Thursday, 13 February 2014

Mother Issues.....

I referred in Ups and Downs and New Additions to the impact a recent, really helpful, comment here on the blog had on me regarding my expectations of Katie's behaviour. I thought I would spend a few moments writing a bit more about what I was thinking.  As these things generally do, it relates back to my own childhood.

My mother was very strict and controlling and often quite aggressive. Incredibly so.  There is a lot about my childhood that I would rather forget. These issues may have been hashed over in therapy but they carry a legacy.  In fact most people who become parents either try to emulate their parents or parent in the completely opposite way.  I'd hoped I was aiming for the latter.  In many ways I have achieved this aim and left behind many of the residual issues but I've realised recently that there is still work to be done.

I think part of the problem lies with the fact that having a very controlled childhood has left me wanting to control the things that I can control (IYKWIM?).  However much of my adult life has taught me that the universe lives in chaos and that life is much the same.  I have spent a long time learning to accept that chaos is a natural state, but I unintentionally fight it with all of my being (despite lots of yoga). I yearn to be a leaf on the wind, just bobbing and gliding where the breeze takes me.  I'm more like a falling apple with gravity throwing me onto the earth!  As a result I spend my life saying "No!"

I'm learning though. Being a parent is teaching me a lot about myself and bringing greater understanding about my childhood and the experience I had of being parented. I think my mother's apparent lack of control stemmed from a need to be very much in control. I have realised that my mother probably felt very much the same as I often do with a lot of parenting challenges and didn't have a lot of emotional support around her so felt in a constant state of chaos herself.  If you can't control what happens to you, you can try and control those around you.  I get that now but her extreme methods and constant stream of unpleasant comments to try to control what she wanted me to do led to the breakdown of our relationship about 20 years ago. I feel sad that we never managed to have an adult relationship.  Our relationship broke down when I was finally able to say "No" to my mother.  I reached the point when enough was enough and I had to walk away to preserve my own sanity.  One of the reasons this is on my mind a lot at the moment is that I am now the same age that my mother was when we parted ways.  It brings home to be just how young she was when she had me. I feel it has also given me lots of skills as an adoptive parent.

I have also realised that, as a parent, I have high expectations of behaviour.  Those expectations placed on me as a child have stayed with me throughout my child.  I am always mindful of how my behaviour impacts on others.  I don't think I had really ever sat down and thought about the expectations I had of Katie if I'm honest.  This is the main problem with Katie and myself.  She just isn't able to live up to the expectations I have of her behaviour at the current time.  Katie is a much freer spirit than I am and she likes to push boundaries to their ultimate limit.  I suspect part of this need is inbuilt in her character and part of it may related to being adopted. 

Katie also doesn't like being told "No".  Dramatically so.  Actually nobody likes being
told "No" but we seem to do it an awful lot as parents so I'm trying, very hard, to say "Yes" more.  I'm trying to be more creative with how I say "Yes" though.  It's hard though.  "No" just slips off the tongue with barely a thought. "Yes" requires thought and a game plan.  "Yes" requires you to really think about the question you are being asked.  That's a lot to ask of a frazzled and often distracted mummy brain.  "Yes" requires you to also extrapolate on when the "Yes" will actually happen e.g. "Yes you can have that biscuit after your dinner" rather than "No, you are having dinner in a minute".  With Katie the questions come thick and fast.  She moves from one subject to the next with the ease of an uncluttered and questioning (and highly skilled negotiator) mind.  It takes an awful lot of effort to keep up with her, let alone attempt to be ahead of her.  It is going to take an awful lot of effort to maintain this "Yes" programme.  It seems to be working though.  There is less conflict and I'm trying hard to pick the battles that need to be fought.

After massive meltdowns and arguments in the morning a few months ago which generally resulted in us rushing late to school I have changed my expectations in the mornings but have added a few rules.  Katie has to stay in bed until her clock says 7am (this is working relatively well now); get dressed in the morning before she goes downstairs. She's done brilliantly with this after a difficult start.  She is an early riser and this suits us all really.  She is allowed to watch TV until breakfast time.  This relaxes her and prevents her getting into mischief.  At breakfast time the TV goes off and stays off until teeth are cleaned; hair is put up; cardigan is on and shoes are on feet.  We still rush to school because Pip often does a poo at around 8:40am but mostly we're calmer.  I won't lie and say it's all the time though.

I'm grateful though that I'm now parenting with more awareness of why I am the way I am and the history that brought me to this point.  I am starting to accept that you can't walk away totally from your past.  It is part of the fibre of your being.  It's etched into the memories of your soul.  Accepting that I may be like my mother at times is very hard for me.  I don't want to be like someone who made me so unhappy at times but more than that I don't want to leave the same legacy with my children. I'm glad that I have the ability to be self-reflective although I am aware that I beat myself up a bit too much at times but again that stems from my own experiences and I am learning to accept that about myself. I hope I never stop trying to be a good parent but I also try and forgive myself on the days when I get it totally wrong.

I am so grateful to Maria for her comments on Digging in Deep. I think sometimes someone just phrases something in the right way at the right time and you are able to hear the message clearly for the first time (much to the frustration of everyone else around you who has been telling you the same thing for years!).  I have had a lot of soul searching over the past few weeks but am so glad I did because things are currently a little bit calmer here. Not calm by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely calmer.

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