Disintegration

I’m sorry I went dark for a week.

I’ve been struggling. Struggling with what I wrote about in my past post. Struggling with the fact that I wrote it at all. That I put it out there. That it can’t be taken back.

After I wrote that post, I just… couldn’t. I didn’t even respond to the comments. I just shut down my wordpress tab in my browser and went about my business.

I was in denial.

My daughter turns five this Sunday. I need to stop telling the stories that aren’t completely mine to tell. The ones that belong to both of us: those stories I need to keep close.

But it’s hard because I feel really alone and I can’t help but want to put it out there so that others don’t feel so alone. I want to think that the anonymity I strive for is infallible but we all know it’s not. I can’t write about my daughter under an assumed name and be confident that it will never come back to her. If my words, here or anywhere else, ever caused her pain I would never forgive myself.

I will be drawing the line moving forward. I’m not quite sure where that line will be, or what will reside on either side. I’m assuming a lot less will be said because of the line. It’s a relief. And a devastation.

Did it seem like I put that post up with out a care in the world? I churned out some thoughtful paragraphs on parental instinct and not trusting my own, and then dropped a bomb at the end, without even the hint of a wind change.

But that bomb was not a wind change. It was a sea change.

I hit my kid. Sure you can argue about what that really means given the circumstances and the history. I’m sure it means something different to each person reading it. I’m sure it would mean something different to you if you ever had to hold such a thing, to own it, to never let it go.

For me, it’s been a very heavy burden to bear. It’s been a sign, a massive, blinking billboard, shouting at me that I’ve failed. Not because I broke down in that moment and did something I regret, something I promised myself I would NEVER do, but because I let myself end up in that moment feeling so powerless and overwhelmed.

I thought I could handle it. I thought the books and the articles would tell me what to do. I thought she would grow out of it. I thought I could manage it in the meantime. I thought it would work. The alternative was… well I didn’t really know there was an alternative.

A friend of a friend has done CPIT before. It’s how I learned about it. I know this woman, tangentially. I have chatted with her in the fits and starts that characterize multi-family play dates at the zoo or a playground.  It wasn’t totally random for me reach out to her for her thoughts on CPIT. I even, to my surprise, already had her number in my phone.

I was really glad I called her. It was very helpful to know what to expect, to both temper and bolster my expectations. She assured me it would help. She counseled that it would be slow going. She and her daughter have been at it for over a year.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, to somebody outside, looking in. Does it look like taking your kid to the doctor? A specialist of some kind?

It doesn’t feel that way. It feels… devastating. My child and I are going to therapy. Because she hits me. My child is just five years old. This is not what I thought motherhood was about. No one ever told me about this.

It’s hard not to think that all this is my fault. That I did something wrong. That I failed in some way. Some profound, irreconcilable way. Already the necessity of these steps weighs heavily. How will I shoulder the weight of declarations, or even suggestions, of things like “insecure attachment”? How will I keep telling myself that my choices were the right ones, that my daughter hasn’t suffered for me working full time?

How will I trust myself again?

I have been told I make things into four alarm fires. That I blow things out of proportion, get worked up over nothing. I’m trying to keep this in perspective. It’s not a diagnosis. It’s not a prediction of our future. It’s not a determination of my abilities as a mother. We just need some extra support. Eventually it will get better.

But I can’t help but think that this signals a disintegration of something, something essential, something profound. No one talks about needing this. No one admits it ever gets so bad that they can’t fix it, they can’t wait it out. I don’t know where I belong anymore, in the parenting community. I’m not a part of the “parenting kids with a diagnosis” club but I certainly don’t feel a part of the “everyone else” club.

I feel very much alone.

And I doubt anyone reading this can tell me they understand, because I don’t think they’ve ever been here. I’ve admitted to a lot of taboo thoughts and feelings about parenthood and usually someone can tell me that they get it, they understand, they have been there. But not with this. This sets me apart. This makes me different.

No one wants to be different. Especially not in this way.

I talk to the therapist for the first time today. I hate explaining it because it seems worse when I say it out loud. My only goal it to keep from crying.

