Trouble is part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you enough chance to love you enough. ~Dinah Shore
Another mom asked me:
"How do we let our children know that their behavior is unacceptable and hurtful to us but that doesnâ€™t mean THEY are unacceptable? Furthermore, how do we assure them that a bump in the relationship road does not mean the end of the road? How can we assure them that all relationships have problems and challenges and that just because we experience challenges with them does not mean we would ever leave them again (or that we ever wanted to in the first place)?
How do we stand firm and have self-respect in the face of children who have no respect for us due to what they believe we did to them (that is, willingly and joyfully abandoned them to the point of frolicking in a field of butterflies)?"
Um, err, I donâ€™t know. I am trying but I am by no means sure of even my own efforts.
A case in point, last year, my daughter was rather rude to me. I was upset and I responded with a statement that asked her to please tell me her feelings, I told her she hurt my feelings. I asked her to please treat me with respect and not act like a brat (or something like thatâ€¦those werenâ€™t my exact words). I was noting her behavior and how it made me feel.
Her response to me?
"My parents never called me names".
I winced a teeny bit when I read that but I did not make it my problem. In my opinion it was a deflection. It was an attempt to take the negative attention off of her behavior and how it made me feel and put the negative behavior onto me.
I did not call her a name. I referenced a behavior. I shared how her behavior made me feel (badly) and I was attempting to bridge a gap that existed in our individual expectations. She could not possibly know something hurt me unless I was to tell her. So I did.
It did not seem to matter. She used the adoption card against me, you know the "you-are- a-shitty-mother-and-my-parents-would-never-call-me-names-so-therefore-I-was-better- off-with-them-and-not-you" dagger in the heart card.
Again, I winced but I did not recoil or retreat. I also did not lash back or get into an argument or debate. I saw the red herring for what it was. I let it go.
I am quite accustomed to deflections. My ex-husband was a master at making arguments that were rooted in his behavior somehow my fault. I am also, historically, a master at accepting blame (starts with the Scapegoat Role in an alcoholic family system). Without fail, every discussion, every argument about something he did to me that hurt me always ended up being my own fault. I caused it. I created it. I was responsible. I deserved it. If I had not done X than he would not have done Y.
Consider the following, offered for illustration purposes only, not a true account:
"Honey, why did you just hit me?"
"I did not hit you. You put your face in front of my hand and turned very suddenly"
Or even better and more specific to this post:
"Why did the agency lie to me? Why did my parents sign that promissory note and later the agency threaten me with it?"
"Because you got pregnant out of wedlock by a boy you loved with all your heart"
Seriously, I am not kidding. People think and actually say those things.
But I digress.
The only suggestion that I have in reunion is to focus on behavior and to use "I" statements. Many adoptees have serious abandonment issues. Mothers do to. Before we abandoned our children, we were abandoned by our family, our churches, our boyfriends. Our children were abandoned by us after we were abandoned by everyone. We spend years trying to find them and when we do, we are terrified we will lose them again.
The slightest hint of an argument, of someone being mad, is likely to trigger that "ut-oh feeling". You know, that feeling that says "Mom is going to leave me again" or that "OMFG, I cannot lose my child again. This time I will surely kill myself".
I can honestly say I would never ever leave my daughter again no matter what she did or said to me. HOWEVER, that does not mean I would just accept poor, hurtful, disrespectful behavior.
How do we walk that fine line between understanding and love and not allowing ourselves to be abused by our children? How do we allow them their very justifiable anger and adoption related trauma and not make it ours or allow ourselves to be used as the whipping post? How do we avoid the likelihood of creating a very dysfunctional relationship?
I donâ€™t know. I am struggling with it myself.
It is very difficult since many mothers in general were abused and disregarded and brainwashed into believing we deserved to be treated poorly. We deserve to be punished. Desperate to keep our children near coupled with a tendency to allow others to abuse us, is a perfect recipe (in my opinion) for an incredibly painful reunion relationship â€“ at least for mothers. We could easily allow our children to stomp all over us out of fear that not allowing that will cause us to lose them again.
How do we manage this? How can we navigate murky waters filled with emotional land mines while retaining the hope and confidence that we will not be left or lost again?