Posts Tagged ‘communication skills’

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Parenting: Conflicts and Avoidance, Part 3

March 29, 2014

Part 3: So what am I teaching my children?

This has definitely been on my mind as the week has gone on. I wrote a letter to these two friends just so that I could process my thoughts. I ended with:

Don’t ever regret telling me. Regret that so much of this could have been avoided if I had only been told sooner. In the name of “letting them work it out” you have only taught them that avoidance is okay and they are learning nothing and T1 is learning exactly what I believe—that no one is trustworthy, no one gives opportunities for personal accountability and improvement, and that walking away is preferable to working things out.

I’ve read this letter to T1, both in its original form and when I edited it to include my self-reflection on if I was just as guilty of not letting the other parents know of their child’s behavior. T1 and I have discussed this entire situation at length. We’ve gone through the whole gamut of emotions.

But have I shown her the correct way of dealing with this? It occurred to me that while I feel justified in my reaction as a parent, it may also stem from my trauma thus making it an extreme reaction. And one that these parents just don’t get.

My initial trauma came from choices of others not protecting me–as my 14-year-old self says, “Not putting me first.” I can be rational and understand that choices were made with the best of their ability and that their hands were tied. I get that. But it has always driven me to demand my due. Even with the Chief. My biggest struggles with my MIL were about her making demands on the Chief and not expecting him to put me and the girls first, or at least give us the common courtesy of checking with us first. (See my posts about the Pineapples.) It really wasn’t until about both girls were born and we had moved south that the Chief and I finally got through to her. And I love her dearly. Just so we’re clear, the Chief isn’t a Momma’s Boy and the situation perplexed him too.

The trauma in recent years, both occasions, were because I was once again not considered and not protected by those that should have stepped up to consider and defend me. Trust me, I am not self-centered enough (despite some accusations) to believe I should be the center of anyone’s world or the first thought before they act. Nonetheless, the damage was done and it could have been avoided.

Was no one going to step up for T1? While the accusations were true she was not alone nor were the other children innocent. The question I keep asking is why is my child the only one who crosses the line with the teasing and nasty comments? Everyone gives as good as they get but it always ends with my child saying the last thing before the others run off to their parents, crying about how mean my child is. And what is that line she keeps crossing?

And why didn’t my friends let me step up to help her learn what that line was? I will always step up for my child–that includes defending her innocence and correcting her when she is in error. Who else is going to do that? Certainly not these other parents.

These thoughts took my breath away. They hurt.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances just up and walk away rather than work things out. Learning later some of those situations could have been fixed if I had only been told is where my outrage comes from. Others maybe I was too young to know how to handle. I wasn’t taught to deal with things head on. Hmmm… much like these girls (and parents)? I expressed as much to T1.

But these other emotions? They come from a deeper hurt.

T1’s emotions this week have also roller coastered. She’s sought out both girls; she’s apologized. The one who has frozen her out has not responded but an actually conversation has not taken place. I’ve seen her get angry, just like me, about the pots calling the kettle black… and coming to me with a myriad of examples.

I’ve had to caution her about doing that. “Don’t give in to that anger. If it’s never bothered you, you can’t bring it up, but yes, those are good examples of how you all treat each other.” But I hope she knows I feel her pain and her outrage, her confusion, and her sorrow.

I did take her aside later this week to express my concern over what I was teaching her. “My emotions, my struggle, are coming from a place of hurt. From damage. I’m not sure it is healthy or that I’m being the best example.”

I’ve never talked to my children about my initial trauma. I don’t intend to if I don’t have to. T1 knows about the circumstances of the last two. “I wasn’t put first. I wasn’t protected. No one stood up for me. That is my damage. But I will promise you this, I will always stand by you. I will always defend you. And teaching you for years to come is my job.”

In regards to my PTSD, writing my response helped me avoid some of the downward spiraling and obsessive behaviors a situation like this could cause. I’m not one to harm myself but man, what would I give to have another friends say to these women, “Did you know I had to talk her off a ledge last night thanks to you two?” I want a knight in shining armor to sweep in and defend me and my child. It is this reaction that got me thinking about where all this was coming from.

I told T1 that I haven’t decided what I will do with my response letter. I don’t know if it is a moot point and they just won’t change or if I should give them the opportunity they never gave me. I did ask T1 her thoughts and I think she very maturely said, “Send it to them.”

Part 4: What to do…

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Parenting: Conflicts and Avoidance, Part 1

March 25, 2014

All kinds of experts say “Don’t bring up the past” “Don’t name call” “Focus on the action, not the person” etc., etc. There is a right and proper way to communicate and to argue. If we adults need constant training on this, then why would we think our children are automatically learning this?

In our 18 years of marriage the Chief and I have had to work on this. One thing in our favor with this lifestyle is that you learn life is too short–you can’t hold a grudge and stew about something for days when you’re not guaranteed a phone call. I’ve said the Chief and I fight better over the phone because there is nothing like the phone cutting out on you to make you not mince words. Yes, it is hard to argue this way because you can’t see the person’s expressions, tonal quality is hard to gauge… but I will tell you, we can get more said in two hours than we can in an all-nighter arguing.

So we have learned to deal with conflict as soon as possible. We don’t always but we try. And when we do we also try not to bring up the past. I was really big on bringing my complaints to the Chief right away. This sometimes left the Chief feeling like a shotgun had been pulled on him. Like any other human being, he reacted by bringing up some of his complaints. I’d usually respond very negatively and then say, “That was three months ago. If it wasn’t important enough to bring up then, it’s not important enough to bring up now.” We’ve come a long way and I’ll even concede that sometimes things do have to wait because of circumstances beyond our control.

Another thing that is really important to me is being able to make amends. I like being given the opportunity to either defend myself, explain myself, or to correct an error and ask for forgiveness. I can’t do any of these things if I am not aware there is an issue. Often when I am confronted down the road I am more angry that time has gone by than the accusation itself, especially if I have wronged the person. I do not like being denied the chance to improve myself and make amends. I find it disrespectful. “Down the line” becomes more about how the person reacted and their continued hurt feelings more than the offense. I can only apologize for what I did, not for the stewing and anguish a person chooses to go through if they never seek a resolution with me. Personal accountability is a BIG thing with me and I will be the first to apologize and accept responsibility if I have wronged someone.

The problem with “Down the line” and dragging up the past is that ALL the past can now be brought up and ALL parties better be prepared for that. And it can get ugly. Dealing with something in the present usually avoids this. The issue at hand can be looked at for what it is–an action and a choice. The hurt is there and addressed but it isn’t the prolonged festering and perceived hurt that often comes with unresolved issues. You end up avoiding the what ifs and the paranoia that comes with never addressing an issue.

I also believe that if you are going to bring up a grievance, you better be sure they cannot bring up your actions as well. Remember, if you point a finger, three point right back at you. Normally you would think this would lead to avoidance. “Oh man, I know I did this so I can’t say anything to her.” But the interesting thing is that once you live and practice taking things head on and you’ve had chances to apologize and make amends, you have less and less to regret and worry about being thrown in your face. If you are going to confront someone you have to be willing to see that they may have a grievance against you and you can’t get defensive about it. You have to graciously accept a Mea Culpa if you ever expect them to hear your complaint and make amends.

Part 2: Where all this is leading….

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