Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Softening the Rough Edges

THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU who replied to my last post. I appreciate the honesty you displayed in sharing your struggles (or not) with organized religion. To those of you who do attend church, that post was not intended to exclude you or worse, to start a debate. At this stage of my life, I really don't have an ax to grind. 

When I was younger, I was admittedly very opinionated and self righteous. It was my way or the highway which was ignorant and divisive. Getting older and traipsing along the path of hard knocks has the benefit of softening rough edges. It also has the benefit of fueling what was for many years a dry tank of empathy.  

Speaking of rough edges, I spent my tender years in a dysfunctional home. My father and stepfather were violent. My mother and stepmother were terse and dismissive. No parent considered it their duty to love and nurture their kids. Consequently, I grew up believing a lot of things that weren't true about myself and the world. As an adult I've not only had to rethink a boatload of erroneous beliefs, I also had to learn several things that many if not most adults take for granted. For instance, I was either completely boundary-less and kowtowed to people out of fear of hurting their feelings or I was rude and crass, completely oblivious to their feelings. As an adult, after years of discomfort and incredulity, I was able to train myself to correctly consider the feelings of others while keeping my own boundaries in tact. This is just one example. There are many. 

If you don't mind sharing, did you grow up without parental nurturing and if so, what things have you had to learn as an adult? 


  1. My father died in an accident when I was twelve. My mother was left with three children to raise. I learned very early on that there is no substitute for hard work, earning your own way in this world and dedication to family. I have also learned to bloom where i'm planted. This life doesn't always put you where you think you should be. So, be happy and look for joy in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. It's there if you look.

  2. My father left my mom when she was pregnant with me. My mom had a very sickly childhood and was not supposed to live past teen age years much less have children, therefore she lived vicariously through me. When had terrible, terrible fights for many, many years because she was trying to make me into someone I wasn't. It took me a very long time to learn who I truly am. My mom and my stepfather were always there for me and were also very loving. Hard, but loving.

  3. Grace, I grew up with parents who were harsh with physical punishment and lax in the nurturing department. My mother alternated between being loving and being angry, so I never knew what to expect from her.

    I've had to learn that I'm not a horrible person; that I must listen to others to really know what they mean by what they say; that my opinion is as important as anyone else's opinion, etc. I'm still working on all of that! But I'm making headway.

  4. Dear always feel very sad when I hear about parents like you described. We were very lucky! My mom who really suffered at the hands of her mom had vowed to treat us respectfully and lovingly and nobly and that she did. My father had a very tough father and loving mother so he was fair, kind, equitable and extremely discipline. He made everything fun and enjoyable even when we had to take medicine. They never gave in to our wishes though. Both of my parents were encouraging and disciplined. I really could not have asked for a better set...I always wonder how the parents we get is like a crapshoot...Unfortunately I think that I should have turned out to be an incredible genius having had such parents and that did not happen.

    My father died when we were little and my poor mom had to take care of everything at a very young age!

    WIshing you a lovely Thursday.

  5. Dear Grace ~ These posts are thought provoking for sure.

    I too was pretty opinionated and self righteous in my younger years. It's taken time, living life and the love of God and my DH to become the person I am today, hopefully a better person. I'm still a work in progress, a sinner in need of God's grace.

    My parents married when she was 16 and he was 19. They became Christians, when I was around 3 years old.

    My folks had problems from the time I was in the first grade, maybe even before that, but that was when there was a big change/move. They eventually split up when I was 10, then my mother divorced my father when I was in jr. high. My mother is not a nurturer at all. My punishments as a kid would be spankings with switches, belts, hair brushes, rulers, etc. She laughed not too long ago about how now she would be considered a child abuser. Well, duh! I'm the one who initiated hugs and kisses to get love from her. I praised her with love and adoration, I was starved for affection.

    I was the first born, born when she was 17. When I was a toddler, she would chase me with the vacuum cleaner, or put a stocking over her face to freak me out.

    My mother re-married when I was 15 and our relationship never became close, we drew further apart. It was a real blessing for DH and myself that as newlyweds, we got sent to Spain while he did his tour of duty for the US Navy. We were away from both of our families.

    I realized when we got home that my mother has a thing against men, (understandable from her standpoint). But she thinks she does no wrong. She cannot admit to the smallest mistake. It is always something or someone else's fault never hers. She's a smart alec, and puts people down. For my own sanity and health I finally had to break away from her. It has been such a relief. I feel freer.

    My step-father was my father for the 5 years before I married. He wasn't a nurturer either, but he was nicer than my mother. He died of a heart attack about 18 years ago and my mother remarried just 5 months later to someone she hardly knew from her church. He had recently become a widower. I had hoped after my step day passed away, that my mother and I would get closer, but that wasn't to be.

    My father also remarried, to the woman who fathered him a son while he was still married to my mother. He forgot all about the three girls he left behind. When I got in touch him after I'd grown up, I realized I had no part in his now family, her two daughers and the kids they had together. He never cared and still doesn't.

    It takes two to make a marriage work. When neither cares it is surely doomed. I'm not close to my mother or my two sisters. We've all gone our separate ways. I've not heard from my father in many years.

    Here I am 63 years old and still want my mother's love and approval, but it will never happen. I feel so saddened when I read about daughters that have a wonderful, loving, encouraging relationship with their mothers, and fathers.

