Friday, June 28, 2013

Children ARE a blessing

Do we dare step out of our comfort zone? Of what is familiar to us? What was shown to us as children? How our parents lived? The environment we grew up in? 
Do we look at our parents lives & decide that we will never live like that? Or do we believe that history is bound to repeat itself & that we should live as our parents had, because that's what is expected of us?
The other day, I heard someone proudly declare that they were pregnant, and 19 years old& single, just like their mother was.  Her mothers response was that " children are a blessing"... Yes... Yes they are... But, as a single mother yourself, knowing the struggles & hardships you went through, don't you want more, better for your child? I'm sure she justified her own teenage pregnancy by stating that children are blessings, and by this justification made her daughter believe that, if my mom did it, then so can I, that it's ok, it's a kind of acceptable way to live your life. It's the life you know & get comfortable with, because that's what you were exposed to growing up. 
We see this all over the place, most kids that go to college, had parents that went to college, most kids that went to jail, had parents that went to jail. I see parents all the time bragging about their "mini me" kids. Is this right? Is this fair to our children? What are we showing them? Does the world really need another person "just like you" running around?
Why can't we instill and harbor an individual thought process for our kids? Why can't we promote them to think for themselves? Expose them to different ways of life? Show them, and encourage them that they can become whatever they want to? 
I grew up in a hostile, anxiety filled environment, this eventually became comfortable to me, because that was all I had known. Yelling become a way of communication & living in a mess became consoling to me. When I had married, this became a controversy between my "neat freak" husband and I. I thought it was acceptable to live in clutter & to throw temper tantrums to get my way. Thank God, that my husband and I were dedicated enough to our relationship to work through our differences & compromise. He taught me how to clean & that everything has it's place & if you haven't used something in months, you don't need it. I taught him that it's ok if something isn't in it's place ALL the time.  We also learned to use empathy in our communications, which curbed the yelling & created a tighter bond & understanding of each other. This was hard, unfamiliar & sometimes very uncomfortable.. It was new territory, but it felt right. It went against everything I knew about life from my upbringing, and felt rebellious to my parents. I was almost ashamed of this new peaceful way of living, and when around my siblings & parents usually resorted back to my old way if thinking. Eventually, this sort of, bi-polar life, got to be too stressful. I tried to keep my families separate, that became a game of excuses. I was always making up stories why I had to visit my parents by myself, or why my parents weren't invited to my house. I didn't want my children to think that my parents way of life was acceptable. I had told my husband that he could not deal with my parents because they were my problem, not his. During one particular argument with my mother, my husband tried to intervene several times during the three hour long screaming match & I kept dismissing him by telling him it was my problem to deal with her, not his. Looking back now, I regret that decision. I should have let him say his peace, this affected him too & I shut him out, he is my husband, he is my partner in life & he should be able to have his say in what happens in our life. But instead, I took it all upon myself to deal with my parents "stuff". 
I wanted so badly to shield my children from it all, but I knew what it was like to not know your grandparents, so I knew that I had to let them have some kind of relationship. This was hard, everytime my children came home from grandmas, I felt I had to readjust them to normal life again.  As they got older, I always told them they didn't have to go if they didn't want to, the choice  was theirs. My son eventually stopped seeing them & has created his own life without them. My daughter seems to still have a guilt trip going, or maybe she is just manipulating their relationship because she only visits them around holidays or her birthday, when they give her stuff. I think on some level they have guilted her into visiting them, they often say they are proud of her, but only show it by giving her stuff or money. She seems content with that for now, but she is still only 19 & a poor college student, so I'm sure her views will change some day when she realizes that bribery isn't worth it. 
This brings me around to what my father had said to her in her last visit with them. He asked her if she was going to have kids soon.... Huh??? Yup, he said he has 4 kids & with their spouses, that makes 8, and he has 8 grand kids now, so that means that the grand kids need to start working on giving him 8 great grand kids..... Omg!!! That's kinda warped! And selfish of him!!! He wants more kids to brag about!! Does he really think it's ok for my daughter at the age of 19, single, in college with  no way to support herself, to have a child??? What kind if idea is he planting in her head?? This... This is the mentality I had growing up. This is the reason I was pregnant at 17. I was made to believe that it was ok and that children were blessings and the more you had, the better! Once again, children are blessings, BUT, they are work, they are expensive, they are demanding, they are draining, they are your life! They are not there for you to brag about how many you have, you have to actually take care of them!!! You see, the belief that you have children to carry out your legacy is wrong, children are not here for their parents, their parents are here for them!!! Carry out your own legacy!! So, I say, have children because you and your partner have so much love for each other that you both want to share it with a child..  
I want better for my children, better than I had. I want them to think for themselves, I want them to know what they want out of their lives & I want them to live their own lives, not living someone else's. I want them to break out of their parents comfort zone and have their "own damn wisdom"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sigh... Father's Day, another holiday.. More grief..

