What we DO want for our children
Happy, well-adjusted, confident people who are able to take care of their own families someday with fervor and passion, that’s what we’re working so damned hard for with our children. That is what I want for your kids!
Low self-esteem, trust issues, and confusion are just a few things that you might be experiencing if you were raised in a home with an alcoholic parent. It’s damn-near impossible to escape stunted mental growth when your home environment growing up was unpredictable, unstable and you didn’t have a strong-minded adult to guide you into adulthood.
why should you listen to me?
I know this because that was my childhood. I was an only child, fatherless and felt very alone when my mom started drinking when I was around 11 years old. Before that, we had a great connection and it came to a cloud of dust kind of halt when she started because she was an alcoholic pretty much overnight- It runs in our blood.
That is why I don’t drink today. Well, that and the fact that my heart about jumps right out of my chest when alcohol marries with the antidepressants in my bloodstream, but that’s a post for another day lol.
I digress. (because I have A.D.D.)
Mamma is gone now, and even though she continued to drink into my mothering years, we had a special sort of connection and because of that, I was able to have a few conversations with her before she passed about the very topic I’m going to write about today- What NOT TO DO in general and in mothering my own children.. She has apologized and there is no animosity whatsoever now, but I do wish my childhood memories were remembered with brighter colors.
I’m writing today to reach out to you if you know all about the pain that I know from being raised with an alcoholic Mom or any parent that wasn’t around, or able to function properly for you. I also think some Mamas who have just gotten caught up in life can benefit from my words today.
I think this message also provides a certain kind of unique perspective on motherhood because I know what not to do- and wasn’t really given a lot to work within the “what to do” department when it comes to being an adult, much less a Mom.
Mommy and Daddy are Superheroes.
You might think that as a Mom, you aren’t too terribly important, especially as the children get older, get an attitude and act like you’re a sticky booger that they just can’t seem to flick off their (probably middle) finger, but I’ll let you know, you are SO SO vital to their success in growing into strong-minded, confident adults and members of society.
Please know that what I’ve written below was said with
compassion and straight from my heart. I mean no ill will toward you, and most of the time I’m speaking to myself as well because I’m lightyears away from being the best mom in the world.
If you had an alcoholic mother, do not drink- or drink very little.
If your parent was addicted to a substance, be VERY VERY careful with that substance and if at all possible, STAY away completely. I know this might be a given, but some of you might think you can handle a little at a time, or that you won’t become hooked and be like your parent was to you, but before you know it you’re repeating the cycle all over again.
I have been an alcoholic in my teen years (to escape the reality of living with an alcoholic mother, go figure) so I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of “just a little bit” and before you know it, you’re waking up in a bathtub with pizza cheese stuck in your hair. I don’t know anything about that though.. Really.
Having an alcoholic mother taught me that even though I acted tough and like I didn’t need my Mom, I needed her more than anything else, especially in my teen years.
“Those who are hardest to love need it the most”
I guarantee you that they need you. Kids and children alike, and if they are acting out and it’s hard to get along with them, they need you even more. Look up from your phone, get off the phone, look them in the eyes.
Don’t just ask how their day was, ask specifics, and if they don’t want to talk about it, keep working on it in different ways. BE THERE in every way, available to your children when they need you, even if they seem distant and uninterested.
Just knowing that you are able-minded and an anchor that is holding them when waters get rough, is a priceless comfort. Be aware, engaged as much as you can, what do they like about their lives, what is bothering them today, this month?
Hold your children up with your strength, even if you have to fake it until you make it.
Having alcoholic parents taught me that I need to be up and alert in the morning for my kids, before school. (and any day unless I’m truly just too tired from a baby keeping me awake etc)
Wake the fuck up before school- don’t just let them get themselves ready. I remember way too many mornings when I was awake by myself, not able to say goodbye to anyone because no one gave a hoot. The long walk to the bus stop before school in frigid weather and freezing temps and no grown-up even knew. Simply knowing that my Mom offered me a scarf, or a hat, just getting a hug from her that morning and the words “stay warm out there, goofball” with a chuckle, that would have been amazing.
