Monday, July 10, 2006
A Shift in Family Dynamics

Whenever Oronzo and I spend time with our extended families, especially with our parents, we end up having some interesting conversations about our childhood and how we hope to raise our children.

Without getting into the gory details, both Oronzo and I grew up in dysfunctional households. We were subjected to physical and emotional abuse as children. This has affected our view of our roles as parents. We are working hard to shift the family dynamics in our own home for the better.

For example, both Oronzo and I have agreed that we will not spank our children. We will strive not say mean, hurtful things in anger. We will not be demeaning towards our children or towards each other. We will make sure that if we, as a couple, have verbal disagreements our children also see the resolution to those disagreements. We will shower our children with affection and do our best to make sure they know each and every day how much we love them. We will treat our children with the same respect that we ask of them.

If you wonder how that's working for us so far, I must say that, so far, it's working quite well. Don't get me wrong, we set boundaries for Snuggle Bug and we are working at teaching him to be a respectful, well-mannered child. He's only 18 months and we haven't experienced any major disobedience issues yet, can you at that age? It might prove more challenging as he gets older, but we're determined not to raise our children the way we were raised.

The other night, as we lay in bed at Oronzo's parent's house, we talked about the changes in our own parents over the years and our ability to forgive. Oronzo made the comment, "They did the best they could at the time," and I disagreed. My parents didn't do the best that they could. They chose to drink, they chose to hit us and each other, they chose to hurt us with their hands, their fists, and their words. They didn't do the best that they could. I don't buy that at all. In fact, now that I'm a parent myself, at times I'm even more angry and disgusted with the thought of how they could have caused such pain to innocent, powerless children.

Having said that, I do want to give both our parents credit for the changes we've seen as we've become adults. They've mellowed in their old age, in some instances they've expressed regret and sorrow for some of the things they've done. They work hard at being good grandparents.

I was napping at Oronzo's parent's this past Saturday afternoon and I awoke to the sound of Aleiza and Peyton playing with Snuggle Bug in the guest room. I sat and soaked in the sounds of their laughter and Snuggle Bug's happy baby chatter. Then I got up, tiptoed over to the guest room and peered in the doorway. Aleiza was sitting on the floor, patiently letting Snuggle Bug hand her books and toys. Peyton was sitting in the rocking chair, leaning close to encourage Snuggle Bug with his task. It warmed my heart to see this scene.

I've seen similar, positive interactions between Snuggle Bug and my parents and I'm amazed at the changes in them as well.

It's hard sometimes to reconcile the differences in our parents. The parents that were abusive in the past, can now be loving and affectionate, especially towards their grandchildren.

I still haven't reached a place of total trust with either sets of parents, and there are still resurgences of dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes from time to time, but their efforts to change for the better have gone a long way towards earning my forgiveness and have helped my personal healing process.

** Edited to add: **

After reading a few of the comments left (thanks, by the way), I'd like to clarify a couple of points.

First, the apologies that we have received from our parents were not willingly given. Both Oronzo and I have had to have painful conversations with our parents in the past. I can't speak for Oronzo on how his conversations played out, but often times my conversations with my parents were results of them making stupid statements like, "I can't believe the neighbors do [insert judgmental observations here]," and me responding with, "I can't believe you're criticizing when you did the same thing to us when we were kids!"

My siblings and I have slowly gained the courage over time to speak up and speak out against our parents. We've confronted them about their past treatment and we are less willing to tolerate their bad behavior in the present. As a result of these forced conversations, we sometimes get apologies. I do appreciate the apologies when they come across as heartfelt, as they sometimes do, but it'd be so much nicer if they offered them up on their own.

Second, the lack of total trust that I mentioned means that Oronzo and I both agree that our children will not spend time alone with our parents for a long, long time (no matter how much they plead with us and try to make us feel guilty). They've hurt us too much in the past and we're not willing to risk them hurting our children so we will be present when our children visit their grandparents or spend time with them.

Oronzo and I have talked about possibly letting our children go stay with grandparents for short visits alone when they're older and can verbally tell us if they are mistreated, but we don't have a clear idea in our minds as to when that magical age will be. A lot depends on how our relationship with our parents continues, going forward.

Still, I do acknowledge and appreciate the positive changes I've seen thus far.

7:04 AM
16 comments


16 Comments:
At 7:49 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

You learned from thieir mistakes. That's so great, many many people fall into the trap where they pick up the habits of their family.

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous sheri said...

It is amazing when abusive parents become the grandparents they often times become nurturing, loving and caring. I saw that in my own parents. When my girls were babies. My oldest, Little R, was so much in love with my step mother that she remembered her for years after she had forgotten the rest of the extended family.

I remember when I sent my girls to stay with my dad and step mother, to be safe. I told my step mother, "The girls get time outs if they need it. I don't allow them to be spanked at all and I explain to them why something is right or wrong." and my step mother said, "well, of course! Spanking is useless, they can't learn from physical punishments!" I was floored! I had of course seen my step mother and how good she was with the girls but that statement from her, as if she had always agreed with me. I wanted to ask her why she hit me so much when I was a child!

