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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Last week, my mother spent a couple of days with me, and since my Michigan days when both mom and dad would stay with me for weeks, I love her visits.  In my turf, unlike when she is in hers, she operates within adult boundaries, hers and mine. At home, her inner child has full discretion and when mine is awakened, it becomes a playground brawl.

We chatted in the morning about our family and ancestral histories, reminiscing about her parents and grandparents. From the little she remembers, we are descendants of Basques.  You may have heard about them at different times in the news for terrorists acts against Spain because they want independence. Huh, it makes sense why this French guy once called me an “emotional terrorist”.  I also learned a family secret that gripped tightly for decades has now been released by a less vigilant aging mind. It turns out, that my grandfather, Juan, was in jail for 20 months for shooting a man during an argument.  As she tells the story, the father of the man he shot, let’s call him “Justo”, later said that had he known my grandfather was such an upstanding man, he would not have had him prosecuted.  As the story goes, while in jail, Juan arranged to send  some medicine to Justo’s younger son, who was ill.  Truth, or fiction?  I choose to believe that it is true because my grandfather was a magnanimous and service-oriented man, or at least, that is what I grew up hearing.

I realize that I have spent my life not listening to my mother.  Although she brought me into this world, she became part of the wallpaper of my life. She was background noise and an obligation, kind of like taxes.  As much as I cry that I was invisible to my family, she was invisible to me. When I was younger I bemoaned her not being there for me—all I remember is my father’s, at first indulging and, as I grew up, possessive, overbearing, and suffocating love.  Growing up, I felt that she loved my father best; yet, although he wanted her to leave Cuba with him during the early days of The Revolution, she would not leave us behind. And, when my accomplishments were never enough for my father’s demands that I fulfill his aborted dreams, to my mother I was always enough.

When I was leaving for my first quarter at Chicago, I remember her saying that although most people would be more than satisfied with what I had, I was leaving it all to go for more. Although I realize now that I could have construed her statement as a criticism (like, aren’t you ever happy?), I experienced it as an affirmation. This is not to say that she did not have her own dreams of becoming a journalist and of, literally, climbing mountains; but unlike my father, she did not impose her dreams on me. The funny thing is that I unconsciously took it upon myself to climb the summits her sex, culture, and history prevented her from climbing.  Wait, whose dreams have I been living?

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To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even in the name of love, it is pure arrogance, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what’s right for me? That is my only business. Let me work with that before I try to solve problems for you.

Byron Katie

via Life Quotes: Byron Katie Quotes.

I have been out of sorts, though I didn’t really know it.  Has that ever happened to you?  I have been having occasional shortness of breath, and, yesterday, I thought I was having a heart attack while I was meditating, of all things.  Since my heart surgery, anytime I feel any weird sensations on my arm, chest, or back, I immediately wonder if it is my heart.  Don’t think that I am a hypochondriac, because I am not; but my brush with an asymptomatic aortic aneurysm, has left me hypervigilant.  It didn’t help that I’d been anticipating the results of my yearly MRA of the aorta, with and without contrast; which, of course, shows that I am fine, until I have it done again next year.

But, it wasn’t until I had lunch with my friend, Pam, a social worker, that I realized how stressed I am.  As a good therapist, she asked me how I was doing, given that I’ve had so much going on these past few weeks and I brushed off her comment by saying, “Oh, I always have lot’s going on—-it’s life”.  And it is, but I have been busy denying my worries about my MRA, and about Sweet Money.  Remember him?  I have been trying to forget about him, lately, without success—whether I want to, or not, his situation grieves us.  Last week, I mentioned that he’d agreed to go to rehab, or at least that is what we thought, but with addictions, things are never linear, or simple.  THINK ROLLERCOASTER.  For two weeks, now, he has managed to miss his appointment at the day treatment program due to; ostensibly, legitimate reasons—like he had to work, or he did not have a ride.

