Google+ Authentic Parenting: Confessions About Parental Overload

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confessions About Parental Overload

I've not had a childhood void of violence. Heck, I didn't have an adult life void of violence. My father hit me, even when I was married and out of the house.
Years of living in a violent home has grown a little demon in me, living with a tyrant for all these years has nurtured my inner tyrant... lurking... waiting for a moment to unleash.
I've been known to turn to violence when an argument turned wrong in my university years, especially when I felt I was being trampled on by a man.
I am physically strong for a woman.

Yet, when my sweet and innocent child was born, I have sworn I would protect her from harm. That I would do anything in my power to not parent her with the violence I was raised with. And that I would sweat and swear to exorcise my inner tyrant, so she would not have to face the fears I dealt with growing up.

Now my daughter has grown a little, and like any healthy 2 1/2-year old, she can be a little bit of a tyrant too.

Image: Sawnchin on Flickr
I struggle with my inner tyrant and I struggle with my tiny tyrant... and they struggle with each other. The tiny tyrant breaks me down emotionally, until there is no more me to deal with... and then my inner tyrant can come out and of course she wins.
And it hurts us both. And I feel dirty and a failure and sick.
I never hit my child.
But I have grabbed her a little too firmly sometimes too. I've sent her dirty looks. I have screamed, when the lack of control got too much and it felt like it was the only way to take back my power. I have grueled about my abuse of power. And it keeps happening.
I don't know how to stop it... sometimes there are no tools left. Sometimes I'm done too.

Parenting is reliving your own childhood and it can be very confrontational. Either you accept that and learn to work on it, or you run and avoid confrontation, despite your child.
If - like me - you have decided to confront your inner tyrant, congratulations, you are taking on what might be the hardest struggle of your life. But you are trying, and that means you have already halfway won.

You can't change the way you were parented, but you can sure as hell change the way you parent.

I wrote this as a reflection on Arwyn's post A Really Bad Day



  1. This is exactly what I've been struggling with since I had my daughter, who will be 3 in March. I ended up with my dad's bad temper and like you I would never hit a child, but I have grabbed her too hard and yelled. It makes me feel like the worst parent in the world! I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with this.

  2. oh honey,this made me cry because this is me too :*( i fight it so hard+am so opposed to violence in any form as i experienced it as a child+as an adult.thank you,it eases the guilt slightly to know it's not just me...
    sam xx

  3. I know this feeling. We moved to another town and he could'nt go to kindergarten there just before he was 4 years old. When he was 4.5 years old he was diagnosed with ADHD. Time between those dates has been hell. My son jumped on the couch. I took him off and turned away. He was again jumping on the couch.. repeat and rinse... I loved him to bits but I did what you did, grabbed him too hard, things like that. It was a horrible time. After he was diagnosed life became easier, because we adapted to his ADHD and today he's a beautiful quiet boy of 16 who shows no signs of having ADHD. Better yet: he also shows no signs of being bothered by that miserable period. Not afraid of me, not ducking for sudden moves (as I did till I was oooooh about 26 I think).

    I once read an article about 'Good enough parenting' and that says that it you should try to be as good as you can but that you shouldn't be too harsh with yourself when bad things happen. Because for children it's about being good enough, and not about being perfect. And good enough is when bad things are evened out by good things. And when bad things are hugely topped with good things, you sure don't have anything to worry about. Maybe you can find comfort in that thought, as I have found.

    Good luck with your tyrant :-)

  4. We struggle with the "default mode". When things go out of hand, we revert back to how we were parented. Or not! It is our choice, and if there is willingness, there's a way to overcome! I am even parenting my toddler in a new way than I used to parent my teen (forgive me Teen). Most of the times I am proud of us, because my husband kinda follows my lead! :D

  5. I have hit and yelled at my children and said cruel things to them. I remember the first time I handled my child roughly and I remember the first time I full-out hit her. They are torturous, horrible memories no one should have.

    I have come a long way since then. But for years I struggled, thinking I was a Monster, *precisely* because even though violence against children (in word and deed) is endemic, NO ONE in my social group talks about it. I called my parents after I hit my daughter and I was crying so hard I couldn't speak. Both my parents asked me what the big deal was, "everyone" loses it now and then, you're a good mom, it's OK, get back on the horse.

    Concomitant to my parents' acceptance but lack of acknowledgment of my sense of deep-level violation, my friends were busy pretending this shit never went down in their homes. When I tried to talk about this stuff in my peer group I was met with uncomfortable silence and unease. To this day only a handful of my friends have admitted to hitting their child or levying verbal or emotional abuse on them. Many of my peers "spank" (a different word for the assault of children) - but don't want to talk about it. Statistics tell me these forms of abuse are more common than not, sadly.

    Not enough people who speak out FRANKLY about abuse and violence (verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual). That's why I do it today. I could just be silent and pretend it hasn't been a part of my life... but then people like Anonymous could go on feeling alone and frightened. I don't want others to suffer in secret and silence... and make their children suffer even more... and continue the cycle.

    Anonymous, and anyone else reading, I do not condone ANY violence and oppression against children and have worked hard to convince grownups to stop, to talk about humane ways to parent. There is hope, if you know deep-down what you're doing is wrong.

    As you know Laura, I am a huge proponent of youth rights and the discussion of oppressive tactics grownups levy against children. I have always appreciated your wisdom since I found your blog. Even though you have such a young child and have not been a parent long... you see through the oppression we levy against children, across socioeconomic strata and in all countries of the world. You are a beacon to many parents and carers and your writings will help healing, and keep abuse from continuing. Thank you for what you do.

  6. I am going through the same thing here. We see our children and relive our childhood. It's hard and we revert to what we know as a precious commenter said. Luckily I have a really great counselor and I feel like things are getting much better.

  7. What I hold on to is that I came out of this *aware*. And it's my prayer my children come out the other side more *aware* than I am.

    It's what I hope and pray for,

  8. thank you so much for this. this is something i struggle with a lot. when i find myself resorting to the yelling and shaming i experienced as a child, i hate myself for it.


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