I’ve wrestled with this question for many years for many reasons, but have come to stare this question in the face moreso in the last year or two as I’ve begun my healing and discovery journey. If I acknowledge the pain that was done to me as a child, does that mean that I’m blaming my mom and dad?
It feels wrong.
…which, in the past, has led me to turn around and walk away from this pain and hurt in my heart. Either I recognize that they did things that hurt me or I ignore the frustration and disgust that builds in me and brush it off with a quick, “I mean, I know they had their own things and did the best they could…” And let me tell you, there’s a sick disgust with myself with that last one. So what do you do? Are they to blame or not?
The holidays are here, which means that many of us will be in the same environments that we’ve worked so hard to escape, the homes and memories we live to forget. We are different now. Safe adults who don’t need to rely on our parents for anything anymore, thank God.
We were free… until December rolled around. Some of us were living “good” lives with good friends an and jobs and safe homes.
Now we are driving or flying “back home” and just like that we are stripped of our independence, our feeling of freedom, and any sense of distance and wholeness we may have spent months building up. Maybe we are scared, knowing how easily we revert back to that scared little girl. We are around family members who looked the other way as we grew up. Aunts and grandmothers who saw what you saw growing up and tried to convince you that it was normal and that you were supposed to accept things for what they were. We are forced to fake hugs with familiy members we don’t want to see or be around, much less touch. Fathers who physically pull you close even when you resist. Control. There it is. The thing you fought to escape.
You may even run into friend’s parents and families who gaslit you when you tried to speak out and comment on how different our families were. They brushed you off by saying that “No families are perfect…” Sure, your family isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty sure your dad wasn’t blacked out drunk when your preteen friends came over after church. I don’t remember your dad making inappropriate comments or stares at me the way I felt my dad did. Were you scared in your bed every night because of that time your dad stumbled loudly into you bedroom closet in the middle of the night, grunting as you watched him in complete shock and fear only to find the next day that he urinated all over your shoes, somehow thinking he was in the bathroom? And THEN, upon your mom discovering it, you were told, “Don’t tell anyone about this…”
Your family might not be perfect, childhood friend, and sure, maybe you had skeletons in your closet, but please please PLEASE don’t act like that was normal. Please, acknowledge that it was WRONG. Please understand that parents are supposed to protect and care for children.
8-year-old childred were never and are never made to bear the weight of their parents. We should never have been asked to cover up, to pretend, or to live a lie. We should NOT have been scared in our own homes.
And so we circle back: to blame or not to blame our parents…
No… and yes.
There are many factors. Yes, they had their own traumas, their own “stuff”. They may not have had decent relationships with their parents growing up, and therefore didn’t truly learn what a good mother or father looked like. There was/is depression, suicide, chemical dependency, natural disasters, sexual abuse and more in your family history, so I’m not sure blaming is the most appropriate or helpful thing…
But what you experienced was wrong. The pain you have is real. Your parents did things that hurt you. That I know to be true. They were adults. They made choices that did not always protect or care for you. Maybe never, depending on your story.
Friend. that should not have happened. But it did.
Their actions have consequences and here we are.
Another holiday that we are a bit repulsed to have to spend pretending like things are ok… because for the love of all things good, you’re tired of wanting and waiting for change only to be met over and over with disappointment. And after 30 years, maybe they just aren’t open to it…
Know that you’re not alone and most importantly, know that you’re not crazy. You didn’t make up this hurt. It’s real. It’s ok to struggle during this season; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Be you. Be strong. Be open with yourself. Take time away when you need it. (I am currently writing from a coffee shop where I’ve been for hours, sitting, reading, thinking, writing, and processing.) And if you are struggling, reach out to a safe friend. Someone who can hear the truth in love. Share your struggles. You don’t have to bottle it up.
And if you have no one else, share it with me.
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