Growing up….gosh I don’t recall as much as some other folks do. I think I had a decent childhood earmarked by things I loved and adored.
But when someone reframed events and circumstances for you (hello my therapist) you start to rethink HOW you remembered things. And I have an amazing knack for taking the good forward and leaving the bad behind. Sometimes even eliminating the bad so I don’t have to feel those negative things again.
My father never really engaged in a positive way with his children. I recall begging for any positive attention. I never really liked my father and it took a deathbed promise to my mother to stop arguing with him. My most outstanding memory was being hit by my father, or chased and punished. Until I was 16. Years later my mother and father denied he ever “hit” me. Because of my father ever “hit”Me I would be dead. He simply gave me “love taps” as they liked to call them. Nothing like gaslighting your own child, right?
My father now speaks and behaves as if my mother was the only person that mattered in his life. He has no engagement with his 5 grandchildren unless he eats a meal with us. I’m sure he loves all of us in his own way, but his way is something I will never understand.
I don’t recall him ever encouraging me as a child. I was always “fat” and he called me by a nickname I hated and begged not to be called. Even to this day he tells me how I don’t know anything. When I first got a job (in an office) he thought I would never have “hard work” because I wasn’t a laborer. At least his opinion of that has changed as he’s watched me kill myself working over the years.
I got my work ethic from him. And my ability to be stubborn and argue before listening. I am most unlike my father. I am pretty sure he didn’t like me as a child, but he is proud of me as an adult because he can see the fruit of my labor. I never told him about the surgeries or Mexico because he would never understand.
I still blame him for my mother’s end. Not her death, but how she lived in squalor because he was so possessive and wouldn’t allow anyone else to care for her when he clearly couldn’t. When I think of it I get so angry I could hurt him. My mother had to be carted around like a doll when she was in stage 4 cancer, diapers, and incoherent because of what “he wanted” to do. It was always his way or the highway. Still is. Now I just allow him into our lives on my terms since I know I have to accept him as he is. I feel sad he is my father and tried the best he could. I don’t think he really wanted children the way my mom did. He just wanted her to himself.
My mom, I still have a hard time admitting I wasn’t the child she wanted. An even harder time admitting she didn’t know how to mother a child like me. If she had lived longer we might have found our stride – but we didn’t for most of my life. I regret this immensely and hope this doesn’t happen with my own children. It scares me to death.
My poor mother had to deal with my father who was cruel and possessive, her mother who was mentally unstable and needy (and the two of them hated each other) and then I come along and I’m high strung and aggressive and want to be left alone. I don’t want to do the girl things she wants me to do. I don’t want to take care of her the way she cared for her mother at her beck and call. I watched her be miserable and refused it for myself. I watched her live my brothers life for him, coddling him to a point where he is incapable of being an adult (until he met a woman who kicked his ass!). Her life scared me. I know she wanted better for me and always encouraged me and was my biggest cheerleader – but she was disappointed in my lack of empathy and compassion when I was young (it was her hallmark). I have it now….but not sure if it would have been enough for her.
The hallmark of my entire young life was “not enough” or “too much” and then that carried through to my marriage. How do you forgive your inner child or begin to like her again when she was never just “enough”.
I also realized the first forms of validation I received on being enough came from boyfriends. This is probably why I continue to seek validation with men. The early boyfriends I had were so good to me. Every one of them wanted to marry me. They were all good men for that point in my life but I grew out of each one for one reason or another.
Looking back a growing up I realize I never really liked myself because my parents didn’t like me. I didn’t make solid friends until high school, around the same time I became interested in boys. We had moved twice when I was young and I just couldn’t connect to the girls until I joined Flag Squad In High School and became a part of a “team.” By that time the boys came on the scene and I never really developed those female relationships that so many do. I depended on men for validation from the very beginning.
So much work to do still and it’s so hard. How do you forgive and accept yourself for so many years ago? What if I never like that child? She was always awkward and needy. She never felt pretty until very late – 10th grade – when she realized how sexual she was. Will I always feel like that little girl? With peaks of happiness but not truly satisfied with herself underneath it all? Thinking and feeling that no one really knew her and loved her for who she was. They always wanted her to be someone else until she met her boyfriends. They wanted her just as she was. They would have stayed by her side. Why didn’t her parents feel that way? That she was good enough just the way she was?