When You “Hate” Your Kids

badKid

If you have kids you’ll understand what follows.  If you don’t, you’ll probably be horrified.  Rated rRated for less-than-good-parent language.

I have 3 kids.  A 4 year old. A five year old.  An eight year old.  Dark days indeed.  The fighting, whining, disrespect, property damage – all come part and parcel to parenting young children – regardless of what mad skills you might have in your quiver.

Of course I don’t hate my kids, nobody really does.  We just feel, let’s say, a very strong dislike towards them from time to time.  What’s funny/interesting is the difference between how we feel about them when they’re “good,” and how we feel about them when they’re not.  We get warm feelings when they’re playing nice, eating all their food, cleaning up, loving their siblings, sleeping – and very different feelings when they’re doing things that anger us.  They’re not so cute anymore.  The mere sight of them brings up feelings of disgust.  You’d think we’d just get a little frustrated but it goes way deeper than that for most parents.

When you have kids it’s not long before they’ll push a “button,” some unhealed wound or two that you carry inside – something that happened long ago at the hands of another human that you haven’t quite put to bed yet.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have multiple places in their soul where they’re still hurt.  I do know tons of people who’ll tell you they’ve dealt with it all –  “moved on” –  but most of us haven’t.

I have a friend who experienced something horrible years ago.  She told me she gave herself two years to grieve, then she got over it.  Sounds great, but it doesn’t work that way.  It’s likely that we’ll take so many of our buttons to the grave, mainly because we have no respect whatsoever for how deep they are.  The cutesy moniker “buttons” betrays how clueless we are to their severity.

Either way, when our kids push our buttons it hurts, and it’s easy to see these little button-pushing fuckers as enemies – people who don’t care about us, against whom we have to defend ourselves – that’s how we respond when we feel hurt.  That’s why kids appear different when they’ve done something that’s not only wrong, but rubs its finger in our unhealed areas.  That’s why we lose our shit at some of the shit they pull.  We’re on the defensive.  We’re retaliating, many times in ways that will create the same buttons in them that we’ve been wandering through adulthood with.

In the past, when other people have pushed our buttons, we’ve been able to distance ourselves, or break the relationship altogether.  But you can’t do that with kids, we have to stay engaged.

My eight year old did something small yesterday that made me very angry.  When I drop her off at school she gets out of our minivan through the sliding door on the passenger side.  She usually can’t close the door herself so I always ask her to close it enough so I can reach it from the driver’s seat and slide it the rest of the way.

Yesterday am She got out of the car, stood and looked at me as I said “goodbye, have a nice day at school.”  It had been a tough morning – we were all a bit edgy.  “Please slide the door a little bit my way so I can reach it, honey.”  She slid the door a couple centimeters and walked off.  “Hey, please get back here and close the door.”  A couple more centimeters.  I shot her a dirty look, got out of my seat, closed the door.  She walked off.  Button.  Pushed.

I sat in the car and watched her walk away.  Usually when I do this I think about how much I love her, but this am all I could think about was retaliation.  But my hard-core negative feelings for her had nothing to do with what just went down, and everything to do with my buttons, which unfortunately, had just called the shots in a difficult situation.

This was one of those rare mornings however when I stopped to think about what really happened – what was underneath it all.  Sure, she was intentionally disrespectful, and we dealt with that later, but she’s a good kid.  She’s not my enemy, and there’s no misbehavior that we can’t work through.

Thinking about my buttons above her infraction brought me peace and forgiveness, for both of us, and a greater vision for how to make sure my kids are always beautiful to me.

 

 

 

 

Let’s all be really mad and scared in 2016

When I’m angry I can’t think straight.  I’m like most people – I feel cheated, like everything’s out of control.  What consumes my mind is the person that wronged me and how I might get even. But life goes on and I have to make everyday decisions, sometimes really big ones.  One of the most difficult things to do is to make good decisions when I’m angry. I’m really stupid when I’m mad. We all tend to be.

There are a lot of angry people in the U.S.  A big chunk of our population is angry because marriage, by law, has been redefined.  Another chunk is mad at the people who are mad about marriage being redefined.  Some are upset because we’re not letting refugees into our country, others are angry at the people who think we should.  Racism is still a big deal, and it seems that more people are seeking to arm themselves than ever before.

We’re also scared (fear and anger usually operate in tandem).  Not only are we threatened by each other, there’s this large group of people that want nothing more than the destruction of our country.  They’re not very well organized, at least not as organized as, say, the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, but they’re passionate and some of them live here in the U.S.

Right or wrong, We are a country full of angry, frightened people.

We also have a big decision to make in the coming year regarding our next president.  I won’t offer any opinions about Donald Trump or his ability to lead us, but I will say the main reason he has a voice is because he’s playing into the fear and anger that is so thoroughly shagging our country.

I watch alot of WWII documentaries – it fascinates me how a guy like Hitler could come to power.  Turns out that the allied nations of WWI required Germany to “pay” for all the damages caused in the war.  This left Germany in a horrible economic state – poverty, unemployment, anger, fear.  Hitler came in with an amazing knack for politics and used the dark emotions of the day as his primary platform.  It worked.  The Germans had their hero vindicator and were ready for war.  One of the worst terrorists the world has ever seen came to power, and everyone cheered.

When leaders choose to exploit fear and anger, fear and anger become the leaders, and the places they lead us to are never good.

