I have questions

I volunteered for the first time in my youngest’s class yesterday. He’s in first grade and was over the moon to have me there – so proud and excited. 

The teacher explained that it was quiet reading time and I could go around to kids and ask them to quietly read aloud to me and, by the way, at 1:45 there will be a lockdown drill. 

“You can head out before the drill or whenever works” she assured me.

“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING?” I screamed inside my head. Out loud, however, I said “oh, it’s no problem, I have the rest of the afternoon”. If my son is going to have to experience a lock down drill today you bet your ass that I’m going to be staying right by his side. 

And so the hour went and a few minutes before the drill she called them all to sit together on the carpet.  She explained what they would be doing and what was important – be still, be quiet.  Some kids tried to talk about what happened in Florida, but she redirected them to the job they had to do. I was taken aback that first and second graders knew about Florida, but in our media saturated culture I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Then they went back to their desks to wait.

The announcement came over the loud speaker and we all quietly and efficiently went over to the cubbies and tucked ourselves out of the line of sight of the door.  Nineteen children ages 6-8, a teacher, a student teacher, and me.  My wiggly boy wrapped himself around whatever body part of mine he could grab as I sat near him. And I looked around at all these kids, some so serious, quiet, and stern, while others worked to contain their wiggles and giggles. 

I had pictured what it would be like to participate in a lock down drill, but I was always a few degrees removed emotionally.  I couldn’t be today.  I was right in the middle of it, looking at all of these innocent faces full of love for life and the world

I wondered to myself…

Would they be spared the horror of being murdered with their classmates?

Which kids would his teacher protect if a shooter came in the classroom?

Would she shield my child? Would she shield any? Would they shield each other?  If I was there would I only shield my child, or would I try to shield others, too?

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Would it matter?

Anyone coming in with an AR-15 isn’t going to be aiming, they’re going to be spraying a firehose of bullets onto your children.  And mine. 

What do I tell my child?  Get behind your friends?  Stay still and get shot?  Or run?  To where?

WHAT?

I want you to fucking tell me what I’m supposed to tell my seven year old to do so he can protect himself from a sociopath with an semi-automatic weapon. 

What do I tell him so that when a shooter comes into his school he’s one of the ones that comes home alive? 

What do I tell him to do so I don’t have to plan a funeral, box up his favorite rain boots he’ll never wear again and the Lego he’ll never play with again, box up all the memories I have of him knowing I will never see him again? 

Do you know the grief of never being able to touch your child again? Hear their laugh? See them get excited about something they love? Hold their tiny hand in yours?

I don’t know that grief and I don’t want to.  There are already too many parents in this country that do.

So tell me, right now, what should a seven year old child do to keep himself from getting killed at school? 

You can’t.  We both know you can’t.  We both know that, for you, this isn’t about keeping kids safe. This is about you feeling entitled to own whatever gun you want because of your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.  You don’t need your AR-15, you want your AR-15.  This isn’t about your right to bear arms, it’s about your perceived right to own a toy that can kill lots of people at once. Nobody needs that kind of gun.

What you are saying is that your toy, or right to own that toy, is more important than every child’s life that has been killed by one of them.  And every child that will be killed with one because we both know Parkland wasn’t the last time.

Every legislator that sits back and does nothing to strengthen the gun laws to protect innocent people is an accomplice to the next murder(s) that take place with one of these weapons.

And every NRA circle jerking gun lover that uses the Constitution to defend their right to own this type of gun is an accomplice to the next murder(s) that are committed with it. 

Violence can happen anywhere, at any time.  I know that I can’t bubble wrap my children and I don’t expect to.  But let’s not make it so god damned easy for unstable people to get access to these kinds of weapons. You can do something, you are just choosing not to. Let’s work together to create laws that make sense and protect everyone.  Let’s start talking to each other and seeing each other’s humanity.  It’s time to make a different choice for the sake of my child, and yours.

If you love and respect guns so much, then I challenge you to be a part of a constructive conversation about responsible gun ownership.

