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Support and defend...

Support your children. Defend your children. Love them unconditionally. Never judge them. These are things I had to learn because I had none of these growing up. But I was acutely aware of what other people's experiences were in their homes growing up, how my adult friends interacted with their children based on how they were raised, and even mother/child relationships I saw on TV or in the movies. I was very cognizant of what was right and what was wrong; what was healthy and what was destructive.


Admittedly, when my children were very young, like 1 and 3, I heard words coming out of my mouth that I did not like. They were the same words I heard growing up. I was shocked at how easy it was to just repeat the familiar. It's just human nature to repeat what is most familiar; those same behaviors that I so despised. I made a pact with myself right then and there that I would break those patterns. I would never allow anyone to abuse my children in any way. I would defend them, and support them always, even if I didn't agree with them. I would love them unconditionally, no matter what they said or did. We would never go to bed angry, and I would always tell them I loved them before they went to sleep. And I would never judge them.. They are who they are, and if I wanted to be respected, I needed to show them respect as well. Again, it's more than ok to disagree. It's not ok to be judgmental. As soon as you start judging your children, they clam up. They lie, or they tell you nothing, because they can't take how awful it feels to be judged. They talk to their friends, and sometimes they confide in friends' parents, but they will shut down around their own parents for fear of being judged. And for me, by behaving in this manner with my children, I always had open lines of communication. And I was often the mom other kids confided in because they could not go to their own parents without being judged.


As a child and a teenager I was one of the great liars of all time! I made up stories to get attention and I lied about everything because I could not handle the constant judgement, the suspicious looks, and the lack of support when I needed a parent to come to my rescue. I told my mother exactly what I thought she wanted to hear. And even then, sometimes my plan failed because the narcissist is so good at doing an about face. But there were so many experiences where someone picked on me, or lashed out at me, or demeaned me in front of her and she did nothing. And I felt nothing but pain and humiliation. Here are some examples:

Ballet school. I was about 8 and a chubby child to say the least. The Russian ballet teacher was a monster. She put us all on toe, and for most of us it was too early and too difficult. Certainly for a child like me with weakish legs and a few too many pounds, it was humiliating to say the least. One day, during parent visiting day, the teacher walked over to me, slapped me lightly on the stomach, and very loudly in her Russian accent said, "hold in your fat belly." Some of the other little girls laughed. I looked at my mother for help, but she sat there expressionless. She did not object, nor did she defend. She didn't even pull the teacher aside at a later time and have a private conversation with her.


Another Mother. One of my best friends lived a few houses down from us growing up. I'll call her Ro. Her mom was never a warm and fuzzy mom. There were 3 girls, and the mom always seemed to be jealous of everyone else's kids. Ro and I were in a bowling league in junior high every Saturday morning. The moms alternated driving each week. Because my mother always rushed me and made me crazy that I was going to be late for everything, I became just as nutty about being on time. When we pulled up in front of Ro's house, we honked. We waited a few minutes, Ro came to the door and said she'd be right out, and I screamed, "hurry up we're late," which we were. Her mother came to the door and blasted me. She screamed, "Elise, don't you ever tell Ro what to do again. She'll come out when she's ready and you keep quiet." I got back in the car, and we drove away. My mother said nothing to me, nor did she ever say anything to Ro's mom. Ro and I didn't talk to each other for close to five years, but at some point we were just able to move on. When I confronted my mother about this years later, I asked her why she did nothing; why she didn't stick up for me. Her response was, "I stopped talking to the mom." And I said, do you think she cared that you stopped talking to her? She could've cared less." My mother was silent. She was sure that if she stopped talking to someone they would be devastated, and truth be known, she had no backbone; so she was incapable of defending either of her children when they needed it.


Day Camp. I went to day camp as a child for many years. It was the top day camp in our area. Some of the children went by bus, some by car, and some by station wagons known as woodys. I went by woody, and our teenage neighbor was the counselor/driver. We had designated trees to sit under at the end of the day, and we would wait for our transportation to be called. Either I wasn't listening or I was in my usual fantasy daze, but one day I didn't here the call. The woody left without me, and suddenly I looked around and I was the only child still there. I ran to the head of transportation and told him I thought my ride left without me. When he realized I was right, he made arrangements to get me home. I was a little frightened, and afraid to go to camp the next day. And, AGAIN, my mother did nothing. She wasn't upset, she did not complain to the camp owners, and she did not comfort me and tell me it would be alright. NOTHING.


My Aunt. I had an aunt who was married to my favorite uncle, my mother's brother. This aunt was a raging alcoholic. She'd start drinking late in the afternoon, and get so drunk she sometimes passed out in her plate. She could be violent and verbally abusive. We spent a lot of time together, and I loved my cousins. My aunt was never a problem for me until I was in my early twenties. As mentioned, my birthday is Christmas Day. This day was always spent at my aunt and uncle's house. She'd start to cook dinner, and most of the time my uncle would finish because she was getting drunk. One year at the dinner table after we were done eating, she started to talk to me about Planned Parenthood, where she worked. I was in my twenties and did not need a sex ed lecture. She said, slurring her words, " I just want you to know I'm here if you have a problem or need someone to talk to. I can tell you everything you need to know." I said, "I'm ok. There's really nothing I don't know at this point." This infuriated her. She stood up, threw down the folding chair, and started to scream at me. She told me I was ungrateful, and I really pissed her off. I was stunned. My uncle grabbed her arm and led her upstairs to bed. No one said anything to me, my mother did not defend me, and I was too meek to speak up for myself. I did tell my mother I would never go to their house on my birthday again, which she said was fine. But the next year, plans were made to go back there. My mother said it was for the family, and no matter what I said, or how I complained, I was expected to be there. And, as expected, the same thing happened with my drunk aunt again. She verbally attacked me because of something I said. She was led off to bed, and I was left embarrassed and humiliated on my birthday. In her sober moments she told my uncle she'd never do it again. But there was no apology to me; no remorse. I finally put my foot down and refused to spend another birthday there. And it was years before I went back. By then I was married, and had two very young stepchildren. She was forewarned by my uncle, and she behaved.


These are just a few of the many times in my life where I was the target of someone's anger, or left frightened, humiliated, and/or embarrassed. I was left to fend for myself. I never felt safe. I realized at a very early age that I needed to protect myself. I needed to be my own best advocate. And when I looked at my own children years later, I knew what my life's mission was: to protect them and defend them at all costs; to make sure they knew they were loved and and most of all, safe. Nothing is worse for a child than to feel unsafe. But don't be afraid to have children. You can change and break the patterns. And if you already have children and are worried about your behaviors towards them, the same thing holds true. You can change all of it. You can be the one who stops the pattern of abuse. I promise. And I am here to help. Please let me know what your fears are, and what you need help with. You are not alone. I stand with you.

















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