I also mentioned, in a previous blog, that the police was looking for Sweet Money for selling stolen jewelry.  Although we’d had not contact with him in months, he called two weeks ago, asking to come home, as if nothing happened, wanting to reestablish a relationship with my husband (no mention of me).  He said he realized he’d done wrong, and he wanted to make amends.  But we have learned to discern his lack of genuineness and sincerity, so we pulled the covers over our hearts—these were more of the lies that people with addictions are so masterful at telling.  S.M. also said that he was homeless, and he’d been sleeping in the woods.  Imagine how his father felt.  But, we could not imagine him back in the house, as we are tired of being played, and of being robbed, though the desire to rescue him can be overwhelming.   It seems that his mother feels the same way, as she won’t take him back home, either.

Concerned for his safety, his father placed him in a motel for two nights, while attempting to help him get into inpatient or outpatient rehab.  Since we could not afford to keep paying for a motel, that he would probably use to party with his friends, we (I use the royal we, since he and I have no contact in months) told him he needed to find a place on his own.   In the meantime, his father came up with plan to help (rescue?) him.  He would find S.M. housing with a colleague that has a big house and lives alone, but S.M. would have to agree to attend rehab, go back to school and get a job.  Oh, did I tell you that, with a felony on his record, finding a job is even more difficult, not to mention the economy?  Yet, despite being homeless, penniless, and being on probation, Sweet Money does not seem keen on his father’s plan, seemingly preferring to sleep in his friend’s backyard shack, since none of his cronies can take him in.

Two weeks later, he called his father to tell him that he will not be going to jail, though he thought he surely would, because his friend’s mother, whose jewelry they stole, did not press charges to protect her own son.  Instead, he will be assigned a drug counselor, and is mandated to enroll in a drug-treatment program, but he escaped jail.   When asked by his father how he felt, S.M. said he felt like he got away with something, once again.  And he did.  For us, it is both a relief and a concern.  If he continues to get away with violating social and legal rules, will he continue to push the limits until he ends up in jail, or worse?  Getting caught once by the police and losing his job because of he now has a record, as he is no longer a minor, did not deter him from a second offense.  And, although we hoped that he’d hit bottom, he hasn’t.   How do we know?  S.M. has not called his father back about pursuing the living arrangements that he was trying to broker for him.  As the parent of a child with addiction, or any child for that matter, my husband struggles to find the fine balance between caring for him and not enabling his behaviors.  Helping him has not worked, and not helping him doesn’t seem to be working, either.  Once again, like a punch in the stomach, our powerlessness to save him, hits us.  At night, my husband and I often wonder: Why does he continue to sabotage himself?  How can he stand being homeless and directionless? What will it take to heal him?

But Byron Katie reminds me in Loving What Is (2002), that we suffer when we argue with reality, and “If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark (p. 2).”  No matter how hard we try to turn S.M. around, we can’t.  Further, Katie argues that, we become stressed when we mentally live outside of our own business; and, there are three kinds of businesses; yours, mine and God’s (God is “reality” because it rules).  In this case, I am meddling in S.M.’s and God’s business; and, I am losing!  How arrogant of me to think that they need my help.  Why don’t I help myself, instead? How am I sabotaging myself, or wanting to be rescued? What can I do turn my life around?  But those are BIG questions; let’s try some simpler ones, like why don’t I drink enough water, or forget to take my Calcium when I am at risk for osteoporosis?  Looks like I have enough of my own business to take care of.   Tell me, whose business are you minding today?

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In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

via Pema Chodron.

Before leaving Miami on Thursday morning, I went to say a final good-bye to my aunt.  She was asleep, and her nurse was getting ready to wash her, to prepare her for another day of lying on her back staring at the ceiling, and sleeping, with occasional interruptions for meals, diaper changes, or to be turned on her side to prevent her bedsores from deepening.  Any movement is painful and she tries to fight back, threatening the nurse verbally and clenching her contracted hands.  She babbles about going on a journey, asking whether her clothes are ready, and how her hair looks.  I wonder if she is afraid of dying because she asks if we are going with her.  It was a difficult, yet fulfilling visit; a day did not pass without my crying and telling her how much I love her.