The simple fact is that my child deserves to come home safely from school, every day, more than you deserve to have your big gun toy.  And don’t tell me we need to toughen up, that more guns need to be in schools (what kind of insane logic is that??), that we need teachers to defend our students.  They’re teachers, not security guards or police officers. I think we’ve ‘toughened up’ this culture enough and look at the mess it’s gotten us into. 

You don’t have to support the NRA to love guns. You can be the biggest hoplophile around and still not support a civilian desire to own semi-automatic weapons. You have been brainwashed into thinking that loving guns = loving ALL guns = loving the NRA.  #allgunsmatter? But the NRA, as an organization, does not actually have anyones best interests in mind but their own and the gun manufacturers.  Follow the money, then ask yourself… how much money is my child’s life worth? Look me in the eye and tell me what price you put on his head and the head of my other two children.  Hurry up, I don’t have much time before the next mass shooting happens. 

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photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) via photopin  (license)

Imagine

Many parents and early childhood educators take imaginative play for granted. Yet, when you have parented a child in the spectrum, it’s fairly common that your child will struggle with the abstract and feels safer with the concrete. Not every kid on the spectrum struggles with this, but when my oldest was young, imaginative play just wasn’t on the menu.  

I bought my oldest all the things I could to encourage imaginative play. I got play silks and dolls and a even constructed a homemade wooden play kitchen. And while he did engage in a little imaginative play here and there, it was still very concrete, and it just didn’t come naturally.  

When his sister was 2 and entering that phase of imaginative play, he was 7.  She brought him in with her. Watching her turn an ordinary block into a bed or car amazed him and amazed me. Watching him imagine with her brought me to my knees. 

I thought with the youngest, seeing him discover imaginative play would be old hat. But when he plays, I still have so many feelings.  I never want to interrupt him when he’s in flow with his play. Even though it’s a daily occurrence with him, it’s so deep and complex and I’m still filled with gratitude and awe. 

Wandering

I started a new job and a new schedule last week.  It means that I have every Saturday off and today I got to spent it with only the smallest of the small ones.  With three kids, it’s hard to get one on one time with any of them, so I relished this day with just the youngest.

It took me while to get him out of the house – in part due to his protests, in part due to my unwillingness to interrupt unstructured play.  Plus, we really didn’t need to leave and pajamas are comfy.  But sun is scarce this time of year in Maine and I felt it was my parental duty to get a little vitamin D action and fresh air.  Also, we’ve been reading Eating the Alphabet, and he really wanted to try star fruit and kumquats, so I promised a trip to the grocery store. (They were out of starfruit, but had kumquats.  Those buggers are tart!)


A trip to the grocery store doesn’t beget much sunshine and fresh air, so I convinced him to go for a walk and hunt for mushrooms.  We’ve been foraging for mushrooms since late summer. Don’t worry, we’re careful and haven’t eaten any yet, though I did put some birch polypores up in tincture.  There are a few paths by our house, I knew we wouldn’t find any interesting mushrooms, but it was enough to get his Bogs on and get him out the door.

On our way back, our neighbors and their two toddling girls were outside.  The boy went to grab his Scuut bike and helmet and enjoyed our hilly driveway and dead end street for a good long time.

Today I am grateful for this slow day with my boy, temperate fall days, and, because I’m human, early bed times.

Beads, String, Words

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We sat down tonight to make necklaces for Hopper and her friend she adores the most of all of her friends, JuJu. Her friend who we have plans to see this weekend.  Her friend who she misses even though they go to the same school because they are in different classes and the other girls treat JuJu like a commodity.

We sat around the table beading, my heart breaking as Hopper told me how she tries to play with JuJu at school and other girls, one in particular these days, physically drags JuJu away.  JuJu, the beautiful, soft, open hearted peacemaker doesn’t know how to use her voice.  Hopper doesn’t play tug of war, she doesn’t pressure JuJu, she doesn’t insert herself into the drama.  Instead she walks away hurt and confused and missing her friend.

