This morning I hurried around my kitchen, trying to beat the clock that is a hungry baby. I was making Trim, Healthy Mama muffins which I usually pop into the microwave, single serve, but I wanted to make a dozen and yeah, it took twelve times as long. As I was washing out a bowl, a feeling overtook me... a thought that I wish I could make these for my mom.
My mom?? What? We haven't talked in about a year, but these moments just creep up on me, out of the blue and I'm sad all over again.
I could just call her up, right? Say "Hey let's just forget everything and be buddies and not talk about all the things we never talk about...." Right?
That's when I really start to mourn because the fact is what I want from that relationship....what I ALWAYS wanted from that relationship....has never existed. Never in the space of all my years. There hasn't been one second where that mother daughter thing happened. I've learned to live with that, a little at a time. I wouldn't say I've accepted it or healed from it or whatever a mental health professional would deem it, but I've learned to live with it. Like a limp.
My mother was not good to me. Ever. Maybe it's because her mother wasn't good to her. I really don't know. But I've had to be able to say this out loud because if I couldn't acknowledge how horrible it really was, then I'd be at risk for repeating that cycle with my own children. If I said "Oh it wasn't/isn't that bad..." that starts me down a path I cannot go...that which justifies everything I went through as "okay" and I can say that it would never be okay for my children to receive that treatment from me......
Cycle broken? Maybe. But oh does it get sticky. You see, you hear all the time about hurting people hurting people....and you think "I have broken that cycle by doing the opposite....we are safe..." but you aren't safe. This is why abuse perpetuates and continues because going left instead of right doesn't mean you are going straight.
This is a conversation my BFF and I have frequently. Our aggravation over our own children. Because our own children don't "get it..." They don't understand the work we are doing to not yell, scream, nag and belittle because in all honesty, it would be so easy to do. When we are annoyed at our children, we could absolutely repeat what we lived through...to get that small break, that small relief that comes with wounding a child's spirit just enough to get them to comply with our wishes instead of taking the long way around and compelling them to appropriate behavior by example and with love. It's so much easier to belittle a person who wants your approval into doing what you want rather than staying still and quiet and explaining for the fifteenth time that the tone of voice they are using isn't loving or appropriate. But that's what we do. And we feel better for it, as we should, but there's also...
Bitterness. Oh how easily it creeps up. That feeling that our children should be SO GRATEFUL to us for the life they have, which is the polar opposite of the life we had...and how dare they not appreciate that.
But when you think about it the only way they could understand the contrast is to have lived through both and the entire point of "breaking the cycle" is to not let them live through that. I catch myself saying "If...I..had..." as if they should be *thankful* that *I* didn't slap them across the face for that snotty remark. AS IF that were EVER an acceptable action. AS IF....they should know how LUCKY they are.
Oh my. My horrible, awful, sinful self.....my healing, acknowledging, doing better with knowing better....self....still stumbles. And I stumble because it's painful on a daily basis to have to make a CHOICE that has my mind constantly revisiting the alternative. There's no other way. Your child responds to a request harshly and in that moment you have to choose....Do I react the way I want...or the way I promised myself I would react? In that moment I am my mom and that child is me and I must go back and be that nurturing person I needed....but without the comfort. Yes, it's healing, but not comforting because there is a minute amount of envy that the child standing in front of me is getting what I so badly needed and takes it for granted.
But no one talks about THAT. No one tells you that when you are healing from abuse while parenting....actively choosing to be kind to someone who is being harsh feels like abuse all over again and you spend most of your mental energy in those interactions sifting through the actual words, tone of voice, intention (if you can even determine that....) and asking yourself...is this person attacking me or simply being human? And yes, even the two year old goes under that microscope.
Breaking a cycle is more than putting your hands in your pockets and choosing not to hit. It's more than counting to ten and taking a deep breath and walking away when your mind and mouth want to spew all your frustration and fear out in a tantrum of epic proportions. It's more than avoiding what was done to you...It's realizing that the people who will benefit from the cycle being broken....
Will never know.....because what they don't know can and would hurt them. As it did you. That they don't know is a GOOD thing. It really is, but that's hard to swallow.
You want those gold stars. But if you really think about it...you don't. "Thanks Mom for not beating me until I had welts when I was nasty to you the other day. That was really awesome of you..." My children don't even know that kind of treatment is a possibility....and that's the success.
Righteousness for the sake of righteous really is the only reward we can shoot for. Anything else...demanding an acknowledgement for how great we are for not being our parents is allowing that abuse to permeate our parenting, in a different way. Same nuts, different flavor.
It's an everyday battle. An everyday mourning of what should be. What could be, but never was. And a daily choice to be brave enough to be the kind of parent you never had, reaching beyond the bitterness and sadness to give something that was never given to you. Perhaps it's from this emptiness we are meant to draw from. Perhaps when we completely empty ourselves of those expectations and experiences we are also emptying ourselves of the poison that was portioned to us so that we don't pass it on, even unknowingly.
I really don't know the whys or hows or whats...I just know that it's worth the work and the pain for my children to be devoid of the knowledge. What they don't know.....is what I hope they never do.