What can you do with your terrible parents?

Cat and I are now on the plane flying home from our visit with my father.

I wanted to write real quick to address the (loving! thank you!) concern that so many of you have shown for my emotional welfare. I’m pretty tired just now, so I don’t suppose I’ll be anywhere near as artful in expressing this as I’d certainly prefer to be, so let me all-to-bluntly say this: that my father is such a profoundly unpleasant person doesn’t hurt me.

It doesn’t upset me; it doesn’t phase me; it doesn’t emotionally exhaust me; it doesn’t enrage me. It doesn’t make me insecure. It doesn’t make me tense. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. It doesn’t make me question anything. It doesn’t make me want to lash back at him. It doesn’t depress me.

It doesn’t do anything to me.

I’m aware of it, of course. And I’d prefer it didn’t happen. But I’d like there to be world peace, too. I’d like everyone in the world to speak the same language. I wish the weather was always perfect everywhere. I’d like a whole bunch of things to be true that aren’t.

I love my father. I don’t try to internally deny that; a fool pretends he can eradicate that part of him that will always love and need his or her parents. But “love” is one of those words. I love my dad instinctively; I love him without reference to who he actually is; I love him because that’s what children do with their parents.

I love him—but I’m not stupid. I know he doesn’t love me—or perhaps does, in the same general way in which vomit is food. As I wrote in Death Be Not Stupid, in very direct and explicit terms I’ve been dealing with resolving my relationship with my dad since I was a kid. I’m fifty-two. How sad would it be if I still got upset by my dad being the exact same person he’s always been?

Learning to understand and make true peace with the full truth of what both of my parents mean to me hasn’t been some sort of hobby of mine. It’s not a general interest I’ve had for awhile. It’s not a collection of wisdom trinkets I’ve mined from Oprah’s feel-good moments and a couple of self-help books. When I say I’ve spent the great portion of my life understanding my relationship with both my parents, I mean it’s one of the four or five most important, consistent, long-terms things I’ve done with my whole life. Other people do other things with their lives and time. That’s what I did with mine. I did it because I knew I’d never actually be wise or happy without doing it; I did it because I knew that if I didn’t, nothing else would ever matter in my life.

I did it so I could write. All my life I wanted to write stuff that mattered, that actually meant something. How can I be clear in what I’m saying if I’m not clear in my heart? And how can I be clear in my heart and mind if I’m not very clear on what my mother and father meant to me?

I knew, early on, that if I didn’t fill the great hole in my soul left by my awful parents, I’d never have anything real to say. So I didn’t have children, so that I’d have time to figure that out. Early on in my life I didn’t choose a career I’d have to tend to, so that I could figure that out. I waited to get married until I met a woman who got how absolutely essential it is for everyone to properly deal with their childhood, and all the issues related to it. And then I married that woman—and that’s pretty much all she and I then did with our lives together.

And that’s part of why, lo’ these many years later, I’ve been able to write Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and Unhappy? Reject Your Loser Parents, and the zillions of other such posts that I have. I waited to really write until I really knew the things that I felt most needed to be said.

Anyway … I’m just trying to say that, no, my father doesn’t rattle me. Because I can’t control him.

There are only two kinds of things that happen in the world: things you can control or influence, and things you can’t. What possible good can come from worrying and fretting over things you can’t in any way impact? Why spend precious energy spinning around about something you can’t do anything about anyway?

If you can do something, and you should do something, then you do what you can—and then you sleep at night. If you literally can’t do anything, then you don’t do anything—and then you also sleep at night.

I didn’t see or talk to my dad for twenty-five or so years. But then I became a Christian, and a little space opened up for me to have a more generous attitude toward him. So I wrote him a few times, and went out to visit him. Over the course of three years I made two such visits to his house, accompanied by my wife, for a a total of about three weeks. Our last visit with him was five years ago.

Now we’ve gone back, for another week.

It’s nothing. It doesn’t hurt me. I wish my dad was an emotionally healthy person, but he’s not. At this point in my life, that he’s not is no skin of my nose. I’ve made my life. And I’ve done right by God relative to letting my father know that I, his only son, would help him if he asked me to. That’s all I can do. So … I sleep at night. I slept great when I was at his house.

