Monday, September 16, 2013

You's and We's

We've got teenage girls going sideways all over the place here in the Casa de Vanci.  Sometimes the ride is so fast and steep that I feel like I should be popping dramamine.  Mostly it's what I would consider 'normal' teenage drama.  Some of it's long delayed reaction to abuse stuff.  Some of it I can't even quantify yet.

We're dealing.  We're coping.  We're working through it and we're talking, talking, talking (so much that I find myself fantasizing about afternoons spent in quiet libraries and silent museums.)  I know that the talking is what's keeping our various heads above water, and that keeping communication channels open is the best thing in the whole wide world for helping these young ladies to find their paths out of the different issues they're mired in, but lordy is it tiring.

Tonight I had an in depth conversation with one of the DD's, and we made a lot of progress.  Many words were used.  Many tissues were used.  Many issues were brought to light.  Good, we're developing a plan.  This is good.

In reflecting on the conversation after the fact, I had one of those weird connections to my own youth in the form of opposites regarding the language that I use with my children as opposed to the language that was used with me by the Abusers when I was a child (and adolescent.)

I say:
"We're going to figure this out."
"We're going to find a way to make this work."
"We're going to keep thinking about this and talking about this until we can come up with a plan."
"We're going to find a way to help."
"We're going to be okay."
"We're going to reestablish the trust that was lost."
"We're going to keep trying."
"We'll always be here for you."
"We'll always love you for exactly who you are."

They said:
"You're not doing it right."
"You're making bad choices."
"You're being selfish."
"You're not carrying your weight."
"You've messed this up for all of us."
"You're hurting us by being _______ (insert Vanci's current state of being here.)"
"Look at what you're putting us through."
"You're being vindictive."
"You've always been difficult."

It's interesting to me that the Abusers of my NFOO spend so much time and energy making sure that everyone in their lives knows that Family Is Important To Them.  They should wear sandwich boards for all the ruckus they make about it.  "We're a Happy Family!" they'd declare, or "Look at How Perfect We Are!" Of course, it's all sham, a con game, a ruse, a false front.  But it's very important to them that people who aren't in their family know how very family-centric they are.

It was particularly important when ENF was still slamming the holy book into those pulpits on Sunday, while NM pounded out all the hymns about forgiveness on the piano.  The sham was at Von Trapp Family levels at that point in time.  We could have had a freeking production team.

What a lot of wasted energy.

But when I was young and hurting (who doesn't?  Hormones suck.  School often sucks.  Other kids and teenagers are MEAN!  A lot of teachers (no offense intended, mulderfan,) are deeply unhappy people looking to exert control over those 'lesser' than them in order to feel better about their own shortcomings, and that truly sucks for those under their pretense of power, throw a lifetime of abuse in there and you've got one hurtin' unit of a teenager!) when I was fragile and vulnerable and self conscious, well, there was never any of that energy put into helping me to feel like I was a part of a family.  They never told me that we'd work through it.
They told me that they were sure I'd figure out a way.
Or, they'd say you've made your own bed, missy.
Maybe you should hit your knees.
I don't understand why you make things so difficult for yourself.

They never spoke to me in the inclusive, we're all in this together, we're all pulling for you, we're going to work it out and we love you, love you, love you language that is my natural way of conversing with my daughters.  I know why they didn't speak to me this way - because none of that support existed, yet another abuse they perpetrated.  When the goal is to get as much out of you as they can and to make themselves feel/look/sound/act/be perceived as "good," regardless of what it does to you, well, I was never more than a supporting role, a day player, maybe the chick who pulls the curtain open or moves the sets around between acts.  I wasn't invited into the Union.

I'm struck, though, that this is one more area where they didn't and never will get a piece of me.  I grew up with the Family Finger of Blame pointed permanently at my forehead.  My daughters are growing up with the constant input that they're part of, included in, supported by and accepted as wonderful by this little family unit around them. That they'll always have a home in our hearts and our heads and our home.  That they are never, ever, ever alone and that we will always be just that: We.

