When You See Your Reflection

My son is home from college and is deeply depressed. I knew there was only one thing I could say to him “No matter what you chose, I will support you.”

I knew he needed to hear that from me in order to release his tension and anxiety. He doesn’t want to go back to the college he chose.

I understand, he made a dumb decision. There was a lot of bad reasons he made that dumb decision and I wasn’t happy about it but he’s 19 and has to start making some of his own decisions. For better or for worse. At least this dumb decision created the opportunity for me to say to him “will you please listen to my advice this time and consider it more seriously?” He realizes now I know him better than he gave me credit for. He also realized his father is useless when it comes to serious decision-making.

What he hasn’t realized is that he is accountable for his actions.  Sometimes, he just gives up before he starts.  Re-enrolling him in college has been painful, and I mean like stepping on a Lego painful.  Some of his statements have been “I’ve done it already” “I knew this would happen to me” “Whats the point?”   Ok, registering late sucks because everything is accelerated, but it’s not the end of the world and I’m helping you every step of the way – but I cannot DO it for you.  I’ve been to college, this is your responsibility.

I don’t even have the energy to blog about all the things he’s said and the conclusions he’s come to. I would prefer he go back (to his original college) and make a try of it. In my opinion, he’s giving up and it smacks of lazy. I hate lazy. But, in my current state of apathy, it’s really hard to engage him when I understand so well what he feels. I just didn’t feel it at 19.

This week we had to move fast to exit him from one school and get him into another, temporarily. My belief, ultimately, is he’s young enough to start all over again and I’m not opposed to that. What I do fear is his ability to get under my skin and cause massive disruption in this house and family. I notice his twin is angry (at me) because his brother is home and being disruptive. The eldest is one entitled kid and while he knows I’m helping him and he understands, he doesn’t change.

He admitted to me some of his characteristics which bother him and it’s hard to keep my mouth shut when he’s such a reflection of both my x and myself.  He lies like crazy which is probably one of my biggest pet peeves with his Dad. I hate lying. My parents and brother were masters at it, then my x husband and now my twins. It’s a craft that makes me want to kill someone. I don’t even understand the need to lie – I can see some reasons – like they don’t want their “appearance” to be affected. They want to maintain a certain face to the world. Lying catches up to you. The truth almost always finds a way to the surface. Just writing about lying makes me angry.

I brought the boys to therapy last week so they each had an opportunity to discuss with my therapist. I was due for a follow-up Monday but had a stomach bug and couldn’t go. I don’t know what they said. They wouldn’t discuss it any more with me but said it’s mostly stuff I already know. As much as I believe I need to try to listen to my children to be able to help them, there’s a large part of me that just wants them to act like small adults and grow a pair of respect balls. I was probably no different as a teen – maybe meaner, even. But I held up my end of the parent/child relationship: good grades, a full-time job, responsibility for myself (doctors, laundry, car, school etc) and activity in general. My boys barely do a damn thing for themselves other than school – and I’m not that impressed with their grades. Sleep, eat and video games. That’s it. Is it too much as a parent to ask for more? Good grades and get a job are top of mind for my 19 year olds.

I see so much of myself in my eldest twin. I suffered in my first year of college and made irrevocable poor decisions. I want him to avoid the same fate. But he needs to listen and be open to accepting that he screwed up and can actually take a step backwards in order to leap forwards. I wish I understood that. I wish I knew there was time and opportunity if I was just patient and smart about my choices, but I didn’t have that kind of guidance. I did have support – my father didn’t understand how to support, but my mom did.  My eldest has both support and guidance.  Honestly, at 19, he’s got it great and still takes advantage of me.

I’m also angry as his father doesn’t seem to be invested. Maybe they have their own conversations but it infuriates me that his father has zero communication with me regarding our children. We didn’t parent together in marriage so I see nothing has changed with him but I don’t understand how a parent can be so far removed from their children. The boys barely see him and he doesn’t seem to care. He believes if they want him they will find him. There’s a large part of me that’s so angry with him that I hope they end up not giving a shit about him the same way he’s treating them. It’s amazing to me how little involvement he needs and they still love him. I hate parenting on my own (here’s where I say I miss Tony). I hate having to figure out these life choices alone. I hate not knowing what he is saying to them. Kids need parental consistency and I feel angry that we don’t give it to him because he refuses to have a co-parenting relationship.

