How has parenting a difficult child changed you?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by trinityroyal, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    After catching myself this morning saying, "Tyrannosaur, will you please open the safety gate for Tyrantina?", and realizing...wait a minute...I'm entrusting the operation of the safety gate to a 3-year-old. But he's a Mad-Scientist Aspie 3-year-old. I know he will unlock it, open it for Tyrantina, and then lock it again because those are the rules...

    It got me thinking. How far have I wandered from my image of an ideal parent? Is it just that he's the youngest, and the older ones wore me out? Or is it that raising difficult children has made me a different person, and a different parent?

    I think I have changed a lot. Four out of our five children have issues of some sort:
    - difficult child, well he's the child who brought me to this board all those years ago. Explosive rages, Aspergers, paralysing anxiety, paranoia. Finally a diagnosis of bipolar that helped us to make sense of it all.
    - easy child, with Dyslexia, Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) and anxiety.
    - Tyrantina, the Mood-Swing-erina. I suspect bipolar, but at 3 years old it's too early. She also seems Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)-ish.
    - Tyrannosaur. He just screams Aspie all over.

    And then there's Step-D. Normal, in that she's neurotypical, but she has a great whopping dose of PTSD from the years of torment she suffered at the hands of her bio-mom.

    I think if Tyrannosaur or Tyrantina had been my first child, I would have been in a flight of panic trying to figure out what's wrong with them. But after all the years in the trenches, I can't even quite bring myself to label either one of them a difficult child. Well, not yet anyway. Time will tell. has parenting a difficult child changed you?
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I used to have friends. I could not wait to come home from work. I now answer the phone with," What did he do now."

    I thought that after raising two older children (one with adhd and dyslexia) with very little trauma, that I knew what I was doing.

    Boy was I wrong.
  3. FlowerGarden

    FlowerGarden Active Member

    I didn't get to go a lot of places as a family because of the scenes difficult child would create. I dread whenever the phone rings. I was told I have PTSD because of difficult child's behavior. I dealt with some difficult children at work and never had a problem with them because I could figure how to deal with the problem faster than the other adults. I became the go to person for dealing with a difficult child at work. I had to leave the job I enjoyed because of difficult child. I became more outspoken because of having to fight for help for difficult child. I have bouts of depression, too.
  4. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I get annoyed when someone's kid does something we would consider minor and they think he/she is going to juvie (breaks curfew for example).

    I, too, have PTSD... And second-guess my second guesses.
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Good question. Well, I came to this 'party' very late, my difficult child was 'relatively' "normal" until 12 years ago, so she and I are older.............but lots of sleepless nights, heaps of worry, mega fears, so much uncertainty..........I've had to work very hard not to be an anxious, angry, resentful, judgmental person. So I guess I would say that I've had to put in a lot of time into learning about myself and ways to be healthier and happier and ways to respond differently.............I have more compassion for others, especially those afflicted with mental illness. I am very good at boundary setting these days which I never would have learned if it weren't for parenting a difficult child...... and in many ways that's changed my life in very positive ways. I have more clarity about what I want because I had to identify those things to be able to set those boundaries...........I'm more determined to protect a little corner of the world, just for me..............I've learned to redefine what love means and let go of parental controls I assumed were OK and healthy.........I learned that my judgments about my difficult child's life are just that, mine, they aren't necessarily true or even right.............they're based on my perceptions and my life and letting go of those was very, very freeing (I'm still doing that too)............I'm less judgmental and more some degree I understand how living in the present and not the future or the past is liberating.........

    My difficult child has put me through the ringer in lots of ways, however, it was not without some very positive changes for me. Not to say it didn't suck in lots of ways too, but I have changed and much for the better.
  6. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Oh, Trinity. My difficult child is a substance abuser, manipulator extraordinaire and so much more. Parenting him has changed me in the following ways:
    Quite simply, I lost my innocence. That may not be a bad thing, because at the age of 50, I had no business being innocent. But I truly believed that my family was sacrosanct and impervious to the implosion my difficult child visited upon us. But the level of betrayal, and the public humiliation I endured at his hands was Shakespearean - no exaggeration. I witnessed filth and ugliness that I didn't even think existed, and this person was living under my roof, eating my food, using us for everything we had. Every day during that hellish period, I had to get up, function, put a happy face on, and press on through my shame. There was a definite BEFORE and AFTER event, which I won't elaborate upon, and the "me" that existed before that night no longer exists, and the "me" that exists now is on the other side of a fault line the size of the Grand Canyon, across from my difficult child.
    Parenting two adopted children, one of whom is (mostly) a pleasure, and the other who is a difficult child, changed my conception (pardon the pun) of nature vs. nurture from what I formerly believed. I questioned my sanity, my beliefs, my abilities, my common sense; my marriage suffered for a while, and I think some years of my life were shaved off due to stress and lack of sleep. We wasted so much time and money. In the end, the truth is, you can't make someone love you, and I can live with that. Respect is what I can't live without.
    My faith in people and even for a while, my faith in God was shaken to the core. I've had to make a daily, conscious decision ever since to not become embittered - it's been humbling, to say the least! I may look the same, but I am very much transformed; I'm much stronger and more resilient having gone through this. Snow White became Nobody's Fool. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to unload.
  7. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I used to have friends. I could not wait to come home from work. I now answer the phone with," What did he do now."
    I dread whenever the phone rings.
    I, too, have PTSD... And second-guess my second guesses.
    I have more clarity about what I want because I had to identify those things to be able to set those boundaries
    I'm more determined to protect a little corner of the world, just for me
    I may look the same, but I am very much transformed; I'm much stronger and more resilient having gone through this.

