My kids (the 3 that live with me) have been frustrated with me.
I am guilty of saying, “Your dad loves you the best way that he knows how.”
In saying that, I have undermined their feelings. I have inadvertently been telling them that they have to accept his love…even if it hasn’t felt like love.
It is so ingrained in my head that ALL parents (to the best of their abilities) love their children. Maybe that’s true. But just because they love their children, it doesn’t make reality any different.
Love is not enough. It is time we stop forcing our kids to accept love that hurts or makes them feel bad.
It’s not just me that has fallen into the trap of believing this ridiculousness. Just last week, I listened to a friend excuse her mother’s actions because, “You know mom. She’s just like that.” This friend is just like me, brainwashed into believing that a parent is excused from reality because of love.
Bullshit. What even is this kind of love?
As adults, when we acquiesce to a toxic parent, we are letting them know that their behavior is ok. They never feel the consequences of their actions because as young children, we are taught to overlook and ignore how we feel because of duty or “respect.”
Making older adults feel good was more important than our, or our children’s, pain.
For years, I forced my children to overlook a certain family member’s behavior. My children would come to me hurt and angry, and instead of acknowledging and understanding, I expected them to dismiss their feelings because that person was older.
- Older = respect.
- Older = deference.
- Older = no accountability.
I was wrong. I ignored my children and trained them to be accepting of abuse.
And I have been doing the same when it comes to their father.
It doesn’t matter if their father loves them. He has harmed them. He has put conditions on his love for them. He has abandoned them. He has been cruel to them. He has minimized his wrong, and he has not apologized to them.
By the way, this is not a beat up Code Red post. This is a reality check for myself.
In the training of my children, I have been complicit with abuse. For years, I continued to place my children in harms way. I cannot undo my actions, and for that, I am very, very sad.
I have decided to turn my sadness into advocacy and education.
Here is what I can do:
- I can apologize.
- I can model what it is like to learn something new.
- I can change.
- I can listen and actually hear.
- I can come alongside my children and others.
- I can stand up for mistreatment.
- I can carry it forward by educating others.
Looking inward to see truth is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things I can do, both for myself and for my kids.