Sunday, November 18, 2012

That Dear Jane lady

Originally posted on Feb 17, 2011.

First title: I got dumped.

Not by my husband, by one of the women in my mom group. I got sent a rather hurtful email. To be defensive, because I always am, the hot sauce comment was not even vaguely serious. I would never do that. It was an unkind thing to say at all, but I don't think this level of response was appropriate. And the 'cold baths' were tepid, just not warm and fun. I took zero pleasure in them and I don't feel they were cruel. They were business like and not *fun*, but Shanna was not harmed in any way and despite not being fond of them she doesn't seem traumatized by being in less than super warm water.

"I'd really rather not have to say this and just avoid the subject, but I think I owe it to you to let you know that what happened today was not OK for us. The way you discipline Shanna makes me very uncomfortable. I feel really bad for her actually, i seems that at her age your expectations are way too high and the proportion of punishment and yelling is over the top. She is your child and you can parent her how you like, but I can't be around it anymore. I think the reason she is hitting and acting more aggressively is probably because she is learning the behavior from you. The way you talk about potty training her by making her take cold baths and contemplating putting hot sauce on her finger to get her to stop picking her nose is very hard for me to hear because I think it is cruel to do to another person; especially a person who does not have a choice to walk away from a relationship with you. The way you freaked out today was over-the-top and you need to get some help because if you are losing it like that at a casual friends house then I can only imagine how bad it is at home.

I'm just writing this to be honest with you, so you know why I do not want to get together anymore. I know you probably think I am judgmental, do not know Shanna, and have never walked in your shoes, but I have really, really tried to keep giving you chances, but I just can't put up with how you treat Shanna anymore, it is so hard to witness.


Basically what happened yesterday is that I had a panic attack and continued trying to parent through it. I'm quite certain that it looked like I completely lost control. It was very certainly not my parenting at its finest. Shanna was being aggressive/acting out previously and I had taken her aside and told her that if the behavior didn't stop we would have to leave. She then whacked another kid in the head with a toy. For no reasonable reason (since when do panic attacks follow 'reason') I had an intense panic attack and I proceeded to deal with the situation. Badly. I was shaking and overly rough with Shanna and I wasn't perfectly gentle with Calli either (she started screaming because she needed a diaper change pretty much exactly when Shanna hit the other kid). As is pretty standard for me when I have a panic attack I started shaking my head and chanting "I don't want any help. I'll do it myself." Not my best coping mechanism. It was bad. I'm embarrassed. I would be embarrassed no matter what but that email is quite the piece of shaming.

I've been kind of free flow responding since yesterday. I'm not sure if this is coherent or not. I have zero intention of sending this to her.

So I've been doing some processing about this email and it's not about me. Ok, you are also upset with me but this email isn't really about me. Your language is very shaming. This is a big issue for you. How were you treated as a kid? Like you see me treating Shanna? Was it just something that happened to someone you knew?

You've obviously been building this upset with me for a while. I wish you would have talked to me about it. I really really wish you had talked to me about it. At this point it seems like you have thoroughly talked yourself into hating me and that makes me sad because even after trying pretty hard this afternoon I don't hate you. Right now I do feels some disappointment in you. A friend doesn't behave the way you are behaving. A friend would have told me many months ago, "You know, it really bothers me to listen to you discipline Shanna. I really feel like what you are doing is damaging to her and I don't think you want to do that." A friend would have some idea that I've been in the midst of pretty bad depression to the point where folks who are closest to me are pretty worried about me and I am actively seeking help. I have seen a therapist. I have been trying to arrange for additional support so that I am capable of doing a better job at being their mother. You don't know that though. You don't know that I take my mental health/illness very very seriously. You don't know that every mental health professional I have ever worked with in my life considers my degree of control nothing short of miraculous. But you don't take that into consideration. You also don't take into consideration that I apologized to Shanna as soon as we got back into the van. I told her that my tone of voice (not to mention volume) was completely inappropriate and I should have never been rough with her. I know my daughter can't get away from me and it sucks that she got a mom with my issues. But I am a selfish person and I wanted her, so yeah. She is stuck with me.

My expectations of her aren't out of line for *her* abilities. My enforcement of my expectations is often too harsh. She and I talk about that. It's one more thing on the long list of things I work on in myself. No, I'm not perfect. But you have never actually talked to me about your issues with my behavior. You have never said, "I really don't want to be around it. Please don't do it around me or I will have to stop spending time with you." Not once. You never treated me like a person who was worthy of a conversation. That disappoints me.

The shaming language throughout the email disappoints me. I find it interesting how those who preach the loudest about being "gentle" are the quickest to shame. I responded to that shame. I'm very familiar with being shamed. But I'm done responding to this shaming. I'm done giving you that much power over me. I know pretty well how my attitude needs to change, I just haven't been capable of doing that lately. That happens for me. There are periods where I get into a rut and climbing back out is incredibly difficult. It's been a long time since I was in a rut this deep.

I am running on very little sleep (another 4:30 am morning here) which is not something I do well at. Both Calli and Shanna have hit difficult stages at the same time. Noah and I are having a hard time do to my extraordinarily low libido (though given how much time I spend in bodily contact with an infant is it any wonder that I'm touched out?). I have virtually zero personal time and apparently that is more important to me than I understood before having children. I've always gotten it before so there was very little reason for me to need to understand it.

But I need to stop giving myself excuses. Yes, this is hard. Yes, this is something that makes me feel bad and that tends to make my behavior go to shit. I'm out of excuses. It's time to plaster a smile on my face and get it done. I'm not talking about stuffing my emotions, I'm not real good at that anymore. I mean that I need to get back to taking joy in my children and I need to find patience for them. My expectations of Shanna are not too high. However my discipline is too harsh. My daughter deserves more gentle admonishments and she deserves the body integrity I have not been observing lately. Waiting until she gets stuff done is hard, but it's not like I even have the excuse of having a busy schedule so I *have* to get her to move *right now*. Grabbing her arm isn't ok and I need to stop. I'm bigger and stronger than her. Yes, we all know that. It's time to stop demonstrating it.

The increased hitting and aggression is completely age appropriate. It is pretty standard for kids to go through phases like this and I really don't feel like Shanna is doing so to an outrageous level. I don't hit Shanna. Ok, I hit her foot while we were driving to Disneyland because she got pissed off at one point and was kicking the drivers seat as hard as she could and I smacked her feet. I apologized for it and haven't done anything of the kind before or since. I have been more physically aggressive with her lately, but that has involved things like pulling her by the upper arm. Not a great technique but it is really not on the top 10 list of abusive behavior.

This email was in no way intended as a kindness. But I can choose to get some good out of it. I am over the line of my personal beliefs about how I should be parenting. Even for me to get back to where *I* think I should be I will still have conflict with J and I'm going to just let that go. I don't need anyone in my life who is that unwilling to work on issues up to the point where she shames and does her best to make me feel bad. That's really not any better than my current (bad) approach.

Happiness is a state of mind, not a circumstance. I need to work on my state of mind.


  1. i see a little more clearly now. i love how you explained, quite well, your feelings about her letter. i would have told her to leave too when she showed up in our group. hope you are feeling better soon.

    1. Oh me too. The vomiting is unpleasant. And every other part of my body hurts.

      I whine. Oh how I whine.

    2. you totally have the right to whine, it sounds horrible :(