With Father's Day this weekend, comes a ton of emotions for me. While I love my father with all my heart, I feel I can't have a relationship with him because of my mother. It seems the jealousy she emits from seeing the bond my dad and I have has ruined my relationship with him. Growing up I always looked at my dad as a saving grace, a calm, organized person and, of course, my safe place. I used to dream about my parents splitting up so that I could live with my dad, but alas, it never happened. You see, my dad has a strong commitment to my mother, he obviously chose her & is determined to do the best he feels he can with his choice. I can admire that, somewhat... He always said "I would like to believe that everyone is doing the best that they can, with what they have" he truly thinks he is doing the best he can, however, I see the enabling he does for her & sometimes wish he could do more to stop.
When I was a small child, I would greet my dad at the door when he came home from work, because he made me feel safe, I was always extremely excited when he came home and of course, it was always "daddy!!!" With a great big hug for him. One particular day, my mother was frustrated for one reason or another & was in one of her moods, which, of course, made me even more excited for my father to come home from work. As I ran to the door to greet him with a hug, I was grabbed from behind & pulled away from him, while being told that "this is my husband & I greet him at the door first, not you!" Oh my! The shock! The pain! The fear! And then the sadness... That's when I realized there was no saving grace, there was no safe place, I had to create my own safety. My dad tried to explain to her that I wasn't trying to take any attention away from her, and that I was just a little kid loving her father, but, the message never got understood & the jealousy has continued through the years with comments about my fathers & my interactions that had strong jealous undertones to them and sometimes jealous fits of rage when I had long conversations with him and not with her.(because he listened to me & understood) 
My father & I have always shared a love of football, so as I got older I invited him to watch Sunday games with my husband and I at my house. This, of course, caused so much backlash from my mother, because she wasn't invited. I didn't see the point in inviting her because she doesn't enjoy watching the games & ends up talking all the way through it &  causing distractions from the enjoyment of our football watching. Well, that caused a huge ruckus & she made life for my dad miserable when ever he came over to watch the games. She was & probably still is verbally bashing him. She would call me to complain about him or tell me what a shitty man he is because he doesn't always cater to her every whim or the most common complaint was that he should know what she wants without her having to tell him and he should just do it. She was constantly calling him also, during that time, or throwing temper tantrums about something. I think she was doing anything to make him miserable or guilty for spending time with me. We have tried to explain to her that there are certain things you do with certain people because that's an interest you have in common with them & that if she isn't interested in football, then why would she come with to spoil our common interest with her constant jabbering and complaining?  And again, she couldn't understand it. It seems her only true interest was shopping, finding deals. I have no interest in shopping, as a matter of fact, I hate shopping! The few times I tried to tag along on one of her shopping trips have made me completely miserable. Her obsession with "finding deals" was overwhelming & ultimately made me very sad. While I understand that's what she enjoys doing, she just can't understand that I don't enjoy it. And once again, it comes back to her pushing what she wants on me. 
I had limited my contact with both parents to a short visit on holidays or special occasions and our relationships seemed to be going fine, just catching up on what was going on in our lives. I thought maybe if I keep our contact limited like that we can all get along... Until the day she blew up on me & called 911 because she didn't want to hear that I was upset because she refused to take my daughters senior portrait. That was an eye opener & the last straw. Unfortunately, I feel I cannot contact my father and wish him a happy Father's Day, simply because I know that if she found out that I talked to him, she would make it more miserable for him with her fits of jealousy. I certainly don't want to make my fathers life harder than it already is. I know that he knows that I love and appreciate him & that's what I will live with for now.. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