My friend says I have to just ignore him entirely. What he says and does doesn’t matter and I have to focus on what I can do alone.

This just makes me feel more pressure because I don’t want to do it and certainly not alone. The only comfort I have is knowing this would be much worse if I was still married to him. I try and calm my anger by reminding myself that I’m glad he’s gone. Some days I can’t even believe it’s 4.5 years we’ve been apart – I’m so thankful to not be married to that man. I suppose I need to remember how grateful I am that I got out of it. Ever since the surgery I’ve been more angry at him than ever. He allows all the weight of parenting to fall in my shoulders and doesn’t share any burden. It is making me crazy because I am so weak at the moment.

I don’t know anymore if I am capable of holding the weight of my world on my shoulders anymore.  I’m not working (or doing anything else) and I can just about manage these kids.

Growing Up

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?

Adoption

How do I really feel about adoption?

Other than exploring alternative feelings in therapy, I would always say I am very positive about adoption.   I do not truly understand the stigma people feel related to adoption.

I was adopted the day after I was born, because my mother desperately wanted a child. She told me that she wouldn’t have stayed married to my father had they not gotten the call for me so many years ago.  Her family was thrilled for her because she was the beloved only-child in a large family of cousins.  I never felt anything less than wanted growing up, and never, to this day, question who my parents are.  I even get a bit annoyed when people call them my  “adoptive parents.”   There is no need to label my parents other than parents, they raised me, loved me, cared for me and provided for me my entire life. My birthparents need a distinguishing label because they created me, but did not nurture or parent me.   I literally gag when people refer to my birthparents as “your real parents.’  My real parents are the ones who raised me, no one else is more real to me than my parents.

I do get angry when people feel the need to distinguish the people who raised me with any moniker other than parent.

The back story of my adoption is very interesting, but much too long to share (literally deserves a book) so I will provide and edited version:  Hank and Judy met in High School and were from different sides of the tracks, so to speak.  Hank came from a wealthy and social family and Judy from a less-affluent family.   Hank went off to college and during his first  Christmas break, had sex with Judy.  She got pregnant.  I never asked him if they were having regular sex or not – I will have to ask him more details.  It never really crossed my mind.

Just recently, I came across a family photo on Facebook of Judy around April 1967 – which means she was pregnant with me!  The caption under reads “Family photo for Mothers Day 1967” a little bit of irony there, eh?  The family was embarrassed she was pregnant out of wedlock and sent her away to live with an Aunt until she had the baby.  She doesn’t recall much of my birth, because women were fully sedated in 1967, and won’t speak to me about the pregnancy.  I don’t know how depressed she was, or if it was a healthy pregnancy.  I know from our first conversation that I was a full secret to her family, and her parents did not want her to acknowledge me when I finally found her in 1996.  I know she has real issues acknowledging me in general, but every once in a while her curiosity gets the better of her and she will reach out to me with a note on Facebook (though she will not friend me).

When I first found her, I was angry that she wouldn’t acknowledge me.  I was trying to get pregnant and wanted my medical history.  Because of this, I then pursued my birthfather.  Finding Hank was en entirely different story.

Hank and his wife, Debbie, immediately welcomed me into their hearts and home.  Hank and Debbie also had my beloved sister, whom I believe is the real reason all this fell into place at all.  My little sister, Kiki, and I have developed a wonderful relationship over the years and I adore her.  She just got engaged and I will be her maid-of-honor, even though I am 20 years older!  Finding Hank’s family showed me how nature is just as important as nurture.  Anyone who knows me and knows Hank would agree.  I am his child through and through.  I keep close contact with this family to this day, and my children call him Poppa Hank.

Once I found my birthparents the years have provided a more complete idea of my genetics, and maybe there was something in me that was silenced.  Perhaps the intense curiosity of knowing who I was?  Of why I did the things I did, or thought the way I thought?  I don’t recall how I felt at the time I found them except satisfied.  I was unlike my parents in most ways and everyone would always say “where did you come from!” because my mother was so gentle and I was not.  I was a busy, hyperactive, curious child – that was too much of a handful for my parents.  Looking back, I realize my mother carried the full burden of parenting, my father rarely participated in parenting unless it was to hit me for discipline.  In any case, I don’t think I ever felt resentment towards my birthparents for giving me up for adoption because my life was really good.  If my birthparents had kept me, I would have been a child of a single, unhappy mother.  God chose a better path for me placing me into my mothers loving arms.