While I texted JuJu’s mother to make arrangements. Hopper and I did and undid the necklaces a couple times until we found just the right pattern of colors – colors both JuJu and Hopper will love.  Hopper picked out charms, an A for her (real) first name, a J for JuJu’s (real) first name.

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I let JuJu’s mom know bits and pieces of what Hopper was telling me, and felt her heart breaking, too.  She had no idea. I wanted to scoop them up in my arms, both her and JuJu.

Is this how it starts, is this how girls become property, on the playground, other girls dragging them too and fro?  Sweet girls, like JuJu and my Hopper, who want calm and peace and don’t want to make fusses, so they go along to get along, to avoid the threats (both direct and assumed) of conflict, of ostracization, of not belonging.

What happens when they’re older and it’s their partners or boyfriends telling what they can and can’t do, what then?

It’s not too late.  When I see JuJu’s mom this weekend, I’m going to rally.  We’re going to take this on.  I can’t let our girls suffer the loss of their friendship for this. I can’t let them continue to be victims of bullies – bullies who live in the bodies of 9 year old girls and who wear costumes of friendship… little wolves in sheeps clothing.

Yes, There ARE Stupid Questions

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The trouble with being in a relationship with a woman for 10 years and having two kids, one borne of each of your uteri, means that some people get a little confused.  Some of them seem to think that they can’t possibly accept your family at face value without understanding the vast mystery of lesbian relationships.  (Spoiler alert: there is no mystery.)

Tig and I were committed in every way.  We had two children together – I grew one and she grew the other.  The child I grew, Pip, is her son in every way.  The child she grew, Hopper, is my daughter in every way. But seven years ago when we separated it was clear that people just couldn’t wrap their little heads around this lesbian thing.  They got even more confused when I ended up with The Man and he and I had Mack together.  Apparently me having a life and doing things other people couldn’t quite grasp made some of them completely lose control of their minds and their filters.  These are real things people have asked and said to us over the years, further evading my hope for humanity.

1. Do Hopper and Pip have the same father?

Yes, sort of, in that THEY DON’T HAVE A FATHER. So yes, this non-person is the same non-person for both of them.

Two moms.  One mom, the other mom.  Two moms.  It’s math.  No other parents required. And also none of your business.

2. Will Tig keep Hopper?

You mean like forever in a locked tower somewhere? I think that’s illegal and just all around poor parenting. See: Rapunzel.

3. Will you keep Pip?

I don’t have a basement so I’m not sure where I’d exactly ‘keep’ him, but 50% of the time he will be at my house, with his SISTER, so I guess, sort of?

4. Do you let her keep Pip?

Well, she has a basement, but I think it’s pretty moldy down there and he’s kind of allergic to mold. I think she’s a little nicer than that and might keep him locked in a tower with his sister.

YES – he goes with his sister.  Half the time with me, half the time with Tig.  Two moms, not together, shared parenting, basic custody arrangement.  Why is this so hard to grasp?

5. How come you don’t have Pip?

Because he’s with his other mother.  We don’t live together anymore, in case you didn’t get the memo, which generally means parents share their time with their children.  Besides, the velcro I had him attached to my hip with wore off.

6. How come Hopper is with you?

Because she’s my daughter and it’s my parenting time with her?  Is this a trick question? Are we on Candid Camera?

7. Who’s the real mom?

Do you walk up to any other kids or parents and ask who the ‘real’ mom is? No, because it’s rude and irrelevant.  You asking me who my child’s parents are when we’re clearly standing right here either means you are rude or you are having a stroke.  So, are you an asshole or do you need me to call 911?

8. “This is Hopper, Danielle’s friend’s daughter”

Now, this stung. A lot.  It was my grandmother so I didn’t run her over with my car and I know she LOVES Hopper to bits, she just really doesn’t grasp the lesbian/relationship/divorce thing at all.  She’s 87, I decided to give her a pass. But anyone else who says any variation of this should make their final arrangements.

