Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Dysfunction Stops Here

If there's one good thing to come out of my adoption trauma, it's this.

In order to understand it, I read and read and read.

At some point, I learned about the importance of "mirroring." Basically, acknowledging your child's experience by being in-tune and empathetic. Instead of saying, oh no, falling off the ledge didn't hurt you at all, you say, oh, falling off the ledge must have been very scary and I understand why you're crying.

My adoptive Dad is 80 years old and still talks about his nasty, alcoholic father who beat and verbally abused him and denied him warmth and attention as if it all happened yesterday.

And while my adoptive Dad developed narcissistic personality disorder and was incapable of acting like a father, the dysfunction stops here. With me.

This is the beauty of education. The wonder of books. The opening up of better new worlds and a whole new approach to parenting. We are not doomed to repeat. We can love, unconditionally, even if we were not.

The good thing in the dark stuff? My husband and beautiful teenage daughters. And if you've been around teenagers, you know I'd be lying if I said I never nagged or scolded or raised my voice. But I do try to "mirror" them. It's probably just as important to "mirror" teenagers as it is a toddler. They're trying to figure stuff out: relationships, school, teachers, who and what they want to be, their values. So when they come home and start talking, I remember all that I've read in psych articles and I try hard not to interject and repeat their key points and say something like, "That must have been really frustrating for you. What did you do then?"

Believe me, it's NOT perfect. Sometimes I'm so alarmed or angry that I blow a fuse and skip straight to the lecture...and watch them shut down. And try again.

But if I had to say what I am grateful for, it's knowing that I can try to overcome the past and not parent in the way that led me to blog in the first place! I am grateful for my daughters and my husband, who is not adopted and does everything he can to NOT to parent like his parents.

13 Comments:

Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Sad but true. We learn more about how NOT to parent from our parents than how to parent. Life is like that though in many respects. Learning from the mistakes of others so that we don't need to repeat them. I am glad you did learn Nina...you kids and husband will never experience what you went through. It is as it should be....the cycle is broken!

6:35 AM  
Blogger suz said...

very very true. also an avid reader here and have found great value in it.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Celera said...

I don't think it matters that you aren't perfect. If you kept your temper perfectly at all times -- well that would just be weird. Breaking the cycle is important. Treating your kids with empathy and compassion (along, I'm sure, with the necessary guidance and discipline as appropriate) is critical.

I've studied quite a bit about breaking the cycle, and one of the most important things is that you have something to do, and not just things to "not do." It isn't enough to say "I won't be like them." Through your study and effort and self-discipline you have also found a way to be. This is truly admirable.

Having a narcissistic parent, you grow up with the feeling that you weren't really loved. Add adoption on top of that (two sets of parents who didn't love me!) and -- well, people who grow up knowing for sure that their parents loved them have no idea, I think, how lucky they are.

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