Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, May 15, 2015.
Right now I am working really really hard on this with my older sons wedding which is August 29.
No confirmed venue.
No confirmed rehearsal dinner venue.
No dates for showers for them.
One half of Save the dates held the other half mailed.
People making plane reservations and my son talking about changing the date, time, place, guest list.
People calling me with questions.
They are handling every detail and want no help.
No suggestions, no help, no ideas. We are just waiting for them to tell us what, where, when.
I vow over and over again not to say one more word.
I can do it for a week or so and then...I erupt.
This is not my wedding.
This is not my call.
This is not about me.
This is not personal against me.
I have to get over being embarrassed and upset.
I have to work toward NO expectations at all.
It is what it is.
Not my monkey, not my circus.
I want to have a good attitude. I am working really really hard, using all my tools.
I am also failing a lot. That is okay too.
Ugh. This letting go stuff never ends.
COM, I hear you!
Refraining and letting go of expectations, the way WE think it SHOULD be is treacherous!
I've joined a podcast of Pema Chodron (Buddhist nun) talking about how we get "hooked." Today she likened it to an "itch." The analogy was a child who gets poison ivy and when the rash is scratched, it feels so good, but it spreads and spreads as the child itches. Like us when we want so badly to act, to respond, to say something, do something.......we want to scratch that itch so badly.......and yet if we do, then it spreads......the need to do something is immense........if we refrain, over time, the itch subsides. But that part of waiting it out, allowing the itch to just be, is so darn hard!!
She says it is a human thing and something we humans do all the time and to NOT get into judging ourselves for it.....the course is about acknowledging getting 'hooked', changing it, finding a different way of responding..... and practicing this in our lives.
I've had to work really hard letting go of some choices my granddaughter has made this past year, her first year away from home, away at college. The desire to step in and do it MY way has been enormous.......she's made some significant "mistakes" and yet she is handling it all. She made it clear that she wants to be in charge.....I said I would honor that. Some of the things I was fearful of happening, have actually come to pass. And, you know what? No one died...... She altered her plans and moved in a different direction and is doing okay. So, her "mistakes" were life lessons she needed to learn.
You're right COM, this letting go stuff never ends. The only way I know of dealing with that is to learn how to do it better. So, here I am. listening to Pema talk about getting hooked, about how to let go and live in this incredible uncertainty and chaos and messiness and unpredictability......LIFE.
RE -- LOLOL! I laugh, but....... I laugh only because this is my greatest challenge in life! You, however, my friend, seem to have a pretty keen sense of when to open or shut your mouth! Awesome post!
Yes HM I do seem to know that I need to keep my mouth shut. I know it I know it I know it. So then, imagine my surprise as I watch myself do the exact opposite almost as if I am watching someone else do it. Same result which is strained feelings on both sides and still, no wedding decisions. Hello!!!???? The hello is for me. This stepping back thing is always new to learn with new people and new circumstances. All I can say is I am light years from where I used to be with this, which shows you how much I was in other people's business.
Progress not perfection. This time with the wedding it's been almost a week since I opened my big mouth about it once again. Trying to set a new world record this time around.
Lol I'll keep you posted.
I don't vent at the Difficult Child, I unfortunately let my tongue louse at my husband about the Difficult Child. This scenario is bad because the Difficult Child is his not mine. You know that wicked stepmother thing, it is me. All I really want to do is slap the Difficult Child up the side of the head and say WTF is wrong with you, so I feel a little tongue lashing about the problem won't cause nearly the damage I would like to do. Let me tell you, it does. Words leave a mark a lot longer than a slap.
For me my problem becomes anger and frustration and then I blow. The Difficult Child has just had a major "crisis"...mind you, self inflicted,drug use again and with what should have had major consequences with it, but as usual everyone has played there usual part in the play to make it all better for Difficult Child. I resent that this is still impacting us at some level. I am angry that Difficult Child's mother has again, rescued him when she said she wouldn't. I know,.. I have no control over that.
So as far as the keeping the mouth shut I swear I just explode. I resent him, I resent her so much, that even with trying to detach this causes chaos to our usually fairly peaceful lives. To be honest, I really can't stand the guy. (How horrible is that). It is only because of my husband that I can tolerate him.
So needless to say keeping my mouth shut for a little while works but then BAM! Damage done. Now it is time to try to fix the scars that this has left on husband about his son.
Lots of prayers, needed for this.
