Recently I was involved in a friend’s Facebook post asking who your MOMMY Inspiration is. It was an interesting question, probably inspired by Mother’s Day coming up. I’m actually really proud of my parenting given that I grew up in a home I should have been removed from (my state subsequently underwent federal overhaul of their child protective services division) and another I actually WAS finally removed from (although I was 18 and 2 weeks from graduating when they finally got to it).
What happens when you have kids of your own, start to really understand parenting more, and it DOESN’T give you a greater appreciation for your parents?Because that happened to me.
I spent a lot of my life very unhappy, but never angry at my parents. ALL of my life, my mother insisted that I believed she was a horrible mother–which was just her own insecurities spilling out onto me. I know that at one point, when I was in my early 30s, pregnant in a high risk pregnancy with my first child and with raging hormones, I wrote her a letter that finally spewed out that kind of anger at her “poor parenting” and she forever after held it up as validation of her constant insistence that I thought she was a horrible mother.
My father never thought for a second that he was anything other than “way better than my mother” and therefore, a savior if nothing else. He once had a moment (when I was in my late teens or early 20s) where he expressed the feeling of being a horrible role model, but in my ever-parenting-my-parents way I advised him that he had given us wonderful examples of what NOT to do–and that was equally (if not more) important than what TO do. I still believe that.
To be fair, my parents certainly had some significant challenges and I believe they really did do the best they could with what they got themselves into and what they were handed in life.
Now, as a parent, my oldest is every bit the challenge that I was as a child. If my mother or father silently cursed me to have “one just like myself”, they win. I have vivid memories of many of the same problems my BigGuy has. It definitely explained some things and it certainly put things into perspective. I recognize many of the confines my parents had back then–either because of their personal circumstances or simply because our world was a different place. I understood more.
But then I look back at some of the things that they did and in my heart of hearts–I cannot wrap my head around how those things HAPPENED. Things they COULD control and didn’t. Things that in my life I cannot imagine doing to my children. I’m not perfect. Not by a longshot. I had never known life any other way and for many years, I poo-poo’d the idea that I could have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from some of the events of my childhood because “everyone has a dysfunctional family”. I realize now that was a mindset that kept me from acknowledging that neither of my parents valued me as a human being. One day in a therapist’s office, I could no longer deny the reality.
Maybe they were sick. Maybe they weren’t. But when someone throws a ball at you and hits you because they have poor aim, it’s still incredibly painful and if they hit you hard enough–it could leave a scar. Knowing it wasn’t intended doesn’t make the pain (or the scar) simply disappear. For me, having children and gaining perspective was not a gift–it was the curse that caused me to need a few years of trauma therapy to unravel the picture I painted to protect myself from seeing just HOW bad it all was and accepting that mine was actually “trauma” and not “dysfunction”.
There are definitely a few things I am thankful to have been raised with; and as horrible as my childhood was (with multiple traumas, creating both complex and developmental PTSD diagnoses)… I know it is why I am the person I am today. That and 28 years of therapy. And my maternal grandmother. She was the closest thing to a mother I ever knew. She was brutal for sure, but I got to see the undying love and devotion to her family underneath that very harsh exterior. I owe all of who I am to her. There are things I do now because of her. There are things I do polar opposite now because of her. She modeled what to do and what not to do in good measure. I miss her daily. I am grateful eternally. Ugh… tears.
I know how lucky I am. My younger brother took his own life to escape the demons I have laid to rest. I also know that I’m by no means the only person with that kind of history who has come through it successful. If that is you… I love you. I wish I could hug you. I hope you are at peace with Mother’s (and/or Father’s) Day. I hope you are on the other side of wishing it was different and are instead onward to appreciating that it’s over. I hope you have someone to snuggle and hug. I hope you have grace with yourself when the demons occasionally return to haunt (and occasionally, take over) you. And I hope you have good help and support if you are not there yet.