    Wow! These statements are all so profound. It really is a trial by ordeal, isn't it?

    I think my biggest lesson in raising a difficult child was that thing that Maya Angelou says about believing people when they show you who they are. This applies not just to my difficult child, but to so many people whose true colours and their own difficult child-ness became evident through the reflection of my son. A friend of mine calls it Life-Surgery. difficult child's descent into chaos triggered a number of irreparable separations in my life. Strangely, those people haven't left any holes behind them -- my life closed up around them and they're not really missing from my world.

    I've learned that it's possible to love someone completely, without being able to trust them an inch. And that dealing with the cognitive dissonance resulting from that is very very hard indeed.

    I've learned that I'd best say what I mean and mean what I say the first time, because ambiguity leads people to interpret my words in the way that most favours them, rather than in the way I mean them.

    I've learned that I'm much stronger than I thought I was, and that I could live through pain I thought would certainly kill me. And that the pain from those scars doesn't show on the outside, but has forged my soul in steel.

  8. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Yes. Yes, exactly.
  9. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    "difficult child's descent into chaos triggered a number of irreparable separations in my life. Strangely, those people haven't left any holes behind them -- my life closed up around them and they're not really missing from my world."
    Yes, Trinityroyal (love your name by the way) that is so true! I've had many "illusionectomies" as a friend used to say............I was just talking about this last night in the therapy group...................that detaching from my difficult child has opened many doors of perception previously nailed shut, and much 'stuff' I was willing to adapt to, put up with, endure, look the other way about, justify, accept as reasonable or tolerate, is just not happening. My BS meter is well oiled and working at maximum efficiency. But, it's more then that, I just deserve to be treated with a certain amount of respect and dignity which I now insist upon, and I think, command to a certain degree because I am acutely aware of NOT getting that and the ways in which I permitted disrespect. You said it well, "forged your soul in steel." I get it. I call it radical self love.
  10. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Interesting question and I'm not sure I know all of the ways it has/is changed/changing me.

    I believe it has made me a much better teacher. I have much more compassion and can relate well to so many of my parents including those with difficult children. I'm rather open and think letting other parents know I also have a child who is a difficult child really helps them feel more comfortable around me. When I hear other teachers wondering about the parents of a difficult child I'm the first to point out it is not always due to parents!

    I've learned that love can't change everything (but still means a lot).

    I've learned how it is possible to love your child but not like them all the time as well as being surprised at how much I can love him despite everything (violence, verbal abuse, etc...).

    I've learned how to compartmentalize my life to a bit. When I'm at work teaching I just don't have time to be dwelling on my difficult child. This has been a huge benefit for me because in some ways it lets me "escape" for awhile.

    In addition, I've learned the importance of taking care of me. Both husband and I carve out time to workout together and also time to spend together and alone. It isn't nearly much time as we need but it helps.

    I have learned that there are some teachers that have been amazing with my difficult child and that there are some who should not be teaching difficult children.

    I've learned to appreciate little things much more than I ever did. I appreciate everyone of difficult child's baby steps. I get so excited over things I didn't think would matter so much.

    I believe I'm a stronger more resilient person because of my difficult child.

    I tire much more easily. I'm battle weary. I have learned parenting is not what I expected.

    I was always a very trusting person and now question things more.

    I've learned to not take things so personally (still working on this one).

    I know there other things that have changed about me and believe I am still changing.

    One thing I'm very happy about is, for the most part, I have retained my sense of humor and my positive attitude (some days more than others).
  11. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Ask me in another 10 years.
    I'm still too deep in the trenches to compare where I am to ... well... I don't even remember what I used to be, and I have no concept of "normal" any more so... changed?

