For Christmas Eve of 2023 - I spent two hours crying because my 8 year old hurt my feelings with something she said.
How the F--- did I get here?
Ok - first let's gets some context.
From May to September of this year - I went through divorce proceedings with my daughter's father that were 6 years over due. I moved out just before she was 2. We lived 10 minutes apart, civilly. Until I wanted to move in with my new partner... 5,000 km away... and take my daughter with me.
The custody & divorce issues spanned the time of me being 7.5 months pregnant to 1 month postpartum with a surrogacy that got extremely complicated. Along side a 2 liter hemorrhage at the birth. All of this created wave after wave of stress that my daughter, no doubt, experienced through osmosis.
Then when I was granted the right to relocate on Sept 1st - I moved at 7 weeks postpartum on Oct 1st.
And my room mate ducked out on the last months rent. I'm still currently too busy to make a file in small claims court.
When I moved into my boyfriends place, I needed to rebuild my business networking & building a client base, while doing a soft launch of my second business... while homeschooling my daughter as part of the relocation agreement with my ex. My daughter, after previously having a great relationship with my boyfriend before we moved in... decided she hates him now & is a routine asshole.
Since the initial complications, we've actually made lots of progress.
Do I love my child unconditionally? Yes. Of course I do. Which mothers know can be very painful.
I've put structure in the home. I've gone to counselling. I've got her in counselling. We've got some family unit tools that are creating bonding progress. She's back in public school, she's made friends in the neighborhood, she's doing extra curriculars she loves. I can go out for a girl's night with my new mom friends & my daughter & her 'step-dad' sort out bedtime with minimal attitude. I also call friends with similar experiences & ask for advice.
It's not a straight line. Some days the bonding is awesome. They play fight, she asks him to help her with things. They joke & laugh. She does things to say, "hey, I want your attention instead of mum's."
Other days I feel like I made a huge mistake even thinking I could ever 'have' a partner again AND a good relationship with my daughter. Her desire to have me all to herself & not share me with anyone could easily result in me growing old as a wine drinking, book reading, cat lady if I were to concede to this. She can be ruthlessly insensitive to his kindness & warmth. She can reject him on a whim. She can be entirely ungrateful to huge amounts of effort he puts in to show that he cares about her.
She can even sabotage her own enjoyment just to spite him. Then come to me with complaints & deep feelings of injustice - which she has clearly & illogically created on her own behalf. Which is what happened on Christmas Eve.
I was so tired by 8pm I was incapacitated. The house was full of family & children & festivities but I could barely sit up right & keep my eyes open. We had picked up my daughter at the Montreal airport at 8am after leaving the house at 5am - after I had not slept all night. She was coming back from 10 days with her dad on the west coast. My stress about her adjustment between homes brings up tons of insecurities & anxieties. I'm structure mum, the one in charge of actually organizing the highest potential of her life. The she has fun, weekend style dad who is some how able to screw up baseball season sign up & thinks a chipped tooth is no big deal.
So most of the time this means dad is awesome & mum sucks.
On Christmas Eve, I gave my daughter the choice: she could come get ready for bed & go to sleep with me or stay up, but Vincent would be in charge of her bedtime routine stuff. She chose to stay up. No more than an hour later, I was just falling asleep - she comes into the room in her pjs & flops onto the bed, grumbling.
"Hey, kiddo. Coming to sleep already?"
"Yah." The tone was not good.
"What's going on?"
"I'm really mad at Vincent."
"Well you know my dad & I don't like to repeat ourselves."
"Hmm." I replied. "I hope you have a good sleep, Bubbie."
I was fully awake now. I stayed quiet, knowing she would fall asleep on her own soon. I knew better than to engage in the comment anyway. But it didn't mean it hadn't sparked a flame inside of me that slowly became a dumpster fire which then fed an army of torch carrying orcs setting fire to every village they passed.
My mental health status went from "over tired, knowing I can't really hold a conversation or make any executive level choices" to "the entire universe is against me & I should crawl in a hole to rot."
I could imagine already what happened. My daughter can be soft spoken & passive with Vincent. The room upstairs was very noisy. He speaks English as a second language & has low grade hearing loss. It's a bad mix when she's not feeling bonded with him. She got irritated with him quickly & was tired. He is still learning parenting tactics with an 8 year old step child. It's a recipe for disaster.
And inside my brain, I fucking lost it.
My mind had already started spinning & 10 mins later I checked to make sure she was asleep so she wouldn't hear me starting to cry.
Why can't she just be nice to him? Why doesn't she understand how much he tries & how much he loves her?
Why did she have to drag her 'dad' into her anger at him? She is just weaponizing her dad's words and their relationship to hurt me & hurt Vincent.
Why is she sabotaging the offer of another adult who can give her love, security & attention?
I fucking hate her dad so much. She always listens to his words, his lessons. Which are the same as mine! Then argues with me that she doesn't believe them when I teach them!
She over identifies with him because she misses him. It's going to cause her to become more & more like him! It's going to ruin her life. He lives this small life & shrinks from the world, becoming nothing & no one. She will become nothing & no one, just like him.
It's my fault. I moved her. I separated them. Maybe I made the wrong choice. Maybe I should have never moved. Why did I even bother thinking I could fall in love again & have a new partner.
Her dad ruined my life. He ruined everything. This is ALL his fault!
Even after I have left him - he is still able to ruin my Christmas.