What a gift to be able to say good-bye, slowly.

But the grief I feel for Sweet Money is even greater; while Tia is afraid of dying, at just-19-years-old, he is even more afraid of living.  His Facebook wall  plastered with photos of seemingly orgiastic parties, his eyes visibly dilated by street drugs, we watch as he sinks into the quicksand of his addictions.  Arrested in March for being the lookout for a breaking and entering, he is now wanted for stealing jewelry from the family that rescued and housed him since January.  Jobless, addicted, and hanging out with “the most awesome people in the world,” our only hope is that the police find him, and that he is mandated back into rehab.  Since we cannot reach him physically, or emotionally, we feel knocked down by an overwhelming wave of helplessness, that reminds us again and again, because we forget, that with two doctorates in helping professions between us, his father and I are powerless in the face of alcohol and drugs.  I am humbled.  Wow, how did we end up in this nightmare?  When I studied or taught about addictions, never, ever did I imagine that drugs would break into my life and steal our son away from us.  But all I can do is grieve and resist the temptation to blame him, my husband, his mother, or myself.  It’s too easy to point a finger, and, oh so difficult to feel compassion for a heart that thinks he is living it up, but is desperately lost.

But there is something  I can do for Tia and Sweet Money.  Buddhists have a practice called Tonglen.  In the words of Pema Chodrun, a Buddhist nun and renown spiritual teacher, this practice teaches us to “open our heart and open our mind in the very situation where our hearts and minds habitually shut down (http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php).”  The practice enables us to develop compassion, by breathing in an other’s pain and suffering so that they can be well; and, breathing out, sending them whatever will give them relief and joy.  I taught this to my class once, and this student’s rage toward her nephew, who, like Sweet Money, was in trouble with the law, was transformed into compassion and understanding.  I will practice Tonglen, as much for them as for me.  Please keep us in your prayers.

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“There is no grief like the grief that does not speak”

via Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quotes.


I have not said anything about Sweet Money (SM) since January (Passing on the roller coaster ride), as I have been focusing on “fixing” my life instead of his; but his life touches mine, and I choose to write about him, again.  It’s funny, or maybe not, how I came to this moment.  Last week, my friend and I received a tiny grant—seed money to study ambiguous loss.  As per my earlier blog, these are losses that are not grieved because they are uncertain, or lack closure.  This week, we covered death and dying in my social work and spirituality class, and the loss inventory that we completed in preparation for our discussion, included other losses besides death—again, those losses that we gloss over because they are not “real” deaths.  So, I am adding Sweet Money to my long list of ambiguous losses; except, that this time, I am being mindful about processing this loss, here.

Although SM moved out in January, he was still maintaining contact with his father and, to our surprise,  even came to a church dinner on Shrove Tuesday.  But, two weeks ago, I decided to un-friend him on Facebook, because it was too painful to see how he and his friends were glorifying drinking, partying, and smoking.  There were pictures of beer bottles and cigarettes (with a caption that said “Fun”); pictures of young men gathered around beer bottles; and pictures of a shirtless SM surrounded by bikini clad young women, their bodies adorned with multicolor body paint.

I wanted to SCREAM and to SHOUT out at him across cyberspace:

“If you are going to self-destruct, do you have to flaunt it for us to see?”

Or,

“One- hundred-thousand dollars down the drain!” (the cost of two years in a therapeutic boarding school).