That’s pretty much my adoption story.  In therapy we are exploring a few topics related to adoption.   The idea that I wasn’t wanted/loved in utero (this one bothers me quite a deal) and the idea that I was abandoned by my birth parents.  Honestly, I prefer to exclude these ideas in favor of the way I was actually parented, and how that affected my behaviors.  While I still struggle with acknowledging anything about my parents parenting style (because my mother is not alive and my father is 82 – whats the point) I do see value in understanding and exploring my inner child and the lengths she went to in order to be seen, heard and loved – and how my needs as a child were not met with my parents parenting style and how that developed into bad coping mechanisms for me.

I am in the process of reading a book on how to re-parent your inner child, and I can’t say I love it.   While I believe in the theory, the exercises feel just plain stupid to me.  Drawing with your left hand (or non dominant hand) your inner child has more of an ability to speak to you.  I can’t draw a straight line with my dominant hand so this exercise feels simply ridiculous to me.  I have tried a few times now and I give up – this type of creative therapy doesn’t resonate for me.  I will have to speak to the therapist today about that as she feels its significant that I can’t do the art therapy.

In my next few posts I plan to explore what I have rediscovered about my childhood.  The memories I prefer to suppress in favor of the really good, positive and nurturing memories.  I don’t know how much posting I will get to this week as I actually have to go back into the city a couple days…which is already causing me great anxiety.

 

Inner Child

Hello Madeline, meet Trixie.

Oh, you know each other already?

Hmmmm….

So work with my therapist has begun on my inner child. Basically, learning how to like and accept that young wounded girl and then learning how to re-parent her.

Truthfully, I don’t know how I feel about this work. I don’t like going back to revisit difficult things and I am a champion at forgetting bad things – also known as my stellar behavior to crucify myself on a daily basis.

A friend said to me: what you have been doing and how you have been doing it isn’t working, why not try another way? Open your mind and listen.

Because this is my nearest and dearest friend whom I trust the most, I agreed to try something different. This also includes a therapist who is also non-secular. I promised, while begging for life in Mexico, that I would try and turn to God. More on this piece to come at a later time.

This post is simply to introduce the idea of my inner child and how she will help me learn why my behaviors, especially my bad behaviors, have become my ultimate coping mechanism.

We spent a little time talking about my childhood and my parents. If you asked me, I would say I had a very good, and happy, childhood. That’s only partly true. I was a very dissatisfied child, worse so when my younger brother came on the scene almost 6 years later. I actually no longer dwelt on the cards I was dealt as a child, I thought – and still think, to some degree – going back to explore these issues doesn’t hold and value on how I choose to live today. I am aware of the things I was uncomfortable with in childhood, but prefer not to dwell. Further, I’ve been taught that it just sounds like privilege complaining. People had it way worse than me in their lives, my parents tried their best, my mother is no longer alive, and my father is nearly 82. What’s the point of reliving painful memories that can stir up old feelings of anger and sadness (amongst many other feelings) when I have moved past all of that?

Or, have I?

I am willing to explore it and think about it. Try to learn what I don’t love about myself that I allow so many others to determine my self-worth. And then learn how to love and accept all of me, so that I may share myself fully with others.

I will start with my adoption. I may have told the story in a past blog somewhere, but I’m going to write again. I will walk through some childhood memories and try to think about why my inner child is so unhappy and feels so unwanted. I think I have many answers already but I want to do the work in writing.

I feel a need to apologize to my mother in heaven before I start this work:

Momma, I love you more than anything and I’m sorry I was never the daughter you needed, but I loved you fully and know you would be so proud of the woman I’ve become. I know you won’t like this….I need to explore what’s making me so unhappy in my womanhood that must be stemming from my childhood. I no longer blame anyone, it’s only a process of realization. I know you didn’t like so many things I’ve done in my life that must have felt like direct attacks on your parenting, but you always, ultimately, supported me in the end. We were always uncomfortable together, you and I. It was never a fully harmonious relationship. We always questioned one another. I wish I understood you sooner so you could have felt more love from me than you did, but believe me, it was always there. You have, and always will be, my first love and number one. Please support this hard work I have to do. I don’t want to remember things that hurt because you are not here with me anymore and I feel it’s unfair, but I believe it can help. Please continue to stay by my side throughout. I love you.