    Ask me in another 10 years, and maybe I'll have it figured out by then.
  12. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    To be a brief as possible - it's made me realize my strength and while witnessing his - made me more understanding and compassionate - and most importantly, made me realize what is really important in life - the physical and mental health of those I love - not medals, or sports awards, or honor roll certificates - just the genuine smile of happiness or the giggle of a child who could have easily gone the other way.

  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    This is a great question and I'm sure if I wasn't rushing a bit at the moment, I would go on for hours.
    Sadly, there are many negatives for me associated with having a difficult child...especially early on, but most, if not all of it, with great effort, has ended up well.

    I/we adopted a child (my difficult child), due to health problems. I believe the stress worsened them and I'm even paying in that matter today (many years later). That, to me, is the biggest tragedy, along with having times of great difficulty in my marriage...a marriage that was and is often the envy of all my friends. But, then again, perhaps it would not have been so strong if it weren't for our difficult child. I'm not sure. Today: We are strong, happy and successful and I am very proud and grateful for that.

    I lost my career because between health problems and difficult child turmoil; it just simply was too much.
    Our bio/mostly easy child son reacted badly to things .... and that was very hard on him and on us. However, today he is a super easy child, very understanding, kind, patient and a very SUCCESSFUL teacher...perhaps from the difficulties he witnessed with having a difficult child in the home. On the negative side...he will have very very little to do with his difficult child sibling.

    About three years ago or so, I got a Master's Degree in a related field and worked for two years helping mostly young difficult children. It was very rewarding. Both in grad school and afterwards, it was "interesting," how much more I knew than some of my classmates and even one or two of the professors.

    I've been very sick for about seven months now and my prayer is that if God grants me better health that I will be able to help difficult child children and/or parents some way in the future.

    My husband, who has avoided bitterness throughout this ordeal, has been feeling that sentiment of late and it has been painful to witness. He does love difficult child we all do.

    One very tough way it has changed me now that my difficult child is older, is the very very hard lesson in detachment. That was profound. I have had to turn it all to a Higher Power and it has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

    It has been an extraordinarily hard and profoundly difficult road and I am proud that to a large extent, things have turned out well. The struggle was ENORMOUS. It took everything we had to move forward, with little and often no help from others. in my humble opinion, we were wise to seek family counseling now and again.

    It would be impossible to fully describe the level of difficulty involved to get to this point. It completely changed the trajectory of my life. Perhaps if we had more familial help, that would not have been the case...I'm just not sure.
    To answer your question specifically: It made me a little stronger, more reliant on my HIgher Power, more cautious, more intuitive and stick a little closer and love my husband a little harder. I also ended up with a Master's Degree in the area where my difficult child has her illness. Sadly, it also may have exacerbated my medical health issues.

    I am most grateful that by and large, with great difficulty and effort, we moved forward and ended up well.
    Lasted edited by : Nov 16, 2012
  14. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    How has being the mother of a difficult child changed me? I learned that people who you think are your friends really aren't when the difficult child poop hits the fan. Then they drop you like a hot potato and talk about what a "psycho" your kid is and what crappy mother you are. It's hurtful and it's something that I think I will carry with me for a very, very long time.

    I have very little trust for my difficult child. He lies over anything, even the smallest thing that would cause anyone any trouble. I have to watch and listen whenever difficult child and easy child are together because difficult child will turn on easy child at the drop of a hat and I have to make sure that easy child does not wind up hurt (or that easy child does not hurt difficult child, which would happen is easy child gets angry enough). My anxiety levels are at places I never even knew existed.

    I think what I feel the most is resentment and when you have your first child you never, ever expect to feel such an emotion toward your child. But I do. difficult child limits what we can do. difficult child clouds every decision that we make. I resent the fact that I can't do things that other families with perfect kids can do. Family vacations are a nightmare and husband insists that we still have to go. Every. Single. Year. I resent the toll difficult child has taken on my marriage. When we fight, it's almost always about difficult child. Always. Yes, we may be fighting about vacation, but the reason that we're fighting about vacation is because of difficult child. I resent the fact that we've done everything that every professional we've consulted has asked us to do and I am still dealing with all of his crap and nonsense.

    I also feel cheated. There are SO many things that I would love to do with difficult child, but because he is a difficult child we can't. So many people that I know brag about how wonderful and loving their kids are, and I look around and I think to myself, "Why did I get stuck with this lot?" I know that I should not feel that way, but I do.

    The funny thing is that I have alot of that with easy child, which actually makes things harder with difficult child, so I have to hide alot of things from him in order to keep some amount of peace in the valley.