I am a very verbal person. Someone once told me I'm a cross between a pit bull and a poodle. (I had a perm at the time). To paraphrase, I read recently that the origin for the word sarcasm literally means "tearing flesh". When I read that, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut as I looked back on the wreckage and wounds I had caused in my wake. I still run through the caustic criticisms in my mind, but am being really conscious of keeping them in. And you know what? I can see how destructive I have been because even to think those witty, but cutting retorts and searing righteous lectures and holding that hate and spite in is HURTING ME. That behavior for me has got to go. That's what I am working on very hard. I think it will be time well spent.
This is sooooooooooooo wise. I'm verbal too and I would stick up for myself, often in not-so-nice ways with FOO. Being raised with sarcasm, mocking, and having a quick wit, I am not proud of some of what I have said either, Tish.
For some reason, with my kids I've always told myself not to give advice unless asked for advice and not to interfere in how they do things. There was a time I didn't like Princess's SO and wondered if he'd be abusive. But it was not my place to tell her who to be with, even though I did offer her a place to stay if she ever wanted to leave him. I'm so glad I kept my trap shut. My daughter can be very dramatic (less so now), and her stories were often embellished with him being the bad guy when she was mad at him, but the fact is, they are bonded soulmates and for t he most part very compatible and good to one another. I get scared thinking about how I may have sabataged the father of my granddaughter, who I feel is the best father ever. I have come to think of him as another son.
Jumper, being my youngest, I always want to give her advice. I do not want her to go to her old school's graduation because her ex will be there, but she opened up to me the other day and told me they still talk and he's being stubborn and she WANTS to see him graduate, even though they are currently not on great terms. The most I said was hugging her and saying, "I just can't help it, being your mother I just hate to see you cry." She said, "Mom, I've already cried so many tears I don't think there aer any left." And then she laughed and said, "I can handle it."
I need to let her do this without criticism and if she comes home upset, I need to be there for her in the way she wants me to be.
The only one I give advice to is Bart and he ASKS for advice. Or as he puts it, "Let's brainstorm together, Mom."
We have both learned how far we can go when he is under pressure.
One of my newest mottos is "Less is more."
If you don't want to talk to me, I won't talk to you. If you don't ask for my advice, I won't give it to you. If you plan an affair and I want you to do it another way, I'll swallow it. I won't comment.
Although I could have used these skills with my FOO and probably would have gotten less guff, I didn't k now these skills then. I do now and it is has really made a HUGE difference with my relationship with my children.
They trust you when they know you will listen, but not lecture or give your own advice or, most of all, when they know you will not criticize.
I REALLY have to bite my tongue when hubby says something I don't agree with. It's harder with him. I've learned to let him talk then say, "That's a good idea. Here's my idea. What do you think?"
I have a horrible habit of talking over people. So does Bart. Both of us are trying to work on that.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to stop that terrible habit.
I guess it's better than telling other people what they are doing wrong, but still....
Thanks for the reminder message!!!!
Hope and joy...I can only imagine how you feel watching your step Difficult Child do it all. When I was reading your post I was thinking about my soon to be daughter in law who has never known Difficult Child except as a train wreck. She did not know him before. Her contempt for him and the remarks she has made to me about him have wounded me in deep deep ways profoundly. Intellectually I get it. But my heart doesn't. This disease is so cruel to everybody who comes in contact with it.
I applaud your seeing how your behavior affects your husband. Of course it does. Even now with my new husband who has been amazingly supportive and understanding---he is in recovery himself and I know that has been our saving grace in grappling with my sons illness---I can still be wounded by a careless or quick remark about him. We are so vulnerable when it comes to our own children.
But all we can do any of us is do the best we can with this awful disease and once we know better, we try hard to do better. We will also fail and we can make amends every time and forgive ourselves and hope others will forgive us.
Some how with my own kids, I have never had a problem with keeping my mouth shut, but then again they haven't given me any trouble like this. With them I only give advise when asked. Child of mine, I do know that any comments about our own kids puts us on the defensive, me too. I in my own way want to help this scenario stop. I am realizing that now this doesn't help either . Thanks RE for posting this as this is very timely right now. Less is more, Less is more, less is more. Thanks SWOT also.
I'm still practicing over here.
My granddaughter is now home from college and "sitting on my lips" is becoming my new way of being! Fortunately for me, I am still immersed in this course on learning how to NOT get hooked. Part of it is text, so here is some info for those, like me, practicing keeping our mouths shut......
(Shenpa is the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down. We get hooked in that moment of tightening when we reach for relief.)
