jug of lemonade, and we’d head downstairs to the rec room and huddle around the television to watch. Just us girls.
I don’t actually recall any of the movies, but I do remember that on these nights, if I was lucky, I would get to be the one sitting on my Mom’s lap while she stroked my back. Popcorn and lemonade never tasted better than when accompanied by attention from Mom. These were my happiest times.
And they never lasted.
We’d just get to the crucial point of the movie, when Dad would come home, kick us out of the recliner in front of the television and turn the channel to the hockey game, dismissing us from the room.
Mom would hush our objections – always something about Dad being King of the household – and we’d be sent off to bed, tucked in with our anger.
When my school choir joined with others across town to form a thousand voice chorus, my Dad didn’t come: there was a game on.
When my sister’s drama club performed at a local theater, and the family went to support her, Dad was home watching baseball.
Hockey, baseball, football – one season spilled over into another, and the number of tv’s in the house multiplied, but Dad always had to watch the main set, and we had to be quiet.
The game is on translated to shut up, you are unimportant, don’t you dare disturb me.
I left home, married, had children of my own, and Dad would never come to visit, or if he did, it was only for a few minutes, because he had to get home.
“There’s a game on,” he’d say and wink at me, as if everything was perfectly fine, as if this was our inside joke.
I’d seethe, but I’d never say anything. There was no point. Who can compete with sports?
Then, just the other day, I was watching a show and Ric, who had been otherwise distracted, picked up the remote and flipped the channel to sports.
“Just for a minute,” he mumbled, settling in to watch the program.
I sat there in disbelief, and felt myself shrinking, and that inner child began to rage. I got up from my seat, moved to the kitchen, fumbled around dropping things, started to curse and then stormed into the bedroom closing the door behind me.
Ric followed asking what was wrong.
I was so choked up I could barely speak, but eventually the adult took hold again:
“I don’t like being dismissed for sports,” I managed.
I was talking to my Dad, of course.
“I’m sorry,” he said with genuine concern. “I was looking for something. You should have just told me. I would have turned it back.”
I knew I’d overreacted, but there it is: the unresolved issues of childhood rearing their heads.
For once, I just wanted to be more important than sports.
(Feature image: blogs.bu.edu)