I am a 36 year old woman, happily married, successful, with 2 beautiful daughters 6 and 4. My problem is with my mother. I grew up in a physically and mentally abusive household. My mother and my stepfather beat my brother and myself. I know in today's day and age we would have been removed from the home. Somehow I survived, and have tried to move beyond it. My mom has remarried so my stepfather is gone. When I became a mom, I had some sort of delusion that my mother would become a wonderful grandmother. DENIAL. The first time I allowed my nearly 2 year old daughter to be in her presence unsupervised (stupid, I know) she came back to me with a huge bruise on her thigh because my mother pinched her hard in anger. I have told my mother that I do not hit my children and that she is not allowed to touch them. She told me she will respect my wishes but thinks I am a softy, spare the rod spoil the child. I have been distancing myself from my mother over the past 5 years, which is not hard to do when you move to Alaska. I have not seen my mom since February, when my 98 year old dearly loved grandmother died (her mother). She was the real reason I continued to communicate with my mom and now she is gone. The older I get, the harder it is to accept my mom or to find anything in common with her or to like her. I am not a mean person, this is so hard for me to admit. My mother is mean, very mean. She is actually proud of that, believe it or not. Before she retired (she was a 2nd grade teacher) her boss told her she was mean and recommended she retire early. She had a hard time adjusting to the new way of teaching, where you can't touch the children to discipline them, and she was reprimanded a few times for that. She enjoyed having the reputation as a strict teacher, she thought if the kids were afraid of her they'd tow the line. I don't want her around my children. I now live two states away and she is bugging me to visit. I keep putting her off. I have been to counseling so that I can become an emotionally healthy person, but I can't change who she is. I can deal with talking with her on the phone, sometimes. Am I being selfish? What should I do? It seems awfully harsh to cut someone out of your life, especially your own mother, but it seems as I reread this that that is what I am considering. That sounds so cruel, all I ever wanted was to have a loving family. Please help.
Dear Friend, I can feel, the turmoil here. I also come from an abusive childhood, so I can relate. What is it, where people take pride in being so harsh. It's very real though. Some would call it strict or they tell themselves, that's what it is or was. They will boast and brag, how they made their children tow the line.
While I am a firm believer in disciplining children, there is surely a fine line between, so called discipline and abuse. Many, do not know the difference. Many think they know the difference, while an equal amount of people, think all discipline is abuse. It is the latter group that's almost as bad as the one's who damage their children by being overly strict. I don't profess to know it all, concerning raising children but that spare the rod and spoil the child stuff, is surely debatable, is it not? Much of the Bible and it's translations, have certainly been twisted terribly. Some people will only quote that passage, the only one they know and use it to instill fear amongst their children. Yet they do not instill love or even Christian values. That is surely hypocrisy, is it not?
I've also heard that the "Spare the rod, spoil the child," is a reference to counting with the "Rod/Staff" and not hitting. They used the rod, to count their sheep, tapping them as they went. It gave the lamb, a sense of security because he is and was accounted for. Meaning, they were constantly counted, to keep track of them. I think, it means more, keeping track and staying on top of the child. If you want children, you must realize that above and beyond anything else, you must be accountable for the child with equal parts love and discipline. Where there is all discipline and little or no love shown, there in, lies the entire problem.
1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.
2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.
a. Control obtained by enforcing compliance or order.
b. A systematic method to obtain obedience: a military discipline.
c. A state of order based on submission to rules and authority: a teacher who demanded discipline in the classroom.
4. Punishment intended to correct or train.
5. A set of rules or methods, as those regulating the practice of a church or monastic order.
6. A branch of knowledge or teaching.
As you see from the definition, no where does it mention beating the crap out of your kids. It is designed as a teaching mechanism. You know this and I know this. Your Mom, should know this, considering, she's a teacher. But she's old school, is she not? I think she'd be voted out, in her manner. Does she think everybody else is wrong but her? Old habits and thinking die hard.
Thank goodness, my Mom, finally calmed down. But she was a terror and I'd been beat with a hickory switch till I bled. That's just wrong and the only thing that taught me was that there was a real good possibility that my Mom hated my guts. How sad is that? Children must be held accountable, this much is true and you can not allow them to do whatever they want, for their own protection. But there are a million and one ways to enforce, proper behavior and beating is not one of them. But you know this. So, what to do?
I think at this point, you've gone through the right of passage, where you are no longer, your Mother's daughter but a woman in your own right. I feel this as you glance at the possibility of disowning Mom, per say, because of her hold on these demented ideas. In light of this thought process, I ask you, right now, what do you have to lose here? Mother is the definitive answer but even deeper, would it not be empowering, to tell her exactly how you feel and exactly what you will and will not put up with? Really, if the possibility of writing her off, is right there on the tip of your tongue, why not, literally write her and tell her exactly how you feel. Address it respectfully but matter of fact. Let her know that you respect her, as your Mother but this is how it is. If she can not consider her own behavior, then you have no choice but to no longer include her, in your life.
You explain, that she has done so much to hurt you, in the guise of her so called discipline, that you are scarred for life. You will not allow her to even meet out a fraction of this behavior on your children. As their Mother, this is your right and you will not tolerate her berating, her discontent, her supposed strict attitude and if she wants to die a crotchety old woman, who no one has a nice thing to say about, so be it.
You have nothing to lose here. But you may gain an understanding and foothold on the situation. One of two things, actually three, will happen here. First, your Mother may be so miffed, she'll leave you alone. Let's hope not and you should mention, in your letter, that it is not your aim, to dismiss your Mother. We'll pray her heart is warmed and receptive.
You want to gain understanding and if she respects you, as a woman, she will try to change her evil ways. The other thing, the good that will come from this, is the cathartic empowerment exercise, that will become you, from simply making a respectful stand. Your stance as a woman and the Mother of your children, will be honored, if only by yourself. You will be able to look in the mirror and look into your own eyes and see the woman, you have become and the Matriarch of your family.
Lastly, she may be angry at first, you can anticipate it. But you make it clear, that if she chooses to remain negative, you choose not to allow it in your life. If she chooses, not to bend, it is her choice but by writing this letter, you are making a stand and you will not bend on this. Point out that she is outnumbered by a populace that does not believe as she does. If she was right, in the first place and her design and thinking was righteous, you would never even be writing to her in the first place. But as it stands, she has placed a lifetime of pain and hurt, upon your shoulders. How can that possibly be good?
Now, the clincher; You tell her, that you hope she will accept this offer, to bridge the gap between you, as Mother and Daughter. She can do this by trying to see that being mean, onry and all she has done, in the name of strictness, has only earned her a place on some forgotten roster of reason. Does she want to be remembered for being mean or for being righteous woman? Then, you remind her that a good woman, concedes, when she is wrong.
I also invite you to elaborate, from this post, "How Will You Be Remembered?" and the letter. Please read it and possibly apply it to your situation and in your writings to your Mom.