Tag Archives: children

Lessons From a Hypercritical Mother

I was raised by a mother who found fault in everything I did. Even my most painstaking efforts to gain her approval were completely futile. She was impossible to please, so I eventually stopped trying and ultimately stopped caring. It’s a wonder that I learned anything positive at all from the woman, but I did, and I would like to share a few of the things I learned from a hypercritical mother:

Children are worthy of respect.

Novel concept, eh? Children are individuals; they are thinking, feeling human beings with minds and ideas of their own. While we may have no idea where they’re coming from sometimes, or why they do some of the things they do — especially during adolescence — children and teenagers deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to those members of the human race who just happen to be older than them.

Being an adult does not entitle me to belittle or devalue someone simply because s/he is a child.

My son will be thirteen in less than four months. He is experiencing a lot of physical and psychological changes, and sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him. He is moody and cranky a lot of the time, even rude and disrespectful. Much of what I say to him goes in one ear and out the other, and sometimes his logic fails me. But snide, condescending responses to these things will only drive a wedge between us and broaden the gap in our communication.

It is my responsibility as an adult and a parent to model the type of behavior I expect from my child.

Adults are not automatically worthy of respect from children.

Respect is earned, and that applies to adults as well as to children. I will never insist that my son respect someone who disrespects him. That is not to say that I will allow him to behave disrespectfully toward another person, regardless of age. Not respecting someone and behaving disrespectfully toward that person are two different things. We can be courteous or civil to people whom we do not respect — it’s an important part of functioning in society. But if you want to be treated with respect, which I believe goes above courtesy or civility, then I’ll need a reason other than your date of birth.

If you want respect, then behave respectfully and respectably. Talking down to people, making them feel stupid or embarrassed for not seeing things your way or for not knowing or understanding something that seems obvious to you is not only disrespectful and hurtful, it is a form of emotional abuse that can permanently damage someone’s self-esteem, especially a vulnerable child.

Questions are good things.

I’m glad that my son is inquisitive, and that he comes to me with questions. I have always encouraged this and will continue to do so, regardless of how difficult his questions may become over the years. It keeps the communication flowing, and that is a vital part of any parent-child relationship. It’s important to try to give honest, straightforward answers whenever possible — even if the answer is, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up and see what can find.” I think this shows children that we’re interested in them, even if the topic doesn’t interest us that much.

On the flip side, my mother seemed irritated by questions. She seemed to regard them as some sort of intrusion, like answering to the likes of some snot-nosed kid was utterly beneath her. Even questions designed solely to make conversation or show interest were met with obvious annoyance and sarcastic responses. I learned at a very young age not to ask questions unless I wanted to be hurt and humiliated. I will not pass that lesson along to my son!

Different just means different.

Try telling that to my mother. She never seemed to understand that individual people have individual preferences and ways of doings things.

Wait, I take that back. She does understand that. What she does not seem to understand is that these kinds of differences do not make anyone inferior to her. Different just means different, and preferences cannot be incorrect by definition. There is more than one way to fold a bath towel, and none of them are right or wrong. They’re just different. Some people prefer mayonnaise, some prefer mustard. Neither preference is incorrect or inferior.

With my mother, there was never any room for individuality. As for me, my son’s emotional well-being and self-esteem are far more important than what he prefers to put on a sandwich, or having my dishes stacked to precision.

These are just a few lessons I learned from my hypercritical mother. I no longer have a relationship with her. The last and final straw was when I took my son back to my hometown and stupidly attempted to reconcile with her.

Nothing had changed. If anything she had become even worse over the years. She was just as controlling and critical of me as she had always been. But when she started directing her venom toward my son, I knew that it had to end. I simply refuse to subject my son to it. Shared DNA does not equal a healthy relationship and I will protect my son in every way possible from the effects of abuse in any form.

Do I always get it right? Absolutely not! I am talking to myself here as much as to anyone else. I hope that sharing this publicly will help to make me even more conscious, and accountable as well. I love my son more than anything in this world, and I want to do right by him in every way.

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Signs of Life

A couple in the town where I was raised had five children, all of whom were at school with my sister and me at one time or another. I will call them the Bradleys. I remember them all fondly to this day.

Sometime around the mid 1980’s, the Bradleys’ oldest child was killed in a plane crash when a couple of pilots from the local Air Force base took one of the planes out for an unauthorized joyride. She was only in her early twenties, and left behind a toddler son whom the Bradleys subsequently adopted.