I now have all this sort of stuff pretty wholly nailed down. Life’s too short to allow where you’ve come from to determine where you end up.

Anyway, plane’s landing. All this is just meant to say: I’m all right. I’m good. And the concern you’ve shown about that is infinitely touching to me.

Gotta go! Love to you guys!

"to show how out of touch with reality nicky is....that 'baby' is an adult. Which ..."

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  • Bec

    Love you too, John.

  • My father is a dick too. He singlehandedly caused damage to me and my brother that I have spent many years trying to recover from. I have struggled for years with hating him. I have been a Christian for a little over a month now. And I no longer hate him. But I cannot imagine how I could be as generous to my father as you are.

    I wish I could say I admire you for that… but I don’t. I don’t not admire you either. I just… don’t get it.

  • I haven’t been very “generous” at all. I flew out there. I stayed in his house for a week. During that time we mostly sat in silence and watched TV. Then I came home. There’s not a lot more to it than that. I toured a couple of old folks homes, and brought him their brochures. My wife and I made sure his medicines were taken care of. I fixed a few things around his house. That’s it. That’s about the whole that I’ve done for him since I was … well, ever, really.

    I measure my moral obligation, and … go from there. It doesn’t ask me to do much.

  • I would consider allowing him to be in your presence at all to be supremely generous.

  • I do think that. But he sure doesn’t. So. There we are.

  • Good for you for taking the time it took to make peace with what your parents have been to you!

    That has been my goal, as well, and I am still working on it. I promised myself when I was still quite young that one day I would figure out how to be happy in spite of everything. I’m still working on that, too.

    I really admire how open and honest and real you are!


  • Me, too! Everything about your visit with him was generous and far, far more than he deserved. The truth does not require his agreement.

  • Joe

    I know you’ve heard this before, but your words do provide comfort. Thank you.

    My father verbally abused me as a child. When I was a teenager, three big things happened: he tried to run me over with his car, he held a gun at my head, and he was diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

    I hated him. But I forgave him.

    Now, he’s in a nursing home, potentially in the final stages of his life. He calls me daily, always wanting or needing something trivial. In the final stages of life, it seems, the trivial ironically is more important than ever before.

    I’m there for him– not because of being Christian or anything religious– but because it’s the right thing to do. Every visit ends in pain (mainly because he’s still a jerk or because I vicariously empathize with his condition that has left him less human than ever before, if that’s even possible). But I’m there for him. I do what I can. I detach from the insults, the jerk personality, and the inhumanity of his condition.

    I don’t know what I can do except make myself available and do what I can. When we help those who have hurt us the most, we live up to the highest expectations of humanity, even when dealing with the lowest and most hurtful elements of humanity.

    I empathize with your situation, and I wish you the best. To anyone else reading, I urge you to detach from the pain and do whatever you can to help others, even when such individuals have hurt us beyond explanation.

  • I think that what he thinks is of no consequence. PARTICULARLY as a Christian. Your job is to show him Christ. Whether he looks or not is entirely his problem.

  • Love this. Hits so close to home.

  • Shannon Bass

    I wish I had a time machine and this blog. I’d take it and give it to young me and say to her “this is the most important thing you need to do for yourself. THIS is the missing link you’ll be searching for all your life.”

    So thanks again for articulating things for me John. Not so much for being about 29 years too late… But then again blogging had not been invented yet, so I can’t hold it against you. Effing Dear Abby just told me to “MYOB” 🙂

  • GE

    Wow. Thank you again for writing about your father. And yourself. And Cat.

    You handed me a gift in this post that I needed so much. After suffering from being in an abusive marriage for over a decade, I finally grabbed my kid and got the hell out of there. I’ve had to endure more hell than I thought possible to get to a heaven I didn’t know existed. But I did it. My son and I are fine.

    Until this post, I had a difficult time explaining how/why I remained, struggling to make my marriage work far past the point of no return. “I love him without reference to who he actually is.”. That makes so much sense to me. I spent a great deal of my life doing that, too. And now I don’t.

    Thanks for giving me a fantastic way to describe that part of my life. I will quote you often and credit you always. And I will continue to forward your articles to my friends who need a laugh, a lift or a message.