25 Comments

  1. I don’t think any of that makes you different. I never ever expected to have a kid who needed so much support to thrive. She needs a team of healthcare people to get her she needs to be, and when she has the right supports, she is wonderful. It isn’t my fault she’s not a simple kid, it’s just who she is. I also think that one single mistake on your part shouldn’t be construed as a total failure but as what it was – the only thing to do in the moment. Was it a nice thing or a good thing or the best outcome? Nope. Would the reasonable and average parent do differently in the same situation? I don’t think so.

    All we can do is our best and having a difficult kid is hard. You do your best, try to do better tomorrow, and that’s all there is to do. Hopefully the difficult part passes soon and the therapy is useful and helps her cope with life in a way that doesn’t include hitting you.

    1. I think I do blame myself for my daughter’s struggles because I see so much of myself in her and I’ve dealt with so many mental and emotional health issues, I assume she got these challenges from me. It sucks to know I gave them to her, in her DNA, and that I continue to give them her through modeling. I absolutely feel like this is all my fault, whether I could do anything to change it or not, I’m not sure, but if she had a different mother with a different mental health legacy, I think things would be really different for her. And that makes me really sad.

      You’re right that having a hard kid is hard. It really wears you down, and then when you break you blame yourself because who else can you blame? Definitely not your kid. It’s a lot of weight to bear every day. It’s exhausting. And there is a feeling like people don’t understand because most people aren’t faced with the same challenges every day. It’s very isolating.

  2. There is a dream of becoming a mommy. A perfect mommy. Different from our imperfect mommy. With a perfect child and a life like a happy Disney dream and no monsters or witches. When I was a child this mommy wore pearls and soothed fevers and served perfect meals in a perfectly beautiful and spotless home and the children all were happy to put on their pjs and slide into a perfect bed and close their eyes and be instantly asleep dreaming only happy dreams. These perfect children who had perfect mothers never quarreled and had perfect grades and lived perfect lives.
    Reality motherhood isn’t like that. Reality motherhood has … humanity. Expressed by each mother and each child differently. Even when a child is mid-40ish they still miscommunicate and mind-read their parent’s opinions incorrectly, and parents remain imperfect and mis-speak and do not perfectly meet their child’s needs in perfect harmony and magic.
    The older I get the more I realize that in failing to be the parent I aspired to be I am like most other parents. (I did not fail absolutely completely and totally. ) Today we have the blessing of there being more knowledge about people at all ages and more knowledge about different ways of interacting than when the only way was preached by a religion or modeled by only our parents ~ but it still isn’t easy nor is it known and instilled before the dream of the perfect parent develops.
    We all live, parent, die, alone ~ but hopefully in the company of others who are alone too but who hold out hands in acknowledgement of the company of humanity. I wish when I was your age I had understood I was not alone in the imperfection of my parenting and existence.
    Keep breathing.

    1. You’re absolutely right that my reality right now is tearing apart a certain dream of motherhood I held for myself, along with a dream of childhood that I had for my kids. The dismantling of that dream has been very painful.

      I also worrying about what this portends for my daughter and her future. My mental and emotional health have been huge issues for me throughout my life. I don’t want that for my daughter, but I worry that she won’t be able to avoid it. I’ve given this to her, without wanting to, and I hate that this was my legacy. I just wish I weren’t that way, and that I didn’t have to make her this way too.

  3. “I smacked my daughter on her thigh with an empty water bottle.” <– I get this. I understand this. I've done this myself at my wits end, and I cried, and I apologized. I do NOT think I'm failing as a mother because I didn't handle the situation well, and I do NOT think you are failing as a mother either.

    Getting help doesn't mean you're a failing mother or that she's a bad kid – not in the slightest. You are WINNING as a mother because you recognize that you both need guidance in this situation to come out of it calmer and happier together and you're doing it! That takes guts to admit and face head on. You will get through this and be thankful in retrospect that you made it happen!

    1. Thank you for your kind, supportive words Josey. I’m trying to see it that way. And sometimes I do.

  4. Purple and Rose always has great things to say! you are NOT alone in this. A huge number of parents have hit their children at some point. I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens. Some of them because they’re abusive or were raised that way and think it’s normal, but many many many of them because they got so frustrated one day that they just snapped, and they swore they’d never do that, and afterward they swore they’d never do it again… and those people are still great parents. Great parents who made mistakes, but so do we all.

    I understand that the fear is greater in your case, because of your worry about passing your mental health diagnoses on to your daughter. But I do wish, somehow, I could encourage you to stop beating yourself up about this. It doesn’t change the kind of mom you are or want to be.

