What I more or less pieced together is that she assumed I had agency at 11 or 13 so it was basically in her head like he was cheating on her and I was the homewrecker. That version in her head appeared to be constantly at war with the part of her that suspected abuse. The reason she couldn’t break out of denial was because abuse was so normalized in her family. So I think a lot of the abuse she heaped on me at that age was because a part of her blamed me for wrecking her marriage. Once I realized that my Mom was living in two different realities, one in which her tween daughter was enthusiastically screwing around with her husband, and another in which she suspected abuse but kept telling herself she was just being paranoid, everything made sense to me.
I mean, you know, as much as it could.
Now not everybody is as mentally ill as my mother. But this happens in a lot of families. It’s a well known phenomenon, “failure to protect.” But yes, viscerally it’s just impossible to understand. I would kill myself before I allowed anything like that to happen to my son.
I really don’t know if my father was capable of loving other people. I never saw any indication that there was anything in his universe except him and how things related to him. My mom loves us kids, but she wasn’t well and couldn’t defend herself, let alone her kids.
@Spice_Weasel, something that happened to me was when my kids started getting up into the age where I could remember the abuse, then thinking as a parent about it and how completely fucked up it was.
In my family, we have the infamous The Spoon incident where I gave my father the wrong size spoon at a meal and he took me into the other room and beat the living shit out of me. It was one of the most violent beatings I was given, and over something trivial. I had to be six or seven at the time. My father would rage completely out of control and it would seem that he could kill you. (Well, there was the one time with the gun* and I think he had completely lost it. Thankfully, he didn’t find me.)
Once, when my daughter was about that age, it suddenly hit him that she was the same age as I was when all that violence and mental / emotional abuse was happening, and how my actions as a child simply could not have justified that response. Of course, intellectually, I had known that before, but evaluating it as a parent, it’s just simply crazy.
It’s so insane and inconceivable people that for years I didn’t actually break it down, but anyone who is around children understand that children simply make mistakes. This is the nature of children. When I was teaching sixth graders, I was surprised at the number of kids who needed to be told very single class to have their reading book, a pencil and an eraser on their desk when the bell rings. Don’t even get me started on what first graders forget.
As teachers and parents, we all should be more patient with kids, but going batshit crazy, kicking them and throwing them against walls for a tiny mistake just shows how crazy he was, and why it really wasn’t my fault. As a parent, when you realize how much you work on handling your irritation with your kids, then you realize that there was something deeply wrong with abusive parents.
*and when they have guns in their hands, well, it’s completely beyond sanity at that point.
Yeah, I guess the "HI DADDY!"s do make it worth it. Really, if my kids throwing tantrums or annoying me on occasion is my biggest source of stress, I’m probably pretty lucky.
A lot of it is little stuff I enjoy. Like walking my son or daughter home from school. My 6 year old son is enrolled in little league so it was fun having my dad (who was an all-star baseball player in college) come watch him hit the ball. Or watching them play with their friends (there is another brother/sister couple in our building. Or my 4 year old daughter demanding “DADDY!!! BE A MECH!!” and then riding around on my shoulders like she’s piloting a Mobile Suit Gundam or something.
Basically a lot of it is seeing the world through their eyes. Which is cool because their world consists of both NYC / Hudson County and rural NJ. Also my family’s beach house off Long Island and when we go to Pittsburg to see my dad’s side of the family. Which is neat because I used to do that when I was their age.
Yes. Maybe it helps to extend compassion toward the child you were. Like it finally clicks that no, I was not to blame for this. That makes a lot of sense to me. I did similar work in EMDR.
Being sick I’ve had a pretty short fuse this week, where I can hear my kid fussing instead of napping and it sets my teeth on edge. It could also be I recently started a stimulant medication. I cognitively know he’s just a baby but it triggers some fight or flight reaction for some reason.I dealt with it through a lot of cognitive restructuring with a notepad and pen. I came up with a mantra I am the adult. I can handle this. It helped to keep me grounded. And I have to admit all that tension vanished when I walked into his nursery and just saw him there and I was filled with so much love I could burst. He is the best thing ever.
