Thursday, January 20, 2011

Breaking the Cycle: Day 2.

Disclaimer: This is an insanely long post.

At the end of Day One my dear husband came to me and told me that our girl child was being totally defiant. This is her thing. As a toddler she would kick and hit and spit and bite and scratch and do the exact thing you just told her not to do. When she was 3ish we got a tub refinished and I took her into the bathroom and I showed it to her and said, "See, it's white now but it's a bad chemical and we must not touch it because it won't come off our hands. It's not like paint. Don't touch!" And I walked her out of the room and shut the door and she did an immediate 180 and put her hand on the tub. We ask her to do something and she whines or cries or throws a temper tantrum or all three. Since she is no longer a toddler and I'm pretty sure this kind of behavior should be a random occurrence and not a common occurrence, we worry. Some people say it's just girls or it's certain kids in general but it doesn't feel right to me. She also doesn't usually act that way in front of anyone but her parents.

Some things are making a difference already. I try and listen to her and repeat back what she says to me. Instead of going, "Uhhuh...uhhuh." I'm making eye contact and getting down on her level more when she talks. I'm praying really hard that I will know what they need, and give them that instead of what I think they need. I think they need what I needed. I needed clothes that fit and weren't old and dirty and had holes, I needed our heat and electricity and phone paid for. I needed my mother to be at events and not say inappropriate things when my friends were over. I needed her to not talk about sex all the time. I needed her to not flirt with neighborhood young adult males. I needed her to get off the phone with people that weren't her kids or husband and needed her to not work all the time if we weren't going to benefit as a family from her being gone. And I figured as a Mother if I wasn't doing any of these things, I was doing my job.

But I need some new ideas. So I called Jules and talked to her. Her father did some cute things with her that made her feel like she was special. He set up dates with her, to go and be with just her. They'd walk through the mall or go to the park. The point was just to get out and spend time together and talk. I loved that idea. She and I had a good conversation and at one point she said that at least I wasn't afraid I loved my girl less because of her dad. That at least I wasn't holding what he did against her. But I am terrified that I am. When she was born she came out looking like her biological father. And I can't explain the sadness. She was beautiful, it wasn't that. It was that there was nothing but deep, deep heartache left over from that experience and I didn't know how to separate those feelings.

Her Bio dad and I met at The Owl Bar. And I was in the middle of the experience I had written about previously. I had no desire to smoke or drink any more, and I was praying, but I don't think I had gone to church yet. A friend had gotten a baby sitter and no one wanted to go up to the bar with her. She called me like 4 times so I finally agreed to go. I didn't drink and I sat there vacantly while she talked about the cute guy at the table behind us. After a bit, he came and sat down next to me. But then he did nothing. He just sat there. For a long time. I felt so bad for the guy I struck up a conversation with him.

We had our first date on Father's Day. The irony. I asked then if he had kids and he said he had 5. I choked. I remember thinking it was a lot for someone his age but looking back I think he may have lied about that, too, his age. He asked me about my kids and I said I just had the one. He was surprised but I told him that I had been told by my OBGYN that I would have a hard time conceiving so I was lucky to have the one. I asked if he had called his dad yet and he said he had not. I urged him to call his dad before it got too late. He looked kind of ill. Like I had asked him to go ahead and drink poison since it was Drink a Poison Day. He called and left him an awkward message and he got choked up when he told his dad that he loved him and wished him a Happy Father's Day.

We broke up and got back together a bunch of times because I started feeling like I wanted someone who wanted to be in the church and he had just started living outside it. He told me I was wrong, that he had always wanted a testimony and that he was learning a lot from what I was going through. I told him I wanted to be married in the temple one day and he told me he wanted nothing more than to have a love that would last forever. He met with my bishop a few times and my dear neighbor Tom who both told him that if his intentions were not pure that he had better get lost or they would find him. My bishop was an ex marine and super scary. My neighbor has since passed away, and I'd be afraid if I were Bio.