  • Cheryl Hannah

    Wow. I think you just showed me how to deal with my ex.

  • I feel like I can’t adequately express what this series of posts has elicited in me.

    Grief – for the the child you were who had to grow up to fast. For my own childhood, with a father not nearly as difficult or scary as yours, but scary and difficult nonetheless.

    Awe – at the healing the God has brought to you and to Cat. At the depth of self-examination, determination and will that it involved for you both to choose to move beyond the pain of childhood hurts, parental rejection and dysfunction, to become functional, healthy adults, living mindfully and lovingly. Secure enough in yourselves to understand that you are NOT your parents, you are NOT your RELATIONSHIP with your parents, but even more so, to be evolved (not sure if that is the right word, but leaving it in because a better word escapes me) enough to be able to treat that same hurtful parent with loving kindness WHETHER THEY DESERVE IT OR NOT because your faith in God tells you that is the right thing to do.

    Gratitude – For what I’ve learned from seeing you having given a thorough and honest effort at doing what you felt was right, especially when both esoteric and material rewards were pretty much non-existent. That you have so much to teach others about how to achieve this selfsame growth…that you have the willingness to openly share your experiences not in a manner at all boastful but in forthrightness and humility, in a way that others might learn from your experience.

    Glad you are home.

  • john, you wonderful, brave, insightful, healthy, giving, and amazing person and son.

    g*d bless you. really



    ps, is cat ok with with cyber hugs?

  • Lisa Salazar

    I know this is going to sound like a sappy thing say—I couldn’t help but think of the pearl analogy. A pearl is formed as a protective reaction of the oyster, stimulated by a foreign object such as a grain of sand or even a small parasite. A source of irritation transforms into a thing of value and beauty. John, you have a beautiful necklace, thanks for letting us see it.

  • Suz

    I’ve learned not to take people’s crankiness personally, but I still find it exhausting. I agree with what you said about control, but I’m still learning to LIVE it. It still feels like giving up control means giving up hope, even though my brain knows that’s not true. Maybe it still feels wrong not to hope for the impossible. I’ve been working on it for a couple of decades. Thank you for showing me what’s possible.

    Oh, and maybe the mother on the plane was rocking to comfort herself!

  • Debbie

    I have been reading along and now will add my comment. John…you rock!

    I grew up with mommie dearest and the weird step-dad…my mother died 21 years ago when I was 22…it was a relief yet I had heaps of anger because there was no justice…32 I came to Christ as a pregnant homeless already sole parent of a four year old…shipwrecked because…

    All the ‘self help’ in the world could not ‘fix’ what I already knew – truth…she was a bitch and he was a bastard…trying to guilt trip me into ‘knowing’ anything beyond that or telling me that I’d be messed up in some way was what messed me up…at 24 I had a pop psych tell me that I was a sitting duck to become just like my mother unless I found healing for my ‘wounded’ soul…she was wrong…

    Jesus says, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free and He was right…I am very happy to hear the first person ever to tell it as it is…truth and acceptance of it is the only way…you are not your dad, I am not my mum and together we could put the fixers of the soul with their endless books and pills out of business…yep …you rock!

    I don’t even think what you did is even based on ‘moral obligation’…you and Cat went because that is who you are in the core of your being…love…a testament to who dwells within…

    A man said to me not long ago, “Your mum didn’t raise no fool” and I said…”If you put on a scale who is fit to be a mother then mine scored way into the minus…it was God who grew me up and God alone”. He alone gave me permission to hate because He knew without that I would not be free to love. If I couldn’t be free to hate then my love would be based on a fear that God would be mad at me if I didn’t love like He loved me and the law of religion would rule my heart…no God let me hate and let me feel it raw and let me know that it was ok… and when I was spent I was free…

  • Cheryl, I was thinking the same thing as you. GE I can totally relate, only that I stuck it out longer. Stupid of me. One day I hope to be where John is with how I view my ex. I don’t think it’s been quite enough time yet, as the memories are still fresh. Writing something unrelated, and mentioning him, almost always brings back dreams of how toxic our relationship was.

    thanks so much for your honesty and for giving us glimpses into your life, John. You help us more then I think you’ll ever realize. Oh and Welcome home.

