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January 04, 2013


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I've read this now twice, and cried twice, and everything is right there on the surface for me too. How wrapped up I was in my teens and my twenties about how everything I endured was God's Will. How I let that stick me in an awful relationship, abusive in all the ways. How that still colors me, how my husband's abusive/neglectful/shaming family colors him. How do we break free? How can I make my own anxious kid know how perfect he is? I write a lot about the sins of the fathers and of the forefathers.

I believe so little, now, but I believe that love, true, deep, unconditional love will change our children's lives and change us to the core. I believe that we need to speak all the truths we know and keep speaking them. I believe we need to see each other and know and tell each other that we're all good mothers, all of us, all of us who look at our children and see beautiful beloved beings who need us, will always need us, and their needs are so simple and easy and JUST LOVE. Even when it's the hardest to be a parent that's always all they need. Patience is good and kindness as much as we can muster but in the end it all will come from our love.

We all need nurturing still, I think; I know I do. Wishing I could give you more than this comment.

The only good thing about growing up (I won't say "being raised") in a fucked up household is the insight it gives you on what to do and what not to do as a parent. I'm a believer in bringing the problems (of which there were and are many) out into the open. If possible, we sweep nothing under the rug. My kids ask for help when they need it, and now that they're almost 21 and 17, sometimes they seek it out on their own. They're not ashamed to know they need help, and that the best and strongest and most wonderful thing they can do is express their need and desire for help. Thank goodness for psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. These people have helped me raise my kids, many times because they're the ones who told me I was doing things right or was on the right path, that following my instincts was good, even when I felt like I was in the dark, blind-folded, and walking barefoot on Legos. You are doing the right thing. And because it's all out in the open with you and your kids, they'll be fine and so will you. Also I believe that in retrospect when our kids look back and see that we took their problems by the scruff of the neck and dared those problems to fuck up our kids -- they will know they were and always are fiercely loved and protected.

We have had hideous ugly fights with myb10 yr old - they scare me and make me feel helpless as we grasp for the why's and blame ourselves - but am always awed and humbled when they still tell me they love me. Because they know no matter what that we love them. - despite our imperfections

I want to add that a tendency to be anxious, like many other traits, is highly determined by genetics. So you can be a good mother, even the best mother in the world, and still have a child who is anxious.

I know this from experience. With one birth child and one adopted child, our family is a living genetic laboratory.

What you're doing for her -- being there, listening, helping her get professional help when things are beyond your capacity -- those are the things that will make the difference for her.

We are not our mothers. The fact that you are aware and trying to be so different makes you a better mother. I worried endlessly that I couldnt parent my daughter when she was younger, haunted by my own relationship with my mother. Now my eldest daughter is 15yrs old she tells me I'm a good mother to her, she sees from her peers that I try hard and work at our relationship. Yes, we fight and have screaming matches(she can be an obnoxious teenager & I can be a hormonal mother of 4) but we work through them. You seem like a really good mother so try not to be so hard on yourself. The very best to you.

I relate so much to this...perhaps too much. No words of advice or wisdom to offer just my love, and the next time we meet face to face a hug for you my dear friend.

"But my love" I told her, holding up my other hand, "will always be there."

She's feeling all these feelings, that you can't control, in the safe haven of your arms and your love. She doesn't have to hide them in the dark closet of her room and her mind. You've made it ok to have feelings, to let them out of the closet and face them head on.

This is huge. Do not underestimate the power you are giving her. And (this is where I can speak from experience....) as you see her get stronger, so will you.

Reading these comments with so much love and admiration for all of you. Thank you for sharing them with me. xox

Wow. Thank you for writing this, and I am so, so glad that you come to the conclusion you do, that even though the demons exist they don't have to take over, and the shadows that loom from our own childhoods don't have to permanently darken today's light. I could not agree more. Beautiful. xo

Making the choice to be different is what changes things. Choosing to tell your kids every single day that you love them no matter what? Changes things. Not being violent. Not ignoring them. Trying your damnedest to do it right. Changes things. Will you screw it up at times? Yes. We all do. Yet you apologize and try and fix it and that is so very important.

Q needs some help and you saw it and you're actively trying to find her the help she needs. That makes you so much different than your parents. Give Q time. She may be just like you in a lot of ways. But over time this stuff may come easier to her. Easier than it was to you. Because she has you as her mother, not your parents.

You aren't perfect K and kids come with their own issues. I fully believe that. But you chose to stop a cycle and that, while being hard as fuck (trust me I know, because holy fuck how are we supposed to know what is normal?), is what makes you a good parent.