And, I impulsively did write this on his FB page, but immediately withdrew it, because as his father, pointed out, it won’t do any good; instead, I took him off my friends’ list.  A few days after that, he cancelled a weekly lunch meeting that he had with his father, with the excuse that, he had forgotten he had a basketball tournament, and he wondered if they could reschedule for later that day.  RAGE.  TEARS . . . Am I crying because I am angry and it is easier to feel anger than pain?  I am surprised that feelings are surfacing, since I had “whited” him out of my life; but even with Wite-Out, you still see the bumpy imprint of the original text, and the more Wite-Out you apply, the bumpier and messier it gets.

A week later, the morning of the rescheduled lunch date, his father, C., called him to confirm, no answer; texted him, no answer; posted a message on FB, and no answer.  Still, he hoped that SM would call as the time drew near, but I had a feeling that he wouldn’t, so I encouraged C. to have lunch at noon, instead of waiting until two, in case he didn’t show up.  That was two, or three weeks ago, and we have not heard from him.  He has also cut himself off from Brian Kingsley, his caring and compassionate employer, whom he no longer works for.  I suspect that SM quit his job he began to descend deeper into his addictions.  Oh, and since his parents are not talking to each other, because she is suing unjustly C.  for therapeutic boarding school tuition (I won’t burden you with the details, but I am not the only one that thinks this is unjust), we cannot gather as a family to do an intervention.  It’s no wonder that this kid’s life is a mess!  While studying for my clinical exam, I learned that children of divorced parents have poorer adjustment when parents don’t get along.  In other words, a cordial parental relationship can mitigate the negative effects of divorce (Hess & Camara, 1979, 2010).   Further, studies have found a stronger relationship between parental discord and boys’ maladaptive behaviors than girls’.  So, whatever, it’s too late, now—he’ll be 19 next month, and his parents are still fighting.

So, I am left with the question of what to do with this loss, when I would rather ignore it.  Even in “real” deaths, we have a hard time believing that the person is gone; so, can I grieve the loss of someone who is still alive?  I am tripping over my words and thoughts, because it is hard to wrap my mind around these ideas—not to mention the feelings.   But, I can start by asking myself what I feel I have lost, or what I miss now that, SM has, yet again, dropped out of my life.  I miss the sweet 7-year-old boy that said to me, as I was putting him to bed, “Z., I have a pain right here,” holding his small hands to his heart, because Heather, another second grader had rejected him; and the boy that would ask me whether his clothes matched; who told me his dreams so that I could help him analyze them; and the one who’d go for walks with me; or shared his favorite music.  I have also lost the hope, at least for now, that he will stay on the healing path he started at the therapeutic boarding school, and that he will use his exceptional intelligence and talents for his wellbeing and that of the recovery community.  Will he ever graduate from college?  I realize, though, that this is far less important than staying alive, or staying out of jail; within substance abuse, recovery is the loftiest of goals, and supersedes whatever other goals we might typically have for our children.

So, what I have learned about this ambiguous loss?  I am learning that I don’t have to understand it, and that I have to throw out my bottle of Wite-Out.  How can I not have feelings of loss and abandonment when, twice, SM has come in and out of our home seeking closeness, only to abruptly and completely cut himself off from us?   Obviously, I can’t sit around staring at an open wound and, as I told him once,  if he chooses to go down, we are not going to go down with him.  But, I can acknowledge and face my grief whenever it wells up within me.  And I can say, “Ah, there you are.”

References:

Emery, R. E. (1982). Interparental conflict and the children of discord and divorce. Psychological Bulletin, 92(2), 310.

Hess, R. D., & Camara, K. A. (1979). Post Divorce Family Relationships as Mediating Factors in the Consequences of Divorce for Children. Journal of Social Issues, 35(4), 79-96.

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As applied to relationships, the mirror of relationship becomes an important tool for personal transformation and ultimately social change as well. There is one simple principle to follow: those that we love and are emotionally attracted to, and those that we are distressed or repelled by emotionally, are both mirrors of our own self. We are attracted to those people in whom we find traits that we have and we want more of and we are repelled by those in whom we find traits that we deny in ourselves.

via The Mirror of Relationships – a knol by Deepak Chopra.