It wasn't until she was really ill, a year or so before her death that she ever appoligized to me and told me how bad she was to me. It wasn't until after her death that I really was able to let go of my anger toward her and forgave her.

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Beck said...

Wow, do we have the same parents/in-laws? My parents are terrific grandparents, which has gone a long way towards forgiving them. My in-laws want to be grandparents only on their own terms...
It's hard having that sort of legacy as a parent: even as good, loving parents, I feel like I'm always second-guessing myself because of it. :(

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger kim.kim said...

My parents haven't gotten better at all, I have had to take distance from them as an older adult. They were and are terrible grandparents for my nephew and would have been awful for my daughter.

I'm glad yours have changed, and how incredible that they admit to doing wrong by you and even verbalized regret.
If my mother said she was sorry I would forgive her immediately, I still love her even though she deliberatly hurts me if I let her.

I can't forgive what has not been acknowledged.

So glad you and your man are determined to be wonderful parents.

Great post.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Flood said...

Here from All Star Click and Comment.

We have 4 kids, and I would rather never leave the house again, than let my parents watch them. But these are all things to keep in mind when WE become grandparents, right?

Thankfully my in-laws are fine people, though far away.

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger PEA said...

The important thing is that you've learned from your parents' mistakes and refuse to treat your child the way you were treated...for that I admire you and Oronzo. I've heard that people do tend to mellow with age and seem to have more patience when it comes to grandchildren than they had with their own children while raising them. I don't blame you, though, for not trusting them enough to leave Snuggle Bun with them yet...you'll know when the time is right.

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger Karla said...

It is so tough to be in a situation like that, but it sounds like you have good and clear boundaries...very important!
You and Oronzo sound like great parents. It seems like there's so much generational "junk" that needs to be broken...especially between folks our age and our parents. Sounds like you guys are doing very well to recognize and break those chains! Kudos! =)

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Trish said...

That is so awesome! I did the same thing with my Dad. I put all the hurt behind me and moved on. I dont have the same sitation as you, but it is somewhat simular.

I congratulate you on your efforts and great parental choices!

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I agree with you, and my kids are never alone with my husbands mom because I don't trust her to watch them. She didn't raise any of her kids. My mom follows my instructions she knows how we raise our kids and appreciate that about her!

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger Sally said...

just dropped by and this really touched me- i think your point about choice is a good one- my father chose to drink, when he drank he lost control- that tore us apart- we have a choice- let us choose the right way

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I also admire the both of you for being able to overcome the abuse of your childhood's and become the parents you are today. It's great you and your siblings have been able to break the cycle. And I don't blame you one bit for not wanting to leave Snuggle Bug alone with either set of parents; I would have a huge trust issue with that myself.

I wasn't abused physically, but my step mom did a lot of yelling and emotional abuse. She was very mean and nasty at times (I think most of my self-esteem issues came about because of her). Joe said he heard a lot of yelling growing up too...so we both vowed we didn't want that with our chidren either. I have caught myself yelling a time or two and then cringe afterwards...guess I'm still working on it!

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger MugwumpMom said...

This was an excellent post and I could totally relate. You've set some good boundaries with Snuggle Bug, and they'll go along way to protecting him. My husband and I made a choice not to let our children spend any alone time with my mom and her 3rd husband, when they were little. The choice was borne out of my own abuse. (I write about it in my recovery blog, eirenemaker.blogspot) I was not going to even take the chance of subjecting my children to the same criticisms and put downs. Having said that, my kids now don't really know their grandmother, but I have no regrets. I have forgiven my mother, have understanding of her own past, and have even come to accept that barring a miracle, she will never change. So, the boundaries are maintained, with the only difference, now my kids, who are nearly 20, and 17, are setting their own with her. At the end of the day, it's the 3 of you who must be the priority in eachother lives.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger The Flip Flop Mamma! said...

My parents didn't hit or abuse us growing up(we were actually very spoiled children), but they drank and abused and cheated on each other...all in our presence, which can make for a messed up adult. I've had several convversations with my mom about several things that I was still going through because of things I saw and heard. My mom has apologized for many things, some of which she doesn't even remember doing, and I feel so much better because of it. I think it's great that you guys get this stuff out in the open, even if it is forced. I would cry about this one specific incident, even as an adult 20 years after it happened, and since I talked to my mom about it, I haven't cried. Good communication is the key to building trust and starting over in a new relationship!

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger cmhl said...

it is funny how parents are such different grandparents than they were parents. I think my parents have spent more QUALITY time w/ my kids in 8 years, than they did with my brother and I in 18 years.

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger Catch said...

OW, you are a very intelligent woman, I dont blame you a bit for not wanting to leave Snugglebug with either set of Grandparents. I always said....if I wasnt comfortable leaving one of mine somewhere then I wasnt leaving them. You stick to your guns Sweety!

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally get it....totally. My Dad is an alcoholic and I'll be damned if he has our daughter at his house without us until she is much much older and can call us for help. If ever.

 

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