Always be positive that your children/teens KNOW that you are aware of what they are going through and maybe that you know what is ahead of them for the day, etc.
When you are a child needing a human connection (siblings don’t count), it’s very difficult to go about your day when you know your parents don’t care enough to even get out of bed to say “goodbye baby, I love you.” Kids need to be lifted up in mornings, or they will be falling down all day. Ask me how I know.
Growing up with an alcoholic mother taught me the importance of being mentally available for my children when they get home from school.
Same with after school if you can. If you’re a working parent, it’s going to be different for you if your children are latch-key kids- that can’t be avoided and they know you are providing for them and doing what needs to be done to make sure they are taken care of- or if they don’t know, it might be time for a talk about just that.
I’m talking about Moms who are home. If your kids come home and you’re on your computer and just give a quick hello and continue staring at the screen, what does that tell them? That what you’re doing is more important than they are. Turn the dang thing off and face them. Truly be present with them.
Don’t just ask how their day was, ask specifics.
- Did anything super funny happen today at school?
- Did anyone get sick today and throw up?
- What did you have for lunch, did you eat enough?
- What would you like for a snack, I’d like to make you something.
- Hey kiddo, I’m not feeling well, but you can come over here and rest your head on my tummy and tell me about your day. (clearly, this isn’t for the teens rofl)
- Hey hun, I would like for you to put your phone down and mine is put up- Let’s go for ice cream/ McDonaldsmcdonalds/ a walk, talk, etc.
- Hey, didn’t you say your left shoe was getting a hole in the bottom? Let’s get you another pair, come on!
Being a child of an alcoholic parent taught me that it HURTS like hell when your parents consistently buy things that they don’t need when you have legitimate needs that haven’t been taken care of.
This is another that might seem like a given, but sometimes as a parent, it’s easy to want what you want and overlook seemingly simple things that your kids need. Simple things like
- Their shoes are getting too small and they have reminded you 3 times but you’re so busy you forgot. But you have you’re daily monster drink (Starbucks?) that costs you 16.00 a week, don’t you? (guilty)
- They get made fun of for wearing the same 4 shirts on rotation, but you’ve got your beer! Or a trip to the bar, what have you.
- You have a plethora of tattoos while your kids haven’t had a well-rounded meal in 3 years.
- You can afford expensive bras when your teen daughter has 2 holy ones.
- You have cigarettes, but do your children ever get new toys outside of Christmas and birthdays?
Having a drunk mom taught me the importance of practicing what you preach.
Mom drank and smoked cigarettes, but I was grounded if I was caught doing either. Huh? This doesn’t add up, you know? kids/teens are smart, and they know if something isn’t fair, etc. you can’t seriously be mad at your kids for doing exactly what you’re doing, can you? Seriously?
And the way I see it, your children can be one of either of the following
The kid that sees what their parents are doing and hates it so much that they vow to never ever do that thing, and they don’t, or
They see what you are doing and they are angry so they do it too, in spite of you. Why the hell not?
Guess which one I was? I was grounded a LOT.
She would say “no sex before marriage” (because it was a good Christian home and all) and was not practicing.
She would tell me not to swear
Don’t get involved in drugs
Don’t hang out with the wrong crowd
Talk about confusing- and crazy-making.
Drunk Mom wasn’t conscious enough to discipline fairly. Make the “punishment” fit the crime.
***Now I do not believe in punishment, I’m more for discipline and the two are very different even though they sound the same. I’ll be posting about this soon)
I was grounded all the time and by all the time I mean, I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t, really. I’d get grounded “for a month” or another ungodly amount of time for the dumbest things because my Mom wasn’t cognizant enough to think of something a little more creative. “You’re grounded” just flowed off the end of her tongue from the impaired little autopilot center of her brain
If your toddler hits you, don’t hit him back. And I’m talking about spanking too- how confusing must that be for your child? (you can’t hit me but I can hit you- but don’t hit!)