  • John,

    After spending too many of my years missing that which I never possessed in the first place, your posts (mostly the ones cited in this one) have helped me in ways that I cannot really explain.

    After becoming a Christian myself, I reunited with my father. I think our traditional Christian teaching on “honor your parents” (as well as “the sanctity of marriage”) misleads people into becoming a door mat all over again (or remaining a door mat). It is my opinion that this is primarily due to most Christian teachers lacking a frame of reference. Fortunate for the teacher. Not so much for the student.

  • Christy

    Barnmaven has said so beautifully what so many of us have been feeling. Yes, what she said.

  • Mindy

    John, your insight is a gift of incredible magnitude. You may never fully comprehend how many lives you touch. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  • Don Whitt

    Nice blog, John – perfect wrap-up to this episode. Thank you for making this public – I know you write for yourself, but it’s really wonderful that you expose it all to us.

  • berkshire

    “What moron worries and frets over things he can’t in any way impact? Who is so dense that they waste the precious energy of their own life spinning around about crap they can’t do anything about anyway?”

    To me, this sounds a bit like . . . your dad. There’s a super-angry edge to it (which may be the flight, and the decompression from this past week. Who knows), and what sounds like contempt. I find myself asking who that’s directed toward. There’s a lot I could say about that, but I won’t. I’m not trying to be argumentative or provocative. I’ll just say I think I’m reading this post very differently than just about everyone who’s posted a comment in reply so far as I can tell, in that . . . well . .. I don’t buy it.

    **Full acknowledgement that I’m aware that you don’t need to convince *me* of anything. Noted. I get that. But this is a blog, and it invites comment (and you typically seem open to all manner of comments), so . . .

    Not everyone gets to where you say you are. It doesn’t make them morons, or dense. And if you *were* still, in your 50s, upset, stressed, hurt, angry, exhausted or any of the things you described, that wouldn’t make *you* dense or a moron, either. Seriously, who’s voice is that??

    People who never completely get over having shitty parents aren’t dense or morons, they’re just human. And it isn’t always that they’re trying to change something they can’t–some people are just grieving, and it takes a long, long time. I work with these people every day, and some will get to where you are, and some will work until the day they die to get past having parents like you describe (yes, other people have parents as bad as yours, unfortunately. It regularly blows my mind). They fight the good fight, and they *do* do the work of healing, but this stuff is huge.

    If your remark wasn’t in some way a reproach of them (and I doubt it was. You don’t strike me as a reproachful, harshly judgmental kind of guy at all), and more toward yourself if you hadn’t gotten past your father, then, like I said . . . . sounds a lot like him.

    Glad you are both home safely and out of that situation (at least, geographically). I will be interested to read about what he ultimately decides to do. Still hoping he doesn’t choose SDiego.

  • I used the strong language I did right there because I thought it might help break anyone through to … a better place. Sometimes if you pop people just right, you can wake them up to a truth they’ve been approaching, but haven’t quite broken through to yet. That’s all that is.

  • DR

    Berkshire do you feel like you might be projecting your own feelings as well as your own reactions onto John in this scenario?

  • DR

    Sorry, I meant “What your own reactions would be to John’s dad” when I say reactions. I ask because John seems to be pretty honest when he’s angry, hurt, etc. He’s said a number of times how he feels in this scenario. That you don’t buy it – does that have something to do with him or more about what you experience when you read his posts?

  • kim

    IMHO, This series about your visit to your dad was the best ever.

  • I remember one time my therapist commented on something I had just relayed with something like this. I think it was, “Well, that’s dumb because you can’t control blah, blah, blah.”

    I remember thinking, ‘Wait. That’s dumb? I can’t? That’s dumb?’

    That’s pretty much how my thoughts went for about 4 weeks. I think you said dense.

  • And I might have, in rewrites, finessed those word choices away. But I was on an airplane; the screen was basically under my chin. I didn’t rewrite; I didn’t even reREAD: I just typed it out and hit the publish button. But while I was writing that one little passage, I did think, “I want to hit this hard; this need maximum emphasis.” So I used that language. And I don’t think I’d change it yet; but maybe, if I went back and looked at it, I’d find it too harsh.