He talked me out of accepting a small apartment Tom was letting me live in insisting that my son and I would be cramped space. He said that when my house sold I should move all of my stuff into his garage at his house he had up for sale since it was huge and empty and he had 6 weeks of traveling coming up. He wouldn't even be at home. So I accepted. On my way to a job interview I got a call from him telling me to not go, that we'd figure out something and he'd help me out. I told him I didn't want to accept that kind of arrangement unless I was married. He told me I didn't understand, that he lived to help people. He was just that way and I didn't understand also that he was serious about me. He had told people he worked with I was the one. He said it wasn't best for my son for me to work as many hours as this job would require and I should just hang out and keep looking and be more selective. I called and canceled my interview. He had a trip to take to New York and asked if I wanted to go. My favorite place on earth. I went and when I got there, there was only one bed and not even a pull out or a full sized couch.

We came home and things were awkward. He kept making little promises and not backing them up. He became angry. He started to resent my being there even though he had fought so hard for it. I knew this would happen. He packed in a sour mood and left. I went on a job interview while he was gone and I also took a pregnancy test. I don't even know why I took it, I really didn't think I would or could be pregnant. I was. He was with his kids in California when I called and told him. I was thinking I might get a 'wow' or an 'oh my gosh' but I got complete silence. Not a word and then, click. And it got worse from there. When he came home he was surly and rude. He was talking about suicide and he said over and over that he couldn't be a dad. Which at the time confused me because he already WAS a dad. What did that even mean? I told him we didn't have to be together if that was the issue. He wasn't obligated to date me just because I was pregnant. I also told him he wasn't obligated to pay through the government. That we could work out a dollar amount, since he was paying so much still for his other kids and since his ex had allegedly stolen his life savings and maxes all his credit cards. (A little over half a million to hear him tell it.) He told me that not only was he not going to pay me a dime he was going to sue me for getting pregnant. He felt I had lied to him and ensnared him )I believe the word he used was duped) because I told him on our first date that I couldn't get pregnant. I reminded him that I do have another child, he's met him. I never said it was impossible. And it was in a normal context that I shared that information. I told him that I would be interested in what his lawyer would have to say about bringing that lawsuit up. He would arrange talks where he would press me to give up the baby for adoption. He would email me and call me and tell me I was a disgusting person and that watching me keep a baby with out considering his feelings was the single most selfish thing he had ever witnessed in his life.

I started seeing a councilor at LDS services. Which was fun, being the only pregnant woman in the waiting room over 18. I talked with a family from Michigan I think, The Brubakers, about adoption and they were really nice. The reasons I didn't were these: I didn't want my son to learn that people were expendable. My father told me about a personal friend that had done it and regretted it and he knew I would also. It wasn't something I would have ever wanted if I hadn't been guilted into it. I saw her face in a sonogram and she looked like she had my chin. I stupidly thought that since she was a girl she'd probably look like me. And then one day I saw the Brubakers on the highway, they have a vanity plate with their family name. And I thought, what are the odds? And as we all waved at one another it occurred to me that we are the same. They are no better than I am. This child would not be trading up into a better existence. I knew I would be able to remarry and she would have everything with me she would with them. And she'd be with her Mom.

I was told one night on the phone that no only did no one from his family want to be there when she was born but they didn't want to have anything to do with me. He had told them what I had done and they agreed that the best thing he could do was to have nothing to do with me and the baby and that they supported him in his wishes. They also hated me, thought I was a slut and wanted nothing to do with me. Not long after I went into labor and delivered a baby girl. The day I gave birth is an unreal story of it's own but I'll spare you that. Or we'll be here until March.