It's not just collecting stuff

I heard someone say that its just collecting stuff but, It's not just collecting stuff. It's a whole thought process. It's the inability to prioritize, to make reasonable decisions. The crippling effect of a perceived or real loss that has never been worked through or accepted as a reality. Their own frustration with themselves builds up until they explode and usually take it out on the ones they love & then the loved ones reject them even more & they feel they are not good enough, something is wrong with them & the feelings get turned towards things, the thought that things can't reject me, they are useful, everything is useful becomes overwhelming & the stuff takes over & adds to the crippling thoughts that now They have this mess & depression overtakes & they can't sort out their own feelings much less their stuff. Anxiety becomes a 24 hour feeling and the mind cannot handle it, therefore anymore stimulus causes a shut down and immobilizes the person. Perception of reality is not there, they get frustrated if things don't happen just the way they picture it in their head. Temper tantrums result and normal day to day activities get blown out of proportion. Criticizing others becomes easier than dealing with their own shortcomings. Empathy towards others becomes either an obsession or none at all depending on their mood. Excuses become their belief, and there is always an excuse for all their actions which they justify as ok. Apologizing becomes a way to cope with their faults, but nothing is never done to change it. Sorry becomes a fix all end to their wrong doings so that they can do it again. If only they can fix everything broken becomes a constant thought. Broken stuff is always usable, cannot throw away anything because it brings back pain that they perceive as throwing them away, as if they are not good enough to keep. It's a lack of self esteem & self respect. They are broken and don't want to be thrown away, they want to be fixed, but don't have the right tools to fix themselves, just like their stuff. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Enabler guilt

Growing up I felt it was my responsibility to clean, to take care if my siblings, to make sure nothing set my HP off. I somehow knew this wasn't the way it was supposed to be, but I took it upon myself & soon it was expected of me. 
I knew what it was like to get a spanking every night before bed, whether i was good that day & if i was bad ,I got two. Bad? What exactly could a little kid do that was so bad to get the belt? I still shutter everytime I hear the jingle of a belt buckle, that was the first sound I heard before the sting of the leather belt hitting me. It was awfully hard to "shut up and go to sleep" after that every night. No child should be that afraid of their parents, they are supposed to protect you, not hurt you. 
I was often put in charge of my younger siblings, feed them, diaper them, watch them, bathe them. I spent most of my summers being the surrogate mother. That's a lot of pressure for a ten year old. I know the guilt when one of them got hurt under my watch, my baby sister falling on a piece of glass & being taken away in an ambulance to get her arm sewed up. Yup, my fault, mom wasn't there ... again... My little brother hit in the head with a rock, stitches, again, my fault, no mom. My brother would take off on his bike, through the neighborhood, laughing at me  & I would try to chase him down, but he was too fast. I had recurring nightmares of him taking off & getting hit by a car, and would wake up crying from the guilt.

Even as I got older I felt like I had to be the one to help them with everything, if I didn't, who would? 
I took my sister in when she had no place to live, my brothers always came to me for advice first, about marriage, babies, car loans, mortgages, all the questions about life that you would talk to your parents about. I didn't have anyone to ask, I figured it out, I figured it out myself... (My own damn wisdom) 
I took my responsibility of being a parent to my own children very seriously, I knew what it felt like to be a child put in charge of your siblings & vowed never to make my children take care of their siblings unless they wanted to. I never made my son babysit his sister & even got sitters for both kids until they were 13 years old. I feeling is that My children did not ask to be born, they owe me nothing, each child I had was my responsibility and I would never expect them to help me with any aspect of raising my child that I chose to have. It wouldn't be fair to them, they need their own childhood. They are not here for me, I am here for them...