Oh Kristin. Reading this is like reading my own story. My kids are now grown and wow, we did have our ups and downs and I wasn't a perfect or even, probably, a really, really good mother.
But they are loved and listened to and cared for far more than I ever was. And as young adults? They are fabulous, wonderful people.
You can do this and you are doing it and you ARE a good mother and a good person.

Your description of the roller coaster hand vs. the steady hand (LOVE) is one of the most beautiful analogies I have read in a long time. Thank you for continuing to share so much, and much love and healing to you.

I went to therapy in my teens because I had awful anxiety about things that I would mess up, things that hadn't happened and most likely wouldn't. Both my parents were supportive and loving, I was so lucky to be comfortable enough to actually ask them to talk to a counselor because I knew I wasn't feeling right. Your daughter will be able to find peace with herself, too, especially if you continue taking such good care of her.

While my boy doesn't live a perfect life, he does indeed live the good life, compared to my childhood. When I see the anxiety in him or he struggles with life, I panic but then remind myself, he has so much more than I EVER had- he will be just fine because I am his mother.


Um, I don't even want to read the other comments, but I couldn't help but see someone asked you if you could have coffee, and I want to totally be all HEY CAN WE HAVE COFFEE TOO?! I have a toddler and a wee one on the way, so I'm not available for travel, but if Austin ever feels like a good idea of an escape for you CALL ME UP! Because holy cow. I just deleted some paragraphs, but in a nutshell: I don't share your physically violent childhood, but the scars inflicted by my mom (including up to 2 weeks ago) resonate with the pain you've expressed here. And I am totally with you on the telling off of straight craziness. Seriously. I worry about the day I'll hear those words, or similar words, from my daughter -- because isn't it inevitable? With every fiber of my being, I am going to do everything I can for her to equate me at my worst without really knowing what that is. Does that make sense? I feel like kids somehow just know that yelling "I hate you!" and "You're terrible!" are so, so cutting -- and I want her to maintain that innocence of not knowing what those words mean. She can think she means it -- when I ground her, if she needs it; if she doesn't do chores (that are on par with her age/skill level, and not anywhere near overwhelming); if she disagrees with a parenting decision that I've made in her best interest, that's legit. I'm okay with that (so I say, as my toddler doesn't know these things and is (I hope!) years away from this stage!). I think some of us honestly are just prone to a kind of anxiety/perfectionism -- And unfortunately, some of it is developed + exploited by horrible circumstances, but it doesn't mean that *we've* transformed + transported our daughters to those places that we've broken free from. Gah, I hope this is making sense. I just feel your hopes, and I feel like you've got the right direction, and the right push to get there. Yes, it is a fight, I don't doubt that. But I am with you on emphasizing every which way that my children have my love, unconditionally, even when we have our ups and downs. Even if we don't always see eye to eye -- which is perfectly natural, I think, because as a parent, you've got to make some tough decisions that wouldn't be the same if, say, your number one goal was to be anything but the best parent for your child, does that make sense?

I feel like I am talking in circles, so I'll spill a little more -- I had a terrible, terrible row with my mother the week before Christmas. There's all kinds of details (and years of crap I am leaving out). But I finally realized, after calling my mom on her shi*t, that there is absolutely, no way that we are ever going to see the same thing. And it's not a I'm right/she's wrong quarrel -- it's a my-childhood-friends-have-been-after-me-to-make-this-decision-for-more-than-a-decade-and-my-therapist-has-gently-questioned-why-my-decision-hasn't-been-made-like-this-before decision, because She's Family. She's My Mother. But under it all: the best thing for my daughter, for my family, really is what's best for me, and my toxic mother's demands ... are too much, flat out. No matter which way I would bend, twist, contort, I can't do it. And I finally realized that. And so I quietly said goodbye, and -- so far-- that's been it. No, I have no idea what's happening now, and Yes, I envision all kinds of angry words I yell or write in a letter or whatever. But really, it wouldn't change anything -- that was the conclusion I reached after listening to her on the phone, spelling out how XYZ would kill her---literally kill her--blah blah blah. You can't argue with crazy.

But -- through all this doubt that I hear in your post and that echoes in my head, about what Good are you, what kind of Good decisions are you really making, the strongest one is Love your child. And not the messed up kind of "love" that we were exposed to. But the one you Know you're aiming for, the one you Know is not composed of threats/warped Bible interpretations/etc. *coffee cup clink* We can do this -- not just because of our childhood backdrops, but because we examine things so closely and worry so much. Because we know the goal is Love.

Your different. Your different because you are, and because you recognized age needed help and you got it for her.

Bawling as I read this. I can relate to it so much. It's hard to mother when we weren't parented well.

