Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I was spanked and I'm NOT OK: Why and what I do

I had probably the worst day of my inner life today. (yesterday) 

I've had worse days...like the day back in 1998 when my husband was killed and left me with 4 kids...a widow at age 28. Yeah, that was a bad day. And, like the day in 2008 I finally realized that the clear fluid draining out of my c-section incision was in fact urine. That...was a bad day, too. But, I believe that on both of those days, inside, I was way better than I was today.

Today. It was sparked by something I don't wanna get into on here, but, where it led me just has reminded me why I write the things here that I do, and really, how not OK I am because of how I was raised.

The last time I wrote here I was focusing on "being beautiful on the inside" and how the way we parent can do that. Where we focus our attention on our children is where they will focus theirs on themselves and others someday, too. 

The punitive household (that either does or doesn't use spanking as a "discipline" method) is focused on the child's actions, performance, and behavior. Obviously. Kids get punished (be it time-outs, groundings, sent to bed w/out supper, or spanked, whatever!) for the stuff they do wrong.

Once-upon-a-Time...I was 6 or 7...it was summer. I had a plastic kiddie pool in the back yard to...play in all alone. And, my mom thought that like 2 inches (? was a long time ago who knows!) of water was good. Well, I didn't. I remember that at that age, apparently I knew something of "water displacement" and thought that if I wanted "more water" in my pool that I could raise the water level with...rocks!

Great idea! :)

I don't remember exactly what I gathered or from where, but, I remember that the end result was quite muddy. My mom came out and saw it and...I remember...she didn't care at all "why" I had done what I'd done. Which...for a little kid, hey! It should have gotten an A for effort, don't ya think? All she cared about was "what" I'd done. I'd muddied up the pool. 

So, the pool was emptied, I was scolded and scowled at...and I was banned from playing in 2 inches of water all by myself in it for however long. 

When I think about it with my own kids right now, honestly, if one of them did this I'd be "proud" and take a pic and post it on Instagram and Facebook ;) And, I'd put more water in their pool!!!

FWD to when I'm 17 years old. It's now the summer before my senior year. I was 8th in my class. And, my desperation for love led me down the path to...Planned Parenthood and a positive pregnancy test. 

My parents'd told me my whole life over and over and over that I needed to "good grades to go to college to get a good job and make something of myself someday." This was my future. A baby at this moment was going to ruin that future! The lady at PP looked at me and asked me what I wanted to do with "it."

What I wanted to do with "it" was: 

But, once pregnant, you can't become un-pregnant. The baby can't be un-made once it's begun...only destroyed. It's gonna be born one way or another...dead or alive...either in an abortion clinic or at home or a hospital...by nature or by choice...and this I knew.

Although I believed this "it" to be nothing more than a cluster of cells (don't be too hard on me this was before Google images!) I knew that this "it" hadn't chosen this path in life. This "it" hadn't done anything wrong. This "it" hadn't asked to be created. The "it" inside me was innocent. I felt like, if someone must "lose their life" because of this mistake...I guess it should be the one who made the mistake. And, that would be me. I was the one having sex with my boyfriend without the use of protection. I was the one playing with fire, so, why should someone else get burned?

I was terrified of losing my future. But, I didn't see how the baby paying for my mistake was fair.

For a totally self-absorbed 17-year old I thought this was pretty noble of me back then to be thinking this way. I thought my parents might even be proud of me to know I was thinking this way...that in the face of such a huge mistake that I was thinking in a "selfless" way. Well. No. They weren't proud of anything I thought. They just knew I'd ruined their plan for my life and I overheard them talking about me on several occasions that summer saying things like, "She's turned out worse than we ever could have imagined!"

I was thinking selflessly in the face of a crisis and they said I'd turned out worse than they could have ever dreamed...not because of WHO I was but because of WHAT I'd done.

I can look back on those experiences, and others, where I was misjudged by people who were looking only at my actions and didn't care about my heart at all and I can see clearly now that I was being misjudged and that they were wrong. I can see that in hindsight, but, my ability to see that when it comes to me "today" sometimes fails me. Today, it totally shut off.

I looked around the room I sat alone and crying in and every square inch of that room screamed, "You're a failure!" I could give you a list of 20 things in that room that said I am a failure as a mother, as a person, as a woman, as a wife. And, it all meant that I was a failure to my core. I was worthless. And, I sat alone curled up in a ball and wept. 

All day today then I've had a hair-trigger on my cry-er. Yep. Everything says, "YOU SUCK!" so loudly! Dust bunnies mean I am lazy and spend too much time blogging! Dirty dishes in the sink say the same thing. There's laundry that needs folded. Dirty hand prints on the door jambs. Where's dinner? Why are the kids outside playing instead of studying? There is not one place I can focus my eyes in my house that doesn't have within the scope of vision half-a-dozen examples of my failure.

I stayed away from Facebook because I didn't want anyone encouraging me. ;) I didn't want anyone to try to argue with me with what I knew was true: I suck. 