"In section three, we continue our exploration of shenpa through the traditional Buddhist analogy of how we “sow seeds” through our actions, seeds that will eventually blossom as either future suffering or future joy and freedom. When we act in ways that are habitual and derived from following our desire for comfort and grounding, we create the potential for future suffering and confusion. When instead we act in ways that are fresh and arise from our own fundamental intelligence, we create the potential for future happiness, love, and joy.
These seeds from our past arise in moments of shenpa, when certain causes and conditions are present, and we then face a choice: to fertilize and water the seeds, through habitual responses, or to burn the seeds up by sitting in the fire of our own direct experience. The seeds can no longer germinate when we choose a fresh alternative, and this is what we're learning to do through this course.
We see that it takes tremendous courage not to follow the momentum, to interrupt the urge and desire to scratch. By dropping the storyline and staying with the underlying energy, we often end up in quite a groundless and even uncomfortable place. Learning to stay in this discomfort takes bravery and commitment, and can take quite a bit of practice to get the hang of. But what we discover is that it is possible to interrupt the momentum and to no longer water the seeds of future suffering.
These moments of discomfort and groundlessness are in actuality fluid, dynamic, and impermanent. But in the moment, we are not always aware of this. It is our tendency to want to jump out of the fire and follow the habitual pattern of blaming someone else, denigrating ourselves, or in some other way scratching the itch. We scramble to find some sort of ground, but never quite succeed in doing so. The truth is that this practice offers no ground. Instead, it presents you with the opportunity to relax into the open spaciousness of the positive groundlessness about which we've been speaking.
The simple truth, Pema shares, is that it feels good to talk to ourselves and to scratch the itch in the face of shenpa. Whether it's lashing out at someone else, eating an entire box of chocolates, or writing a hate letter, we derive some satisfaction out of following the old momentum, of jumping out of the fire of direct experience and into the chain reaction of suffering. By sitting in the fire, however, we burn up all these old karmic seeds. This is not a comfortable process, but it is one that is tremendously liberating."
Off I go.....into another day of PRACTICE!
SWOT---I love your
Less is more.
It's SO MUCH MORE.
It's interesting how we can change when we really want to. I am right now on a trip with lots of old friends (one of the friend's daughters is getting married Saturday).
I see a lot of behaviors (lol!) here.
One thing I am noticing about myself is that I am quiet a whole lot more than I used to be. I just don't need to say it all anymore.
Now sometimes I still do (lol!) but increasingly, I am very content with just being quiet.
One of the friends is really really "engaged" with the lives of others, especially her own kids. She is way way into their business. Some of them are here and I am watching their reaction to this. They don't like it, but she can't see it.
She tells herself: "I love my family so much and they are so important to me." She said that just this morning, by way of explanation, hinting at the reason she is so invested in their every. single. movement.
She offers a running narrative of their lives and what they said, and what they did, and what they are about to do, and what pictures she texted to them....on and on and on.
These are "kids" in their 30s with children of their own---all very good kids and doing well.
It's actually not pretty at all to watch.
She said to me yesterday: I thought you talked to your boys a lot more than you seem to be doing here. Or maybe I just don't see you talk to them.
I didn't say anything.
I am very very thankful for this important lesson(s) I have learned. Being present on this board every day helps me reinforce and strengthen and get better at the execution. Never perfect. Never as good as I want to be. But better.
Thanks to each and every one of you who continues to teach me.
RE can you send a link to that podcast. It sounds great. Thank you.
COM, It's through Udemy online courses. Go to their site and look up Pema Chodron's, The freedom to choose something different.
COM, I learned by doing the wrong thing. Fortunately, I did it when Bart was an only child and was very young so I read a spot on book very early in my parenting career.
I lived for him. His life was my life. I even (blushing red) read his jjournal to make sure he was okay.
I was so miserable because I thought every little hurt would destroy him AND me, because I WAS him that I finally sought more therapy and read a very good book called "Toxic Parents." There is a book with the same name now, but this was a different book and since he was from Chicago, I actually got to meet him an d have sessions with him.
For several weeks after reading that book, which I agreed with, I felt empty. Empty because he was me and since I wasn't letting him be me anymore I didn't have any identity. It took time to build my own self up to where I was comfortable leaving his private thoughts alone and not questioning him over everything and just letting him be a kid without me and my nose being there with him.
Your friend is doing "the trainwreck." Adult kids do not like these kinds of parents. Worse, their SO can get fed up and encourage these adult kids to see these types of parents less often. Sounds like she has no identity of her own. It is sad. I feel for her as she must actually be sad beneath her bravado. Being other people does not cause contentment and peace.