If your kiddo is upset and hits his brother in the cranium with a toy microphone, don’t make him stand in the corner for 15 minutes (or at all, but that’s another post) where he’s going to steam, think about how mad he is at his sibling, how mad he is at you, think about the crevices in the wall and what animals they look like, or forget completely what he did wrong.
Seriously- making their legs hurt and yelling at them to turn back around is a little much for what they did.
If you tell your kid not to eat a popsicle while you’re gone to the store for 30 minutes and they eat the popsicle for little baby Jesus’ sake, please don’t ground them for a month. COME ON! It’s a tiny crime, and although they did do exactly what they were not supposed to do, a month with no life is way bigger than a missing popsicle.
Sure, it’s not really about the popsicle, is it, but still- they didn’t steal 30 bucks, you know?
If your kid says a curse word toward a hammer he just hit his thumb with, or toward you in a moment of weakness in anger- and maybe you weren’t being kind at the time either, do not ground him from everything under the sun that brings him joy for 3 weeks.
Do you have moments where you say things you regret or do something stupid that you wish you could take back? Would it have helped you if the person that heard you or the person that you hurt to yell at you and give you the silent treatment for 3 weeks, or would it be more beneficial and healing if they would talk to you with respect, tell you what you did wrong, ask you not to do it again and forgive you?
Your kids will build up HUGE resentment and anger toward you and toward life and themselves if they are constantly in trouble and being made to feel bad about themselves for mistakes and bad choices. It’s much better to approach these things with love and understanding than with “tough love.”
I needed my drunk mom to sober up and to spend quality time with me.
If you notice that you spend a lot of time with your kids, but maybe not the best quality time with them, this one is for you and for me as well. I’m not perfect and a lot of times when I write these posts, I’m preaching to me too, in love. Always from a place of kindness and a heart for helping others/myself.
I don’t remember a time after mom started drinking that we spent good quality time together. Because of that, my “quality time” with other humans was spent in the arms of a boy who didn’t love me, or in abandoned buildings with my so-called friends and a 40 in my hands.
I can’t say that I never would have had a rebellious teen phase if Mom had been more available, heck I have no way of knowing and I think most teens will have a little phase to one degree or another, but I know that I would have done fewer things that could have hurt my mom, had she not been hurting me by never giving me any time or any of herself. She was walled up and I could never get through, so I found my way by myself.
- Take your kid on a drive and just laugh and laugh at anything and everything, or at least just go for the drive. Even if it’s silent with a teen who is in the phase, they still feel your willingness and will know you love them. They will also give you bonus points if you buy ice cream for the adventure.
- Play that game that your little girl has been asking you to play for a month, even though you hate it and can barely stand the thought of trying to do such a mundane thing, especially when there are dishes to do and facebook to be checking. She will remember this moment, and it can go two ways. She can remember a no, or she can remember the mom who stopped what she was doing to give a shit.
- Has your sweet child been asking you to let her do your makeup, but the thought of having to endure having junk on your face and looking hideous and having to wash it all off has left you saying no time and again? GET OVER YOURSELF and do it today.. (this one is for me) I remember hearing no over and over and over and eventually they will stop asking. This is when they have lost hope- you are losing them at this point and you’ve got to reel them back in quick! Get her makeup and sit the fuck down. I promise, her heart and confidence will thank you.
- Do NOT pick apart their music, try to get into it. Try to relate, find out why they like it, what is it? There may be a message behind the thumping and cussing that they relate to, and if you listen very carefully to what they are listening to, you can learn a lot about your children, especially the tweens and teenagers. If they like music with a depressing tone, it might be time to be uber positive about life and try to lift them up. If they are listening to music about sex- might be time to find out if they’re doing that, yes? If you hate their music you are hating a part of their soul, I promise. Don’t do it!
