Oprah today/tough love/misc thoughts

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Nomad, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Some rambling...

    Did anyone watch Oprah today? Toward the end...there was a mother and father with- their daughter who was pregnant on video. The daughter had experienced violence at the hands of her boyfriend. He is now in jail. The parents look stressed and exhausted. In the audience was a mother whose daughter was murdered years ago by her boyfriend. Oprah interviewed her years ago. She said something about the first family being too "controlling." I think the implication was that they were enablers. This caused the parents more stress. They (the parents of the girl on the video) talked a little about additional difficulties they had with the law, etc. Oprah stopped asking questions and was sympathetic.

    So much is going through my head right now.

    How with adult children...it's clear that enabling is a potential issue and needs to be addressed. The other is how many of us are stressed to the max. Most of us have been ostracized by those who have no clue of what we are experiencing. It's painful and isolating.

    The other day I spoke with my local rep. from Families Anonymous. I told him how for many years I've hestated to go to the meetings because someone else told me that the great majority of the parents there are dealing with children and/or adult children with drug problems. It is very high...perhaps;. My daughter is anti drug. I thought I would feel different...yet I understand there are definately commonalities. He mentioned that many of the "kids" are dual diagnosis.

    He said that they have a policy never to ridicule a parent. He implied that he understood my situation, thought there was much merrit to it, but also saw where improvements might be made (esp. with- reference to husband). This was said in a very subtle fashion. He reiterated over and over again that the group was very friendly and very supportive and that ridicule was not tolerated.

    I mentioned it all to husband...he said he would go to the mtg. I'm very surprised...very happy.:D

    When I saw the despair on the face of the mother and dad on Oprah...my heart sank. Perhaps the other mother was right...its hard to say. It was a very fast assessment. However, I do wonder if she could have said something caring and then used more gentle words to impart her message.

    If the parents had asked her or Oprah "Do you think we are enabling our daughter?" Then...a more direct answer would have been more appropriate...and better received. It was just too early and too direct and these parents were too raw to consider something like that. In addition, sometimes there is room for discussion and/or differences of opinion and by saying something in a very direct way...it implies that it absolutely has to be a certain way.

    I know I've been through much pain with this "stuff." By the time a person has been to this site...that pain can be intense.

    I'm not advocating avoiding the truth...just advocating awareness and kindess.

    So...I would just like to reiterate the importance of chosing our words carefully, to avoid anger, to watch for a direct question (s) and to be as gentle/kind as possible...esp. during times of great stress. I'm thinking about it all with- reference to my future posts.

    Hope this makes sense.
    Lasted edited by : Mar 13, 2009
  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I don't get a chance to watch Oprah more than once a yr or so, but I occasionally read the magazine. :)

    Sounds like a very distressing situation.

    Two points: from what you said, it sounds like the angle that Oprah took was to have distressed parents on the show whose daughters have been abused and taken advantage of (or in the case of the audience member, killed). Did she recommend counseling at any point?

    I'm not sure where the control issue with-the First Family came in--I'm capitalizing it because I'm thinking you were referring to the US Presidential First Family? Or did you mean the family in the audience? (Sorry if I'm a dolt.)

    So what struck a cord with-you was the pain of the parents, and how difficult it was to be judged by others, and how Oprah could have couched her words more carefully. In addition, you were concerned about Families Anonymous not being too judgmental, and were reassured that they were not the ridiculing type and were very friendly. (by the way, I've got my fingers crossed about your husband! :) )

    What I see in common with-those situations, on the board, is that all of these things are moderated, and all of these things involve participants who are in some sort of emotional pain and who have children with-issues.

    In the case of Oprah, she is the moderator and the problem there is that first and foremost, she is a celebrity, and you've got to keep your eye on your audience. No matter how compassionate she appears, (and she is a compassionate person) there's always that eye toward the networks and the ratings. What attracts an audience more, other people's problems and whether you identify with-them, or other people's problems and whether they are so totally off-the-wall they could be aliens (more Jerry Springer style, in my humble opinion) or whether someone can solve other people's problems on the air?

    It makes sense that you would pick up on her misstep, Nomad, because being the parent of a difficult child, and being on boards and a member of a support group, you are well aware of how agonizing it is to walk this path. In fact, in a sense, you (and all of us), are trained in some degree as moderators, by virtue of our first-hand experience.
    But we are also suffering, on the other hand, as participants. So you can see it from both sides.

    When I think back on all the stupid things I've said in the past, where someone has told me something and I've jumped in with-a one-upsmanship story, I want to shoot myself. When I talk to people now who do that, I try not to react negatively, but to educate them. I want to think I've learned over the yrs, and that maybe I can help others learn, too. (Then again, I have a sarcastic streak. :) )

    By the same token, we all blurt out things when we are alarmed, we all have our own filters and POVs, so if we hurt someone, I can only assume it's unintentional and it will be cleared up in a following post. I've seen it happen time and again, usually with-no long term damage.

    It's pretty amazing, really, that so many of us can post coherently, much less compassionately, when we're working and parenting on a lack of sleep, often with-o spousal support, and often with-o family support, or worse, with-extended family members who seem to thrive on being know-it-alls and don't have a clue. When I get to the point where I'm so run down, I'm either going to bite someone's head off, or burst into tears, or most typically, just stare at the screen, I take a day or two off from the board and come back with-a fresh eye. (And more M&Ms.)