I struggle with this sometimes. Don't we all? But, in the end, we have to trust them and praise them. In my world, no negativity spoken to my adult kids about their choices unless they told me they were shooting heroin. Bart is the biggest challenge as he wants the most from me and, when under pressure, can get nasty. But the "less is more" is hleping both of us have very little conflict anymore. Actually, we are close and always have been. It's just that I did not "get" that his losing control had to do with anxiety. Now, if I know he is losing control due to anxiety, I tell him what he needs and likes to hear then gently cut off phone calls by saying things like, "I have to drive hubby to work." It has been quite a while since he has been rude to me and I feel better about not having to give advice to him on every little thing. We are on a learning curb together. Underneath, he really is a good person who loves his son. He can be selfish. But he can be kind and loving too. When the fire dies down, it is easier to see the real person.
We all have to learn to be ourselves and to let our adult children make their own mistakes, as we did. We have to let them go.
I just heard a quote in that course I'm taking....."It's never about something that should be happening, it's always about what is happening ...and having a direct and immediate experience of that." Being in the present moment without having something trigger a "chain reaction" which takes us down a habitual reactive path. When we're capable of interrupting the momentum of the habitual response, we can choose a "fresh alternative."
This is all coming at a perfect time for me in so many different ways. I am very grateful that this teaching made it's way into my life. She said "this is a practice, a training and it adds up." So little by little as I respond differently, as I "choose a fresh alternative" I can get stronger in that empty space in between something happening and my response, or lack of response. There is peace in that empty space. And it is uncomfortable to sit in it without reacting in the usual way.......well.........more practice!
Friends, I wanted to give you all an update about the "wedding challenge." Two weeks ago my son (the one who is going to be married) and I had yet another bad phone call, which ended with me yelling and then our saying goodbye. He told me he wasn't having Difficult Child in the wedding after all. I saw red. Fifteen minutes later I texted to say I was sorry we had the argument (third one in several months about this wedding) and I would like to meet with he and his fiancee in person. No response. Five days later he sent me a long email which basically said: I love you, but you are being ridiculous and butt out.
Well...I had to sit with that for a while. I went through the whole range of emotions---pissed off, denial, sadness, depression...stages of grief.
Finally, after writing 100 emails back in my head, I decided not to write anything and just to let time pass.
That got easier as the time passed, but it was hard at first, because I felt...wronged and misunderstood and self-righteous.
So...as the time passed, I began to see my part in this. I was way out of line pushing Difficult Child so hard to be in the wedding. The story I had created in my head, seeing both of them standing up there in the wedding, was one of the prodigal son, long lost, welcomed back, restored to full standing, reward for doing better....yes it was my own Cinderella story, and by golly, I was going to have it or die trying.
I was wrong.
The guest list part, well, that was a mess and poorly handled by them, but again, we (the whole family) had pushed hard for certain people to be invited, all for very noble reasons, and finally they agreed but when the venue fell through they felt vindicated and cut the list back to where they wanted it in the beginning.
So...I started to see that and to accept it, and to understand that yes, I was going to have to make some tough phone calls, but so what?
The time and the willingness to look honestly at myself was the key for me here. This is something I would not have ever been able to do before the past few years. I used to immediately act on problems because it made me feel better. I could not wait. I also had to be right so I couldn't really look at my own wrongs.
So...my son texted me and asked to meet for dinner. I responded and said I'd love to, but I would ask that fiancee be there. So Wednesday night we all three had dinner. I was nervous. I had thought and written and prayed hard about how I wanted to "be" at this dinner. I wanted to be respectful, honest, kind, direct and loving. I wasn't sure I could pull it off.
But we all pulled it off. We all apologized. We talked directly and openly about the whole situation. I told them from the beginning I didn't want or expect them to change a thing about what they have decided because of our conversation but I wanted us to see each other's point of view and create some understanding between all of us. I said the last thing I ever want is this situation to cause a permanent rift between us all.
The whole dinner was miraculous. We talked back and forth, tears were in fiancee's eyes, I apologized about Difficult Child and confessed my Cinderella story and the wrongness of it. I talked about my own feelings about calling people to uninvite them to the wedding and how it seemed that they didn't see how hard that is to do. I said it is embarrassing. She said (with fresh tears in her eyes) that when I said embarrassing it really upset her she guesses because once her father called her an embarrassment.
Wow. We talked through that, and I said you could never be an embarrassment.
The conversation was healing on both sides. After we finished dinner, we walked over for ice cream, and then sat on a bench downtown and ate it and talked about general things.
