5 things I said I would never do as a scapegoat family trauma survivor trying to break the cycle
and how I overshot on every single one
I promised I would never make my kids responsible for a disproportionate amount of the housekeeping. Yes, I gave them chores, but the chores that were more triggering to me (namely, dishes and bathroom cleaning), I kept overwhelmingly to myself. I also cleaned up after messes they made way longer than I should have for their developmental ages.
As a result… I’ve continued my own scapegoat role to a certain extent in my current family, and I’ve trained some humans to be someone’s really crappy future roommates
I promised I would never overshare. I’d never spousify my kids by sharing with them too much of my own childhood trauma and the difficulties that was causing me in my relationships. I’d definitely never use it as an excuse to hurt them. Now, I have apologized to them on occasion by saying, “I’m sorry. This is a way I learned to behave from my own [mother/father] here, and I should not be acting this way, AND it’s not your fault.”
However, I didn’t learn how to model developmentally appropriate emotional connection in relationships in time for them to pick up a good example from me, so I accidentally taught them instead that we don’t talk about our emotional lives. That sucks.
On apologies, I promised I would never NOT apologize to my kids. If I did something wrong, I would own up to it and tell them it wasn’t their fault.
Noble plan, but again, having been a well-trained family scapegoat, I overshot. I apologized to them for things that THEY did, and I made myself the family toilet in this family, too, perpetuating the dynamic that, as long as there’s someone else to do the apologizing, most people can avoid that kind of discomfort.
I promised I’d never make my kids touch anyone. I told them from a very young age, “You don’t have to hug me if you don’t want to. You don’t have to let anyone touch you if you don’t want to be touched.” Hooray for bodily autonomy, right?
Again, I overshot. I didn’t model asking for healthy touch, and so now there’s a disconnect not just emotionally but physically as humans in need of healthy touch.
On that note…
I promised I’d guard my children’s Theology of the Body-based dignity and safety. I’d never sexualize my children the way I had been as a child. I wouldn’t leave explicit material out for my kids to pick up. I wouldn’t make constant dirty jokes, especially not at their expense. I wouldn’t even expose them to the relational chaos so poorly modeled on soap operas. How did I overshoot this one?
I accidentally made sexuality a taboo topic, something we can’t talk about around mom, and for all my Theology of the Body fangirling, I have no idea how to undo that knot.
I went into parenting all hyped up to break the cycle.
Most days, I feel like all I did was tap on the brakes.
Can you relate?
Well, the fact that you so clearly see all these things and have identified a root cause seems fruitful to me. If you recognize them, you at least have something to work on or with. As someone who didn’t experience childhood trauma, I’m sure I’ve still failed my kids in a variety of ways (that I probably haven’t even considered). The degree varies by family, obviously, but we’re all imperfect parents, raised by imperfect parents, raising imperfect kids.
Amen. We all have our failings. The worst failing of all is the one we refuse to recognize, explore, and heal.
Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I know I’ve failed a million ways in parenting, but I’ve tried to do the best I could with my own personal character traits and background. That’s all anyone can do, and yet it is never enough. I pray every day for us all to be healed in the ways we need (because everyone needs healing). As Carolyn so wonderfully stated: “we’re all imperfect parents, raised by imperfect parents, raising imperfect kids.”
Thank you for the affirmation. We’re all failures to some degree lol. The only way we can heal is knowing we need to heal.
I can so relate on most of these. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and all the healing work you’ve done and are sharing!
Generational healing has to start somewhere and I, too, hoped that it could be a quicker, on point process but alas, our beloved humanity.
I love your work! Thanks again!
Yeah, we are totally not alone. I’m grateful for your vulnerability in sharing that you can relate! This process feels so slow right now, and I keep trying to remember that, come eternity, this will look like the blink of an eye.