Things My Mother Taught Me

How to be loud and aggressive in conflict, not cooperative, reasonable or empathetic.

How to “only be fun” when drunk.

How to drink to excess.

Tough love. “Don’t pick her up” when my daughter fell and hurt herself as I rushed to comfort her. “Show him who’s boss!” encouraging me to close the door on my screaming, crying distressed 3/4 year old son at her house, to teach him authority. I followed her orders for a minute. I stood on other side of the door with her while he broke down on the other side. I couldn’t do it. I opened the door and held him, reassuring him it’s ok. I was there.

She didn’t like that. Said I needed to be more assertive. Hard lessons teach the best do they? Or do they teach through trauma? Free from support and guidance? Using shame and fear to destroy a persons spirit to fight back any more. Break them down enough to comply or be easily controlled. That’s a pattern I’ve noticed with my abusers. ALL of them.

How my opinions and thoughts don’t matter. Be subservient. Appease people. Don’t make a scene. Be quiet. People are looking. They’re judging you.

Stand up for yourself! Except with her. Never with her, because she is never wrong. Her uneducated opinion is far greater than well thought out or researched opinions. You can’t disagree with her. But if your partner pisses you off, scream in his face. Put him down. Tell him he’s shit. See where that gets you. On the end of a fist usually, as I found out later.

How to accept an apology and forgive acts of violence, in temper.

How to insult people to hurt them deeply. (To my dad)

How to gaslight people. I never saw the abuse that led to their divorce. I overheard her story over the phone. I know how she only likes to tell half a story to maintain her victim status. She’s done it to me my entire adult life. She’s done it about me, my whole life. As a child I’d be described as “a nightmare.” I was good, I never caused much disruption. She certainly didn’t put a lot into “guiding me” to the right way, only screaming at us for anything wrong done. Perhaps if she wasn’t living in a battle ground in her mind, and maybe leading her children by the hand on a path, she would have viewed us less troublesome for just acting like children.

I saw this too in my dog. When she got him, she “trained” him, or tried. He was punished for being a dog. Woofing at the knocking door, farting, eating food he had access too. All just normal dog behaviours. I never saw this need in her to control her dog, Ben. Ben wasn’t treated like that, she was loved.

It was MY dog that needed its spirit knocking out of him, because he reminded her of me. It was to prove me wrong. I made him nuts. She was going to “fix” him. He was just a crazy dog, it’s who he was. He had a troubled start to life. I rescued him and loved him. We bonded through trust. The training with him never went far. He certainly learned how to cower quickly in her keep. He never forgot me. That waggy tail never faulted when I walked in.

How to be easily led and follow orders of someone perceived superior. (Blind compliance)

I watched how to manipulate people for her own gain. Always get what she wants. Her way. Even if it meant hurting people to get it.

How to seek empathy for the person causing me harm and distress.

Don’t show your weakness, “you’re strong” when speaking to a broken person is not appropriate. I wasn’t strong. I knew it, she knew it. I needed to feel my pain to let it go. Counselling while pretending it never happened was not the answer. Going on holiday and being public so soon after trauma in a strange city, surrounded by men. Staying in a mans house. No. Wrong.

I needed a time period to process my pain, my way. Free from triggers. At my own pace. I wasn’t allowed one. I had to move on. I had to hide my pain. Put my mask on and pretend.

The move on too soon was the biggest mistake she ever made in my recovery. It damaged me more than she could have ever imagined. And she knows this, and it kills her, but will never admit it or ask for forgiveness because she knows she doesn’t deserve it.

How I wasn’t a priority. She sacrificed things for us yes, but we, as young impressionable people, were not her priority- how people saw us was.

I wasn’t a priority when I was naive and vulnerable and she chose not to come and check on me. She knew were I was and that I was drunk in a pub. I’d walk through fire and fight rabid dogs to check on my 16 year old daughter in that situation. Not going wouldn’t be an option. Even just to check. For my own piece of mind. No, pour another drink instead.

Keep your mask on, make it strong. Hide your pain. Don’t let it define you. Move on.