9. “We don’t think we should have to buy Christmas gifts for Hopper, we don’t really ‘consider’ her a grandchild”

This was said by my step-mother who can summarily go fuck herself.  Seriously. My child doesn’t deserve love and connection because she’s not related to you biologically?  Well Douchie Von Doucherson, I’m not biologically related to your stupid either and THANK GOD FOR THAT.  Oh, and fuck off.

10. “How is Pip?  How is Mack?… Next topic…”

Hey, guess what Dad? I have a daughter, you ass hat.  I don’t give any shits whether or not YOU can bring yourself to stoop so low to have a relationship with the big, open hearted love that is Hopper.  At the end of the day, she’s my daughter.  She’s one of three specific humans on this planet that I would take a bullet for (and, in case you’re taking notes, you are not one of them).  She is one of the most important people in my life and your dismissal of her and conditional acceptance of her based on genetics speaks VOLUMES about your character.  I ain’t got no time for that bullshit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go love up my kids, all THREE of them.

~~~

photo credit via photopin cc

Pull-Up Throw Down

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While the Man was still gone off to military training this summer, I embarked on the harrowing journey of potty training our 3 year old.  I had maybe just a tiny little TON of resentment that he was going to get out of one of the hardest, most stressful parts of parenting a toddler.  I avoided it as long as I could, but when I decided to put him in daycare a couple times a week, I knew it was going to have to happen sooner rather than later.

This is a child who I initially started doing Elimination Communication with at 6 weeks.  And we were total EC rock stars from 6 weeks until about 6 months.  That summer the Man went away to hunt down his dream job and I started to spiral into post-partum anxiety.  EC fell far off the radar and when the Man got back at the end of the summer I was in rough shape and we never quite got back on the potty horse.

Fast forward 3 years and I couldn’t even get him to sit down on the potty, nevermind relax whatever muscles need relaxing to actually let his pee out.  It didn’t matter how many shiny stickers I bought or what I tried to bribe him with, he was perfectly content shitting and pissing in his diapers.  I had moments when I got really upset about it and was sure I’d be buying him diapers well into his teen years.  But then I pulled back, let it go, and tried again with more patience when I wasn’t quite so emotionally invested (and when there were two adults to bear the burden of rug cleaning and toddler wrestling).

By the time the Man came home in late August, he would sit and go pee, but always with prompting and often with a WWF cage match just to get him on the actual seat. There were dinosaur underwear purchased and there were various bribes involving chocolate.  And there were many, many accidents moments after I tried to get him to sit (and he refused).  We talked a lot about our own potty habits and tried to make it seem like the most cool and groovy thing ever.  Don’t judge, we were desperate.

About a month ago when sitting on the potty was met with only minor protests, I bought a new pack of Thomas the Train underwear to grease the wheels and I stopped putting him in pull-ups.  Eventually, it worked. He was in underwear all day and all night. Exceeeeept for #2 – he couldn’t quite make the mental leap to let his poop escape into the potty.

We convinced him, by some small miracle, to ask us for a pull-up when he had to poop.  Things started to shift from having to watch him like a hawk for The Signs to him declaring he had to poop and asking for a pull-up (and 10 minutes in the bathroom with the door locked like a teenager to do his business while he played with all the random crap that gets left on the top of the washing machine.  BUT WHO CARES, body awareness folks).

I made him a special deal.  I promised him not only the chocolate cookie bar I’d been promising him all summer, but I upped the ante – Cranky the Crane. Cranky the Crane = 5 packs of pull ups, for those of you interested in maths. I even made an Extra Special Sticker Chart with a big picture of Cranky and one lone box for him to put his Extra Special Sticker on when he finally poops.  Every time he asked for a pull-up, I referenced the chart.  But he still insisted on pull-ups because who loves shitting in their pants more than new toys?  My kid.  Apparently.

Then yesterday soemthing happened – we ran out of pull-ups.  I decided I wasn’t going to drop another $10 so he could shit for 3 more weeks in a pull up once a day.  Nope.  Not doing it.  So when he asked, I said sorry, but he could sit and try to put his poop in the potty.  He sat, and I even complied with his request for privacy and a locked door because, desperate.  But it was a no go – he held onto it for dear life.

The Man and I shared knowing glances several times today, the question of whether or not we would soon be cleaning up the shit-splosion of a lifetime, or doing a jig, passing silently between us.  Early this afternoon, Mack declared he needed to go and I guided him to the bathroom.  I closed and locked the door, at his request, and waited.  And waited some more.  And reminded him of his would-be friend Cranky.

After 10 minutes I made a ruse about having to go in to throw something in the compost bin and found he had finally, FINALLY, pooped on the potty! We clapped, he got shy, and I kicked out everyone who came in the bathroom to celebrate with us.  We put his Extra Special Sticker on his Extra Special Sticker Chart and made a plan to go get Cranky later in the afternoon.

This evening I reminded him that, now that he knows how to poop on the potty, when he has to poop he can poop on the potty AGAIN!  And he said “yeah, I can poop on the potty again and then I’ll have TWO Cranky the Cranes”.

Oh, shit.

