13
Oct

Hard Days – Parenting when you’re an Adult of Child Abuse

Some days, I feel like a horrible, terrible mother.

This was one of those days.

To get everyone up, moving, and out the door, I had to go three rounds with the middle child.

[Yeah right. It was fifty rounds.]

“Get up, Buddy. Hey, time to get up. GET UP. Make your bed, please.  I asked you to make your bed.  Get up and get moving.  Why aren’t you making your bed?  Okay, now get dressed.  Move away from your brother, and get dressed.  Get dressed.  OMG GET DRESSED.  Clothes are good, where are your shoes?  Put the Legos down and get your shoes. WULFGAR.  Put on your shoes.  Too late, breakfast is ready, come and eat.  You can put on your shoes after.  Get in your chair, come on, let’s eat.  Eat your breakfast.  Turn around, please.  Eat your breakfast.  EAT YOUR BREAKFAST.  Turn around in your chair and eat your breakfast.  EAT YOUR BREAKFAST.  Yes, you’re excused, get your shoes.  Put your shoes on, please.  PUT YOUR SHOES ON.  Have you peed yet this morning?  Go in and go pee, please.  Hey, put down the Legos and go pee.  Time to head out for school, grab your sweatshirt.  HEY, IT’S TIME TO GO, GET YOUR SWEATSHIRT.  Got your backpack?  Get your backpack.  GET YOUR BACKPACK IT IS TIME TO GO OMG.”

As I read the verbal exchange in print, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it felt.  I didn’t beat him.  I didn’t hit him.  I may have (probably did) raise my voice, but I didn’t lose myself into a blood rage.  From the outside, it probably wasn’t that bad.

In the moment, from the inside out, it felt horrible.

We’ve never talked about this before, but I am an adult survivor of childhood abuse.  When I was a kid, there was no asking.  There was TELLING AND ONLY ONE TIME, then fists and punches and grabbing and pushing and yelling and kicks and retribution.

Those bruised memories change a person.  They change the way we think about our role as parents, and they change the way we  perceive discipline.

They change the way we perceive obedience.  And conflict.

In the moment, in those moments of conflict and disrespect and sass and back talk, when the rage fills my ears and my blood boils and my eyes spiral down to dark, black pinpricks of light, my heart forgets the difference between a punch and a hard word, because from inside a bruised and battered heart, they feel the same.

I was angry because he was not complying, so no matter how I dealt with it, I felt like I was abusive.

Even scarier, deep down I wanted to be abusive.

Dear Lord, that sounds terrible.

I’ve read a lot about the cycle of abuse.  [“Physician, heal thyself.”]  I know that those abused at a young age can be cracked and broken, and those abusive episodes can affect the way they treat their own children when they become parents themselves.

My abuser was abused.  It was well documented and discussed.

I was abused.  My family chose to pretend it wasn’t there.

I am another twist in a generations deep cycle.

I can’t pretend it isn’t there.

What I can do is fight against it.  What I can do, is rail against my impulsive, instinctive tendencies toward violence, to fight with everything I’ve got against the cycle that threatens to suck me in and hold me captive.

I may feel compelled to abuse and hate and lash out.  That doesn’t mean I have to do it.

I have three kids.  Kid #1 and Kid #3 are creations of my own image and likeness.  Their brains are built on a blueprint that matches my own.  I get them.  They make sense.  To them, *I* make sense.  It’s great.  They tell me things, I understand exactly what they mean.  I tell them things, they (mostly) understand and listen.  It doesn’t mean they always like what I have to say, but they always listen.  I talk and I know I’m getting through.  My data plug matches their data port.  Upload successful.

Then there’s Kid #2.  The middle kid.

Oh. My. Goodness.

At the risk of sounding like a total asshole of a mother, I just don’t get my second kid.  We don’t mesh.  At all.

If you’re a mom of more than one child (and maybe even for moms of only one), you’ll know what I mean when I say “That kid and I don’t mesh well.”  It sounds harsh, like “we’re not supposed to say that as parents,” but it happens all the time.

I’m a person.  He’s a completely different person.  My way of doing things is mine, and makes sense to me.  His way of doing things is his, and makes sense to him.  OUR WAYS DO NOT MAKE SENSE TO ONE ANOTHER.  I struggle every. single. day. to understand what he’s thinking and why.  I have tried every single method of parenting, every single consequence and reinforcement and encouragement out there.

Doesn’t matter.

