It’s never the candy: Interesting dynamics in estranged parents forums

I’ve been perusing the magical world of estranged parents’ forums, and grandparents’ rights forums. They’re pretty interesting and scary places, mainly because of the “it’s not your fault” message that these people keep spreading.

If there’s one message I want to get out to the world, it’s that people don’t just up and walk out of your life for no reason. There’s always a reason.

Continue reading

I’d rather lose you than lose my way

I saw a friend of sorts a week ago. Someone I hadn’t seen in fourteen years, but have been speaking to more and more over the last two years or so. Our relationship began in our childhood and has been rather complicated, at times intense and messy, at times distant and cold. What keeps drawing us back together, aside from shared history, is a pattern of abuse that we both suffered as children. Abused kids don’t always do adulthood well, and in her case this is particularly true.

Turns out, she thinks I’m boring. I am the reliable, predictable and at times complacent and content person that she doesn’t want to be. She tried to rouse me out of that state, a bit unsuccessfully. But she has no idea why she failed.

Continue reading

Love the kid you have

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day in the U.S. The advertising is ramping up and there’s really no escaping it – it’s a big money maker for florists and restaurants and I’d guess jewelry stores as well.

All that keeps going through my head at this time of year is, What’s it like to have a mother? And what’s it like to like her enough that you want to celebrate her?

I had an egg donor in whose home I was raised, but she sure as hell wasn’t a mother.

I was lurking around on a forum I frequent not too long ago, when someone made a comment about how you can’t be a bad parent as long as you love the kid you have. And I realized that that was at the root of a lot of the issues I had with my egg donor – she didn’t love the daughter she had. She had a lot of ideas about what I needed to be, what I owed her, how I was supposed to act, what I was supposed to like…it’s exhausting to remember how much stress I was under as a child, trying to be something that I didn’t completely understand. All I knew is that my mother didn’t really like the actual me. She wanted a different version.

My mother’s “love” – put in quotations because I don’t believe for one second that there’s an ounce of love in that woman’s body – was conditional, and the conditions often changed. Something that was supremely important would become suddenly unimportant the moment I achieved it, and we were onto the next hurdle I needed to overcome to earn my mother’s silence. Because that was the best I ever got – nothing. I never received praise, I was never told that she loved me, I was never encouraged. I was made fun of, yelled at, belittled, bullied, and told things like “if you don’t get straight A’s, don’t even bother coming home, I don’t want you.” What a lovely thing to say to your 9 year old. I started having panic attacks in 4th grade.

I can’t love the mother I had because she was never able to love the daughter she had.

What I can love is the fact that I’m free of her. That I succeeded in doing the things I wanted to do in life despite her. That I’m an independent, functional adult, despite how hard she tried to prevent that from happening.

Playlists are the new tea leaves

On Friday on my way home from work, I was thinking about the removal of toxic people from my life. I know some people don’t like describing other people as toxic. In this case, I don’t mean that the people themselves are toxic, but that they’re toxic to me, or we’re toxic to each other. (But should anyone think that a person can’t possibly be toxic, just look at the U.S. government.)

The one lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t completely rid yourself of anyone who has been impactful in your life in any way. Sometimes this is a wonderful thought, because all those people who influenced you for the better are, in some ways, still with you. But sometimes this is a rather distressing thought, because you realize that the bad shit has influenced you, too, and you can’t fully rid yourself of those influences. Our experiences and our brain wiring make us who we are, and we can’t control or undo either.

Continue reading

Reasons to not feel bad about cutting off toxic parents

I have a lot of experience with toxic parents…I’ve gone no contact with them a number of times, recently for the very last time. I’ll deal with them if there’s ever a death in the family or some reason why I need to be in their physical proximity, but aside from circumstances like that, I will have no part in their lives. They’re just awful people.

But it took me a while to get to the point where I could break off contact quickly, cleanly, and with no feelings of guilt or regret. Getting to this point was a process. So when I saw this article from Bustle from last year titled ‘5 Reasons You Shouldn;t Feel Bad About Not Talking To Toxic Parents‘, I had to share.

I think the biggest take away for me was the author’s point around not allowing others to pressure you into keeping in contact with toxic parents because family. I’ve always personally said that sharing DNA doesn’t make me obligated to tolerate someone. I also tell people who don’t understand me, who like to give me the “but they’re your faaaaaamily!” line, that if you wouldn’t encourage someone to forgive and forget about abuse suffered from a spouse or significant other, then don’t tell someone to forgive and forget abuse from parents. That usually shuts them up.

If not, just ignore them – because the other part of the article that I was applauding in my head was when the author said that only YOU understand your experiences and how those experiences impact you. Others will sometimes try to tell you all about yourself, or explain your experiences, or rationalize your parents’ behavior. I started shutting this down by pointing out that of course my parents were never abusive when other people were around! Most abusers aren’t abusive when other people are present – so I remind them that they have no idea what happened behind closed doors. They have no idea what my experience was growing up. Only I do, and it’s up to me to decide how I move forward with my life.

One thing this article didn’t get into that I’ve had to deal with (and others, too) is the idea that if your parents spent money on you, they 1) must love and 2) couldn’t have been all that bad.

Yes, financially and materially, my life wasn’t that bad. But as anyone who has ever been abused knows, you pay dearly for any gift or favor an abusive parent gives or does. All the material things they showered me with were thrown back in my face any time I didn’t do something exactly the way they wanted, or failed to live up to expectations, or started to push back against the abuse. Money and material things were used not only to make me feel guilty, but to control me. And when that stopped working, the reaction was viscous. To this day, they post passive aggressive shit all over Facebook about how horrible and ungrateful I am and tell family members all about how much money they’ve spent on me. They just don’t understand why I don’t worship the ground they walk on.

Spending money on someone is not love. I’d rather have had parents who were broke but loved me than the financially stable but abusive assholes I got. But such is life.

Point is, I don’t feel bad about cutting abusive, toxic parents out of my lifeĀ – and you shouldn’t have to, either. It doesn’t matter what relationship someone has to you…NOTHING makes abuse excusable, and you should NEVER feel obligated to tolerate your abusers.