~~~

photo credit via photopin cc

My Postpartum Progress


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I was about 5 months post-partum with my youngest, whom I affectionately call “Mack” here, when things slowly started to unravel.

It wasn’t depression.  I wasn’t depressed. I was frustrated.  I was angry.  I didn’t feel like myself.  But I wasn’t sad.

So what was this thing happening?  Why the floods of cortisol, the tight chest, the explosive outbursts over nothing?  Why the irrational fears about my family being harmed, the constant feelings of being unsafe, the terrible, intrusive thoughts?

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Mack’s birth was a long time coming.  Ten years before, his brother had been born, via an ultimately unnecessary c-section.  Mack, however, was born into a tub of water in my dining room, surrounded by trusted caregivers, The Man, and my sister.  Emotionally, my pregnancy and birth were very healing.  I had a lot of unexpected physical hurdles during the immediate post-partum period – nerve and tissue damage, tongue tie, very low iron/blood volume, and three back to back colds. Yet even with all of that going on physically, I was still happy, light, and able to find grace in small things.  I thought I was in the clear from post-partum ‘depression’.  I was wrong.

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Mack was 6 months old when The Man decided to follow a job lead that would land him 500 miles south and land me home, alone, with a 6 month old, 10yo and 5yo, and no reliable income.  I had started to struggle a bit prior to him leaving, yet when he first left I was very supportive.  As things started falling through and not panning out like he’d hoped, I wanted him to come home.  But he had hope beyond hope things would work out.  He was confident he would land a position with the campaign he was working on. He wanted me to trust him.  I tried.

But I wasn’t sleeping.  I was losing weight.  I was yelling at my older kids, a lot.  My capacity for handling new stressors was non-existent.  Every day was a miracle if I could keep everyone alive and fed.  I felt trapped and scared most of the time.  I couldn’t watch certain TV shows because they triggered panic.

Eventually he came home when it was clear things weren’t going in the direction he wanted.  But for me, things had headed in a direction that I wasn’t going to be able to come back from on my own.

While he was gone I started blogging again, I found Twitter, and I found an outlet for some of what was going on. I also found a community of women on Twitter who were struggling in some of the same ways I was.

Most importantly, I found Katherine Stone’s website Postpartum Progress.  Before Twitter and Katherine’s site, I thought the only post-partum mental illness to worry about was depression.  But I knew I wasn’t depressed.

So what exactly was happening?

Thanks to Postpartum Progress, I realized that I was facing a post-partum anxiety disorder.  And it wasn’t the first time.  I had been misdiagnosed after my oldest child’s birth; it wasn’t PPD, I had an anxiety disorder then, too.  I finally found a spot for that square peg I’d been trying to fit in a round hole!

It had a name.  What was happening to me was REAL. I wasn’t crazy.  I wasn’t losing my mind. I wasn’t a bad mother.  Armed with this knowledge I could get treatment that would work.  I was still resentful that I had to deal with this, again, but knowing what I was facing empowered me to advocate for myself and treatment that was right for me.