    1. I think part of why it’s so hard to let it all go–just tell myself I made a mistake and it will be okay–is because there is this message out there that one mistake could be THE mistake that ruins your kids life. At least it seems implied in so much of what I read. I think I need to stop reading so much about parenting. It’s not good for my head or heart. 😉

      Thank you for reminding me of what really happens in the world. I needed that.

        1. Okay, maybe one mistake is hyperbole, but there definitely is an attitude out there that certain mistakes are very detrimental. Or maybe I just read that because I’m unsure of myself. 😉

  5. For what it is worth…. There is a child in my extended family who is in elementary school. Her father had/has severe mental problems that did not manifest until his 30’s. What the child’s mother is doing is focusing on helping that child stabilize and have security and learn coping skills and strong positive mental health skills because if the child’s genetic heritage follows her father’s genetic path those skills and that firm childhood basis of security will be the child’s best foundation for adulthood.
    We assume your mother did her best to parent you, and being human and of her generation, she was imperfect as your mother, even though she may have been a better mother to you than one from her grandmother’s generation. You are now doing your best for your child and you are parenting differently from what your mother did and taking advantage of the newest knowledge and information.
    It may be your genetics but it is not your fault. You did not custom select your daughter’s genetic heritage. And the genetic gifts from your side of her heritage also include some very wonderful aspects.
    You are not ignoring your daughter’s problems, nor are you blaming her … but you are taking on 100% guilt which helps no one. You have and are trying to give your daughter a solid family that cooperates and supports and cares and understands her difficulties, and I bet you will do the same for your son who will have different issues.
    Hell of a lot better than how I grew up ~hearing and thinking I was simply wrong in every possible way from hair color to size to brains to how I swam and how I sang to…… well, even my gender. Which is why I celebrate how hard you work at becoming your best you and trying so hard to raise your best children and best meet their needs so they have their best future.
    Keep breathing.

    1. A lot of what I’ve been trying to do in the past year has been about laying the groundwork for my daughter to build the skills she’ll need to manage whatever struggles await. The problem is I’m learning a lot of this as I teach it, which can be amazing as we learn and figure out together, but also hard.

  6. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your earlier posts, but I’ve been reading & thinking about them until I got the time to sit down and write. Here it is: I DO understand what you’re feeling. I am starting to believe my son has real needs that are beyond what we can manage without outside help. They are different then your daughter’s—he doesn’t hit us, but definitely challenging. I’ve hit both my kids a couple of times each. I hate myself for that, but when it happened, I was SO FRUSTRATED and I didn’t know how else to make them listen to me and do what they needed to do to be safe.
    Like always, I admire you for owning up to things and taking proactive steps. You reached out, made the appointment and went for help. That is not easy. Many people (including myself) don’t get past the “hmmm, maybe something is wrong” stage.
    Purple and rose is spot on with the perfect dream we need to let go. Exactly like with marriage, I think we all have dreams of motherhood and the reality very often doesn’t match up. Is that what this phase of life is all about? Letting all the dreams we’ve built up for 30+ years die away so we can face reality?

    1. Letting go of the old dreams and moving towards both reality and new dreams is the job of adulthood/maturity. Old age is being in reality and smiling at the dreams. Dreams are good for everyone sometimes; but they need to be re-evaluated as we gain in experience because otherwise when dreams are not real life we fall into terrible pits of despair and depression and guilt and that is the nightmare side of dreaming. Balance between dreams and nightmares is how reality and hope and forward actions are achieved. It is always scariest just before you commit and move forward. One of Noemi’s wonderful strengths is her moving forward constantly; another is the kindness she showers on others.
      We as women and imperfect humans just need to keep holding each others hands and sharing courage because then there is hope.

    2. It’s funny because I’ve been untangling myself from my dream of parenthood since the minute my daughter was born. I thought I had done a better job of extracting myself from it but I guess there were some remnants lingering that I wasn’t aware of. This has brought them to my attention and I’m trying hard to dismantle them as well.

      Thank you for helping me feel less alone.

  7. Josey, as always, says it perfectly, and the other commenters are amazing as well. You are absolutely not failing. You are giving this your everything. You are the best parent for your child. I’ve always admired how much thought and consideration you put into everything you do. I so hope that this therapist gives you a light that you can flame. Wishing you all the strength – you have so much already.