The nurses wanted to know if he would come down and sign the paternity papers. So we called him. He talked to my sister, Amanda, who had helped me deliver. And he said he wouldn't sign them, that his lawyer instructed him not to sign anything unless he looked it over first. We explained how it was just one sheet of paper and it just read that he was the father. He said he didn't know for sure that he was the father. And anyway he was in California. He knew I was having the baby that week so he had run away. Either that or again, he was lying. My sister told him he should at least talk to me and he said he'd call me in a little bit, when he wasn't around his kids. I laid in my hospital bed with the phone on my deflated belly for four hours before I set it back on the dresser.

So when I had my little girl and she came out the spitting image of her father, it stung. I was afraid I was selfish in keeping her and I hurt and I was tired and scared. All of these emotions didn't leave much room for mother daughter bonding. It was never about just the two of us, it was about the two of us and the one that wasn't there. This story goes on and yes, it gets better but not by much. It's been a drawn out process and it's been full of sadness. As more time passes, I remember it less but there is a fear that, yes, we didn't bond like I wished. Like I did with my son.

So last night, after my husband informed me of her emotional state, I went into her room and didn't talk. I didn't ask her what was wrong or why she wasn't listening to dad. I didn't try and teach her anything like I usually would but it wasn't a conscious choice. I just found that I wanted to hold her and snuggle her, in part because of the emotional day I had after what I wrote. So I went in and wrapped her up in my arms and snuggled down into her bed with her. And she wrapped her arms around me back. We talked about random stuff. And she calmed down. We all said prayers and went to bed. She had a tiny fever so we stayed home all day yesterday. And we watched a movie in her bed on my phone. And we had lunch with dad and watched shows and she had a good nap. And then last night I put her to bed an hour early. Not a single tantrum since. It's a new day here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Project "Break the Cycle". Day one.

I was tucking in my daughter last night and for about the 10th time she insisted that I spent more time in my son's room than in hers. She's been doing this lately. I ask my son, who's 11, to go get the mail and she pushes him out of the way to grab it first. There are serious competition issues going on. So she's keeping track of how much time alone he gets versus what she gets at bed time. So I go into the same old speech about how she is not in competition with her brother. She begins to get whiney and complainy and it begins to make me insane. I get stabby when she gets temper-tantrumy. So I tell her that I don't spend more time with him and that I try hard to be sure that I spend equal amounts of time and that the times I leave her room early are usually the nights when I can't stay because she starts to get cranky and mean and I don't stick around for that. I tell her that she's saying I'm being a bad Mom by spending more time with him than her and I don't need to hear that when I try so hard to make their time equal. And then she said the worst thing she could ever have said to me. "You love him more than me."

I sort of stumbled into my bedroom where my husband was folding laundry and I said, "Did you hear her? She just said I love him more than her. Can you believe it? I don't act that way!" And he sort of shrugged his shoulders. I said, "Wait, you're saying I do act like that?" And I don't recall what he said but it was the equivalent of "If the shoes fits."


I grew up the child of a High School Track coach and a crazy person. She was nuts. At the time I thought she was normal but now I know better. I have many stories but I'll illustrate what was normal for her with the highlights.

I was in 1st grade and one day my mother was brushing my hair which she didn't do often. And I was whining and crying because it was waist length and I had not been introduced to conditioner and she'd start at the root and rip through it. She told me to stop. So I explained loudly that she was hurting me and she just picked up a pair of scissors and cut it off in one swoop. Just snip, snip, snip. Off. To my chin.

My mother took me to doctors to have EKGs and other tests done because she believed I had narcolepsy since I could fall asleep anywhere, but my parents never made me go to bed before midnight. My tests came back normal but she was certain they must be wrong and so she illegally obtained something called Desoxyn, which is called speed on the street, and gave it to me, every day for about 2 years. I was in 2nd grade.

My parents got tickets to the Track events for the 1984 Olympics. We drove out there in my grandparents' Itasca. We all went together to the stadium most days but one day in particular they could only get two tickets not four. Normal people would decide which parent would take which child. My mother and father go together, hand us a bus schedule for the greater Los Angeles area and tell us to visit South Coast Mall. We got lost and had to ask strangers how to get back to our hotel. I actually remember walking along a chain link fence doing an impersonation of Tina Turner singing, "What's Love Got to Do With It." since where we were looked just like the video. That's not a good thing.