We still don’t mesh.

It happens a lot in real, grown up life.  You work with someone that makes you want to poke  your eyes out.  Jeff across the hall that snorts when he laughs, and he laughs loud and all the time, even during meetings.  The secretary that knows you’re on a diet, and still brings you donuts and cookies and treats from home.  Debbie in accounting that has sixteen cats, tells you about them every day at lunch, and thinks the two of you are samesies because “You have kids?  I have kids, too!”  **omg she’s talking about her cats**  “Isn’t it so great being a mom?  This is my oldest,” **produces cat picture**  “Mr. Scratch-N-Fluffy.  He’s a rescue.  I rescued him!”

There exist in the world all kinds of people that you don’t mesh with, because you’re different.  Your priorities are different.  Your wiring is different.

It stands to reason that, if you are raising your kids to be who they are and not who you want them to be, they will sometimes not mesh with you.  The little people they are will react with the person you are, like oil and water.

…or napalm, depending on the circumstances.

In reality, not meshing with your kids means you’ve done your job and allowed your child to be who they are, even at the expense of your own comfort and understanding.

It also means that your job is harder.  Congratulations.  :)

Kid #2 is a good kid.  He has a wonderful personality and a kind heart.  He does well in school.  He likes math.  He loves Legos (if you couldn’t tell by how many times they came up that morning).  He is a concrete sequential human, one step at a time, and “there is no point in thinking about steps three through ten, because I’m only on step two.”  I think that tendency would be fine and I could work with that, but he is also HUGELY imaginative.  He disappears in his own head to live a separate life inside a world of fantasy, like Walter Mitty.  (Great movie, if you haven’t seen it.  I swear it’s a story about my middle child.)

Between the fantasy in his head that I can’t see (or even guess how to interact with), and his exacting, detailed nature, it’s no wonder I have a hard time making sense of him.  He is a paradox.

The more I learn about psychology, development, and kids, the more sure I am that Kid #2 is on the highly-functioning side of the SPD and Autism Spectrums.  He FEELS things that the rest of us don’t feel.  He senses things that we can’t perceive, and copes with his amped up emotions in a quiet, internalized way.  When he gets upset, he cries and shuts down.  When he gets angry, he’ll take-it-take-it-take-it, then snap and lose his shit.  He doesn’t genuinely laugh much.  Fake laughs for effect, yes.  Genuine belly laughs, no.  He doesn’t cheer.  He’s rarely excited, and when he is excited he gets …squirrelly.  His emotions come out in a physical way, not a verbal one.

Verbalizing his emotions is not something he knows how to do, and not something he wants to do.  I don’t even know that he CAN do it.

For him, I’m sure it’s frustrating.  To feel so much and not have the ability to process what he feels, nor to express it, must be disheartening.

For me, the fact that he doesn’t do it is infuriating.

Of the Five Love Languages, “words” are how I operate.  In fact, I lean so far toward that measure of love that the rest are almost nonexistent.

To have a kid that doesn’t talk is hard for me.

Super duper hard.

So yeah.  This was a hard day.  I felt I was a worse mother on this day between 7 and 8 a.m. than over the course of an average week.

The end of our morning found me at the end of my rope.  My heart hurt.  My head hurt.  My feelings were hurt.  Everything I asked of the kid was ignored.  Every sentence took three repeat attempts before it sank in, and even then it seemed like he didn’t care that I’d said anything at all.  Getting him to function was like forcing a horse to drink.  Or like herding cats.  Or like moving the ocean ten feet to the left, with a teacup.  Nevermind that I was rushing to finish laundry and get breakfast on the table and wash dishes and pack lunches.  Nevermind that I have a monster cold (brought home by the kids, of course), a low grade fever, a sore throat, and the start of a migraine.  Nevermind that I was patient, tolerant, kind, and steady of voice.  I wanted to yell and scream, but I didn’t.

[“Nevermind what I NEED, let’s do all the things YOU WANT TO DO.”]

As a grown up child of child abuse, I have had to learn to mother and discipline with one (and sometimes both) of my arms tied behind my back.  I am emotionally cracked.  Not broken, not really dented, but definitely cracked.  My emotional response to children is healthy and positive, but I have had to learn how to interact with all people in a cognitive, thought-first kind of way.  I have to think, then feel.

It’s not that hard, really.  My tendency is to cogitate first, emote second.  Thinking first about the situation before I decide how to feel is easy.

Most of the time.