- Do what they like to do- it’s goood for you to get out of your humdrum life and try something new so you’re doing just that and tying heartstrings as well
- Do they like to draw? If you can’t even draw a straight line, go find some paper and whatever medium they like and do it with them. Heck, go buy some new sketchbooks and crayons if you can.. If you’re on a budget, notebook paper and crazy-art work just as good for the tying of the heartstrings. Maybe not the art, but definitely the heartstrings lol
- Skateboarding? Put your pride aside and go try it. You might fall on your ass and look stupid but I promise you, that’s a good thing. Make them laugh and let them make fun of you- it’s freaking fun! Do you remember the last time you had fun!?
- Are they learning to drive? Put that shit on the calendar and make a date of it- maybe once every week. So let’s say every Friday after work, you grab the keys, toss them to them and say “let’s go!” do it excitedly too, don’t make them feel as if they are a burden and this is another thing on your to-do list. They’re learning about life here, and who the heck else are they gonna learn from? And even if they could learn from someone else, is that really what you want?
***I could go on for days and days, so if you have questions or want suggestions, email me! My email is below and I love hashing these things out with people, it’s my calling, I do believe.
Having an alcoholic Mother meant coming home to a very messy home and sometimes crazy behavior.. Ok, usually crazy behavior.
Please for the love of all things sweet, please make sure that your kids know that you are in control of things or at least mostly in control. There will probably always be times that things are rough- even patches that last for years, but let them know that everything will truly be okay and don’t let on otherwise.
The world is a fucked up place and people are self-centered and hurt one another all the time- do you remember high school and mean-ass kids? I sure do. After school especially, they need a safe place to land.
Let’s make our home the nest in which the kids come home to and feel safe. Have food available, do the damned laundry (Amy) and take a gd shower.
Try to keep the arguing with husband to a minimum, don’t be a negative nelly about your life (that they are living as well) and make sure the house is at least picked up.
Having an alcoholic Mom taught me that I shouldn’t put adult pressures on a child or even teens.
Let me explain- Mom would let me know everything going on in the house from my stepdad quitting his job, him kissing another woman at work, our finances, and every other thing imaginable. I was dealing with my own issues and she didn’t know about those, but I sure knew about hers.
Maybe it was to get me to feel bad for her so I’d go easy on her about being an unavailable mom at the time, but it doesn’t really matter why she did it now. I know not to do it with my kids- even though I do from time to time because I have a tendency to feel sorry for myself. (more on that in number 11)
Our kids are facing their own shitty little realities in life and they need to be free from adult bull until they are adults themselves. LET THEM BE LITTLE, I beg you. They don’t need to know that their dad did XYZ, etc. If you don’t have a friend to talk to about things that are bothering you, find a facebook group- do NOT turn to your children. And I’m talking to myself too.
Like I said, writing these posts is sometimes as eye-opening for me as I hope it is for you.
This brings me to the end (for now) and my final point
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re an adult or that you have a handle on things, act like you do and get over yourself. You’ve got kids now and it’s time to grow up. Let them be the children and you can act like an adult even if you’re just acting like one. Which I’m pretty sure is what most of us are doing.
It’s pretty disgusting to always be around the adult that is supposed to be your rock and they’re barely a pebble. I was often so disgusted with my mother because she wasn’t what I needed her to be which was stable, strong, and THERE.
We’ve gotta put our own shit aside, do what it takes to be stronger and be the guiding light that these little people need. The world is hard enough and we need our kids on our side and they certainly need us on theirs.
This parenting thing is a gift. It’s a damned perfect blessing and we will never get this time back. All the sorries in the world will never make up for a lost childhood or all the mistakes that we make as parents.
The time is NOW! Not tomorrow. Not when your job is more stable. Not when you lose weight, not when you feel better emotionally, not when you feel better physically. NOW!
We’re not waiting to open our eyes to what is right in front of us until it’s behind us. Do what you can today.
No, right now!
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