Oh, shit, just gonna answer the OP with a link or two.
No, I want a few words as well. Sorry for being a liar two sentences ago:
It’s the 24/7/365/18+ years non-stop nature of parenting that non-parents don’t really get. For 18 years and 10 months, until this past August, I knew where my daughter was every second of every day, at the very least in general terms (Sophia is with Katie’s family) but mostly specific (Sophia is with her mother/@ school).
And I do not know of any other person in my life to whom I could make the same claim for in a random 72 hour stretch, much less 18 years. I guess my then-wife, at those rare times when we had just one car? ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Then there’s this:
When Sophia went to St Johns she was faced with 2 weeks of quarantine, coming in from Texas as she was. So I compiled a list of my more important posts and threads about her, wrote her an open letter, and posted it here, sending it to her so she’d have something to read during qtine.
In the above thread you will find links to, IIRC, over 50 threads and posts about her, about being her father, and about some of the issues I wanted help from this community on (usually regarding education).
… and the minutes were, and are still, being cherished. And she still is the most interesting person on Earth. And I still feel that excited about Sophia, that full of hope about the promise she brings, but even more so now that I know her gifts and strengths. And she has a lot.
Having been both a non-parent and a parent (and Sophia wasn’t born until I was 34, so I had plenty of adulthood being a non-parent), I can safely attest to the truth of the statement that there are aspects to being a parent that a non-parent cannot understand.
I do hope the above words and links help in understanding this.
A parent knows intimately that a child is much more clever, often shockingly so, than most people give them credit for (in terms of their ability to absorb and process information), while simultaneously being just as stupid as their reputation suggests (in terms of their total disinterest in absorbing or using information that they don’t perceive as being significant).
Children are at a -2 for perception, an additional -3 if it involves shoes. Frustratingly, a +8 if it involves candy or other junk food. (Exact numbers depend on which system you’re raising your kids in, 5e, pathfinder, D20, etc.)
I just thought of something I’ve been musing over for a while. It’s not necessarily limited to parents, though. It’s more like “people with children in their lives.” (This assumes, of course, that one actually cares about one’s own family, and I think more people do than don’t.)
Another thread involving climate change has a lot of fatalist sentiment similar to “boy, I hope I die before things get seriously bad.” And it occurred to me that if you have children, or have children in your life as loved ones, it’s probably a lot harder to have that kind of attitude, because if you care about them, you’ll be worried about the future they’ll have, and you’ll feel a much stronger obligation to keep fighting for their sake. Since the previously mentioned fatalists don’t mention being worried about any younger people directly in their lives, I assume they don’t have any, so it’s much easier for them to just give up and decide to let the rest of the world burn. I’m not saying this is wrong in any way, but this seems to me to be a fundamental way in which one’s outlook and priorities change just by the mere presence of (much) younger people in prominent roles in their lives.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who will do things like discourage their kids from reproducing for this reason (and even a few who will take more drastic, horrible measures, believing that they’re sparing more terrible future suffering), but I think the attitude I just described is more common.
I’m not saying that people without kids are incapable of caring about future generations, but it seems to me to be a simple fact that it’s a lot easier to care about the general state of things if one has a direct stake in the future that exists after they die in some way, and children are the most common way to have that a strong stake.
Hope I’m making sense here; this has been floating in the back of my mind for a while, but this is the first time I’ve considered this connection.
Personally I think that’s a stupid attitude. No one has a crystal ball and can predict how the future will actually turn out. I mean if you look back at history, what would have happened if everyone was like “I’m not going to have kids because of all these World Wars with Germany / Black Plague / rampaging Visigoths / etc.”
Then again, birth rates dropping when times are hard or are becoming harder is certainly a statistical commonplace throughout recorded history.
It’s not a matter of everybody stopping having kids, but at the margins, some fraction of folks stop. Or at least delay. And some of those delays turn into “never” whether the delayers liked that or not.
For example: delays for various reasons that somehow backed into never is most of how I ended up without kids.