When it’s not easy, it’s really, REALLY HARD.

When I finally do get angry, I’m not “upset.”  I’m gut boiling, steam blowing, throat aching, blood rage FURIOUS.

As a grown up child of child abuse, I know what true anger feels like.  I know what it looks like to use anger as a weapon, and how it feels when that weapon is used against you.  I know how it feels to be beaten with the buckle end of a belt, a paddle, or whatever board or tool or stick is close at hand.  I know what it feels to be weightless as you’re thrown across the room, and what it feels like to be choked and lifted until your dangling toes barely brush the carpet.  I know the anticipation and anxiety of walking by someone with quick feet and hard boots, never sure if they’ll lash out and make contact, and the even deeper fear of an instinctive dodge that causes the boot to miss.  I know how to force tolerance as you’re wrapped in a clumsy embrace, alcohol breath burning your eyes and nose, praying that it’s over soon, never daring to push away or fight, because hugs are much less painful than fists.

Now, as a parent, I know what it feels like when a kid just won’t obey, and you’ve tried everything, and you feel the ugly, black and green rage monster boiling hot and poisonous in your chest, and you have to take a timeout or walk away to keep the fury in check.

As a new mom, I felt that a lot.

Now it’s not so bad.

…most of the time.

This day was bad.

After nagging and asking and telling and cajoling and requesting and entreating Kid #2 and still no action was taken, the Rage Monster started to rumble, and I had to take a timeout.

When the kids were tiny, I called my rage timeouts “Don’t Shake The Baby Walks.”  Now I call them “Don’t Eat Your Young Timeouts” and “Don’t Sell Your Kids to Gypsies Walks.”

[I totally get why wild animals eat their young.  It’s because of the arguing.  And dear Friend, if you’re reading this, I pray to God you recognize dark humor when you see it.  Dark humor keeps me sane.  I have never shaken or killed a child.]

I started sweeping the floor.  I slammed chairs around.  My son stood and watched me for a moment, started to say something, then closed his mouth, turned around, and walked away.

In that moment, in that rage filled, steam-out-ears moment, I stopped.  I watched his retreating back, traced his small figure with my eyes as he walked away from a too-tough conflict, and I saw what was really happening.

“He acts like he’s fine.  He’s not fine.”

Duh.

OF COURSE HE’S NOT FINE.  He is an empath.  He feels things 100x deeper than normal people, and he feels ME, and I AM FURIOUS.  He doesn’t know why I am furious.  He just knows I am, and he doesn’t know how to fix it.  He can’t fix it.

*I* have to fix it.

WE have to fix it.

As parents, 100% of the responsibility for the state of our relationship with our kids is ours.  It’s on us, People.  It’s our job to make sure that things are running smoothly, that the culture of our home is a healthy one, that we have good habits, that we eat and sleep and exercise, and that the emotional state of our children is a positive one.

That is the definition of leadership.  To LEAD, and support and love and give and hold and help.

That is the definition of parenting.

Holy hell it is hard.  Especially when you were never shown how to do it.

Most of the blog posts I write have a point.  “Think about this.   Change this.  Try this.  Become what you want, be strong, you can do it.”

This time, the only point of writing all of this is in the hope that one person, JUST ONE PERSON, will read it and realize they are not alone.

If you were abused as a kid, you are not alone.

If you struggle as a parent because you were abused as a kid, you are not alone.

If your rage blinds you and blurs the lines of discipline, if you have a hard time telling the difference between redirection and retribution, you are not alone.

If you have a hard time connecting with your kids, you are not alone.

If you love your kid more than life itself, if you would kill or die for them in an instant, if they have taught you the true meaning of true love and still you have a hard time controlling your temper, you are not alone.

If you struggle with any of those things, not only are you not alone, I’d guess you are more normal than you realize.

There are thousands of us.

Here’s what you need to know, my friend, and I guess the point of my story altogether:

The childhood scars we carry do not have to define us today.

We can be better parents than the ones we had,

we can be leaders to our families and refuge to our children,

and we are not doomed to repeat a cycle, no matter how stuck inside of it the generations were that came before us.

No matter how we’re broken, we have what we need to put ourselves back together, and to pass on not even a blemish to our children.

We are mothers, and we can change the world for the better.

One child at a time, and every day.

Much love, my friend.

erin

============================

Opt in for my newsletter here.  Visit me on Facebook here.

Find yourself.  Embrace your truth.  Change your world.

