That time strategy healed our extended family ptI
Where to begin?!
I’ve said before that my daughter was a walking meme when I first met her. In a short amount of time we were able to see massive changes, because we carefully planned out our discipline. What I haven’t explained were some of the challenges!
Right off the bat I could tell there were some massive issues when my partner and I were first talking. Her previous partner had a favourite punishment, usually wielded for back chatting and disagreeing… He would pull everything out of this little girls room, except for the mattress and a book. For perceived backchat from someone under 12! You can imagine what this did to the poor girl. When I first gave her a consequence she literally said “oh, that was nothing” … but she had lied for days in an attempt to avoid getting into trouble… She expected to be yelled at and have everything taken away… This obviously began her down a path of compulsive lying, gas lighting and manipulating, all of the tactics being modelled to her for the last few years…
To make things worse, there was a good element of triangulation going on. I’m going to cut to my own example for this though.
When I was growing up, my mother would always play the fence between dad and me. A lot of the communication had her as a middle man, interrupting and toning things down. This meant that the relationship between us didn’t grow much, and, because mom was talking for me, as I got older it got harder to feel heard. I remember going to the doctors in year twelve and having her sit there answering all of the questions before I even had the chance. Around the same time mom was doing night shifts, so I was at home with just Dad a lot. Triangulating, instead of letting us work the problems out, made communicating with Dad harder, there was less practice there.
It sounds like the same kind of games were happening for my partner and our daughter. Times where they would be comforting and consoling each other, just to get through another day. Phrases like “don’t worry about it” “He’s not mad at you” and one of his favourites “suck it up!”
Actually, on the way back from a FUNERAL this child was told to stop crying and suck it up… Oh yeah, this was all about half an hour from HER FATHER’S FUNERAL… WHICH THEY WERE CURRENTLY DRIVING HOME FROM!!! . . . I cut into my own triangulating story to not tell someone else’s story… but there you go. Hectic!
So, it goes without saying that there were a lot of issues and some complex trauma going on…
Now, when I began speaking with my partner again, some of these stories came up in our conversations at the beginning, and with my experience I had already began to see some of the probable issues that they were both facing. I decided that the best approach would be taking it slowly, building relationship, and seeing what things were bothering them both. Unfortunately, I also changed from working in the school, to residential care. In residential care I was working 24 hour shifts, and usually blocking those into 2 or 3 days in a row.
At first this worked out perfectly. I would have around a week and a bit off, work a block or two of shifts, and be free again. Lots of time with the family, good things happening at work, all good. As soon as I needed some support the company were useless. There were nights I was on shift, sick in bed, two boys in the house and on call would pretend to try calling someone in. One time that call didn’t go out until 9pm, and I had told them at 2pm I wasn’t well. On top of this, I would get phone calls and messages from my partner about issues with our daughter, and most of it was the same things I was already dealing with at work! It was burning me out. Eventually it was obvious that my partner wasn’t telling me the truth as well.
With all of the behaviour and emotional issues going on, all of the things we talked about, all of the changes we were making… it just didn’t make sense to me! So, one day I asked our daughter, “How much is your mom out here when I’m at work?” “Hardly at all.”
There it was. My partner had been sitting in her room, hardly interacting with our daughter, and pretending to do the work. Because there had been a few instances like this, I asked her about it, and explained that things needed to change. These weren’t choices I could make though. My only choice was do I stay?…
I needed a plan. I had began to really dive in to self help stuff again, and as issues came up at home I would google and learn all I could. The problem now was, I would take on the self help lessons and change my thinking… but then I would see more and more issues in my own family! I had to do something, or leave. If I kept going like this, we were going to drift apart. So I made a silly decision, I chose to handicap myself for a year, trying to buy my partner some more time. I did it with drinking, and it became a nightly thing. While drinking myself stupid, I came up with a plan… Write the things that were frustrating me down, and turn them into a blog. I mixed my frustrations with my youth work skills and came up with the idea for this website, Children Are!
Throughout the year I planned out every aspect I could think of, fuelling it with all of the frustrations.
The biggest mistake I made was keeping back the harsher truths. By trying to protect my partner, I wasn’t giving her all of the information, and she wasn’t taking the warnings as seriously as she should. At one point, her daughter literally said multiple times that she was “deciding if I give mom another chance or not.”
Weeks later my partner hadn’t changed anything, and it hit me… I asked her if she was taking this second chance thing seriously, unsurprisingly she said no.
From there I was done. All of the things I had held back slowly began coming to the surface.
When it hit me that I was expecting her to be honest with me, while holding back some harsher things, I began to make a point of saying exactly what I am thinking all of the time. I found that all of the harsher things I said were balanced with nicer things anyways. That I was able to be 100% up front, and treat her like an emotional punching bag. What’s better is, now that she has all of the information, things change!
The more that she has been open about things as well, some of them clear themselves up. Apparently when my partner was hiding in her room, it was because our daughter wanted to talk about that terrible relationship. What I saw was a mother avoiding her child, someone running from their pain is very different! With a more open and honest relationship there isn’t as many misunderstandings, and when things are frustrating it’s much easier to talk about them. This made space and confidence to reach out and begin healing our own families!