We do this thing, as parents, where we try to go in the opposite direction and somehow end up headed toward the same thing. Or so we think. But it's just that it's a familiar road and one that looks the same. I promise you that the destination will be different with you and Quinlan. I promise.

You have brought tears to my eyes. I "justify" my childhood demons and parental abuse by believing my children have a better mother for it. A mother who will ALWAYS love, support and protect them, no matter what. They WILL have what I did not.

Wow. When you face life as courageously as you have with these words, change is inevitable. Cycles and patterns and habits can be broken and replaced with new, strong, more beautiful and compassionate ones. It's okay for the process to be messy. Sometimes it has to be.

I hope you continue to heal and love yourself. I'm a big believer that for all the things we can't control about the paths our children walk, there is no greater light we can provide for them than to let them see a truthful, tries-not-to-beat-herself-up, mistake-admitting, self-respecting, self-loving, self-actualized mom.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Thanks for sharing. I don't have kids, but I'm already afraid of all the ways I'll screw up. I have that list of "when I'm a parent I'll NEVER or ALWAYS so that," but at the end of the day I think the best thing I've got going for me is that I'm not afraid to ask for help. I've been in steady counseling for four years to manage my depression. I know the value in having someone outside of your family or friends who can help you talk about what's really going on. And if my kids ever need to, I'll help them find someone who can help them. I think you're such a good mom for getting help for yourself, your marriage, and your individual kids when they need it.

I can only imagine what it takes to be able to think straight about this... but to be able to properly write it as you did? That makes you my hero...
And balls... You've got balls, I can tell you that.

Oh man, woman. We need to compare notes.

I watch my daughter struggle with her anxiety, the same anxiety that I thought I got from having the flesh scraped off of my body and the light extinguished from my heart, and I am starting to realize that there is a lot more to the story than just my take on it. And it crushes me. It crushes me doubly because as hard as I tried to keep her from this, there is it inside her. Part of it is my genetics and part of it is that I let a very bad thing go on way too long, thinking I had shielded her from it. I hadn't. I never could have. It's so much to carry.

That is all to say that you are not alone, and I love you, and we can take this walk together anytime you need a companion.

"I can't hide her eyes from the outside world."

That phrase struck me through the heart. The damage our relationships without mothers can do, when they aren't healthy relationships. I have lived my life with a knowledge that I am not good enough. I have fought against it and I work very hard (maybe not hard enough) to ensure that my own children know they are perfect and wonderful.

As Amanda said, none of us know for sure what we are doing and all we can do is try. We never outgrow the damage done to us as children (such a scary thought for us as parents) but we can work to minimize the damage we inflict onto our own kids and recognize it.

Love to you--you are doing an amazing job and you are not alone.

It's not the same.

They have us in them, yes. And we bear scars and imperfections, and retain misconceptions and bad habits, yes. But we are different. We were different from the start, and we continue to be different, and we strive to improve.

We recognize their individuality and love them for who they are, and that's as close to bulletproof as we can make them.

De-lurking(at the risk of outing/embarrassing myself) to tell you that you are not alone in fighting childhood demons. My best defense has been, and always will be, each and every time I make any one of my children laugh (usually with me) insisting that "Oh mom, you are SUCH a dork!" broken as I may be. Take that (and frig you!) demons. (((hugs)))

P.P.S. I forgot to mention that I'm with you. I feel like the one arrow I'm convinced actually works in my quiver is love. Complete love, which I didn't get as a child either and which still hurts me to this day. But I KNOW as much as I screw up, I'm giving my kids that on a daily basis and they know it.

Oh Kristen. I SO SO SO get this. Beautiful post.

My sweet boy, the one I had postpartum OCD with, is so filled with the drive for perfection. So filled with worries. I'm constantly worried about him and know I need to get him into therapy, just so that a professional can make sure he understands he doesn't have to be perfect and we don't want or need him to feel the need to be that way or to work so hard to be that way or to spend unGodly amounts of time on a single paper for school because he loves it when he gets 105% and his teachers tell him he's a "dream student".

P.S. WHEN are we having coffee?

Wrenching and beautiful. thank you for sharing it.

Oh, Kristen, love upon you and your family. I feel like every day we get further from the baby stage we are stripped of more of our ability to put the past behind us, to feel like we are building something completely new. Traits emerge, habits bubble, the fight to avoid a path we knew is upset by the reality that there are new paths with new hurts—it is so raw and real.

Be gentle to yourself, treat yourself as you would have that little Kristen. Not a one of us knows what we are doing, but we are trying.

Bah, probably should stop spewing, but I had a physical, almost primal need to add a voice to this quickly that said, "You are not alone. You are not hideous. No one is broken."


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