 

27
Sep

Body Fear and Shower Day – your worth is not in pounds of flesh

Today was shower day.

I hate shower day.

I have been an anorexic, bulimic, body dysmorphic for as long as I can remember.  I remember intentionally overeating at my seventh birthday.  I remember testing to see how long I could go without food when I was eight, faking a stomach ache to ensure I wouldn’t have to eat dinner.  I remember hating my body before I even knew what all my parts were for, feeling fat inside my still-from-the-little-girls-section jeans.

The sexual abuse started at age six.

The physical abuse started at age seven.

The scars and stains that you cannot see, the ones I’m JUST NOW starting to see myself, are still there.

I really, really, REALLY hate shower day.

On shower day, I have to get naked.  Read More

09
Aug

Control is Feeding Your Food Addiction – a mental path to recovery

I am a control freak.  I am also a recovering addict.  (These two things are not mutually exclusive.)

They say the first step of the 12 Steps is the hardest one. They aren’t kidding.

“I admit that I am powerless over my addiction, that my life has become unmanageable.”

So far, I have leaned back into Step 1 no less than 138 times. I have to continually revisit it, remind myself of it every day.  After that much practice, you’d think it would get easier.

It does, but not a whole lot.

Not one time have I recited step one that it doesn’t pinch a little bit.

I hate being powerless.  I hate being not in control.

As I’ve learned (and still learn every day), control is a paradox. It contradicts itself. The more you try to have it, the less of it you have. What you attempt to control soon controls you, dominating your thoughts and feelings and life.Read More

24
Apr

how to connect with your kids – one tip to change your relationship

I have three kids.

Before I had three kids, three didn’t seem like very many.  Grandma had four.  My other grandma had ten.  My GREAT-grandma had 14.  I was really shooting for five, but ironic life and stupid divorce cut my plan short.

I topped out at three.

Three still doesn’t seem like that many, but it’s getting harder all the time.  They’re getting bigger and busier, and the sacrifices required by me as a parent to raise good kids are getting… harder.  DEEPER.  Different.  Whereas before the biggest sacrifice was colicky lack of sleep and throw up on my shirt, it’s now worry lack of sleep, and a schedule so full I am never, ever caught up.

Old Me:  “Bitch please, I can do three and still get sleep.  Hold my coffee, WATCH THIS.”

Me Right Now (while eye-popping, white-knuckle gripping my fourth coffee of the day):  “HAHAHAHAHAHA… wait, remember when they were babies and you didn’t have a job, and you thought you were busy?!  THAT WAS HILIARIOUS.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

It was with glorious, beautiful, brutal, gut-wrenching agonizing joy that I finally realized life is never going to slow down, and this job is only going to get harder.  The understanding was painful but so, so important.

Only when you realize that you’re running out of time can you begin grasp the gravity of being a parent.

Me to Other Me:  “You get one shot at this, so make it good.  Make it count.

…no pressure or anything.

Read More

10
Mar

How to Find Your Talents – Suffering and Worth

When God was handing out talent and good looks, I’m pretty sure I got skipped.

…well, wait. Saying I got skipped makes me sound like a victim. In all honesty, I probably snuck back to the kitchen to get snacks.

Me (whispering to the guy next to me): “Dude. This is taking forever. BRB, I need a cookie.”

Being passed over is the most straightforward explanation I can think of for my ordinary, sub-standard existence.  I’m sure I have zero talent and meager looks because both were given from what was left, scraped out of the bottom of the pot.

I can see it in my head.

God (to the last dude in line, the one who held my place as I snuck to the kitchen): “And for you, the last of your batch, I bestow upon you the final bit of TALENT and BEAUTY for this round of blessings.”

*steps back*
*does double take*
*notices me standing where I wasn’t before, chewing with bulging cheeks and a cookie crumb face*

God (blankly): “Oh. Ummm….. I missed one.”

*looks into empty pot*
*looks at used blessing spatula*

Gabriel: “Father, it won’t take long to mak-“
God: “NOPE, I GOT THIS.”

*scrape scrape*
*slaps spatula onto my forehead with a long, downward drag*

God: “That’ll do.”

*grips empty pot and spatula with clenched fists*
*thundery air punch*
*turns to angel recording notes*

God: “DONE.  IT’S MILLER TIME.”

Short changed, and probably my fault. Like a cosmic “…meh,” I exist as a talentless and ugly person. I have felt that way almost my whole life.