 

When Animeé and Sweet Money (pseudonames) were in middle school, I went to pick them up at their mother’s house for their every-other-weekend-visit us. They children were fighting, as brothers and sisters do, and Animeé told S.M. in frustration, “When you grow up, you are going to work at McDonald’s because Burger King won’t hire you.” Today, I wonder if those were prophetic words.  On Monday, four days after stealing $200.00 from his father, S.M. called him asking to meet; he said he’d been doing a lot of thinking and he wanted to talk. His father read into his message that he wanted to make amends so that he could return home. I didn’t think so, based on his Facebook activity and his profile picture, in which he appears high and possibly holding a joint. My hunch was that he’d reached out because he needed his clothes and his things. But, if Sweet Money wanted to return home, would I be able to live with him again? His father was ready to negotiate, but was I? He’d manipulated and trampled our hearts too many times; because he is so charming, Sweet Money inspires warmth and sympathy—never at a loss for adults wanting to “help” (i.e. rescue) him. My suspicions were right, and the perennially late S.M. appeared fifteen minutes early for our appointment, with his friend Shrek, one of the kids he relapsed with in October. When I asked him why he’d brought company to what was to be a conversation with us, he said he’d come to pick up his things. Without opening the door, since his father was not home yet, I told him that we’d have to talk first. So, he sent away Shrek and his mother, who was going to drive them back to her house, where S.M. would be staying.

 

We met at a neutral site for fifteen minutes at most. Sweet Money informed us that he was quitting school because he’d “lost interest” and that he wanted to get a job and an apartment, and to pay us back the money he owes us, as he wants to make it on his own, something he’s been saying for a while. He also told us that he’d been getting high since Thursday, but was planning to quit the next day because he was looking for work. The money he stole was not for drugs, but to pay for an expensive coat that he’d told me his best friend, Andy, had given him because he no longer wanted it. When I asked him why he lied, he said he’d feared my judging him for misspending money. Oh, and Andy almost beat him up that Thursday morning when he learned that S.M. slept with his ex-girlfriend. He became frustrated and when I asked him how he was going to support himself and his habit, and pay his debts on minimum-wage jobs. He responded that he was sober and was upset with me for not being emotionally supportive. Of course, I self-righteously dismissed his feelings. When we told him that he could have his electronic equipment because he owed us money, he argued that he’d bought it and that it was his, but acquiesced without much resistance. Disappointed that he would not get his wishes and feeling misuderstood, he called the meeting over; his father and I, shattered by seeing the imperfect child, went back to the house to pack his clothes, and he left into the arms of another rescuer.

 

Where am I in all of this? In an earlier blog (It’s all about me: Relationships as mirrors), I wrote that all entanglements or conflicts with others are really about us. I have always expected perfection of myself, and I have laid that projection onto S.M., who on the surface has it all—the looks, the height, the weight, the smarts, and the charm. If I could not be perfect, I expected Sweet Money to be. And, it was easy for me to project onto Sweet Money because of several parallels. Like me, he is excitable, sensitive, high-strung, and insecure; his parents and his sister, on the other hand, are reserved whether in joy or in sadness. Wow, if I have been laying my baggage onto S.M., I shudder to think what I would have done to my own child. After wiping my mirror (Relationships as mirrors), I see that S.M. is seeking his path without the burden of “perfect” parents, both, religious leaders— his father a star youth athlete, his mother, an Ivy-league graduate, and his step-mother a university professor and therapist. Get the picture? Poor kid. Perhaps this is Sweet Money’s vision quest, a Native American rite of passage from puberty to adulthood, where the young warrior goes into the wilderness alone to find his own vision, or path in life (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_quest). The operative word, here, is alone.  It is his journey, and instead of meddling in his, I need to pay attention to mine so as not to burden those closest to me with expectations I can’t fulfill yet expect them to. To be continued.