    Being difficult child's mother has changed everything that I thought being a mother and a family would be. I have many days where I think that if I could go back and change my decision to have kids I would do it in a heartbeat.
  15. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I loved the old me and my old life. I loved my profession, my hometown, having at least fifty friends that I could call at a moments notice and have a laugh or get some help carpooling or whatever. Truly I was so blessed to be me.

    Slowly I became more isolated out of the necessities of monitoring GFGmom. I continued to do all the parenting things and I continued to do the volunteer work which has been my great pleasure but I no longer had time to linger and shoot the breeze or meet up at a happy hour etc. etc. Truthfully I believed that once GFGmom graduated from high school I would be able to fall back and normal again, lol. Not. The next generation of difficult child's have kept me focused on serious issues. Sad but true. In retrospect I have no idea how I could have changed things.DDD
  16. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    It has made me care less about what people think, has made me tougher.
    It has given me a little more insight into and compassion for children with special needs, and their parents.
    It has made me appreciate the good times, the moments of love, fun, laughter and peace, all the more.
    It has made me very aware of my own limitations (true of any parenting).
    It has made me see that there is so much that we do not and that we cannot control.
    It has reshaped my definition of "normal".
  17. Jody

    Jody Active Member

    I had a mental breakdown, and haven't totaly recovered from it. Definately my health has suffered, mentally and physically. Self Esteem, was down to nil and still not where it should be. I am just not me, who I was or would have been, but I am what I am. I am extremely close to difficult child and with some maturity we mostly have good days, and some bad days here and there. That I am very thankful for. I never thought we would have a relationship. I am learning to let go of some of the guilt of hating her at times, as I have moved past those intense type feelings. I am quite the hermit. I love to be home alone with my dog. It's peaceful and I don't have to deal with any issues that a person might cause. I have lost jobs and apartments because of difficult child issues, but now I fight for my apartment and good behavior and respect and I know now I don't have to take any abuse from her. Things are getting better, but yes I have definately changed, some good some bad.
  18. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I have a harder shell now, and have trouble relating to people who have only PCs. I had become confrontational, almost combative, with teachers and school personnel, and now I don't have to do that anymore, which feels kind of funny.

    On the plus side, I'm more understanding of the difficult children I come across in the classroom. And I'm more patient overall.
  19. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I come from a long line of difficult children. My husband refers to me as Marilyn from the Addams family because I got enough typical to be a easy child. I was about Duckie's age now when I decided that the crazy train was going to stop with me; that "my family" when I grew up would be able to do better because I would create a much more stable environment for us. No more mood swings, hoarding, drug use or alcoholism. Little things like bedtimes, stories together, chores and dinners together. Set high standards and make sure any kiddos I had knew I felt they could achieve them.

    I was eleven, what did I know about genetics? You can imagine my horror at discovering my beloved little Duckie was, in fact, a difficult child. It didn't matter what I did or what I tried. She was a difficult child. And I once again had a difficult child family. It was devastating and demoralizing all at once. I nearly cracked the night I realized that I could not fundamentally change my daughter to be who I needed her to be. But you know what? The sun came up the next morning. And the day after that. And again. And so on. Eentually I got over myself and got down to the business of being the parent of a different type of kid.

    Instead of trying to change her, per se, I started to try to get to know her. Figure out how she thinks, what gives her joy, how to inspire her to be her best. But to be her best we had to explore the world around her and her interests. Find talents and strengths. Work on her weaknesses in the process to help her function better. Be less of traditional parent and more of a caretaker to this brilliant soul that God gifted to me on a very cold January night in 2001. In learning to respect her, she's slowly learning to respect me. Is she a easy child? No... she's still sensory defensive, can be excessively rigid, very disorganized and gets pretty anxious. But... I have learned to not let the problems, weak spots and blemishes be all I see. I see the innate beauty, the strong and courageous soul, the loyal friend and kind heart. I see the intelligence, critical thinking and sense of humor that will serve her well long after I'm gone from this world. I see talents that I never would have imagined or would have been realized had we followed my plan. Following her plan, all in all, has been much better in the long run.

    So all this has changed me. I'm more willing to meet people where they're at, I don't suffers foolishness lightly and I'm much slower to negatively judge others. So far she's managed to make me a better person.
  20. MyFriendKita

    MyFriendKita Member

    If I were to give one piece of advice to parents of younger difficult children, that would be it. I came to realize that too late, and I believe it has negatively affected my relationship with my son. I thought I was being a good parent by trying to force him to conform to what society expects, but in reality, I was telling him there really was no one on his side. He came out the other side of his teen years intact, so I guess it all worked out, but I wish I had been a little more understanding of who he is.