I also know I’m not the only one that feels that way.  You’ve probably felt that way, too, at least once in your life.

Read More

07
Sep

find success with one simple shift – TURN AROUND.

I know you think you’re a failure, but you’re not.

I know you think you’re fat, but you’re not.

Your reality, the one you’re living right now, is perceptive.  What you see as truth is really nothing more than a shadow of fact, one that is sifted through the filters of your mind and heart.

In other words, your life is what it is because you choose to see it that way.

(don’t get mad and quit.  keep reading.)Read More

17
Aug

How to Recover from Addiction – 4 Truths that will Change Your Life

Not too long ago, a Facebook post by James Fell ran through my newsfeed.  (If you don’t follow him, you should.  He’s pretty great.)

Here’s what he had to say.

james fell sugar addiction

The comments were, as you could probably guess, reactive.Read More

08
Jun

Addicted to Love – When People are Your Fix

If you’re anything like me, I had heard the term “codependent” hundreds of times.

Whenever I’d hear that word, I’d picture two people who neeeeeeeeeeed each other, like a pair of mutually parasitic leeches sucking the life out of one another, “plus drama.”

Thelma and Louise, driving off a cliff.

tumblr_inline_mlb78gETg61qz4rgp

[how powerful and profound.  i almost forget they’re driving off to kill themselves.]

Romeo and Juliet, as she stabbed herself while clinging to his lifeless body.

Two weak, whiney, teenage kids making sad, crying suckface with each other, covered in emo makeup, grasping black fingernailed hands.

“I can’t live without you, I LOVE YOU SO HARD that I have to kill you and then kill myself.  I DIE ONE THOUSAND TIMES”

Me, to myself:  “Lame.  No way I’m THAT.  I’m stronger than that.  I’m independent and smart.  No way, no way.”

In 2014, I found a therapist.  I was fighting my way back from rock bottom, recovering from addiction, and healing from a marriage that uprooted truckfulls of rotting garbage when divorce yanked it from my life.

At the time, I was pretty proud of myself for seeking help. Now I think, “omg DUH, mental garbage all over the furniture, I needed a crew of help.”Read More

03
Jun

Fix your Habit – 5 Tips to Hold Back a Binge

It’s allergy season.

I live in the sagebrush dotted hills of Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington State.  ‘Having allergies’ is no small thing.

We are a city of farms and crops and flowers and trees, so pollen.  We’re practically a desert, if it weren’t for irrigation, so dust.  Also animals, “because farms,” so dander.  Once the scorching summer sun comes out in full force the weeds take off like wildfire, which means more pollen.  The ragweed kind.

omg allergies.

To be fair, I don’t suffer as bad as some, but in my old(er) age (wtf total bs) I have developed a Goliath histamine response.  From late April until late June, I’m Seven Dwarves all by myself – sneezy, watery, sleepy, cranky, runny, itchy, bitchy, and for the most part a completely unpleasant person to spend time with.

When my allergies get really bad, I stop listening to people when they talk.  I spend half my time at work staring into space, the other half blowing my body weight in boogers out my nose.

I can’t focus, I can’t pay attention, because I’m too busy wishing I could shove a puffy pipe cleaner down my throat and out my schnoz (like the crazy-eyed middle school kid did with spaghetti in the lunch room), then grab both ends and give them hell, just to itch the spot inside my head that doesn’t stop itching for three months.

ALLERGIES.

I can hear you now.

[“Um… just take an allergy pill.  They do make those, you know.”]

Yes, yes they do.

Trouble is, I’m also an addict.

PILLS are a problem for me.Read More

18
May

How to Save Your Marriage – Five Ways to Show Respect

respect others, respect yourself

Hi. My name is Erin, and I am divorced.

Divorce isn’t all that surprising these days (sad), but the frequency with which it happens does not diminish it of drama.

When I hear people say “I’m divorced, we’re getting divorced,” my gut reaction is to ask (with all the drama of a girly, middle-school-tragedy-queen from Orange County), “Gaassssp…. OMG WHY?  What happened?  Did he cheat?  Did you cheat?  Give me the deets!”

We love drama, especially drama that isn’t ours, so today I’ll give you some of mine.  (grab some popcorn!)

In the beginning, our relationship was pretty great.  We got along.  We laughed and enjoyed one another’s company.  We liked the same kind of things, spent time with the same kind of people, had the same kind of dreams.

About a year and a half into our marriage, things changed.Read More