Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Parental Report Card

So, I'm reading this book, "If You Had Controlling Parents", and all is well and makes sense, but perhaps all along I'm still thinking it doesn't apply to me quite as strongly as it would some other people. Then I come across this parental report card, where you grade your parents on how well they did the following: 

Granted you emotional freedom
Saw you as a unique person and encouraged your potential
Fostered open communication
Modeled healthy boundaries and provided consisten limit setting
Bestowed affection, acceptance, and physical touch
Fostered an awareness of your inner life and encouraged connections outside the family
Loved you, encouraged you to individuate, and set you free

If I did this as a true or false, all of them would be false.  I'm realizing that it's not just about not standing in the way of a child's development, it's about actively nurturing it. And that's the mistake I'm making, thinking it wasn't so bad for me. Because she didn't actually get in my way at all, so I figured I didn't have the right to complain. She didn't actually beat me up or tell me I was bad. She just let me believe it, and somehow I'm still blaming myself for that, I'm still taking responsibility for having that idea. I'm sitting here thinking, well, I shouldn't have tried to manage her emotions, that's my fault. I shouldn't have tried so hard to win her approval, that's my fault.  But now this book is saying that good parenting is more active than that, more mindful, more intentional. There was nothing intentional about how I was raised.  I was raised with absence, with avoidance. And I'm thinking that the fact that my mother refuses to remember anything from my childhood is an insult, it's telling me that there was nothing she enjoyed about raising us, that she does not have one happy memory about being a parent.  What does that say about me? Well, it confirms that she didn't love me. Big time. Her self-serving refusal to dig into her own past to help me understand mine makes me very angry. She neglected to support my development as a child, and now she's neglecting to support my healing as an adult. There's this treasure within her, memories that could help me make sense of things, help me have more compassion for my child-self, maybe, and she's sitting on the treasure box with an airy smile on her face, shrugging - "What? There's nothing in there. It would be a little inconvenient for me to get up and look in there. I don't want to bother finding the key. You aren't worth it." Each time she refuses to answer my questions about our past, she's telling me I'm not worth it. That she will not suffer anything uncomfortable to ease my pain...and that is how she treats me in everything. She buys tickets for us to go to Stitch n' Pitch and then tells me I have to pay for mine because now that she's on a budget, it's a little more difficult for her. God forbid she sacrifice anything for me. God forbid she spend $20 less dollars spoiling the shit out of her grandkids, who wouldn't even notice, so that she and I can do something fun together, so I can do something exciting once a fucking year. No, I don't want to go anymore. I wonder if she can return the tickets? She's so unwilling to see my pain, the reality of deprivation I live in, so unwilling to hear about anything I suffer more than one time, even though I suffer those things daily. How can I forgive her when she continues to treat me as less deserving than others, as less important than herself? How can I get her to even see that's what she's doing?

My childhood was one, long rape. One continuous stripping of the things that were supposed to be there for me - protection, love, encouragement. And she continues to rape me in these little ways that I can't see, these subtle ways that she's completely blind to, and I only feel mostly subconsciously. Her ungenerosity to me, and her displays of generosity to everyone else damage me, they eat away at me, they hurt me deeply in small bites. The only way to make it stop is to stop needing her, but there is no one else. I am the orphan dog who settles for unsatisfying scraps because that is all I can get. 

It boggles me now to look at that list, to realize that she failed me in every way possible. How so?

1. Emotional freedom - I was petrified to express anger outright, made to feel guilty for expressing need or want, shamed to feel exuberance, pride...some of this was laid upon me by my father, but after their divorce, I could not express any feelings for fear of exhausting my mother further, asking for too much, making any demands. When I was a teenager I was extremely depressed and labelled moody and grumpy because I felt I had to avoid the biggest sin, which was expressing my anger directly. Her perfect innocence, it always fools me into believing I have no right to be angry with her. She gets away with ripping me to shreds because she's so convincing in her belief that she's not done anything wrong. I was always on my best behaviour and poured my violent, overwhelming (to say the least) emotions in the only safe place I could find - my journal.

2. Saw you as a unique person and encouraged your potential - I wasn't seen at all. I felt it was my job to be as unseen as possible. I was as perfect and silent and needless as I could be as a child, and as a teenager I had so much angst, it was impossible to hide, so it looked like 'skulking'. Running to my room, looking down, mumbling, saying naught. Not once did I feel I could speak up about what was making me so miserable. The thought never crossed my mind that I could or should. I don't recall being encouraged, rather I was expected to excell at the things I'd always been good at, and that was that. 