And I did just that.  I went to my PCP’s office and when she would not listen, I asked for a referral to a Nurse Practitioner who manages psychiatric medications.  My NP was amazing.  She took time with me, she took my lead, she looked into medications and supplements I wanted to explore.  She walked me through fire.  And earlier this year I weaned off my medication with my only regret being that I won’t see her anymore.

I survived a post-partum anxiety disorder for the second time.  Thank you Katherine for being brave enough to share your story and strong enough to grow your personal journey into an organization that is valuable beyond measure.

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Yesterday I worked with Katherine to help find a mom resources in my state.  Katherine took hours of her time to talk with this mom, to reach out for resources, and to support this mother where she was at.  Katherine isn’t just the story behind Postpartum Progress, she’s in the trenches, working and advocating for women both directly and indirectly.  If you have time, please go to her site, look around, and make a donation.  Every single dollar goes towards helping women get the access services and support they need.

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Happy Anniversary Katherine, you deserve every ounce of gratitude and grace pouring your way today, and every day.

Surviving Your Child’s First Day At Daycare

1. Attempt to coerce potty training child to poop in his diaper before leaving for daycare so his brand new teachers won’t hate you for the shitsplosion they’re going to have to deal with.

2. He refuses, obviously, so pack 3 changes of clothes and enough wipes, diapers and pull-ups to outfit a small village. Warn teacher. Know that she already hates you.

3. Linger while dropping him off even though he is totally fine. Give him kisses and hugs while his wide eyed peer looks on, expecting your kid to freak out, which he doesn’t, but part of you, just a teeny tiny part of you, wishes he did.

4. Go to Directors office. Give her all your money.

5. Go to car, stand by fence looking like a creepy stalker trying to see your child. Feel anxiety welling up when you can’t find him.

6. Find an excuse to go back inside – perhaps some paperwork the director gave you that doesn’t need to be filled out right away. Sit in air conditioned car, start crying when you can’t find a pen, find pen, stop crying, fill out paperwork.

7. Bring paperwork back inside, get visual on happily playing child (being sure not to let child see you).

8. Go back out to car, realize you have no further excuses for prolonging the inevitable. Force yourself to leave and actually drive away. Circle back around the daycare one more time, valiantly hoping to catch a flash of your kid on the playground as you drive by. Accept defeat and head for home.

9. Forget tissues and wipe streaming tears and boogers on your shirt (it’s okay, you can change and shower once you get home to an EMPTY HOUSE if you need to). Realize this, cry harder.

10. Remember you forgot to bring a towel. And that you forgot to label his afternoon snack. Send an e-mail to his teachers that they may or may not have time to read because, you know, they’re busy keeping your kid safe.

11. Get on Twitter. Pretend someone cares. Make tea (because, caffeine!).

12. Talk to your child’s other parent on the phone, but cut it short to avoid bawling.  Again.  Decide to stop answering the phone unless it’s the daycare because talking to real live people will just make you cry.

13. Get sucked into the vortex of the internet while simultaneously beating yourself up for not using this time “wisely”. Throat punch that voice in your head.

14. Realize your ass hurts from sitting down because you haven’t sat down for longer than 5 minutes in the last 5 months since your partner went away to military training.

15. Write a blog post because you can’t think of anything better to do with your time. (Wait, yes you can, you can think of a million things to do, but you don’t want to. You feel anxious and worried and sad and happy all at once and scrolling through that list nothing seems appealing other than nap and even that requires all sorts of effort like climbing stairs and such, so you sit and you write and you hope you can get it all out on paper so that tomorrow will be just a little easier and you can get out of your own way just a little bit better).

