Separating self worth from difficult child's perception of one's for thought...

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Signorina, Jan 29, 2012.

  1. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    I subscribe to Dr. Joshua Coleman ( author of When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along) newsletter and this was the one I received today. I am not sure I am ready to stop trying with my difficult child - but it's a good reminder that to me that I need to separate my own self worth from my difficult child's perception of me. Easier said than done. And I wanted to share in case it helps someone else.


    One of the things that parents have to decide is whether they have it in them to keep trying or whether it's better for their mental health to throw in the towel. Sometimes, and this is important, what might be better for our adult child isn't better for us; and at this point of your lives, you get to decide. And that may well mean deciding not to continue to work on it. On the other hand, sometimes letting go actually creates a better space for a reconciliation to occur.

    I find that this is particularly confusing terrain for mothers who are socialized to put themselves last and to always keep trying.(BINGO! This is the line that hit close to home)

    So, if you're on the fence, let me start by saying maybe you shouldn't try. Here is the case against trying:
    • Maybe it costs you too much psychologically.
    • Maybe "trying" means having to remain open to someone who just dumps raw sewage on you every time you encounter him or her.
    • Maybe trying means that your self-esteem gets constantly put up on the auction block for the lowest bidder which happens to be the one person whose opinion you care the most about-your child.
    • Maybe it's too hard to keep trying because the rejection from your child reminds you too much of how rejected you felt by your own parents or family. And you just don't have that much to give because so much of your energy goes every day to trying to feel like you have a right to be alive or to have any kind of a life, even before the trauma of estrangement was visited upon you.
    What I want to emphasize is that part of healing from an estrangement is reclaiming our definition of ourselves as parents and of ourselves as people.

    If we only let our children decide what kind of parent we are or were and what kind of person we are, we not only do ourselves a disservice, we do them a disservice.

    We do them a disservice because we give them more power than they deserve to have.

    We confuse them by implying that they have a bigger claim against us than they do.

    We enable them by rubberstamping their mistreatment of us
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    That is so darned true. Lordy I wish I had read that early on in my journey with my son. I had to basically come to my own knock down, drag out fight on the front porch with him when I decided he would not ever tell me who I was nor how he could compare us to each other. We were not the same people and he had no clue how I was raised because I had protected him from my past. That may or may not have been the right decision but it was the one I chose to make. I didnt think my kids needed to know all the difficult things I had been through as a child and by whom. I didnt want to taint their relationship with their grandmother, though I kept a close eye on them.

    I had to learn that No is a complete sentence. Cory didnt like it. He tested me many times. It is much easier for me to stick to this with him out of the home.
  3. AHF

    AHF Member

    Thank you for this. Really needed to hear those words this morning. Am printing them out and putting them in my top desk drawer, to pull out whenever difficult child tests me.
  4. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    Thank you I am going through an estrangement from my 33yo difficult child. He still gets into the relationships from hell and this one is the worse. They both think I should be supporting them (she is 37) and I am retired.

    After the lies, the drama, telling me his homeless to make me feel guilty I am simply worn out. And yes, society does make us feel we are failures and to blame for the way our adult children turn out.