  • DR

    OK. This is what can annoy me. I’m going to be blunt about it.

    I think you write from a very honest place . And honesty is a mirror, when we experience it, it reflects what is happening in our own minds and hearts. What can feel frustrating as I read these comments is the amount of projection that seems to go on – and that’s normal, we do that, everyone reacts to art and makes it their own. I don’t have any issue with that.

    It’s when the projection becomes conclusive and borderline accusatory is when I get annoyed. I do it myself to commenters here, I read something – it triggers something in *me* – but instead of saying, “Wow this is the reaction I’m having to what I’m reading”, I start getting defensive or reactive and draw conclusions about the person who wrote the comment.

    Anything in the written word, particularly without benefit of a personal relationship, will have some serious gaps that we fill in with our own experiences/neediness/brokenness. But for me, watching you respond in an almost corrective way where you have to correct a conclusion that’s been drawn that you’ve already explicitly stated is not what you are experiencing, what you are saying, what you are intending, etc.? That gets frustrating for me for you, if only because there is finite energy with which anyone has to write and you needing to correct someone feels unproductive, almost as though it’s taking away what you could be writing.

    ok that’s off my chest. thank you for indulging me.

  • Tim

    “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Matt.6:27

    It IS foolish to fret over the crap we have no control over. We should give our cares to God and let Him sort it out. We don’t like words such as “moron”, or “dense”, but if we insist upon taking up the mantle which is God’s…I think we ARE being a moron or at least, dense. Those words offend. They sting. The truth often hurts. Likewise, salt in a wound makes us cuss…but it brings healing and strength.

  • Christy

    I love that the strong language which some are questioning is moron and dense.

  • Kim

    Glad that you guys are home and you’re doing fine. Hugs to you both.

  • berkshire

    John didn’t need to correct anything. That he chose to is. . . well, just fine. I trust he can decide what he will and won’t expend his energy on.

    But as I said in the initial comment that I wrote (carefully, I thought), I wasn’t buying his original post, despite what he explained in it–not because of some brokenness you imagine, but because of what I was hearing as the anger/edge I mentioned. And it *did* jump out at me as something that sounded like his dad. John puts his stuff “out there”, and knows (in fact, welcomes, as far as I’ve seen) comment. I’ve never heard him demand that our observations be spot-on, thank God.

    I wasn’t projecting my own personal “stuff” on to it, but perhaps professional stuff, because of my experiences as a therapist, where I hear people adamantly and often, swearing that they are fine, everything is fine, and when we really get into it, that was just a defense. I’m used to listening between the lines, as it were, listening to word choice, and tone. And in my experience, anger *isn’t* nothing, and isn’t a sign of being truly unaffected and detached from a person or situation. Sorry if you think that’s a projection, but it really is what I witness in my profession every day. In many cases, people try to convince themselves of their own imperviousness, out of shame for what they really are, deep down below their defenses, feeling. And that kind of shame is as likely to be instilled by a father like John’s as it is by anyone. People who grow up with abusive parents can feel as if they have no right to feel whatever they feel. So, if that happened to be the case with John (and I did believe that perhaps it was, consciously or not), I was trying to offer a different voice than the others that were potentially reinforcing the message that denying negative feelings, denying that others can influence us negatively, is a great and noble thing. Covering up feelings is, IMHO, to often rewarded with praise. (I’m not, btw, trying to re-assert the content of my initial comment here. I’m trying to answer your concerns and some assumptions I think you made about what informed or motivated my comment).

    I was also, a little, sticking up for folks who maybe haven’t reached the point where John is and might have felt shame over that (especially when reading “moron”, “dense”). That John has reached this point at age 52 is great. For some people it will take longer.

    So I tossed that out there, this being John’s blog, and me being familiar with it and things he’s written in the past, and knowing that he is one of those rare people who has enough ego-strength to allow for people to express a variety of views. I also knew that if he really felt my observation was wrong, he’d say so. If he didn’t think it was wrong, he might think about it. I was clear, I thought, in acknowledging that he certainly doesn’t have to explain himself to the likes of me.

    I hope you weren’t suggesting anything in my comment was conclusive or bordeline accusatory . . . because that would be kind of accusatory. And quite incorrect.