When she's 12 she'll choose to live with him. Then she'll see how bad his life is. She'll realize he can't care for her. She'll realize it & come back to me.
...Or maybe she wont! She'll get used to it & want to live that way for ever! I can't let that happen. That's why I'm doing all of this in the first place. It's my choices that will set her up for a good life. I would be a bad parent to just let her float away.
I cycled through this for 2 hours before Vincent came to bed. I could hear him coming down the stairs & getting ready for bed. So I stopped crying & cleared up my sniffles so he wouldn't know anything was wrong. He fell asleep and I cried more. My mind played more tricks on me. I dragged my past family life into it. I dragged my insecurities into it. I dragged my original divorce issues into it. I dragged my choice to find a new partner & start a new family into it.
In this moment, I hated my kid. Her small little comment had pierced so many layers of pain, insecurity, vulnerability & sadness for me. Less than ten words had dragged my into the undertow of my deepest struggles. I could not believe how much she could hurt me. And she has no idea. She's 8. It was a small parting of the clouds. The perspective.
She has no idea. She's just angry & was looking for a way to explain her anger.
I looked at this & I found a small light in the dark. "I don't like to have to repeat myself."
This is something her father has said to her. It's a disciplinary warning he uses.
It's an old school parenting ideal; that you should only have to tell your child something 'once.' No one - learning anything - should only be given one opportunity to hear a request or instruction.
This approach lacks patience, compassion & kindness. It's complete bullshit. Her dad spews all of this Buddhist & Greek/Roman philosophy stuff about humanity, integrity & honor. Then delivers this. I found the mold.
And I decided what I was going to do about it. My daughter has taken something her father has said, that has a rigid, dominant tone to it - then used it when being angry at someone else.
When we woke up in the morning - it was Christmas. My daughter was up & out of the room and Vincent & I cuddled & talked through his side of events from last night. My idea of what my daughter did was a pretty accurate guess; not speaking clearly & directly with Vincent, in a loud room full of people & not giving him a chance to hear her needs, then simply getting frustrated & sabotaging her own evening...and his.
I left the room deciding not to reign down my passive aggressive, withholding affection, toxic, cold-mother behavior that shows up when my kid triggers me. Because a Merry Christmas this does not make.
Her dad texted in the morning, asking to have a Christmas video call with her. I gave them privacy for the call and when I could see it wrapping up - I asked to speak with them both before they hung up.
I confirmed with her dad that this was a phrase he was using & the context. I informed him that our daughter used the phrase about her experience with Vincent last night. I asked if he supported teaching kindness, compassion & patience. He affirmed this. (I'm asshole when I'm making a point sometimes. I know he can't say no to this.) I ended the call with making sure they both understood that the phrase that was being used didn't support what we were teaching her & it she was being raised with morals & ethics for being respectful to others who show her respect. That when someone asks us to repeat ourselves its because they care about what we have to say. In addition, we repeat ourselves as many times as we need to in order to feel understood.
I'm now in the position where I am parenting two people. I am explaining to my daughter's father that a parenting tactic/phrase he is using is having negative consequences in our daughter's behavior. I'm also showing my daughter that her dad & I have a united front about how we treat & respond to others. And I realize I'm going to have to be doing this repeatedly.
Let get something straight: I hate my daughter's father. I have a seething, burning hatred that has ebbed and flowed over the years - but nothing like the darkness I have developed over the recent months. Time did not heal that wound. Distance only allowed me more perspective to understand the insidious damage he has inflicted on my life.
And I'm not going to let it dig its claws into my daughter. If I have to call him every time that my daughter starts displaying behavior I don't support & she uses 'her dad' as her excuse - I will make that call. I will have that pow-wow. I'll stare that challenge in the face and grind it out over the next 10 years. I'm committed to my daughter becoming the best person she can be & if I have to parent him through that too - fuck it - bring it on.
I also recognize this sets a precedence that he can do this as well. He sure didn't like it when I took all of her books away & I'm using them as bargaining chips to get her to cooperate in her responsibilities at home. I got my daughter, her dad AND my ex mother in law all in a huff about that one. Too bad for them I'm really good at communicating my point. I won by proxy & my war tactics are shamelessly savage.
What I know needs to happen now - is I need some counselling. I can identify that I am over enmeshed with my child's feelings. The past 7 months have brought up so much insecurity about my life choices, parenting choices & how I'm organizing my future so my daughter has the best outcome. I have become exceedingly sensitive to her 'happiness' which I am not actually responsible for. I need help & support & guidance to continue watching the difference between her short term anger at me & the long term outcome for her. As a single mum, she was my world. She was my buddy. Before the age of 7, she was pretty compliant as well. No meant 'no.'
But she's a whole entire new person now. These experiences have changed us both. Making us both more fragile for a time. I'm her parent. I can't be her friend. Gone are the days where she sees me as infallible. And she shouldn't. I'm not perfect.
There are going to be times where the rules don't matter & we're just having fun. There will be times where we get soft & share & there are tears.
There will also be the times where I have to make choices for my daughter & draw a hard line on my expectations of her & for her. I understand this isn't easy for any parent. But I'm pretty competitive so I'm going to work at being 'the best' at it.
Whatever that means for me.
If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.
Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching. PrettyAggressiveRecovery@gmail.com
You can work through The Pillars of Resiliency while learning to bond with your child to end the intergenerational abuse cycle.
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