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An overview of the effects of substance abuse on today’s youth concludes that substance abuse is the major precipitating cause for most of the premature deaths and morbidity among youth in the United States. It further concludes that the single greatest predictor of substance abuse is a positive family history of drug abuse. Data support a genetic biological predisposition for addiction, although environmental components may modify the risk.  An article on the effects of heavy and potent and marijuana use advises that such use induces significant and long-lasting deficits in short-term memory.

via NCJRS Abstract – National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

After two years of intensive therapy at a therapeutic boarding school, dozens of AA meetings, and countless pep talks, we discovered yesterday that Sweet Money relapsed. But, I take that back, on some level we knew that he was using again, but we did not want to know. We deluded ourselves with the hope that his incessant lying was a hard-to-break-habit that he would outgrow, that he wasn’t drinking, and that somehow our love and attention would keep him on the right path. But, as a social worker, I also knew that recovery is not a linear process—that it is a series of steps backwards before moving forward again, or not. Still, I convinced myself that Sweet Money was different, that unlike others, his path would be perfectly straight. Of course, he would be grateful for God’s grace that allowed him to survive his childhood addictions without a criminal record, and for living with his father, a childhood dream. But God’s infinite power and our love could not compete with the content of a square inch plastic bag. See, the thing with God is that we must allow God in, and Sweet Money has chosen not to. Perhaps he does not feel worthy of his gifts, and the generous love he has received from family, friends, The Family Foundation School, Alcoholics’ Anonymous, and our church community.

 

How does it feel? It feels like a death, and I am grieving, yet again. It’s the kind of pain that  you may temporarily forget,  re-injures you when it resurfaces into your consciousness, leaving your heart sore and spent. Although Sweet Money is, thankfully, still alive, our image of who we hoped him to be has died; though, that may not be a bad thing, since we can better SEE him now. When I was in graduate school, I wrote a paper for a class about parental grief over the birth of an “imperfect” child. Although Sweet Money is tall, lean, handsome, bright, and musically and artistically talented, thirty years later, I have an inkling of how those parents feel.  Still, his father and I find solace knowing that we embraced him with loving hearts and without judgment despite his struggles, and that if we could not stop him from using when he was thirteen, we certainly can’t stop him at eighteen. This is when we admit that we are powerless, he over his drugs, and we over him. But, a sense of peace does not wash away the sadness that he tore himself from our home when he violated the condition we imposed when he asked to come live with us again. Weary of giving him chances, we changed the lock. Although we didn’t ask him to leave in November when he admitted that he’d relapsed in October with marijuana, and that he’d stopped going to AA meetings, for now, we have found the courage to keep him out. When our resolve starts to wane, we must remember that he has violated our trust one too many times; stealing $200.00 from his father’s desk, money he’d received for his birthday, screams of addiction, and we must listen.  He needs to learn that parents cannot always bail children out no matter how desperately they want to, as a mother I know, whose son is in jail because the friend he was shooting up with died of an overdose, can tell you.

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If we learn to see our relationships as the wonderfully accurate mirrors they are, revealing to us where we need to go with our own inner process, we can see much about ourselves that we would otherwise have a great deal of difficulty learning.

Shakti Gawain

So here I am again, writing about my relationship to my stepchildren.   But this time I will write about Animée.  But is it about her, or about me?  It’s all about me; it always is about us, as relationships are mirrors— especially so when they bring out the worst in us.  Today, I write about why I was furious at my stepdaughter a month ago.  I was “twisted” because, okay, here is a list of the assumptions I made about her:

1.    She is lazy (she spent the summer hanging out on Facebook and with friends instead of working).

2.    She has let herself go (she gained about 100 pounds in two years).

3.    She is not motivated (to lose weight, study, or find a job).

4.    She goes from one boyfriend to another.

5.    She is unreachable (she doesn’t answer phone calls).

Okay, I have to fess up: I was so angry that I descended to cattiness, acting like a 55-year-old high schoolgirl!.  When I discovered that she was coming to our area to visit her new boyfriend (who’s actually an old friend), and that she did not want us to know, I went on Facebook and asked her what she was doing that weekend.  Naturally, I did not hear back from her, and she is still not talking to me.  Well, it’s not that she ever talks to us, but she is not responding to me on Facebook, which is her preferred medium of expression.