Family gatherings were expected to be at my house, because it was big & clean, unfortunately there was always some kind of controversy.  Usually holidays were when my HP was in prime form, ranting & raving about something minor, that wasn't just how she pictured it to be in her head. Or she was jealous that I had a big clean house & hosted a nice get together & her jealously would spew out of her mouth in insults. 
When my sister decided she wanted a divorce from her husband & asked me if I could tell him for her, I knew that I was doing too much... I was in the habit of taking care of my family, I was enabling them, all of them. I didn't know how not to. They have to start making decisions on their own, seeking their own advice, figuring their life out, being responsible for their choices. Walking away from the enabling position was one of the hardest things I have done, the guilt I feel is the worst kind, but the peace & freedom I have gained from letting go is worth trying to erase any guilt left. That is my goal this year, to let go of the guilt. Take on my responsibility of the family that I created & not the family that I came from..

Saturday, May 25, 2013

the shitty daughter

My mother is a hoarder. She lives in filth and clutter. She tries to give me her stuff, she claims it makes her feel better about collecting things. I don’t want her stuff. She claims I have to take her stuff so that she will feel better, it is my obligation to her… is it?
All of my life I had known something wasn’t right and didn’t quite know what it was. Didn’t every child have to clean up after their parent? Isn’t it my responsibility to make sure there is order in the house? I had taken on the responsibility of trying to make sense of the chaos my siblings and I lived in, after all, I was the oldest daughter. This worked out fine for years, everyone was happy, so it seemed. After I had moved out and started my own life, I found myself creating strict routines and organization, basically, the total opposite of my upbringing. This was not a good thing either and created stress with my husband and children, but, eventually I learned to find a happy medium in my own life, through the help of a counselor.
 My mothers hoarding has grown to a dangerous level. She has battled mold, mice, lice, and skin mites from the piles and piles of stuff she has accumulated. I had even helped several times going through piles and shoveling out moldy boxes and clothes cleaning out a small area or one room of the house, only to have it all filled not long after I worked so hard to clean it out. She needed help.
            At one point, I was able to convince my siblings that maybe there was a problem and that she needed help, counseling. I set up a session with a counselor, all my siblings and both parents, they all agreed to go and talk about their issues with this surmounting problem. As we sat in the room in a circle, we were instructed to vocalize our concerns about the issue. As each one took their turn, every single one had said that they had no concerns, and that the problem did not affect them personally, until it was my turn. I let it all out. I could not stand to see my mother live like this, I cannot stand to see my father live in a house with no space, it made me sick to my stomach and had to change. I could only do so much and what I was doing wasn’t helping, the problem was getting worse, did no one else in the family care? It didn’t bother them that she was living like this, they had moved away, they didn’t have to see it, and they didn’t have to help her with it, so it didn’t bother them, but it bothered me. She was constantly on my phone, asking for help, bringing stuff over to my house because she couldn’t bear to get rid of it, so she had to force it on me, because, she said, I had the room for it.
Finally, I put my foot down, I will not live like that! I will not take her stuff, I will not help her clean uselessly anymore. She made the mess, that is how she has chosen to live, she needs to take responsibility for her own life and her own mess and her own stuff. I will not enable her to continue to accumulate stuff. I tried to get her to see that she needed counseling, what else can I do? At this point, I feel I am going crazy, I am so worried about her that my life is being affected, I am constantly crabby and start taking it out on my own husband and children. I have spent so much time and effort on her and her problems I haven’t paid enough attention to my own life and problems. How can I take care of someone else if I can’t even take care of myself? I am done with it. I told her: ‘I cannot come visit her in her house, it is a health hazard to me and it creates such heartache seeing how you live. I do not want your stuff, I don’t want your little pens with flowers on the ends that were such a good deal, I do not want your books, I do not want clothing that you bought because the color matched my eyes. What I want is a mother, a mother that can share in my joy, and happiness, that I can share my sorrow with, one that is proud of my accomplishments, and one I don’t have to clean up after, one I don’t have to take care of, I am not your mother, I am not here to take care of you, you are here to take care of me”
That seemed pretty clear to me, but not to her, the response I received was pretty astonishing, she said that I was a shitty daughter, and that this wasn’t about what I want, this was about what she wants, and she wants me to take her stuff and listen to her and help her and take care of her and all her problems because that’s what I had always done. But, I can’t anymore, I won’t anymore, and therefore according to her, I am wrong, and I am now the black sheep of the family, the lost soul, the shitty daughter…