    1. “I so hope that this therapist gives you a light that you can flame.” I’m hoping for that as well.

  8. You are absolutely not failing. And you are not alone. I have had one of the hardest parenting weeks ever and all I’m really dealing with is typical 2 year old behavior- I have felt like running away multiple times this week, and yes, wanted to hit someone or something. It’s so hard, but you always keep going, and you are getting help. You are doing a great job and I wish I could take the guilt away that you feel responsible for this. Hugs, friend

  9. I haven’t responded before because I didn’t really have anything useful to say. I couldn’t say “I’ve done that too” or “I know how you feel” obviously, and so kept quiet, letting the other mothers do such a good job of reassuring you. I haven’t seen any mother I know cope with every situation they are faced with. You are giving your daughter so much that is good, modelling so much that is great, that when something does go wrong you’re fretting over your reaction to this. I’m glad that you’re getting help, though I know how hard it must be to admit you had to ask for help. But that’s what makes you a good mother – you’re reaching out to get help. If anything, I hope you feel then that the burden is shared by someone else, and that together, you’ll have a way forward. Right now, you’re just eaten up with guilt and shame and blame. But believe me, you’re not alone.

    And if you can only forgive yourself, you’ll be more open to ways to help your daughter, which of course will help you. And if you can’t forgive yourself, surely all these comments show that we will do it for you. No-one is judging. I’m in awe of you opening up like this. And sending hugs. Because it sounds like you need them.

  10. I am so sorry I am late to the party here with my comments – I just need to be on a normal computer to comment.

    I am super sorry that you are having a hard time with your gorgeous yet strong willed daughter. I do believe once she starts school next year this will be a game changer for her – it seemed to be with my nephew who had my sister pulling out her hair and things have changed a lot in the last two years. he has calmed down and is learning to work through all of the emotions.

    I do have something to say though re the incident with the water bottle. I know, that it isn’t perfect to hit your kids. However I do think what you did does not in any way, shape or form fall into the category of failure. I know that these sort of things are no longer the ideal way of disciplining your children but I know I would have reacted the same, if not worse if that had happened to me. I have given Molly a smack a couple of times (nothing hard but still a smack is a smack). Once because she scared the hell out of me in the kitchen and I reacted the same way you did. She, in my humble opinion will not be damaged at all from this. I is old enough to know that her reaction to you being stressed about your son was naughty. And you had to place your sons more imminent situation above hers. She will have learned from this – even though it may not have been the way you wanted to teach her.

    The other day Molly was dragging on my jumper and pulling it and putting it in her mouth and after the 900th time of me politely asking her to not do it and that I didn’t like it I shoved her hand away in anger. Sure, it wasn’t my greatest parenting moment but I didn’t let it get to me. About two hours later I totally over reacted – I can’t even remember what it was and I yelled at her and then her little face crumpled and I felt like the biggest most awful mother ever. The shove was water off a ducks back but the face crumple after I snapped for no reason was the bad one. I gave her a big cuddle and I said I am so sorry I over reacted and I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. She told me I was her best friend again and we moved on. I guess my point is that sometimes we do things we don’t want to or don’t mean to but we are all human. Please don’t beat yourself up over something like this. From what you have said I would have snapped long ago.

    Seeking help to manage you and and I’s emotions is a good thing. I don’t think it is a bad thing and hopefully that person helping you will make you realise what a bloody great mother you are and not a failure at all.

    Sending you warm big mushy hugs from oz. xxxx

    1. I have re-framed the PCIT (Parent-Child Interactive Therapy) as work on our mother-daughter relationship and as a way for me to learn better strategies to guide her through her strong emotions. It is definitely helping me to feel better about it. Now if I could just feel better about the exorbitant price tag. Gah!

      I have definitely done the yelling-until-face-crumbling thing and it is a soul crusher to be sure. I’ve had so many moments as a mother where I crossed invisible lines I didn’t even realize I had until I was firmly on the other side of them. I have never been so consistently challenged by anything in my life as I have by motherhood. Raising kids doesn’t play on any of my strengths and it’s been really, really hard. I’m hoping things get better soon, because I need to get better at this for all of our sakes.

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