    I had just begun to have some peace in my life and they are not going to take it away. I tell my self daily he ia an adult and it is his life and I am entitled to have one too. If he continues to live they way he does it may be a blessing to have no contact with him.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Certainly that is a thought provoking article. So many of us have dealt or are dealing with that issue and the "common sense" of the piece absolutely rings true. Thanks for sharing. DDD
  6. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    This was the lesson husband and I learned. It is a hard lesson. A lot of this is simple behavioral modification. Yes, we do them a disservice when we give them attention or power when they don't deserve it. We only engage our difficult child when she acts appropriately and we have set up lots of limits and boundaries (and insist that she follow them)
    Sometimes things are a little confusing because she has a diagnosis'd mental illness AND some physical concerns. But we still expect her to act respectfully to us at ALL times and to NOT break the law. Such things will immediately cause us to disengage. Crossing myself and lighting a candle, but recently we have noticed more consistent improvement in her attitude and behaviors. It's so hard to let go sometimes. But I had reached a point that I really had to turn it over to my Higher Power. I know it helped my self worth A LOT when I learned to let her "stuff" go in one ear and out the other and to get busy with my own needs and desires. Sending good thoughts to you Signorina! You are on the right track and you can do this! :)
  7. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Signorina, thank you for posting that article, it all makes sense. I guess we're all at various stages of our process of letting go of our difficult adult children in whatever form that takes. I had an interesting development over the weekend with my grown daughter. To make a very long story, somewhat short, she and I began our usual angry, frustrating, recurring, awful script the other day after I essentially said no to something she wanted. We had had a long discussion a few days before where I very clearly mapped out my part in the codependency we have been going through for most of her life. I realized that when her Dad and I divorced when she was 2 (she's 39 now) I had been guilty, over-giving, resentful, rescuing her and running around those emotions pretty regularly. I shared that with her. She shared with me that she felt low self esteem and has been trying to find out who she is separate from my perception of her, which has been that there is something very wrong with her and she needed my protection and my help. Yikes. In retrospect, it all sounds pretty bad, but it was what it was. Her perception of me was just as negative. I think that conversation opened a door for us. A few days later, after saying no to her, she flew into the usual rage, ranting about how I ruin everything, started to cry, was yelling, the usual intense drama. When I followed her a few minutes later, which was initially to say I was done with all this s#@*, she immediately said. "I'm sorry Mom, that was the old me, I don't want to do that anymore." I almost fell over. Then I tried to talk to her and after a few minutes of trying I left the room. We tried that 4 times, trying to see each other, trying to talk, trying to get through all the anger we both felt. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, to stay present with her and not go in to my own role, as she was struggling to not go into hers. It took one solid hour for me to calm down enough to actually listen to her. We talked for 2 hours after that. That was the first time in maybe 15-20 years where we had a real, authentic, honest talk about how we both felt. It was exhausting, but we hung tough. The next day, she was quite different. So was I. I officially resigned from rescuing her, she accepted my resignation, happily. We both saw all the damage that's been done. She actually owned that in the last 15 years when faced with a choice, she ALWAYS made the wrong choice. She said that was very hard for her to say to me. There were many, many things said and acknowledged. It feels different for me, I know I am finished, I know I have stopped trying. What she does, from this point on, is up to her and we are both VERY clear on that. This wasn't done in anger, it was done in truth. And with compassion and love. For the first time. I don't know what this will mean in her life, only time will tell. But, I do know what this means to me, and for the first time in years, I feel peaceful. In this moment, it's all okay. And, that's all that matters right now. Tomorrow we could be in a whole new situation, who knows? I believe we made some important steps along this journey we're on. And, letting go of her, stopping the enabling has been what needed to happen, for both of us. And, that has been the biggest challenge to do. It was what opened the door to detachment and the possibility for us to stand on new ground and be seen and heard and to see and to hear each other. It will be interesting to see where we all go now. But, for the moment, I am so grateful for what has just occurred, I got to see my daughter, really see her, for the first time in years, maybe the first time ever. And, I think the same is true for her, she got to see me too. What a gift. Thanks for listening to all my words these past few weeks, being here with all of you has made a huge difference for me in this process. God Bless all of you warriors out there.
  8. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    HI RE! I was very very moved by your post. And I am so incredibly glad to read that you and your daughter reconnected emotionally and honestly after so many years...I am so very happy for you. And IIRC - you are caring for her daughter - your grand? That must make it even more poignant. I hope this is truly the start of a new beginning for your relationship.

    ANd on a purely selfish note - I couldn't help but think - OMG - I COULD NOT LAST 20 years with my difficult child behaving like this (he's 19) God Bless you and I truly hope my difficult child comes around long before then. Otherwise, I will likely be in a straight jacket. Kidding aside, I can't bear the thought that he may not outgrow this blame/hating game.
  9. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi Signorina, Thank you for saying that, I appreciate your words so much. It helps me. Yes, I am raising her daughter too, so this (possible) healing may be a beginning for all of us.

    Yes, I too hope your son comes around soon, it is so hurtful to be the target of their rage, blame and ugly words. I'm sorry you're dealing with that, my heart goes out to you, as it does to all the parents who post here, we are a beleaguered bunch of tired parents who've all been through the mill, a few times (for me a few hundred times!!) One of the nice thoughts for me is that as someone older whose been going through this for so long, my hope is that my experience can assist others who can perhaps learn from my mistakes and not have to go down so many of the futile paths I've taken. I wish I had found all the support I have now a long time ago, and found the knowledge about codependency, enabling, rescuing, that I have now, but it is what it is, I guess I found it when I was ready to hear it and use it. I see how those of us who are such givers often don't do so well at receiving, at allowing help in, and that certainly kept me stuck longer. Support, therapy, knowledge, feeling as if I am not alone, all has helped to heal my own heart, so that I could begin the journey of healing my connection with my daughter. And, sometimes, I believe that healing is separating from them if they are toxic to us. I don't know where all of this will lead us, as they say in the 12 steps, one day at a time. I am so moved by all the stories I read here, so many of us trying so hard to do the right thing by our children, when the irony is, we often have to let them go and allow them to fail, to fall, to suffer the consequences of their bad choices and bad behavior. And, concentrate on taking care of ourselves. For me, I have had to learn to love myself enough, to take care of me first, to set the boundary strong enough to make sure that I am respected and honored. What a concept! Bravo to all you wonderful warriors! God Bless.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Sig, your quote is SO TRUE.

    One of my favorite AlAnon sayings is "Other people's opinion of you is none of your business." Short, sweet and SO TRUE. It also drives my mother NUTS because it means that I can IGNORE her manipulation and stick to boundaries. She once accused me of "perverting" AlAnon because I told her that she could think what she wanted but this is MY life and these are MY kids.