3. Fostered open communication - see above. There was no speaking in our family when I was growing up. We were three people living alone in separate rooms of the same house. When I think about it now, I thought I was supposed to hate my brother. It never occurred to me to try to get along with him. I don't know where that came from, but he seemed to feel the same way about me. On the rare occasions we had fun together, it was embarrassing, and promptly forgotten. Did we do it subconsciously to say something to our mother? More or less, communication was blocked because there was nobody around to talk to. She wasn't there, so how could we communicate? When she got home, she was exhausted, or unhappy, so how could I approach? When we moved in with my stepfather, who I could not stand then or now, it was his house, his rules. She was with him, on his side, and he on hers. I was even more alone and unable to speak my truth.

4. Modelled healthy boundaries and provided consistent limit setting. There are no boundaries where there is no relationship. She set no limits - she didn't have to because I was terrified of doing anything wrong.  She was not there to guide, to correct...I don't even know what setting limits means in the context of our family. There wasn't need for them I guess, since I was on my best behaviour around all authority figures. It was only when I was a teenager and started living my own life that she tried to enforce limits. And I just laughed in her face because she'd never before given a shit what I did. I played by the rules when I was younger and it didn't get me any love or approval. Staying out late with my friends or boyfriends did.  And she modelled that to me by leaving us alone overnight all the time to stay at her boyfriend's house.  She treated me as if I had the needs of a grown person, and yet did not want to allow me an adult's freedom to take care of them myself. Of course I was angry and deprived.

5. Bestowed affection, acceptance, and physical touch. I have no memories of touching, or loving words. I have not felt accepted since I was a child of 5 or 6 years old. 

6. Fostered an awareness of your inner life and encouraged connections outside the family.  These things weren't blocked, but they certainly weren't actively 'fostered'.  I couldn't help but have an awareness of my inner life since I was forced to live inside myself all the time, forced to become self-monitoring and self-conscious at the age of 7.  Having an awareness of my inner life did not mean I was allowed to express it or validate it or value it.  All I did was discount myself, invalidate my feelings, devalue my uniqueness. 

7.  Loved you, encouraged you to invdividuate, and set you free. I was set free alright, long before you are supposed to be. Without love or encouragement to individuate. I was thrown to the wolves and left to fend for myself emotionally, with no mentor, no guidance, no one to talk to or seek advice from. 

Huge parenting FAIL. 
No parents are perfect. But what parent leaves their child with these impressions? She lives in a bubble of denial, suppression, excuses about the past. I cannot forgive her, not now, maybe not ever, for being incapable of loving her child. She had her reasons, and obviously she feels excused. Maybe subconsciously she's trying to make up for what she did to us by spoiling her grandkids. But since none of those are my kids, it just makes me more bitter and resentful. I can't stand to see them, growing up with love and comfort and parents who read and take action, and grandparents who have found in themselves the ability to give and love them, but still not me. Still, they can't love me. Because I am this festering sore, this reminder that everything is not perfect, that you can't run away from your responsibilities and past failures.  

Right now I hate her so much, I can't imagine why I bother spending any time with her. When it's all out like this instead of simmering away, eating away, broiling away in the pit of my stomach, I just want to hit her, to punch her in the face, kick her. I just want nothing to do with her.  How can she live with being such a failure as a parent? How can she be okay with herself? But of course I know that, it's because she forgets whatever is unpleasant.  Why is she like that? I know absolutely nothing about how she was raised, if anything bad happened to her as a child. I've always assumed everything was rosey because her parents are still together and she's never said anything negative about them. But maybe she's just learned this from her mother, I can see that my grandmother is quite likely to be the same way, not wanting to think about the bad shit in the world. Giving it the minimal amount of acknowledgement but not doing a thing about it. And maybe my brother chose a wife who's like that too. Because they all seem to be that way to me. They don't hear me and what I go through. They nod and change the subject without offering to help. They all think having stuff is more important than helping a cause. As if your kids are going to grow up damaged if they were in a smaller house, or had a few less clothes, toys, books.   But that is a whole other blog post, isn't it. 


I sometimes write things that I don't really mean or believe. These are not to be taken literally, nor as definitive statements about me or my beliefs. Thoughts and emotions are transient, and I reserve the right to change my mind, generalize, exaggerate, give strong opinions, or write other possibly offensive statements. I don't lie, but I may say something that's not true to check whether I believe it or not, or to make a point. Call it creative license. This is my blog, and do have the right to say what I want. I'm using it in creatively therapeutic ways. Whatever the reader may think of me and my words, please believe that my core intentions are always good and I never willingly hurt anyone.