In 4th grade she sat down with my teacher to discuss my issues with school. She sat there and lied her face off to my teacher. She said they tried and tried with me and they didn't know what to do, I just wouldn't do my work. I cried my eyes out. My teacher, Ms Christiansen, asked me what was wrong and I couldn't tell her. I couldn't say that my mother was lying.

I reminded my mother 100 times about my upcoming 5th grade Maturation Clinic. It was a huge deal. Parents had to go with their kids. But on the day of, she didn't show up. My teacher and a few other parents kept asking me where my mother was. I didn't know. I was given permission to go to the office and call home. I let it ring all the way through, twice. When she finally picked up she said she couldn't come, she was taking a nap. I stopped telling her about or asking her to come to any of my events. And my dad was just...I don't know...working?

I stole the white drop waisted dress with a pink sash that my mother made for my sister's 6th grade graduation to wear to my own 6th grade graduation and no one knew because I walked there by myself, got my certificate, and walked home by myself.

In 7th grade I hosted the school talent show. I bought myself a 1950s formal dress at a thrift shop, got myself ready, drove myself there (on our scooter) and home again without a word. I don't think anyone in my family ever even knew I did that, and it never occurred to me that was weird. It was just the norm at that point.

In 8th grade I missed the bus a few times, but the 3rd time it happened my mother screamed at me that I wasn't her daughter and hung up on me. I walked with a friend to her Dad's office where we Xeroxed our boobs.

The Summer before my freshman year my mother started a running bet with her best friend that I would get pregnant by the time I was 15. I had never even held hands with- let alone kissed- a boy. Her best friend, may she RIP, wisely betted against my early and unwedded pregnancy. I saved that for my 30s.

On her off days she would slap my face and shake me and leave me notes telling me I was a little @#$%. She had hundreds of different jobs and friends and spent money on clothes at the expense of us having heat, electricity, a phone. My sister and mother would come home together laughing with shopping bags and when I would ask where they had gone they'd answer that they had gone out for Ice Cream. And then my sister would show me the clothes that she got. So when I heard what my daughter said, it was a dagger to my heart, bamboo under my nails, hot pokers in my eyes. Because it was what I had been told my whole life by my older sister. That my mother loved her more than me. And she was right. She did. Love being a verb, she loved my sister more than me. I was being accused of the worst possible crime I could be accused. That I was just like my mother.

Oh man. This can not be. I'm breaking the cycle and I'm doing it now. I need to start figuring out what I need to do differently and I need to execute. Like yesterday. 2011. Breaking the cycle. Here we go.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Let Me Tell You a Story. (A Looooong Story.)

I must be getting old because I feel like telling the same stories over and over again. Right now I seem to be looking back a lot to the time in my life when I was in the middle of a whole lot of drama. So I feel like re-telling that story. If you know this one, move on. For the rest of you, "When the chimes ring...turn the page." *Chime*

My son was 3 and I was splitting from his dad. We were in a whole tangle of "Well you did____ to me" and "Well I only did_______ because you did _______." It was a slew of back and forth, and the back and forth took place at high volumes. I was in the middle of a particularly good fight with my significant other one day when I took up a baseball bat and smashed all the terracotta planters in the back yard. A chard split off of one and cut open my leg.

