As painful and embarrassing as it is for me to admit, I don’t remember thinking a whole lot about the welfare of my children from the mid-80’s to late-90’s. I guess it’s because I was in this awful, never ending relationship with someone I’d grown to detest, and I was in this “zone” where I just wanted to be happy… even for a little while. Happiness, to me, at the time, was either being drunk, or shopping for something new for myself or sometimes for my kids, but mostly just being away from BB. Our relationship was so sporadically volatile, but there were still times when I hadn’t given up on that white picket fence fantasy, and we’d try to make things work and act like a real family. It wasn’t all bad, but when it was bad, it was really bad. But there was the summer we went camping at Lake Eaton in the Adirondacks… well, except it rained. And occasionally we’d go to Fair Haven Beach on Lake Ontario and spend the day trying to be a “normal” family. The kids “joined” things: soccer, band, Girl Scouts ~ I was even a GS Leader for several years, and took the troop camping and such.
So, it’s not like I didn’t care about the kids, I just wasn’t as attentive and loving as I should’ve/could’ve been. I never told them I loved them enough, if at all. I was recently asked by my marriage counselor “‘how did I know my parents loved me”? That was a really tough question, as looking back, I don’t remember them ever saying so. But I knew. Somehow. I’m sure that they did. I was sure that, when my dad brought out his leather Army belt to whip my and my brother’s behind for something, it was with love. And when I was forced to eat the most God-awful fried liver for dinner, even when my mom knew I hated it and it made me gag, I knew there was love and my well-being uppermost on her agenda. So, that’s how I knew to show my children that I loved them. But now I wonder if they could’ve ever known that I loved them back then. Doesn’t seem possible.
Being the control freak that I was (see Forgiven and Set Free), I became an abusive disciplinarian. And I was the only “real” disciplinarian for my children. BB was not a parent to them ~ not even to his own Brian and Katie. In truth, he was an agitator in our family. I think I over-disciplined because of two things: my control freak attitude, and the frustration of being in an abusive relationship myself. I did not see it for the abuse that it was, I saw it as “making my kids mind”. I wanted well-behaved children, who would do what I wanted, when I wanted without question or hesitation. WTH? Just reading what I just wrote sent my brain into a tailspin! I did not “spare the rod”, but seriously overused it. I have since felt overwhelming guilt, apologized to each of them, acknowledged my sin to God and begged everyone for forgiveness.
Today, I see my children with my grandchildren, and they’re loving, caring and completely the opposite of how I brought them up… praise the Lord! They do not appear to harbor any ill-will toward me for my errant way of thinking hitting them and screaming at them (including obscenities) was the way to get them to happily obey my wishes/commands. Ok, well most of them. And sometimes my adult daughters (Kristen and Karalyn especially) and I will “joke” about the mental issues that I caused them growing up, the OCD problems and self esteem issues that they acquired due to my Hitler-way of discipline. Although we can laugh weakly about it, it’s not so funny. Maybe that’s our adult way of coping with the issue. But, admittedly, I see parents with their small children now and I think to myself, “why couldn’t I have been so much better to my children than I was?” And I hate most of the memories I have of their upbringing, knowing that I caused them so much pain and they must’ve thought I hated them. I marvel now at how absolutely wonderful they’ve turned out as adults, and wonder at just how that happened! I’m sure I didn’t have anything to do with it!
*This post was a little off topic, but Chapter 9 will surprise and enlighten.