When I realized that I was spiraling down an unspiritual road, I stopped to reflect on my feelings.  According to self-help gurus Shakti Gawain, and Byron Katie, and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, whenever something provokes us, it is showing us something about ourselves that we reject.  Returning to my current age, I stopped to wonder what Animée was showing me about me that I did not want to see.

And it came to me.  One of my biggest rants about Animée was “irresponsibility.”  Aha!  I have been avoiding responsibility most of my life (why do you think I got married late, didn’t have children, and didn’t want tenure?).  I did not want to take responsibility for living.  I would go through the motions but I didn’t want to step up to the plate because I preferred the shade of the dugout, watching from the sidelines while others played the game; sometimes getting injured, but often winning.

So why are Animée and I avoiding responsibility, if indeed my premise is true?  It came to me with such clarity!   We shy away from responsibility because we were both prematurely burdened with unreasonable expectations when we were both seven years old.  While other children were protected from life’s vicissitudes, we were assuming parental roles.  Because I learned English after a year in this country, I was the eldest, and my parents did not speak English, I was in charge of their communication with the outside world.  As I write this I begin to feel stifled—the same feeling that wells up in me to this day when my mother asks me to read her correspondence and write her checks.  At seven, I filled out our yearly report forms to Immigration Services, wrote my sister’s and my school absence notes, translated, and made phone calls.  When Animée was seven, or maybe even younger, as her parents divorced when she was five, she became the intermediary between them, since they could not communicate with each other.

In the psychological literature, our childhoods are characteristic of parentified children—children who are prematurely assigned responsibility, authority, and power within the family.  Although parentification was once seen as pathological, there is debate, however, about whether parentification leads to early competence or to childhood deprivation (Barnett, 1998; Jurkovic, 1997).  Interestingly, according to Lackie (1983) social workers tend to be parentified children, as are first borns, which Animée and I both are.  But what are the consequences of parentification literature?  The answer is, it depends.  According to Barnett and Parker (2003):

“whether the effects are adverse or not depends on a multitude of [other] factors. The final outcome for any individual can only be judged at the end of his or her life-span and the judgment will be largely subjective.”

I am no longer upset with Animée.  Instead, I am grateful to her for helping me to see myself more clearly—I have struggled with most of what I projected on her!  And I regret that she endured parentifcation, like I did. I can also understand now why she would choose to not be in close relationship with me; in the past, my reminding her of her responsibilities increased the void between us.  That is the last thing she wanted to hear.  I miss her,  though, and at times, I miss my lost childhood.

Before I let you go, I am going to share an exercise that I learned from Shakti Gawain in a workshop over 15 years ago.  Here goes.  Think of someone that irritates you to no end.  Sit down and write what annoys you about them.  Be honest, no one is going to see this but you.  Now, in another list next to the first, describe yourself.  Compare the two lists and tell me what you see.  What have you learned about yourself?

Barnett, B., & Parker, G. (1998). The parentified child: early competence or childhood deprivation? Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 3(4), 146-155.

Gawain, S. (2003, November 12). Are Relationships Our Mirrors?  Retrieved from http://www.dojopsi.info/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=abaa9ca6e6e60ca0f5dc2fde96e66003&topic=224.msg3561#msg3561

Jurkovic, G. (1997). Lost childhoods: The plight of the parentified child: Routledge.

Lackie, B. (1983). The families of origin of social workers. Clinical Social Work Journal, 11(4), 309-322.

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