In 1992, their second oldest daughter disappeared. She was twenty three-years old. She was last seen leaving work, and her car was found abandoned three miles away. Foul play was suspected, and the girl was never heard from again. No body was ever recovered, and she is presumed dead.

On December 4th of this year, just a few short weeks ago, the Bradleys were celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary. The gathering took place on their houseboat where the family stayed overnight. They awoke the following morning to find their oldest son not on the boat.

After an extensive search of the grounds, and finding his car still there, they contacted authorities. Their 43 year old son’s body was found in the lake. As far as I know, the cause of death has not yet been released.

This couple has buried two children and lost three. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like, and what they must feel living in the house where their children were and still should be, looking around and not seeing the people who ought to be there.

As I look around my house, I see Nerf gun darts all over the floor. The television is blaring in the next room and no one is in there. My son has left it on again! He gets excited and runs out, leaving the door wide open, he drops dirty clothes in the bathroom floor, and he plays his music too loud.

These things usually irritate the heck out of me. Tonight, though, I’m thankful for them because they’re signs that my son is alive, well, and safe at home.

The next time I find a peanut butter smudge on the counter top or step in a sticky patch because a spill wasn’t cleaned properly, perhaps I won’t scold, but will gently remind my son to clean up after himself.

Dirty footprints, crumbs on the carpet, scattered toys and books, the sound of Nerf guns firing in the house. These are all signs of life, evidence that my son is still here; that he’s happy, healthy and enjoying life. Sure, these things can be irritating, but the agony of not having my precious child around to make messes or noise would be absolutely unbearable.

I am so very thankful that my son is only shouting distance away right now. I will hear him singing in the shower later. I may have to tell him for the umpteenth time to pick up his dirty clothes, but when I do, I will remember the parents who would give anything to find a mess on the bathroom floor tonight.

Tonight, I will also hear my son laugh, see him smile, enjoy his company, hug him and kiss him goodnight; and in the morning I will have breakfast with him. Because my son is here, and he is fine.

My thoughts are with the Bradleys tonight, and with all the parents crying themselves to sleep again — if they sleep at all.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


Priceless

My son is the joy of my life. Things aren’t always perfect, by any means, but we have a deep bond and close relationship. He is rapidly growing into a young man, but even as I feel our relationship changing, I know it’s all for good. He’s growing and becoming more independent every day, and while I realize that our time is short, I am happy and proud to see him growing and developing into a happy, thoughtful, well balanced person, despite the many struggles we’ve had to endure.

Sometimes when I’m puttering around the house and my son is watching television or playing on the computer, I suddenly hear him burst out laughing. I don’t know what he’s laughing at, but just hearing it, just knowing that he is experiencing that happy moment makes me smile.

He sometimes darts past me and I ask what he’s doing. “Practicing being invisible”, he says. “Some day I’ll figure out a way to move so fast that you won’t even see me”.

He’s only half kidding, and we laugh together. He darts back the other direction and asks, “Did you see me that time?”

Occasionally, when I step out of the shower, I see a message in the steamy mirror. He wrote it in the steam after his last shower, and it remained invisible until the room steamed up again. It says, “I ♥ U Mom” with a big smiley face underneath.

He listens to music quite a bit on YouTube and has recently discovered an old song by The Impressions. He’s been singing it for the past several days and it brings joy to my heart to hear it. It lets me know that he is upbeat, happy and enjoying life.

Absolutely priceless! All of this!

I’d like to share my little buddy’s latest favorite, entitled, It’s All Right. When he watches it, he sits at the computer clapping his hands, rocking back and forth and singing along. I hope this helps brighten your Monday just as it has mine:

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


Them’s Fightin’ Words!

Good thing I’m not one for scrapping!

My son is an exceptionally bright young man. For the duration of this post, he will be referred to as John.

Rather than giving you details of the many ways in which he excels, let it be enough to say that his teachers have always remarked on how advanced he is intellectually; he’s creative and artistic as well; he draws, writes stories, and turns every game into a screenplay, probably because he wants to write and direct movies someday. Of course, that will come after he finds a way to implant some sort of microchip into the joints of people who can’t walk so that their own legs function similarly to an artificial prosthetic called the C-Leg.

John is constantly thinking, planning, creating and building things. He’s more interested in setting trends than in following them. He is extremely well spoken and articulate for his age, and his teachers and counselors often say that he is a “joy” to work with, commenting on how very “engaging” he is. He is an honor roll student who has already received several academic awards and commendations.