When I do speak to them in direct address; You, it sounds like this:
"You are so special/smart/kind/beautiful."
"You are so loved."
"You are so funny."
"You can always come to me."
"You are wonderful, exactly the way that you are."

I'm so glad that I can see this for what it is; one more piece of the legacy of abuse that I was handed that I've chosen not to pass on.



  1. No worries about the teacher dig, Vanci! Sadly, I worked with a lot of teachers who were on a power trip and loved nothing more than to make their students miserable. Their favourite victims were often the oddball little kids like me. Crooked teeth, thick glasses and hand-me-down clothes. Hopelessly shy, bullied, zero self-esteem and scared shitless of authority. So, let's make her life tougher than it already is!

    I was the teacher who figured that both ends of the spectrum, the loud trouble maker and the quiet little mouse were telling me something because the trouble maker was my older brother, who was kicked around physically and mentally, while the mouse was me, the family doormat/slave. Anyway, they needed me and so I gave them all that I had to give: safety and consistency, with a hefty dose of respect, for a few hours each day.

    That's what we can give our own kids: safety, consistency, respect and love...and, we can listen.

    A group of us take the AA message to the local women's prison once a week. Same thing works there. We listen to their stories, call them ladies, shake their hands and look them in the eye. For one hour a week they get treated with respect which is all I ever asked for from my NFOO but they had none to give.

  2. Bless you, Vanci, for making a different choice, a healthy choice.

  3. My parents went as far as getting the one and only "family portrait" taken when I happened to not be with them at age 15. My mother still parades it around as the family portrait.

    I don't know why I ever thought. Wanted to be a part of their exclusive club.

  4. I don't remember my parents ever talking to me about ANYTHING that was going on in my life. I knew I was all alone.

    That thing about the "perfect family" really gets me. My in-laws are like that. Always broadcasting how perfect they are, holding everyone else up to the standard of "normal", which they think they are the epitome of. But I've always believed that anyone who has to propagandize something about themselves: constantly broadcast it, scream it from every street corner, is never being honest about what state they really are in.
    I'm so glad you are there for you daughters. They are so lucky to have a mother like you. My mother decided she was done with motherhood (not that she'd done a good job before that) when my sister and I became teenagers and basically dropped us for her new husband. Now, she has the nerve to tell me (and anyone) about how "difficult" teenage girls are. Pisses me off so much.

    (And I had to smile about the quiet library part. My 5 year old talks NON STOP right now. It's sweet, but man, what I wouldn't give for an hour of quiet!)

  5. I remember being really confused when "outsiders" told me how "lucky" I was to have such wonderful parents. In my teens, when my older brother's beatings were escalating and I was being demeaned on an almost daily basis, I honestly thought that was what normal family life was like. On the odd occasion when I was allowed to visit a friend's house, I just assumed their family was playing the same "happy family" game that mine did.

    My first therapist made me feel like an idiot for not "seeing" that my family was dysfunctional. He told me I should have stood up to my father! His judgmental comments and "blame the victim" attitude probably set my recovery back by years!

    Of course I didn't see! I had no other reality AND they conditioned me to to believe this kind of "love" was what I deserved.

    1. You should have stood up to your father? And then what? You had no idea what normal was and no place to go if you rocked the boat. --LuLoo

  6. So heart warming to see the changes you are making for your family...Congratulations.

  7. It's hard enough being a kid. Being a kid alone in a "Family" is unbearably lonely. I would *never* have spoken about what was going on either in my house or outside of it. (Looks like I'm makin' up for lost time now, eh?!)
    How fortunate your DDs are, Vanci. You don't just know the difference, you're showing and teaching the real meaning of "Family."
    And the incredible gifts of Unconditional Love and Unquestioned Safety and Security.

  8. Vanci, so glad you got away from that wolf-pack - they're the worst. Not only for trashing one of their own children, but making "religious" noises to justify their head-gaming an already vulnerable teenager.

  9. I noticed you haven't posted in a while and I wanted to drop you a line and say hello