None of our candidates are addressing the fact that we’re pissed, that these emotions are volatile and if left unchecked will destroy so much of what we value as a country.  What’s far worse is that so many of our presidential hopefuls are using fear and anger as a huge part of their platform.  Even the Evangelical candidates, who are supposed to have peace and love at their life’s core, are exploiting the very things that are tearing us apart.  It’s a sickening irony.  Some Muslims read the Koran and see peace.  Others read it and see war.  It’s the same with Evangelicals and their Bibles.

But, in their defense, if you want to get elected, you have to embrace the strongest emotions of the largest constituency. So get ready for a very fine parade of anger, fear, and stupidity in 2016.

 

 

 

Shame __ you.

a.  “On”
B. “Off”

From almost the beginning I’ve experienced multiple scenarios, interactions, relationships, events that, in my inability to understand what was really happening, left me with an urgent sense of “there must be something wrong with me.”

It was really bad in junior high.  There were several bullies who made it their job to harass, threaten, and most of the time embarrass me in front of everyone.  I didn’t know how to deal with it.  I usually acted like it was funny, then spent my time outside of school with an aching fear – worrying about who would pick on me the next day. But I always found a way to blow it off, to distract myself, to act like it wasn’t a big deal.

I remember having a crush on Rhonda C. in the 7th grade.  She was really popular and always nice to me, so I asked her to go steady.  She said she would consider it so I thought there was a chance.  Her best friend Margie came up to me a day later, grabbed my shoulders and pronounced, “Rhonda says yes!  She wants to go steady with you!”  Wow!  I had no idea what to do.  My plan was to avoid her until I could figure out what to say to my very first girlfriend ever (not counting Kelly M. in the 1st grade, but she didn’t know she was my girlfriend).

The next day Rhonda approached me just outside the lunchroom and very compassionately revealed the truth –  “Margie thought it would be funny, but it was really mean and I’m sorry she did that.  So, as far as I’m concerned we’re going steady.”  I finally mustered the words I had been looking for.  I gently punched her on the arm and said “Awww-right!”  She broke up with me a few days later, and I “moved on” like I did with everything else.

When a 7th grader asks the question “why would people treat me this way?” the only thing he can come up with is “it must be me.”  I felt it at school, around my family, and with some of my friends.  While I had no idea this was all taking place inside, my soul did.  Without knowing it I began to label people – those who where above me – the cool, pretty, smart folk, and those below – the lower class, the truly rejectable – the higher you were on the ladder the more value you had as a person.  I spent so much of my time in social situations trying to figure out where I stood on the cool continuum and what I needed to do to make people like me.  It was horribly lonely.

Shortly after high school I decided I had had enough.  I set out to change everything and nevermore be that kid that everyone picked on.  I started working out, changed my style, changed my “crowd” and began to attempt to climb the ladder of coolness.  It was tough going.  I’ve never taken social cues well and have always struggled with being awkward.  But I did manage to at least emerge from the ooze of total dorkness, at least as outward appearances go.

So my odyssey began, and I’m just now realizing the toll it’s taken.  Instead of allowing people to heap shame on me, I would heap it on them, especially on people who reminded me of me, which ironically made my shame worse.  To this day if anyone says or does anything that makes me feel bad about myself I get really angry – most of the time I’ll retaliate, usually in ways that won’t bring more shame upon me.

Next year I’ll be fifty.

I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that those hurts from the past are alive and well.  I may have found some creative ways to bury it all, but I still live day-to-day with that ache in my gut – that fear that forces me to hide, worrying what will happen if people see the real me.  But I’ve also come to realize that there are so. many. other. people. who live this way.   As children it’s difficult to know how to navigate the painful moments so it makes sense to do nothing, and feel nothing, as these events solidify themselves within, and permanently become part of our “now.”

I know married folk who fight like cats and dogs, never realizing that what they’re really fighting about happened so long ago, before they met each other.  I know successful business people who work their fingers to the bone – living from accomplishment to accomplishment – anything to avoid the shame that’s eating them inside.  So many people are angry, not because something made them mad, but because they’ve been hurt (anger is always a symptom of hurt).  It’s truly an epidemic.

I’m not sure how to get rid of it and I know it’s not a simple deal.  But here’s a short list of the things that, when I’m able to talk myself into doing them, have had a nasty affect on my shame:

  1. Don’t put shame on anyone else.  Don’t judge people, talk about them behind their back, publicly highlight their stupidity, laugh at them, etc.  Putting shame on other people only makes mine stronger.
  2. When I hear that voice “there’s something wrong with you,” I try to speak truth as a response.  “We all deal with shame.” “We all have things about us that are broken.”  “There are plenty of things that aren’t wrong with me.”
  3. When I worry about what others are thinking/saying: “Other people’s opinions really don’t matter – my life has never been threatened or significantly impacted by the way someone else thinks about me.” “People don’t gossip because of what’s true, but because they’re hurting inside and it’s a wonderful way to feel better.”
  4. Spend as much time as I can with healthy people who are either dealing actively with their shame, or have been freed from it.
  5. Discuss my most painful moments with people who care about me.  Talking about this stuff is the beginning of freedom.
  6. Drink wine

Sorry for the forthcoming juvenile observation, but it’s one of the most powerful things I can say about shame.  It’s like dog poop.  Don’t pick it up, don’t play with it, certainly don’t throw it at anyone.  If you get any on you – wash, rinse, repeat, till it’s gone – if you don’t know how to do that, get some help.  The farther you can get away from it the better you (and the people around you) will be.