Dear Mom, I guess you never planned on me learning to respect myself.

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mangywolf

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Dear Mom,

You are confused because you now have to deal with me as an adult, and you canít resort to your well worn authoritarian approaches for dismissing your child, his feelings, or his opposition to you. You just want me to forget my pain, remember the ďgood times,Ē and stop being who I am, an emotionally intelligent adult, a thoughtful and dedicated husband, and a gentle and patient father. Itís inconvenient for your usual way of dealing with me that Iíve become an adult with integrity, individuality, and self-respect. I guess you didnít really plan for it.

This is difficult for you, because in the past, whenever I said something you didnít want to hear, or whenever I showed a part of me that you didnít like, you got away with simply dismissing it, because you had power over me when I was your child.

In the past, when I was a child, and I said something you didnít like, you told me to be quiet, or you told me to apologize, or you refused to engage me, or you yelled at me, or you sent me to my room, or you hit my mouth or some other part of my body.

Since Iíve become an adult (which for you basically means that youíre no longer allowed to physically abuse me when youíre angry at me), you resort to various kinds of emotional and verbal abuse. When I say something you donít want to hear, you become sarcastic, or you say nasty things, or you shut down entirely and stop engaging in the conversation, or you literally walk out of the room and leave me without a response. When such moments have happened at a distance, over the phone, you hang the phone up on me, and you never apologize for that. In fact, you donít ever call back either. Instead, you wait for me to call back sometime soon, and sometimes even on those occasions, when Iíve pursued you to make things right, you refuse to answer, playing hard-to-get.

By the way, those authoritarian, abusive approaches to opposition that you used to take, they never worked. They may have accomplished what you meant them to (they got you out of having to deal with the parts of me you didnít like), but they didnít solve anything. Those parts of me never went away, and you knew that deep down. You knew you were just running from the inevitable. You knew that you were avoiding your responsibility as a parent: to be there for me, to accept my full spectrum of emotions, to be a mature and safe presence in my life, to help me process my fears and anxieties and concerns, to give me substantial explanations for the decisions you made, to give account to me for the punishments you would dish out, to help me learn and grow, rather than simply to keep me alive until I left the house. You knew you were avoiding the reality that you owed your child an explanation for the way you were dealing with him, that your actions have consequences, and that you have to answer for the ways that you hurt people.

But you were more concerned with maintaining power and making sure you never lost it. You were more interested in making sure I knew who was in charge. When I was sitting in my room upstairs, you felt accomplished because you had effected change over the environment, and I had been subject to you ability to effect that change. I was sitting behind a closed door, and that made you feel like you had some control over me, a person you didnít fully understand, a person you just wanted to get rid of sometimes, a person you didnít always want. You may think this worked, and you may have thought you got away with this, but you didnít. You locked me in my room, you hit me, you yelled at me, and you held your power over me, but whatever you did that made you feel powerful for that fleeting moment, you couldnít take away my feelings. You couldnít take away my thoughts. You couldnít actually silence my questions. You couldnít fully extinguish my rage. You should have made a safe space for me when I was a child. You should have accepted all the parts of me. Now, Iím an adult. And youíre confused, because you canít lock me up or shut me up. I can choose to walk out. I can choose to be done with the way you treat me. And thatís exactly what Iíve chosen.

The really sad thing about the way youíve dealt with me over the years is that it always had the opposite effect you intended. You thought it made you look powerful and strong, but it just made you look scared and weak. As I sat in my room, or as you hit me, or as you made me wait in the car, or when you told me to shut up, I just waited for it to be over, so I could get back to doing what I wanted to do. I knew what I wanted. I was sure of myself. And I could tell that you didnít know what you were talking about. Every question you stamped out became an even bigger question for me. You just fueled my fire. I would wait for dad to get home so I could ask him without you around, because my questions were reasonable and they made sense. Of course, he would usually protect you and dismiss my questions too, even though I could tell he knew they made sense.

To put it simply, I was more mature than you even as an adolescent, and I knew it, and no young child should ever have to feel like the more mature one with their own parent, even if their parent was the victim of abuse too. Whatever youíve been through, it doesnít change what I deserved as a child, and what you owed me as a parent. I was looking for something to lean on, and whenever I tried to lean on you, you either ran away or leaned on me instead. Either way, I learned that I existed to support you, and if I wasnít doing that, I knew I would get dismissed. Itís no wonder then that I learned to survive without expressing my true feelings about you or dad or our family or our life together. And on the days when I just couldnít hold back anymore, I would let if fly knowing full well the punishment I would get. Are you really so surprised that when you hit me I would scream at you to hit me again and again, that I would scream that it didnít even hurt, or that I would grit my teeth and refuse to cry? Your punishments, your discipline, your ways of ďdealingĒ with me were pathetic to me, even at my young age. I looked at you, you who claimed to be all-wise and intentional about the way you dealt with me, and I saw an impulsive, immature, confused coward.

Iíve tolerated this for long enough. Iíve even tolerated it as an adult. But I wonít tolerate it anymore. Iím not an object or a toy or an accessory, and you canít dismiss me at your whim. I deserve the same respect that any human person deserves and I always have Ė even (especially) when I was a child. You canít tell me to be quiet, and you canít tell me whether or not my thoughts or feelings are acceptable. Your assessment means nothing to me since youíve demonstrated that you only use it to get what you want. You canít hit me or put me away or hang up the phone anymore. I wonít even give you the opportunity.