    I am so thankful for the love, encouragement and support of my DH. (By the way, when my mother first saw him in church with a girlfriend of mine, she said, "I don't want you dating anyone like so & so's boyfriend." His hair was down to his collar, heaven forbid, and he had an independent look. ~ 1966 ~ He eventually broke up with my friend and we started dating.) We've had our ups and downs as most couples do, but through our almost 43 years together, our love has grown stronger and deeper. He is my dearest and best friend.

    God has blessed me with women friends who have become like family to me and I am thankful for them and for the internet for bringing us together.

    This brings tears to my eyes as I write. It's not easy to write about, and to still be missing and wanting love from the ones who birthed you hurts deeply and the lack thereof has effected my whole life, still effects me to this day.

    FlowerLady Lorraine

    It is hard to hit the publish button, but here goes.

  6. I think my parents stayed together out of obligation, neither was happy and they fought so much. Nothing physical, but words can be destructive too. I would go to school and never know what the climate would be like at home after school.
    I never expressed my own opinion because they would be angry if I had an opinion different than theirs or they would laugh and humiliate me. My mom threw fits and could just have so much rage, it scared me. I think after awhile my dad just gave in to her. I did too. To keep the peace. I never wanted to put my mom out, everything was a big deal to her. I never even felt ok about saying I was hungry or wanted a glass of milk. I was fed and clothed but when my mother thought it was time and what she picked out. I think it was wonderful to meet my husband and find someone who valued my opinion, told me I was smart and who made me feel safe and loved. I can tell him when I need something from a hug or that I need to spend time with him and it all feels so natural now.

  7. I had the benefit of parents who had experienced hard lives and chose/learned to be different with their families. my mom lost her mom when she was 3 and had only her 13 yr old sister to model from...her father was sweet but worked. She was a great mom but she had a very hard time coping with 4 kids when we were young. My dad grew up in an abusive dismissive household as you have described and he became one of those genuinely nice people....I only had him in my life through my twenties and then he became very sick for a long time...I was one of the lucky ones who was nurtured but I think it made me too trusting and I have had to learn many hard knocks...but like you I have softened a bit and also have learned to speak up for myself...still finding me.

  8. Dear Grace, You certainly have the power of the pen. Your struggles mirror my own in many ways. "I [] had to learn several things that many if not most adults take for granted."
    As an adult I've always felt adrift, shut out of knowledge other people had but unable to ask for it because I didn't know what it was. Being a mother was where this lack hit me the hardest.
    From FlowerLady,"wanting love from the ones who birthed you hurts deeply and the lack thereof has effected my whole life, still effects me to this day."
    I vowed my children would never feel unloved. By some miracle I believe I have achieved this; as adults my children demonstrate in many ways they are secure in my love. It was the hardest thing I ever did. Self doubt haunted me then and still pricks now.

    Some other comments to your post that really hit home:

    "they would be angry if I had an opinion different than theirs or they would laugh and humiliate me." krystallynn

    "I've had to learn that I'm not a horrible person" Tina

    "It took me a very long time to learn who I truly am" Darla

    Recent research has shown how vital nurturing is to the development of a child, yet I find a lot of professionals are not willing to acknowledge the ramifications when they present in adulthood. I am emotionally and intellectually interested in finding out more. Providing an opportunity for discussion on your blog is a generous,loving and much needed gift.

  9. Gracie .. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get here and add some of my own story.
    I've been having a hard time.. more so lately because there isn't a day that goes by that an anger issue about my mother has not intruded into my life some moment of the day.
    I do have huge issues with what my so called family was like.. being raised by an ambitious alcoholic father who was just another person in the house .. the so called raising was from an emotionally and psychologically twisted alcoholic woman who should never had children and even said so.
    Some times I think her behavior was instigated from possible sexual abuse from her father .. I just don't know for certain what made her the way she was, but it was extremely toxic to a husband who didn't care what his children went through or what he went through himself .. he escaped in his career. But I always thought if some one was so badly treated you would think they would NOT treat their own children so badly because they themselves know what it felt like.
    I am still considering going to a therapist to try and work out some of these monumental issues I deal with .. but again, I am such a private person (hard to tell from what I just wrote here ?) .. I just don't know ...
    PS .. You are a wonderful writer by the way girl !

  10. Now you're just opening a big ole can of worms! :-)
    It's amazing what a few decades can teach a person as long as they're paying attention. My daughter tends, as I did, and as you said, to be very opinionated and self righteous. One night at dinner I spoke up and told her it was quite an unattractive trait. The next time I saw her she thanked me for speaking up. She said she has noticed older people behaving that way and she didn't want to be the same. At 28 she's much more mature than I was at that age. She's been a wonderful daughter.
    I grew up with a raving alcoholic father and a mother who was obsessed with him. It felt there was never any love leftover for me or my younger brother. My older siblings didn't fare much better. As I age I always attempt to stay aware of the ways I can still learn and grow emotionally. I've had to distance myself from my family but that seems to be what I need.
    I remember going away to college and one of the first things I noticed was that I didn't know how to interact with fellow students. I got myself into counseling ASAP and wanted to join a therapy group. My counselor soon let me know (and he was fantastic) that I was way to messed up to be able to join a group. I went to individual sessions for a year. It helped a lot.
    I think the biggest thing I've had to learn as an adult is that I have the right to live.

    Well, I'm rambling, but that's a huge question. Thanks.


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