The Buffer Zone

I was raised by a perfectionist who never lived in the moment, was always worried about what people thought, and for whom I was never good enough for. Even today, when my 2 year old wanted to call Gram to let her know she peed on the potty with much fanfare & excitement… my mother’s response was “But have you gone poop on the potty yet?!” REALLY?! That’s your response? No “Wow, Sedona, that’s so great! I’m so proud of you!” ?! Do you walk around popping kid’s balloons at carnivals too? It’s so typical. My mother is like that about everything, judging & correcting; always has been, and I have no doubt she always will. I also believe she may be too clueless to realize what she’s doing. I have brought up this issue to her on random occasions over the years, especially when she does it to my kids! But as you can see, despite the many talks & freeze-outs, she hasn’t listened. Thankfully, my 2 year old doesn’t get it yet, and I get to express my disappointment in my humble little blog.

The gem of this little tidbit is that I have the ability to hang up the phone and walk away from the situation knowing I probably won’t have to deal with her again for awhile. Or, I can simply choose to shut her out for awhile if I need to. My mother lives over 2 hours away, as does most of our family. It’s what we delightfully call The Buffer Zone. Those of you who have difficult family members, or drama that tends to find your family, and have either chosen to leave home for a job… or sanity… you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

I learned early on, if I wanted to be my own person, the best thing to do was to escape my mother’s zone of control & perfectionism. Thankfully, I fell in love with my soul mate at an early age, because I probably would’ve ran off with just about anyone after I graduated high school. My folks didn’t offer me any money for college – they agreed to pay for half of my tuition at a community college. Very supportive, yes? They have since paid for a good portion of my 3 sisters’ education, all away from Bay City, MI, most of which in completely different states! Yup. But back then, going away to college, like I should’ve gotten loans to do if my folks weren’t going to help, wasn’t an option. I’m a very lucky gal though; my life could’ve taken a drastically different turn. Instead, I fell in love with my on-stage love interest in a community theater musical. I got a taste of college by visiting the campus of Michigan State University as often as I could. I got married & left home at 21 years old and moved to Tucson with my husband… I already felt I was pretty much on my own for years before this, but it was actually real this time — no safety net. But… no one criticizing my every move anymore! No one to bring me down when I was feeling good about something!

What a difference a couple thousand miles makes!! *sings* FREEEEEEDOM!

A few years later, we grew tired of wasting our vacation days on trips to Bay City, MI and being forced to spend a week living with our folks. Plus, we didn’t think it would be fair to our kids (or to our sanity) to have to travel every few months by plane just to see their Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc. When the hubs got a job offer in Grand Rapids, 2 hours west of Bay City… we jumped on it. Although the 2 hour buffer took a little getting used to at first, knowing our parents could just hop in a car and sporadically see us — they don’t. It’s just about perfect. Before we had a sitter, there were days/weekends, where we wished we lived even closer, like an hour away so Gram or Nana could help us out with the kids when we needed, but then those scary sporadic visits come into play again. And who needs that?!

The fact is, my mother infects our lives with her judgement enough as it is, and I’d like to limit my kids’ exposure to her. Is that wrong? My 6 year old has her own level of perfectionism we have to deal with. We don’t need her further questioning what’s black and white when there’s so many shades of grey to choose from. Trust me, to my mother, just about everything is either right or wrong, there is no in between. We’ve been doing what we can to highlight our own mistakes when we make them to break Natalie of this now. I am realizing that her perfectionism is likely genetic. But I fought it off and feel I have won the battle of who could care less over the last several years. Maybe my daughter can enjoy the moment like I have learned to do before she gets married & has kids. That would be an improvement for her generation. For now, we just try to celebrate every level of achievement without giving our kids a big head — now that’s a challenge! Where do you draw the line between patting your kid on the back and stroking their ego?! I certainly don’t want to be caught dead giving my kids a list of the things they did wrong instead of what they did right, like I grew up fighting daily. It took me until high school to have any level of confidence, and by then, I had accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be an all A student, and I found ways to celebrate my talents in music & drama in & outside of school instead. That was my buffer zone back then. Just escaping through the fine arts. But this physical buffer zone we have adopted is much more effective for my family.

Our 2 hour buffer zone allows for a comfortable level of sanity, and even though some of the drama seeps into our neck of the woods, it is easy to walk away from in order to turn our focus to the positive side of whatever we’re dealing with that day. Life is way too short to only see the negative side of life.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Buffer zone? Yes!

    Both my husband and I both agree that we get along with our parents now because of the “buffer zones” that we have. We have a 6.5 buffer zone on one side and a 12 hour one on the other side.

    It would be nice to have a date every now and again, but mostly it’s so worth it.

    Preach on, sister!

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