    So, to tie it all together, I think you noticed a commonality and wanted to use it as a jumping off point and reminder.
  3. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Just to clarify...
    It was the mother in the audience who was somewhat harsh toward a set of parents who were talking to Oprah and the audience via Skype. The parents were sitting with their daughter, who was pregnant. The mother in the audience may have made a good point. I'm not sure. Perhaps she didn't have time to say what she wanted to say gently. However, I saw where the parents were in no shape to hear it and almost felt like they had to defend themselves.

    Over the years, husband and I have felt lonely and isolated...pained even re: life with our difficult child. I had heard that our local group (FA) actually is a good group. I know they believe in tough love. We used tough love for our son...and he had a relatively minor problem in high school. We came down on him like gangbusters. He is an outstanding citizen today (knock on wood). Actually, he is a big time success story. He is on the Dean's list in college, etc. We've been confused about how to deal with difficult child. Her diagnosis, her responses to discpline, whether or not it would be productive or fair....esp. since she is not a drug user...we have lots of questions. I know that the parents there are dealing with drugs and alcohol, almost exclusively in the FA group we are going to visit. So, we didn't know if we would fit in or if they could help us. After talking with the rep., I thought it might be fine. A chance to meet folks going through some similar concerns re: many the behaviors of children and how we feel a sense of confusion and loss. I could be wrong. The rep. also said I could be of help since I've had more exp. than many. We'll see. husband said it was worth a try and I'm surprised...also pleased...he said that.
    Lasted edited by : Mar 14, 2009
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Ohhh, see, that's what I get for not watching the show! :)

    Yes, I can imagine the isolation. If Parents Anoymous doesn't work out, you may have to start your own support group.
    But, there's a ray of hope, since they said there is a diagnosis overlap quite often. That makes sense--something is "off" with-the kids, it never gets diagnosis'd, and they self-medicate. You may find kindred souls there, and it will turn out that your family is in better shape, because your daughter does not do drugs.

    Then again, it may be interesting and good to connect on a temporary basis, but not fulfilling in the long term. All you can do is try. I'm glad your husband is thinking the same thing. :)
  5. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    Timely post, Nomad.

    Parents who have not been through what we have been through could never understand, in a million years, what our parenting experiences have been. It is important for us to remember this when we watch other parents basking in the reflected glory their brilliant, successful children throw off. It is very unlikely we will be doing any basking any time soon. If our rebel, drug addicted children survive their adolescences, they will become poorly educated adults whose job skills and work ethic are non-existent.

    But we love them.

    We love them desperately, and we work harder ~ to save them, to change them, to help them ~ than any normal parent ever dreamed of doing.

    And we bask in reflected shame, not reflected glory.

    But here is the thing.

    Remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when homosexuality was believed to have been caused by poor mothering. Remember that there are, and have always been, families in which some of the children became fine, upstanding members of society and others didn't. (Both Presidents Clinton and Carter had brothers ~ and in Clinton's case, a mother, too ~ who were less than sterling representatives of what it is to be human.)

    And yet, Jimmy grew up to be President.

    And so did Bill.

    We need to remember that everyone "out there" is looking for a simple solution to what happens when things go wrong and a child with what seems like a perfectly promising life throws it all away on drugs. The most obvious scapegoat is the parent. Because we parents already feel so badly about the tragedy that has come into our lives and the lives of our children, we are without words to clarify our muddled situations or defend ourselves from the basking parents for whom it has all been so easy.

    Perhaps that is because, on some level, we believe we did something wrong, too.

    Remember Jimmy and Billy Carter. Remember Miss Lilian, so different from her son, Bily.

    Remember President Clinton's mother. If there were ever a mother who should never have raised a Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton's mother was it.

    So the pat answer that it was some failure in parenting that caused our children to fall (or that it was some wonderful, sterling parenting ability that saw the children of our friends successfully through their adolescences) is wrong.

    Oprah was wrong to do what she did.

    But like so many people (me too, before our family lost so much), the parents are blamed for outcomes that they could not prevent.

  6. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    The Carter/Clinton sibling analogy thing is so interesting.

    Ya know, I've had professors recently who have indicated problems are the result of parenting and much of this is MOMS fault. It was very difficult for me to cope with this...simply because I know in my heart that it is out of line. I've had other professors who have indicated that parents are influenctial, but many inappropriate behaviors are caused by brain chemistry. Sure, mom and dad have an influence. Perhaps mom has a slightly greater one.(not sure). But...to what extent? What percentage? And for how long? How much emphasis can we or should we place here? It seems counterproductive to over emphasize something that is only a percentage of influence and could be a small percentage. And additionally, each one of us when we reach the age of accountability need to leave that stuff behind.
    This is part of the enabling situation. It weakens an individual and surely at a great (er) rate of speed when that person is 18 or over. Helping is one thing. Enabling is another. It takes away a persons sense of pride...a sense of dignity...a sense of accountability...responsibility. One can't move forward without these things and much can be overcome with inner strength.
    Lasted edited by : Mar 14, 2009
  7. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    Well...medications that can correctly balance the fluctuations of bipolar disorder, or alleviate depression, or calm the effects of schizophrenia work regardless of the nature of the parenting the sufferer has experienced.

    Yet, these illnesses were once believed to be the result of poor parenting.