This is going to be long because there is a lot of background, bear with me. Also – this blog has become my therapy so I apologize if things get too dark for some of my readers. It really helps me to put this out where I have a relatively anonymous audience. Free therapy!
I don’t think I have mentioned it much on here yet, but I had a very difficult childhood. My father was a “dry drunk”, which in AA speech is an alcoholic who isn’t drinking but has not sought any treatment and therefore still has all the behaviors of an alcoholic. My mother had a mental breakdown and became suicidal when her abusive mother died. I was 9 when she made her first of five suicide attempts. She spent most of 3 years in a mental institution and my sister and I were left with our abusive father and abusive older brother. My relationship with my mother was extremely combative until about the age of 16. I was always told that my behavior changed after having febrile seizures and being put on Phenobarbital at the age of 3. I was her “perfect, sweet little girl” before then. After, I was frequently out of control; hurting myself, damaging property, and getting into screaming and fighting matches with my parents. After a whole lot of therapy as an adult I finally realized that all my behaviors were the direct result of abusive and mentally unstable parents, not something wrong with me. I grew up knowing no one loved me for who I was (my father once accused me of causing my mother’s mental problems – I was 10) and always thought it was because I was being unlovable. So when I was old enough to realize how to play the game, I become what my mother wanted me to be. We became very close and I thought we had a great relationship because “I” was better. It took me many years to understand I was not actually better, I had just learned what was expected of me. I was so desperate to be loved that I went along with it. I again became her perfect, sweet little girl and for awhile I was happy.
After I had my daughter and my first bout with postpartum depression, I found the most amazing counselor. She wouldn’t let me make excuses for people like I always had. She wouldn’t let me say that something annoyed me; I had to say it made me angry. She was the first person to point out that how my mother treated me was very damaging. She helped me understand that no 3 year old can be held solely responsible for her own behavior. I am old enough, and healthy enough now to recognize where behaviors came from and change them. Once I started doing that I gained a vastly different perspective on my childhood, and a much different view of my mother. It’s not that I hate her now, although at times the memories make me want to scream at her, but let’s say that I am no longer looking through rose tinted glasses. She is a petty, spiteful woman who needs to be the eternal victim. Yes, she has had a hard, brutal life, but she has never taken any responsibility for her own actions or her own healing. Everything is always someone else’s fault.
I called her today to tell her my daughter was better (the fever broke yesterday – thank god). I have avoided talking to her much since Aiden died because I can’t stand listening to her complain now. Every single comment she makes is a complaint. Most of them are about what a terrible parent my sister in law is, and how awful her kids are. She lived with my brother until his wife had enough and kicked her out for getting in a fight with my 12 year old niece (seeing a pattern here?). She now lives near them and still visits often. I don’t much like my SIL, and I don’t think she is much of a parent, but my Mom is certainly one to talk. She has always been very critical of my brother’s kids. The girls don’t take any care in their appearance, they all run wild and won’t listen, and the oldest is a sociopath in the making, according to her. Today she said something that put me right back into the worst period of my childhood.
I must have run away a dozen times from the ages of 10 – 15. I usually got caught and brought back before the end of the day because I would get scared and go to a friend’s house. Their parents would call the cops and the cops would look at me, see no bruises, and cart me off home. One of these times my mother dropped me off at the mental hospital with only the clothes on my back and told the intake person that I was a runaway risk. That meant they put me in the high security area where there were video cameras in the bedrooms and no doors on the bathrooms. I was livid. She did that just to be mean. She knew I would only run away from home; that going to the mental hospital was a vacation from my life. She did that just to hurt me. The doctors even knew it. As soon as a psychiatrist saw me I was moved to the open ward. When she came to visit I was still angry and I refused to talk to her. In retaliation she told me I could not see my little sister anymore if I wasn’t going to be civil. I’m sure she phrased it so that she was protecting my sister. I loved my sister. We didn’t always get along but she was the only person in my family I loved and trusted. I broke. I begged her to come back and told her what she wanted to hear because I couldn’t lose my sister, I just couldn’t.
Today I was talking to my mother and she repeated this exact story, only this time it was my niece in the hospital. My niece was involuntarily committed 3 months ago after several violent episodes. I’m not living there, so I can’t say for sure, but I think my mom is responsible for a lot of the damage done to my niece. Every time my mom talks about her it is an eerie echo of my childhood. A (my niece) is never good enough, she is never clean enough, she is never nice enough, she never behaves, and she is unlovable. Judging from my childhood I’m sure my niece picked up quite well what my mother was dishing out.
Anyway, my niece is 17, locked in a residential facility where she has not progressed in treatment. This might mean that she will never be going home. Her mother brought her little brother to visit recently and has decided not to do that again. In the words of my mother, “A was so nasty that K (my SIL) decided not to bring B (my nephew) back when she visits, he doesn’t need to be exposed to that.” My niece dotes on her little brother, from what I understand. It may not be a perfectly healthy relationship, but it is a loving one. They are doing the exact same thing to her that my mother did to me. I guarantee that if I said something my mother would deny ever doing that to me and she would deny that is what is happening now. I don’t have the entire story – A reacted differently than I did to a troubled childhood, she could be a danger to her brother – but somehow I doubt it. I only get my mother’s side of the story. I hope my niece can find a way out of that toxic situation. I hope she can learn the things I did and take responsibility for her own happiness. And I hope to god my mother never gets a chance to ruin another child.
Oh – and the other reason I quickly got off the phone – my mother’s descriptions of what is “wrong” with my nephew, they bear an awful strong resemblance to how my daughter behaves. It sounds like my daughter and nephew are both strong willed, very active children. My mom can’t stand that apparently. She would crush their spirits if she had control of them. I can’t stand for her to complain about B’s behavior because it seems like she is criticizing my parenting also. After all, if my daughter acts like my nephew, who is so out of control, then I must also be doing something wrong. Damn her.
There is nothing wrong with my daughter. She has a beautiful spirit. Parenting her is challenging, but a complete joy. I won’t let my mother’s poison change that.