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Co-Parenting: What Not To Do

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Until a few years ago I didn’t know there was a name for the tactic my father employed in his campaign of hate towards my mother when they divorced.   When I was 9 he pulled me aside to ask if I knew what cocaine was and to inform me that – he believed – my mother was a coke head.  He also asked if I’d seen any cocaine at her/our house. Not only did he try to tell me my mother was a drug addict, but he hoped I would rat her out to prove his theory.

I was 9 years old.  Barely older than my daughter is now.  On what crazy-ass mental plane did he have to be to think this line of questioning, and information sharing, was appropriate?

The truth is, I don’t know if my mom used cocaine.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.  It was the mid-eighties, wasn’t everyone and their grandmother using cocaine? Didn’t they dispense cocaine in those gumball machines at the grocery store?

I do know this: my mom was not an addict.  However, my father was.  He was addicted to his anger, to his righteous indignation and to hating my mother.  Being angry made him feel powerful, it kept him from having to be vulnerable and it kept him from having to look at his contributions to the dissolution of their marriage.

He was fully committed to being as angry and hateful towards my mother as he could be, for as long as he could be.  They’ve been apart for 30 years.  He still hates her.  Thirty years!

But that’s not quite my point, this is:

What my father was doing is something referred to as parental alienation, also known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting.  As we become more aware of what this is, we also see the negative impact it is having on the emotional and mental well being of children whose parents engage in these behaviors.

See, when you intentionally attempt to make your ex look bad by demeaning, criticizing and saying negative things about them to your children, you are engaging in parental alienation.  And when you talk smack about your ex-partner/husband/wife within ear shot of your kids, that is parental alienation as well.

When you do either of these things, you are emotionally alienating your child from their other parent.  In essence, you are taking a sledge hammer to your children’s relationship with their other parent. And by doing so, you are making your anger, and need to have that anger validated, far more important than the well being of your children.

You hate your ex.  I get it.  It’s probably justified.  There is, after all, a reason (or two or three) that you aren’t together anymore.

But your children do not.  They love their other parent the same as they love you.  And here’s the thing:

You don’t get to decide if your kids will love or hate their other parent.

You don’t get to try to make your children side with you over the other parent or fertilize their own frustrations with that parent.

It’s manipulative and self-serving.  And it is also incredibly damaging to your children.

When your kids hear you spout hatred about their other parent, they feel their loyalty to the other parent is being tested.  You are making them choose between loving you and loving their other parent.  By outwardly bad mouthing and hating on their other parent, you turn their love for that parent into a betrayal of you.  You are exploiting their vulnerability to push your own agenda of hate and that comes at the direct expense of their mental and emotional well being.  The effects of parental alienation on the children are anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-hatred and issues with addiction.  Is that what you want for your children?

And buyer beware, you may also find that you’re destroying YOUR relationship with them in the process.  At some point, the children that you’ve been actively trying to brainwash into hating their other parent may realize that it is unsafe to have a relationship with you.  They may realize that you are angry and hate filled and, while their other parent certainly is not perfect, the way you have chosen to handle your feelings has made a difficult and painful situation worse for them.

All those times when he called my mother a slut or demeaned her in some way did not make me hate her.  And didn’t make me love him more.  His pervasive hatred and anger showed me he was not a safe person. His actions and words confused me and made me feel protective of her.  He put me in the middle and that is not where I belonged. Children belong in the forefront with their emotional safety and stability as THE priority. Children belong in a place where they are allowed to love and be loved by both parents.

It’s been two years since I talked to my father.  And this isn’t the first time we’ve been estranged.  I’m in a place of trying to heal from the damage caused by his behavior, including his parental alienation attempts, and I simply can’t have his pervasive negativity in my life while I do that.  There wasn’t an argument, fight or defining moment; I’d just had enough.

And what about my mom? While my father never wasted a chance to chastise my mother, my mother never said anything bad about him.  Ever.  There was no loss of factual negative things she could have said, but she never did.  She even went so far as to make us stop if we were badmouthing him.  She didn’t do it because she loved him, or even cared about him.  She did it because it was the right thing to do.  She did it because she loved us more than she hated him.

Do you love your children more than you hate your ex?

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