  • Patty

    John, You are so much farther down the path than I am, I find it hard to follow your tracks sometimes. On the other hand, you are leading the way and I follow, knowing your teachings are worth the walk.

  • My goodness. That’s awfully kind of you to say, Patty. And I’m sure that I’m not much further down any path than you are—just as I’m sure you’ve gone down paths of your own I couldn’t imagine. But, together, we’ll all make it out of these confounded woods.

  • Debbie

    In all of what John shared I never once read that he denied how he was feeling – that was his point – yes his dad is a dick and yes it affects him and yet what he has discovered is the heart and soul of The Serenity Prayer…John knows he cannot change his dad and that his own anger toward his dad cannot change his dad, it is a futile exercise – he can only forgive and love him…he has discovered the wisdom of the difference. John’s dad has yet to learn that it is ok to be angry yet his anger will not change the world, if he works with God his anger just might change himself…and yes the road some therapist take with all good intentions is …I won’t say it… yetThe Gospel is free. More freeing when God shows us that it is ok to be angry yet do not sin in your anger…how do we sin in our anger? By trying to do God’s job – it is unbelief in a nut shell. The philosophies and ‘wisdom of men’ do not understand this simple truth because they fear…as a therapist do you free your clients to be ok with being angry at injustice and evil? Do you encourage them that those feeling of anger are nothing but sharing in the heart of God who is angry at injustice and evil and who is the only One who has overcome and we can trust Him and Him alone to tend our heart and the heart of the one still in darkness? Or are you not allowed to bring faith into the office?

  • Debbie

    I totally agree Christy! Barnmaven nailed it…even if I cringed at ‘the right thing to do’ – for me it is just the natural thing done when He is your heart and hope and dwells in the core of your soul.

    Jesus’ mother was with that ‘family group’ who came to get Him because they thought He had lost His mind…He still loved her…and the rest of them…He knew more than they did…as we ‘know’ Him we ‘know’ as well…

  • you, doing this, walking that path and clearing the space to write what you have written has, very literally, made my life possible right now.

    So thank you

    and thank God.

    And thanks for taking your life and doing the right thing with the hell it started out as.

    I love you. Forever.

    How could I not?

  • DR

    But as I said in the initial comment that I wrote (carefully, I thought), I wasn’t buying his original post.>>>

    We may be very different people who believe different things. For me, when someone tells me how they feel – over and over again – I simply believe them. To challenge them with statements like “I just don’t buy it” feels inappropriate, at least to me, I might be in the minority (which is fine). Particularly when they’ve demonstrated a pattern of vulnerability as well as honesty – it just feels very odd to me, as though you’re almost insisting that he’s more angry than he’s telling us when John has demonstrated a very clear pattern of being angry here when he’s angry. 🙂

    I won’t speak to what therapists do or don’t, it’s not my field. I’m having a difficult time imagining anyone – even a professional – can “hear” something written online. How one is able to accurately discern duality between what is written online vs. what one *really* feels. That takes some time to do with patients in person.

  • Debbie


  • DR

    HOME! Yay!

  • Lee Walker

    I think many of us now owe you about $5,000 in psychotherapy costs. Thanks! 🙂

  • GE

    Cheryl: Don’t know how long you were in your bad marriage but always remember…..the only thing worse than being in it for (number of years), is being in it (number of years) plus one day.

    You got out. That in itself is heroic. Be diligent about dealing with the grief, anger, frustration and every other piece of garbage you’re carrying around in your emotional suitcase. Leave every old stinky thing that you can on the side of the road and keep moving on your journey. Try not to trip into or step in any more garbage you find along the way. If you DO recognize the stinky stuff that it is and stop to get rid of it as soon as possible. Most importantly, don’t give up believing there is a better life out there, there is. I assure you things get easier.

    It took me at least a year of separation to even realize that I embraced my identity as “half of a bad marriage” and took me several more years to shed the identity. Domestic abuse group helped immensely as it taught me to fully understand what a personality disorder is and what is possible (and what ISN”T) in a relationship with someone who has one. Now I can help not only the son I had with my ex, but also my ex’s daughter from his first marriage (who I raised). We all suffered intermittently, and the kids still do, but much less so. They now have a strong ally in their corner that can empathize, help them stay out of denial and in reality, and love them through their pain when difficulties arise.