John is also sensitive, compassionate, well-mannered and respectful. He’s always willing and eager to help anyone who needs a hand. He tells the truth even when it might get him into trouble, and even if he could get away with lying.

As his mother, I’m probably biased, but many of these same observations have been made by uncountable people (often strangers he’s lent a hand to without being asked) throughout his life.

The trouble this creates for John is that he very rarely meets other kids his age who relate to him. If that’s not bad enough, he was actually picked on, made fun of, called names and even bullied for being “brainy” and attending the Gifted and Talented (GT) program last year.

Now that I’ve familiarized you somewhat with John, let me tell you about “them fightin’ words”.
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The Big Day

My son just left for his first day of middle school. I thought I was ready for it; I thought I wanted him to go back to school. The house hasn’t been quiet for two months, and I thought I’d enjoy the peace. But it’s too quiet now; all I hear is the hum of the fan in the next room, and the ticking of the clock above my head. How apt!

Where has all the time gone?

I cried a little before sitting down to write this. My mind took me back to the days when my baby was learning to walk. His nose crinkled when he grinned, exposing all four of his teeth, as he staggered across the room. When his diapered bottom hit the floor, he giggled. He didn’t seem discouraged by falling, but rather pleased because he’d made it as far as he did.

I hope he never loses his glass-half-full perspective. He’s going to need it more now than he ever has.

I didn’t get to say goodbye before he left. Not the way I had wanted to. His friend came over to get him, and there is to be no lovey-dovey business in front of friends. I understand that and I respect his boundaries, but things felt incomplete. The kid came over twenty minutes earlier than planned, and so we were cut short to begin with, then my son said, “Bye, Mom!” and walked out the door without looking back.

I called him on his cell phone to tell him I love him and wish him a good day. I thought it’d be OK as school hadn’t yet started. He abruptly informed me that he’s not allowed to use the phone on campus and that he was shutting it off. “Bye, Mom!” Bzzzz….

So here I sit on The Big Day, tears streaming down my cheeks, unmotivated to do any work. Good thing I’m allowed to set my own hours. I know I sound terribly clingy, but I’m really not. Not as much as this post might suggest, anyway. I certainly won’t tell my son that I cried or any of that. I just thought that writing about this might help me feel better.

I was wrong.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On


A Father’s Rights

I just watched a movie trailer at Feministe for a film called A Father’s Rights. More disturbing than the video were the comments under it. These people seem so blinded by hatred of everything male that they seem to think there’s a misogynist behind every bush.

This appears to be a story about a man fighting to be in his daughter’s life and wanting to protect her from what seems to be an abusive mother. Only he can’t – he has no legal rights to the child because he wasn’t married to her mother when the child was born. Despite the adamant denial that this could ever happen, I know for a fact that it can and does. These kinds of cases are not all the same across the board. Insisting that one’s own experience represents every other case is not only ignorant, it’s also rather immature.

I would like to take a quick detour, just to mention for the benefit of those currently studying law, that I think they will find, as they grow up in their careers, that what they have learned in the classroom about how the legal system is supposed to work isn’t always how it actually does work. It’s more than a little irritating to have some arrogant law student telling people that their experiences aren’t real just because they don’t line up with what the textbooks and law journals have to say on the subject. I’m afraid someone is in for a very rude awakening.

Now, back to the topic at hand:

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One Fine Boy

My son, who I’ll call John, will be starting middle school in August. He’s going through all the normal changes that boys his age experience, and things aren’t always easy. Sometimes I feel like I could run screaming from the house, ripping my hair out. But for the most part, John is a great kid.

We went grocery shopping today. John was a few steps behind me as we strolled through the aisles. I was just about to turn a corner when I heard him say, “Here, let me help you with that.”

I turned around just in time to see John lifting a case of sodas into an elderly woman’s shopping cart. At that precise moment, another woman of about the same age approached the same section, and appeared to be considering her selection. John stood back and waited until she had decided, then he helped her too.

The two ladies smiled at each other and appeared to be pleasantly surprised. They thanked John and called him a “fine boy”.

This sort of thing is not out of the ordinary for John. He really is a good kid and I’m proud to be his mom. As he continues to develop and grow, things will continue to change between us; it’s just part of the natural progression into manhood. Some days will be more difficult than others, and sometimes I may feel like I don’t know my son at all. Then I’ll remember days like this.

What John did couldn’t have been planned. He simply saw someone in need of help and offered assistance without hesitation. He didn’t need to be asked and he didn’t want or expect anything in return. That is part of who John is. And it’s no small part.

He really is one fine boy!