So I called my Mom to come get me. My significant other followed me as I limped from the bakyard to the front porch, screaming at me the whole way. I sat there on the steps bleeding all over and unable to move. I had to sit there and listen to him tell me what a liar I was and what a dirty whore I was and how disgusted I made him. And instead of running away I literally had to take it. You may be thinking, "Oh my gosh, what a JERK!" and I did, too at first. But I finally surrendered and listened to what he said, even though it was awful and mean and hard to hear. And while it wasn't 100% appropriate to do it the way he did it, there were points that he was making that I couldn't deny were accurate. I had lied to him. That was true. Putting aside all of my justifications, point blank, I had lied to him. I had made a lot of mistakes and for the first time in my life I just said..."Yes. I did that." I was tired of wanting to make him see what he did wrong. It was NEVER going to happen. I realized he might not ever in my life time fully accept responsibility for the things he had done that had "made" me do what I did. I had to drop it and just accept my part. And I needed to change.

I sat in a wheelchair in the ER with a rag on my ankle watching TV. I was processing everything and just sat in near total silence. I prayed officially to God for the first time in a long time and I just pleaded, pleaded for peace in my life. I begged for this drama to be done and over. I immediately felt relief. I suddenly knew I needed to drop the fight on my end and focus on what I could control. Me. I couldn't control him or make him see anything he needed to see but I could control me. Sure I was hoping that if I started the process of accepting responsibility he'd follow suit, but it didn't happen. I made sure that in my heart I didn't expect him to (even if I really, really wanted him to) and I had to recognize that he might not accept any responsibility...ever. But I appologized profusely over and over for my part and I went about trying to make it right.

Part of controlling what I could was to look at what I needed to change about myself. So I asked God. I asked what my problems were and what I needed to change. I wondered why nothing ever felt like it was easy and why nothing felt like it fell into place but instead just the opposite occurred. It happened so often we blamed "The Mess Up Gene." My sister, mother and I joked all the time that we must be genetically designed for failure. So I prayed to know whatever it was that I needed to know. It came to me that I should pray for humility and understanding. I begged God for humility and understanding. And the change in my life that took place because of this single prayer is the most miraculous thing I have ever experienced and I have given birth. Twice.

I began to see that I was ungracious, ungrateful, unhappy and bitter. I was critical and intolerant. I was focusing on the negative all the time and I was not cheerful and fun to be around. I cared about things that didn't matter and I was spending money I didn't have on things I didn't need. I was making permanent decisions based on temporary feelings. The list went on and on. I wanted to stop drinking and smoking, they never did anything for me and plenty against me. I wanted to stop hanging out with people that wanted different things than I did. I started praying more and I had renewed faith that God was hearing and answering me. I began to go to church. I started reading the Book of Mormon and talking to my Bishop. I made a commitment to God that I would live the rest of my life inside the church. I had botched my life in a really incredible way when I tried to live it on my terms and I was willing to try living the Gospel. I realized why I felt like I was always swimming upstream. My way didn't work. I wanted my way to be right, but it wasn't. I wanted to be able to do what ever I wanted and have the consequences that I wanted and I couldn't understand why this wasn't the way it went. I finally admitted I could not run my own life. And that was OK. It didn't mean I was a loser. I had to be humble.

I was focused and determined to be worthy to attend the Temple. I knew that there was a God and I knew he heard me when I promised I would take this all the way and I had to live my word. The day finally arrived for me to go to the Temple, it was great. I wasn't freaked out, I wasn't uncomfortable, I was happy to be someplace that challenged me to be more humble and teachable. I loved seeing how perfectly everything there was designed for us to learn and grow and designed to repel those that are just not ready to receive it. And that is also a kindness. I could see that God loves His children. I could also see that if we do things to help others, especially those who can not 'do' for themselves, we receive help from the other side.

My life now feels a thousand times better than it was before. It works. And it's because of God, not me. I botch things. God makes them work. I control what I can by doing my best to follow His commandments. I apologize and repent when I do stupid things, and I do do stupid things. I try and be humble and accept when I'm immature and need to get over myself. Because the point isn't about making people think I'm awesome. The point is about how awesome other people are. The point is to put other people first. I'm happy when I try and make God and others happy. It's the only way.

"The greatest among you will be your servant." Matthew 23:11.