I offered anything I can do to help but also accepted that they don't want any ideas or assistance right now. They said everybody has been mad at them. They appeared defeated and broken. I hated to see that. They also said they are not good planners and they know it.
I am stepping away and I have now let this go. They don't want any financial assistance and so I am going to give them a big check for a wedding present.
I could never have imagined the difficulty of the past six months, the craziness, the hurt, but I also could not have imagined how we have handled this, which I think is very well. I talked with them about triangulation and that we have to communicate better in the future, even if, especially if we don't agree. We have to sit down and talk face to face. Texts and phone calls don't cut it. They agreed.
I know I was out of line. I found myself telling them who to have in their wedding. Never right and when I "woke up" and saw it, I couldn't believe I had done it. But I did.
I could overanalyze this (and have, of course) due to the fact they are both almost 30, they are millennial, non-traditionalists, both have good incomes (so can decline the financial help), are introverts, almost over-educated, just now getting to "real life"....on and on and on. All or part of that may be true, but the bottom line is this: he is my son, he has chosen this person to be his wife and she has chosen him, and they are fully capable of running their own lives, regardless of what i think about how they do it. Not my business. Not my monkey. Not my circus.
Just love them and accept them, and go on about YOUR business. That's what i tell myself and that is what I am trying to do.
Who ever thought PCs would be so hard? Thanks for all of your wisdom, the thousands of words you have written, that continue to teach me every single day.
COM, a woman who is so wise, I learned long ago, from a fantastic mother-in-law who never put in her two cents, not to tell my adult children what to do. Ever. No matter what I think of it. If asked, I will give my opinion, but I won't insist. Or argue. This has worked wonderfully now that I have grands. It is not our business what our now grown children do. It is the same with our easier kids than our harder ones.
In seventeen years of marriage to my first husband, my angel of a mother in law never once told us we are doing anything wrong. She used positivity or said nothing and you could never even feel "disapproval" vibes. Her mother, my ex's grandmother, eventually moved in with mother in law and she was the same exact way, if just a tad more willing to state her opinion, but not so that anyone felt badly. There are two angels in the sky who were very wise in life and probably guiding us now.
Easier adult children can cause us heartache too, if only because they don't want our help when they are hurt and ask for space. I have this with Jumper. I have learned to let her come to me and to leave her be. It works.
I hope your son has a beautiful wedding. I cringed w hen I read that his fiance had been called an embarasment. I really have always wondered why some people have children only to call them names and make them feel small. She is lucky to have you. She will probably love you as much as I loved and still love my mother in law.
Oh COM, this made me cry. And reminded me how we all bring our history, our hurts, our perceptions to the table......and there is no way others could know any of that and why we may have acted in some fashion.......unless we take the risk to share it.
What a beautiful, honest, thoughtful and courageous post COM, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. You took your own self inventory and told yourself the truth and acted in a noble way.......and look what happened.......you opened the door for new intimacy to come in, you invited everyone to open their hearts because you opened yours with your vulnerability, your willingness to be truthful without judging and your humility.
COM, it is so difficult for us to see the truth about our own selves, our own control issues, our own fears, our own frailties and the places where we have gotten cemented in our own thinking........and yet, as you've shown us over and over again, when we look deep into ourselves and have the courage to uncover our own truths without blame, judgment or holding on to a false persona of perfection or "the all good mother".......we can heal, grow and form healthy, loving, open and strong intimate bonds with those we love. Bravo.
I've grown the most when I become willing to accept my own "stuff" and change. When I become willing to accept responsibility for my own actions. When I stop pointing outside myself and focusing on anything but me and what I've done. That's when the real change happens. You've consistently done that COM and your life reflects that willingness by offering you LOVE in every form. As you said....
I believe when we love and accept ourselves, going about OUR business is natural.
COM, I haven't commented on any of the wedding things in the past, mostly because I'm quite sure I don't know the whole story and my first impulse was to ask, since when does the mother of the groom get much of a say...it's their wedding after all and other than suggestions to the guest list, well, it's their circus. It sounds like you've come to that conclusion on your own, as I expected you would, because you are a wise and loving person.
I'm so glad you've had this clearing of the air with your son and future daughter in law. In the final analysis, no matter what the wedding is like, if they scrap the whole thing and go to a justice of the peace, if they get married in a cathedral, or if they dance naked in the woods with a minister from the internet, they'll be married...and you'll all still love each other...and that's the important bit in the end.
Separate names with a comma.