How to give your children a new story
I have cut ties with both of my parents; have grieved the parents they weren’t and have grieved the parents they were. They were not essentially bad, with a capital “B,” but as a parent now myself, I realize we have choices, sometimes hard choices. My parents decided, repeatedly, not to make certain choices.
Anyone familiar with abuse patterns knows of the confusing and destructive addiction of denial, and the blind spots abusers exercise to export culpability. All players adhere to false narratives: the child who will do anything for love, who will not learn a healthy definition of love, and the abuser who perpetuates a pattern of connection that is not love, but is still a connection.
My father left when I was an adolescent. He had already proven himself both spinless, and dishonest. He was also violent. He is still fond of casting himself as the perpetual victim. No action, no initiative, not a warrior. And when you have kids, you have to count upon yourself to be a warrior. I lost faith in him at around age of eleven.
My mother cast herself as a warrior, but that meant keeping the world at arms length, exercising paranoia at all times, and an inbility to accept dissent. She was a tyrant. She was capable of love, but also of seeing plots and schemes where there were none. My mother saw little children as the reason for her pain; a pain that was in place long before my siblings and I were born. She was violent both verbally and physically.
Strenght of will carried me through the bouts of depressions and mental breakdowns I experienced since my teens, and onward. Thankfully, I found a mentor and healer who has helped me learn the origin of my malaise, where the responsibility lies, and how to heal.
I have a child, and I could never raise a hand to her. She gets angry; I listen. Her opinion, her agency—they all count. She’s awesome. She is, in fact, the most beautiful child to have ever walked the face of the planet. That’s how all parents feel about their kids, and if they don’t, then they have issues.
I was the most beautiful child to have walked the face of the planet, as were my siblings. But, my parents did not see these gifts. They had a choice, I had a choice. I did not come out of my childhood with a full, loving heart and a benevolent attitude. But, I wanted those, so I sought them out. I would not bequeath, to my beautiful child, a history of violence spanning generations. It has stopped with me.
Once I saw the moving components of this inheritance, I realized I gained nothing from these people. There was rage, anger, and deep pain. For the parents I never had, the parents who could not love me, could not protect me, there was a breaking of a holy covenant. But, grief has it’s own compass and will carry you through to shore once you submit. Days spent in bed, writhing in an agony almost physical. And then, it is over.
I do not have that anger or fear of them . Nor do I have a huge heart for them either. They no longer feel a part of me. They are two dysfunctional people in the world, separate from me. I do not wish them ill will, but I have let them go, and do not feel their absence nor a need for reconciliation. When they are old and failing, I will dispassionately arrange their care. Maybe they will continue their criticisms, dredging up perceived slights and incidents from decades past, raking over projections of pain and expecting others to heal them, and it will matter. Not to me. I’ll be kind towards towards these two old, silly people, like I would be to others, because I have a big heart and do not like to see people in pain.
This is quite a hard core case study, but it has the components of the toxic relationships I see acting out in the relationships of my peers. The adult child, straining to please the parent so as to not risk disappointing them, or triggering abuse. And it’s a rigged game. The narcissistic, abusive parent will never give unconditional love, and is one step away from a devastating put down or spiteful retreat. I can see the dynamic clearly in others, but needed an expert to extricate me from my ingrained and conditioned dysfunction.
I can see how intelligent, capable, talented adults will have calibrated their existence to please a parent who never was. Ultimately, we are being pushed to love ourselves, provide affirmation and unconditional love that should have been modeled for us, but never was. And that is hard work, that is a choice.
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