    My best to you and ALL the sisters and brothers on the road to recovery from a relationship with an angry abusive parent, partner, employer, whatever. I wish you one peaceful moment today, then one peaceful day this week, one peaceful week this month, one peaceful month this year….


  • Dan Harrell


    For so many reasons, you added a piece to the puzzle that was my father. I’ve spent 50 years trying to figure out where he and I went wrong and never got there before he died.

    Reading your thoughts always makes my feelings and thoughts take shape. Sometimes I have a breakthrough, sometimes I just smile. But it’s all good.


  • cat rennolds

    off-topic really but desperate here……:) the mother on the plane was probably rocking because that’s the only thing she had left to do.

    I’m “man down” on this one. My 2-year old started throwing these hourlong-plus screaming fits a couple of weeks ago and I’m devastated. There is literally nothing I can do to stop her once she gets started. it’s bad enough at home because daddy and big sister work nights, but at least I can take her in her room and close the door, and try not to go stark raving mad until she gets over it. (and no, I don’t leave her alone in there!)

    Soothing does not work. You can’t distract her. Hollering does not work. Hugs do not work. Bribes of treats or toys or other favorites do not work. You can’t really even hold her because she starts sunfishing, and I tore up my abs when she was born. And it’s not like the typical toddler fit where she’s crying because she’s crying and she can’t remember why…45 minutes later if she starts to calm down, she will repeat out loud whatever she was mad about in the first place, and start all over again.

    The problem is, she’s very bright and very strongwilled. So what she gets mad about is anything she doesn’t want that she can’t control. Like wearing clothes when it’s freezing. Or her brother going out the door to go to school. Or getting sleepy when she doesn’t want to be. Or being stuck in a stroller on the subway. Or having a terrible, terrible diaper in a public restroom and having to be changed. And everybody looks at mommy like she’s an idiot at best and a monster at worst. I don’t take her out in public when I can avoid it, but you can’t always.

    What I really wanted to say was, HAAAALPPP! I was abused when I was very small. So when she starts the screaming I have to shut down anything reminiscent of an emotion, and sometimes ignore her completely until I can breathe again. Because when it gets like that the impulse is to do anything to make the screaming stop. Today I realized that’s because on the inside, the screaming I’m hearing is mine.

    Daddy helps. my teen daughter helps. but i can’t keep waking them up. what i need is an internal coping mechanism. any ideas would be welcome. I love my baby.

  • cat rennolds

    oh, and just for the record, yes, I can contract for everybody’s safety. Sanity maybe not so much.

  • Ben

    I love you and I love this post. Thank you for it.

  • Don Rappe

    I suppose there’s a reason for the name terrible two’s. Your daughter is no longer a helpless infant. She has discovered that she is somebody and can control some things. She has not yet learned what she cannot control. You should not be naive and suppose she cannot read your discomfort when she screams. She still assumes you have the power to satisfy her wants. Your discomfort gives her hope. If you put her in a room alone, she is not really alone because you are on the other side of the door. She now needs to learn what she cannot control.

  • cat rennolds

    thanks for answering, Don. just posting helped:) I know why she’s doing it, and I know kids are very, very sensitive to parental moods. more so sometimes than the parents themselves. I will sometimes put her in her playpen long enough to get a little distance, I just can’t leave her alone in her room for very long because she’s been known to thrash enough to bruise herself on furniture, or throw herself out of her bed or the rocking chair.

    i also stay with her because I don’t want her to feel that I will abandon her when she is angry. My mom did that, and I learned never to express anger. Maybe she’s doing some of it for me. That doesn’t mean she’s going to get what she wants, however. That’d be counterproductive and she’d NEVER quit having these tantrums. Seen parents do that, not pretty.

  • cat rennolds

    my real question, after the venting, was, what do people do about traumatic memory? How do I deal with it so she doesn’t have to? How can I teach her to manage her emotions when I don’t know how?

  • Rich

    Dude, tears are pouring down my cheeks. Your honesty is so liberating. Peace and love!