Youíve showed me that you canít handle power and strength and responsibility. Youíve showed me that you think those things are for you and your protection, not for the empowerment and encouragement of those who depend on you or those who are weaker than you. Youíve showed me that you think those things are tools with which to manipulate people. Youíve showed me that you were never capable of being a parent and having a parentís responsibility. So, Iím not going to acknowledge you as having that place anymore. When adults respect their parents and hold them in high regard, it should be because the parent has earned that place in the childís life, not simply because they are older than them (ďBecause Iím 35 and youíre 10, thatís why!Ē), or because they are their mother (ďBecause Iím your mother, and I said so!Ē). Those arenít reasons for me to listen to you, theyíre not reasons why my feelings or thoughts are invalid, and I wonít let you hold them over me anymore.

Mom, Iím an adult now, and you need to either acknowledge this and deal with me as such, or you need to stop contacting me entirely. I donít make room in my life for people who condescend me or treat me with anything less than respect, and I certainly donít allow those people to share the lives of my wife and daughter. Iím an adult. Iím an individual. I make my own decisions for myself, and my first priority is me and my own health. These are my first priority because if they are not in place, I wonít be able to care properly for the health of those that I love, and I wonít be available emotionally in the ways they need me to be.

The way I see it, you have two options. You can listen to what I have to say, and you can give it the respect of a carefully prepared, thoughtful response; or, you can walk away from me entirely. But there is no middle option, and, at this point, I wonít be disappointed at all if you choose the second. The truth is, I donít have confidence in your ability to deliver on the first option, at least not anytime soon, and not without professional help.

Iím happy and healthy now, mom. The last several months, with our new boundaries in place, have been some of the healthiest of my life. Iím thriving in my vocation as a scholar. Iím enjoying a truthful and emotionally healthy marriage to my wife. And Iím overwhelmed with the joy of being a father to my daughter, free and able to give her the respect and the nurturing she deserves. If you were ever serious about your claims to want me to be happy, to want me to be healthy, to want me to find life and community and freedom to pursue my interests, then please think very carefully about whether or not youíre actually able to stop being the presence in my life that Iíve described above. I will not think twice before bringing our relationship to an absolute end if any of this continues. Of course I want parents in my life. Itís a tragedy that any family should be torn apart by this kind of violence. But I donít actually need you in my life, and Iím done putting myself and my young family at risk for the sake of something I canít be sure is safe.

I like myself, I'm proud of myself, and I love my life.

I know who I am, I know who I've been, and I know what I want.

Can you say the same?

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Sojourner17

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What a wonderful letter.  It brought tears to my eyes.  You spoke words of truth so eloquently and kindly.  I bet your wife and child are proud of the man you are and the strength, self assurance and self respect you have.

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it..." - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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mangywolf

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Sojourner17, thanks for reading my letter, and thank you for your kind words. That feels great to hear.

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Sunshine days

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Omg!!!  I read it as though I had wrote it, I can't write that amazing but I stole a lot of the words and it's inspired me so much I am going to mediate on it and pick out your voice in certain parts and add it to how I feel , omg !!! It's everything anyone who has lived with a pd parent feel , I can't say anything more then thank you , it's amazing . I feel like I have grown in similar  ways and I am a adult to now , oh!!! It's amazing , I so want to write one to but with your emotion in the parts I feel sad . Thank you xx

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all4peace

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I could both have written this letter to my mother.

Both of them are now dealing with the sad and inevitable consequences of never learning how to mature emotionally, or relate to us as adults. As you so eloquently write, their tactics from childhood no longer what. Sigh. What to do with the grown-up version that you can't hit or silence?

I don't know you, but I know how much work has gone into you being able to write this today, and I'm proud of you. I think that our strong, solid, intelligent, empathic adult selves must terrify our parents. Good for you for protecting your family and yourself. I hope your mother is able to find the help she needs, but I'm glad you're willing to move on without her if she can't.

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raindrop

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Mangywolf, what a beautiful letter. I love the sense of calm, reasonable, truthful strength that pervades it.
I love that you love yourself, your family and your life and have embrace them. Keep moving forward, never look back!
It is our vocation to prevent the harmful exposure of our inner sanctuary, not only for our own protection but also as a service to our fellow human beings with whom we want to enter a creative communion. Openness loses its meaning when there is no ability to be closed.
-- Henri Nouwen

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all4peace

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I could both have written this letter to my mother.

Both of them are now dealing with the sad and inevitable consequences of never learning how to mature emotionally, or relate to us as adults. As you so eloquently write, their tactics from childhood no longer what. Sigh. What to do with the grown-up version that you can't hit or silence?

I don't know you, but I know how much work has gone into you being able to write this today, and I'm proud of you. I think that our strong, solid, intelligent, empathic adult selves must terrify our parents. Good for you for protecting your family and yourself. I hope your mother is able to find the help she needs, but I'm glad you're willing to move on without her if she can't.
Whoops--I started with "DH and I" and "both our mothers," but I edited it since DH's mother was never physically violent. And I didn't properly edit my entire entry. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Both mothers are clueless on how to cope now that their childhood tactics aren't working in our adult lives.

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biggerfish

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Boy did the subject line resonate with me! My mother never planned on me respecting myself either, and she can't stand the fact that I do.

Thank you for describing it that way. It's affirming. And it's so sad that your mom, and mine, still don't know who they are. They are so lost.

But IT'S NOT  OUR PROBLEM! (Sorry for shouting, but that felt good.)

Loved your letter. You've created a full, happy life for yourself. I'm cheering for you. -- BiggerFish

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DGrace

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I just joined this group and read your letter.  It is profoundly well written and captured so many emotions & experiences endured from my own NM.  Thank you for writing and sharing this letter.

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Sunshine days

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Welcome dgrace, I hope you find much healing here
SD
X

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louisebt

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Re: Dear Mom, I guess you never planned on me learning to respect myself.
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2017, 03:54:45 PM »
Wonderful letter. Tells me where I am heading. Not there yet, but I know I have the resources to get there. thank you for the inspiration.