How to self medicate- alcohol and cocaine (a year after a major trauma, why introduce cocaine to me? That seems pretty fucking stupid to think that would be a suitable choice from the possible parental toolbox)

How to be paranoid or appear paranoid. Be concerned what people think of you. Paint bad images of me to friends and family. Even a malicious SS referral as I was due to give birth. Smear my name. Use my traumas against me- victim blaming is her favourite game. She’s the victim. No one else. Ever.

How to lie to cover my own back or for my own gain. This never ended well because I’m a bad liar. It’s written all over my face. I don’t feel right deceiving people. I’m more comfortable with brutal honesty, even if that gets people angry with me. Feels better than a lie.

How to never say I’m sorry and actually be sorry. I was told to say it, not understand it. I was never taught guilt. I was only taught “guilty.”

My lesson in how my actions hurt others was being bitten by her, extremely hard on the hand when I’d been biting my sister. I screamed and cried for hours, staring at the teeth marks in disbelief.

I heard thousands of meaningless “sorry’s” from her, I had “I’m sorry” letters. Never actually sorry because she done it again within days. Sorry meant it was something you just said, not an act of true remorse or regret of your actions.

Don’t have ridiculous expectations of people- it leads to disappointment. She will never be who I expected her to be- She failed at being the Nan I wanted for my children. The Nan I had. Kind and loving. A break from home life when it gets tough.

Not when he returns home worse, meltdown after meltdown, stressed out, more defiant, aggressive behaviours like growling, with awful phrases like “backchat” which then gets used back to me a million times a day when he wants me to shut up. Because that’s what he’s been taught you say to someone when you want the other person to stop talking. By calling it “backchat,” with no explanation, he going to use it. More defiant and insulting language to use against people, that helps doesn’t it? He’ll sure make friends easy with them new phrases to use.

Instead he got a shouty, aggressive, pushy, bossy, mean woman who thinks she’s bought enough books and sat through enough courses to convince anyone she’s capable of changing her parenting behaviour- she’s learned, apparently.

Despite ignoring half of the research about the negative approaches that cause harm in the autistic adult community. Choosing only the literature that suits the authoritarian nature she’s accustomed to, justifying her own parenting she secretly harbours guilt for.

Constantly questioning or actively going against the parenting methods I choose, that work for my son, in a way that gives him a sense of value and trust in his caregiver. Not just blind compliance.

That’s not progress. Dominating him to where he feels he can’t speak his opinion, is not our method. He has choice. He has autonomy for his own being and the choices that effect him. His choice and opinion holds value. He is not forced to comply, but encouraged to compromise, negotiate, reason with, fairly while showing respect.

Life lessons throughout that practice. Blind compliance is not a life lesson I want to teach him. If saying no is an acceptable choice worth something, he is more likely to say it. When the people giving him the orders don’t have his best interests at heart, he won’t follow them. He knows he can refuse, politely and with respect- as a protection for himself.

Progress that harms is not progress. Progress of the outside, that damages the inside is harmful. It’s like putting a plaster on a gaping wound. It’ll hold, but it’s not right. That will open back up at a time when it could be dangerous for him. It’s not worth the risk. He learns best the first time he learns it. Undoing what he thinks he knows is extremely difficult.

Constant exposure to aggression or battle like conflict, or worse violence, reflects in his own behaviour. He learns by role model behaviours best. Show him what to do, don’t tell him. Certainly don’t do the opposite of what you’re expecting of him. Respect is a two way interaction, it cannot be demanded while showing disrespect.

His condition has him living in fear of his own mistakes. His condition makes it hard for him to follow what’s expected of him and caused massive anxiety when he feels he’s lost all control. Not knowing what do or what to say. What’s right and what’s not. He gets it wrong so much, he needs so much guidance and struggles without help.

He doesn’t need being put down further. Mocked. Made fun of. Called names. Every time he sees his mother being put down, mocked, called names in his presence it includes him too. Just as it did when she smeared my father’s name to me as a child.

Most of all, she taught me not to be like her. It never led me any where happy. It’s self control in action. Making my own choices for well thought out reasons, brings me happiness, it leads the way to show him how to risk assess life’s many situations, even when I make my own mistakes.

Mistakes are for learning from, not being beaten with.

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