When I became a Mom, I vowed I would never abuse my son Keith the way my parents hurt me. Instead, I've been too soft and now my child is hurting me. How can I learn to take control without losing control?
Ghosts Of Abusive School Drop-offs Past
I sobbed as my Mom pulled into my High School's circle drive. She was still screaming at me as I turned to get out of the car. She grabbed my arm so she could finish her tirade. When I finally got out of the car, I ran to the bathroom with my head down. I didn't want anyone to see my pain. I swore I would NEVER upset Keith before school like that.
School Drop-offs This Week
Every morning this week, Keith ignored our mutually agreed upon morning routine. While I was in the shower, Keith played with Legos. He didn't eat breakfast. He didn't pack his lunch, and we didn't leave on time. Yesterday, I spent my entire morning commute talking it over with my Higher Power, praying for patience. I remembered the drive with my Mom. I renewed my vow to be a steadfast fount of unwavering dignity.
I'm Accepting Unacceptable Behavior
Again this morning, Keith goofed-off while I was in the shower. When it was time to go, his lunch wasn't packed. I reminded him to get his thermos. Instead he got an empty, dirty water bottle out of the recycling. When I said no to the cheap, dirty recycled bottle, he went to his room and got a cup with a straw. Then, I let go of my "Good Mom" persona and called him out. I didn't take time to think about what I was going to say. I didn't choose my words carefully. I didn't say them in a nice tone. I said what I meant, and after five mornings of stuffing my feelings, I might have been a little mean.
I fought my guilt all the way to school. Yes, it's just a stupid water bottle, but the problem is much bigger. Almost every incident with Keith plays out this way:
- I feel manipulated
- I feel like I'm being lied to
- I feel like my kindness is being used against me
- I fear I'm raising an egotistical monster
Transgenerational Transmission Of Trauma
According to Psych Central, the cycle of abuse and domestic violence repeats itself, not only in the context of a single relationship but also across generations from parents to children. In short, trauma begets trauma. Yelling begets yelling, and anger begets anger. My efforts to kill this cycle with kindness haven't worked, so now what do I do?
I've been seeing a therapist for several months now. She gives me great insight on how Keith's adolescent mind works. We talk about boundaries. She warns me that Keith is likely to push back. My therapist helps in so many ways except for the most important one: She can't decide when I've had enough.
Boundaries Go Beyond Words
Keith senses my indecision. If I say "No" to something that I'm not 100% sure on, he seizes the opportunity to negotiate. When I am pushed too far and my mind is made up, Keith respects the invisible line. I have to do the hard work of deciding what I will no longer tolerate and then commit to it.
I must define what is unacceptable to me.
I also have to realize I'm not my Mother. I'm Keith's Mother. Just because he's sad or mad doesn't mean that I'm abusive. Sometimes it's just part of the job.