I felt better later, and dared out to Target. On the way back home once inside my gated community a lady on a golf cart cussed me out for misreading her hand signal?! Of course, I was crying again. This time I posted on Facebook because I could complain about someone else (rather than just whine for me) and so one of my friends asked me how I was privately and we chatted a few minutes and she said this to me about how I'd been feeling: 

"today was not a true reflection of who you are. I'm serious. You give life to others, you gave life to me and I know I'm not the only one. Whatever happened to make you feel that way isn't the truth of who you are."

And, that did manage to actually tap a little crack into my "I hate me shell" that was around me. I could see the truth in that. I knew she was right. 

But, why is it so hard for me to see?

"Raise your child up in the way they should go..."

I want to say "I'm NOT OK because I was spanked" but this is broader than spanking. It's punishing that's the culprit on this one. It's having grown up in a punitive household that had me curled up in a ball of self-hatred and loathing today.

My parents had a punitive approach to raising children and were therefore 100% focused on my behavior, performance, actions. They were 0% interested in "why" I ever did anything. They taught me that who I am is based on what I do. When what I did didn't measure up, I suffered. I was bad. I was frowned at. I was abandoned (go to your room!) When what I did DID measure up and please them, I was rewarded. 

It didn't matter why I did the things I did...whether good or bad...only what I did mattered. This is how I was trained from day one of my life. This is how I spent the first 17 years of my life. The Bible says that how kids are raised up...when they're old they won't depart...and science agrees...  

Now. I am the one who is 100% focused on my performance. I push and push myself to do everything perfectly. I have to type perfectly. Gotta keep my "your and you're" straight! I am one who will edit comments on Facebook if I've missed a space or a period! I have to keep my house in order. Everything has to be as good as I can make it. 

And, you realize that trap then, right? You realize what that has to lead to? I have 8 kids. I have a lot of distractions. So, I fail all the time. I don't fold the laundry. I don't sweep under the bird cage. I burn dinner. I forget to make dinner! I forget to tell the kids to brush their teeth. I don't vacuum the carpet every day. I plant flowers that die... 

So, I fail fail fail...

So, I deserve to suffer... 

And, what hurts most is that I was trained that...everyone around me sees me the same way my parents did. Everyone thinks of me as, "the worst mom/wife/friend they ever could have had!"

That's how I was raised up. 
And, now that I'm old...I am afraid I will never depart from it...

Today. That was me. Scanning the room and crying gut-wrenching tears all day. Hating myself. Wanting to defend myself but just believing everything that my external performance was telling me: I suck and no one loves me. Not even God...because even Christians will tell ya that if you don't "act right" you're going to hell...You even have to "measure up" for God. (Some Christians go so far with this as to believe "once saved always saved" that your heart matters not at all. You can have a good heart and bad actions and not get into heaven...or you can have a bad heart and good actions and get into heaven. It's all just like how I was raised.)

So, I was just an overall total loser today. All alone. No hope because even if I flawlessly completed my "to-do" list today...even if I was a "perfect mom/wife" today...as Scarlet O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day!" And, tomorrow, I'd probably be back to square failure.

I started thinking today once I started to come out of it and I realized what was going on. I realized that I was focusing on all the wrong things. I could "think" about it but it wasn't what was "in me" to focus on. It was as though there was a huge wall between me n' the truth just preventing me from believing the truth. My brain could "think" one thing but my body felt the lie all over.

"...when they're old they won't depart..."

Right now, because of being raised punitively to control my behaviors, I struggle to see myself as more than my actions. I struggle to see myself for WHO I am and not WHAT I do. And, I struggle to believe that anyone else can see me for anything more than my performance. And, when I'm feeling more rational and less emotional, I can tell myself the truth...that even my best actions are "as filthy rags"...that my "works" don't matter...I can tell myself that God "sees my heart"...and can sorta' "function" as though that is what I believe but inside me...deep in me...what my parents planted there is living in there. I dig and dig but I can't get the roots out because the roots are entwined around every one of the cells in my body and neurons in my brain...

If I'd been "disciplined" rather than "punished" as a child the thing I would not be able to depart from now would be reasoning, problem solving, and hope. Today, if I'd been raised to focus on the "why" that I do things rather than my output I would have been inspired to move ahead, fix my failures, and wouldn't have felt like I deserved to suffer and that everyone I let down should be disappointed in me. Had I been disciplined instead of punished as a child, I would see those around me who see my failures as seeing and expecting the best in me rather than frowning on me for seeing the worst. And, I would probably be able to see myself as "beautiful" because I would stop judging my body's outward "performance" and see thru that to my insides. But, I don't.

And, it also got me thinking, about how I treat my kids when it comes to the things they do. How do I react to their behaviors? I don't spank. I don't punish. But, I often react poorly because my focus is on "what" they've done. My experience with my own broken heart today will motivate me to do better from now on with the kids...I can tell ya that...I will not be the same with them again...

I need to remember that our good works are as filthy rags...and that I don't need to strive to get those from myself or from my kids...

It may be too late for me...to depart from how I was raised...but it's not too late for my kids...or "yours"...

Me, when I was issue-free :(

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