When I can’t offer grace to myself, I can’t offer grace to others.
I must overcome my hurts and negativity to allow my children to make their own decisions and become resilient.
I have authoritarian parents. I had no voice. I kept my opinions and emotions to myself. I was the poster child for “seen and not heard.” I was naturally quiet and observant.
I grew up in a time when I went to school and then played outside until the streetlights came on. During school breaks and summers, I played outside from sunup until sundown, grabbing lunch, snacks, and drinks at anyone’s house who would have me.
But I went through my childhood and youth in a fog.
Most of my memories are negative.
I remember punishments. I remember being snapped at, complained about, ridiculed, humiliated, smacked, switched, spanked, pushed, yelled at, and isolated in my room.
I remember being told I was worthless when my grades weren’t “good enough” because my “only job was to go to school.”
My interests in art, music, and literature were ridiculed as stupid and worthless towards a good career. I was told I should go to college for business or computers, which were not my interests at all.
I was always a disappointment.
The first few years of my marriage I had PTSD.
I lived in survival mode. I could barely cope with daily activities. Without constant reminders from my parents of how worthless and disappointing I was, I became self-destructive. My inner monologue reminded me all the time.
I couldn’t accept my husband’s affection. I couldn’t trust him (I still struggle).
It only exacerbated the situation that we moved out of state twice, I had to quit my job, began homeschooling my eldest daughter, both my husband’s parents suddenly passed away, and I gave birth to my middle two daughters during that time.
Living away from my parents forced me to confront my issues and seek healing.
It took me about 10 years to start to feel healthy.
My relationship with my parents is a rocky road.
My parents visited us in Utah, mid-May 2011, while my husband was deployed.
My son had just turned one. My middle girls were preschoolers. My eldest was the only one who even really knew my parents.
They stayed in a hotel nearby and graced us with their presence about lunchtime while disrupting our schedule and constantly telling my children to go play in the basement while they sat on the sofa to read the newspaper they brought with them.
I would sit awkwardly in a chair, not sure what to say or do. My heart broke for my children, who were confused.
I was torn between being a daughter and a mother.
It was a miserable few days until they had a tantrum and returned home early.
I received a handwritten letter in the mail a few days after that.
In the letter, my father told me what a horrible mother I was, that I should spank my terrible, ill-mannered children.
So he basically brutally criticized me for not parenting like him.
My kids are great kids. Their eating and resting schedule had been disrupted and they were confused by having virtual strangers in our house and they didn’t know what to expect. They were treated like burdens.
I still have that letter.
A few years later, we visited my parents before leaving for Germany. I figured since they’re in their 70s, I would regret not spending time with them if something happened while we were overseas.
We stayed with them for 11 stressful days.
One day, we went out to a local BBQ place for lunch. My husband ordered and paid for everything and I suggested to my mom and my kids to go find a booth to sit and wait. When we brought the food to the table, my mom literally snatched stuff and snapped at my eldest daughter to give her the food. She acted like a starving person. She acted so selfishly that my kids looked at me with wide, scared eyes, not knowing how to react or what to do. I look back and wonder if she thought she was getting out of the way so my kids could have the rest, but none of us saw it that way. We just do things so differently. We serve our kids first and then take the rest, if there is any. We would have bought more if it had not been enough.
I realize my mother suffers her own demons.
During that same week, my father had promised my son that he would take him to his barber for a haircut and they would have an afternoon out to themselves and maybe get ice cream. Well, my dad had a tantrum and left by himself without informing anyone and got his own haircut and was gone a really long time. It was so heartbreaking to see my son confused and hurt.
I realize my father suffers his own demons.
It was a peaceful time in Germany, for the most part. I read and grew and learned a lot about myself.
We stayed with my parents again for just a few days upon returning from Germany. It was a little bit better this time. We recently moved to Ohio.
My parents promised multiple times to help pay for my eldest daughter’s college education, but they lied and said they never promised that – even though my daughter, husband, and I all remember these promises. They said they would help, but when we told them the price of her tuition in September and December, they hemmed and hawed, then finally paid for both semesters – but after the due dates.
They always ask what we want for Christmas and birthdays.
Then they always say they can’t or won’t get those items for various reasons.
My mom sends seasonal boxes with dollar store items and cheap, generic toys that we often just donate to thrift stores.
A year ago, they didn’t send anything at all for Liz or Tori for Christmas.
My dad didn’t speak to me from October to February. He later admitted his feelings were hurt because he felt I only wanted money.
I’ve come a long way in my self-improvement, but this is all bullshit.
He complains all the time how they have no extra money.
Which I could accept if it were true. And no, things aren’t what’s most important.
But last year, they just bought a third car – a VW Bug Turbo and 2 brand new iPads.
Recently, my mom sent some money for summer camps for my kids and mentioned they’ve never supported me in educating the kids at home.
It’s just always so confusing and I never know what to expect. I hate feeling like I’m always walking on eggshells. And everything they send always has strings attached.
I realize they parented me the best way they knew how.
I am trying to break generational curses.
My parents can treat me however they want, talk to me however they want…but they can’t hurt my children.
I will break this cycle.
I will be a better mom, a happier and healthier mom.
Ways My Negativity Can Hurt My Kids:
Every aspect of my life was controlled.
I grew up and lived in fear until I was almost 30 years old.
I want my kids to feel free – to talk to me, to feel and express all emotions, have friends, learn how they want, go to college (or not) for what they want to study, eat what and when they like, etc.
My parents hold grudges.
Loving unconditionally is not something I ever knew. I had to unlearn and relearn so much.
I have to separate misbehavior, mistakes, unkindness from the person and address the situation without shaming.
My parents are gray with bitterness.
They have so much hate. They have so much anger.
I didn’t know rage and hate were different until a few years ago.
Do I want to be bitter or better?
What I Can Do Better:
I think it’s important to be self-aware of what upsets me, my triggers – reactions to circumstances that may remind me of abuse or negative memories.
I need to recognize covert and overt narcissistic tendencies in myself, reactions that I learned. Some tendencies that I even see in my children.
I don’t want to perpetuate the cycle I grew up in, but apparently, I’ve inadvertently passed on things to my kids despite all my knowledge and attempts to be better.
There’s always work to be done.
It’s so important to recognize and address mistakes and when we misspeak. We practice sincere apology.
When I make mistakes, I apologize and ask forgiveness. I model this to my family.
Things aren’t what’s most important. We have so many choices, so much material wealth. We can go to the store and purchase almost anything.
Credit cards are a poor option. We want to leave a better legacy for our kids.
It’s important to me that we all feel safe in our emotions and the ability to discuss everything as a family.
But sometimes, they need privacy and I have to respect that.
While I want to be transparent, I also want to have healthy relationships with my kids and not burden them with adult problems.
It’s a constant balancing of realizing they’re maturing, growing, and learning. I have to adapt to their needs and our changing relationship.
How do you break the cycle?
Helpful: Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale for ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)