"Don't set yourself on fire to keep others warm."

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Jabberwockey, Mar 20, 2015.

  1. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    A friend on FB just posted this. Interesting and disturbingly relevant to what we on this forum are dealing with.
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  2. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Wow, there is so much truth in that little statement.
  3. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Good one!
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Terrific quote, thanks.
  5. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I agree that the phrase is disturbingly relevant. But back when all this began, I went through a kind of willing self-conflagration.

    I was saving my own life, too.

    Everything was seen through a filter of "Where did I go wrong, what did I miss, how can I change this?"

    I can only engage in detachment now because I know the other way does not work. It's still very hard for me, but I believe now, that the hard way is the best chance either of the kids have to reclaim their lives.

    They don't have to like me, and I don't have to like me, either.

    There have been days I disgust myself. I cannot put the pieces of how this business of family is supposed to look together with what I have. Maybe that is not quite true, just lately.

    Just lately, I am proud and amazed that we hung through together at all.

    Very often these days, I do not like, admire me. I do not find myself generous and giving and forgiving. I think bad thoughts about family members and even sometimes about the kids.

    This is very disturbing to me.

    It matters how we see them, how we see one another, or nothing matters, at all.

    Thanks to this site, I have been able to work my way out of that single-focus place where we go when our kids are in trouble and saving them (and ourselves) somehow is all we know to do.

    I have posted here before about the effect all this had on my commitment to my marriage ~ really, to anything that had mattered to me in that life I lived before the bad things started happening to all of us.

    I went through it again, maybe at a deeper, more determined level, when our son stumbled and fell and fell.

    So I guess what I am saying Jabber is that, for me, it was a willing conflagration of self, to warm my child enough to get them through to that place where life would become a sane thing, again.

    That is why the imagery in the phrase you posted doesn't work for me.

    I don't think moms have a choice.

    Even now, I don't see detachment as something that ~ as a kind of judgment call about what either of my kids are doing.

    I am still trying to save them.

    Detachment, making it very clear to the kids that they are separate people who will do what they do and that this no longer defines me ~ that seems to be working. It is still very hard, but the kids are all picking up. (We have grands now, who are making choices and expecting so much from us, too.)

    In detaching, I am finding I have so much time now to think about things that are interesting to me. Because I have been disciplining myself to do that ~ to make a space for other interests ~ I am able to put those worrisome feelings away in a less prominent place in my psyche.

    That is a good way to describe what this feels like.

    As the kids (all of them) begin picking up and planning their lives and not asking to come and live with us anymore because we said that so hard word "no" a million times, things are actually improving for all of us.

    So...detachment works.

    But it is only a different kind of fire. It's like I am managing what was once a conflagration.

    This is not the parent I wanted to be (needed to be?), either.

    But it is the way of parenting that works, for my kids.

    It's really hard for me, though.

    D H has never had even a concern about turning away from a child, once he has gone all out two or three times. When our daughter got into trouble again, as an adult this time, we went through that whole desperate dance to save her, again. Right down to the heartstrings part, and the horror part and the really crummy part where you cannot even believe you are refusing to assist someone in dire need, let alone your own child.

    But she is pulling through beautifully.

    Our son is pulling through beautifully.

    And so it seems detachment is working for us.

    For D H, it was never a question of what might "work". He is done in a way I am not...but at the same time, I have the sense that he could create relationship from this point in a way I could not.

    This was a good and apt description of what we ~ of how this is all happening to us now, Jabber.

    I will think about that imagery of burning myself up to warm someone who refuses to come in from the cold.

    Maybe, that can help me, if things turn bad again.

  6. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    Well said Cedar, but I'm interpreting this a bit more simply than that. Or maybe a bit more literally? Don't destroy your life trying to save the life of someone hell bent on destroying theirs.

    Mom's have a choice, same as the dad's. It just seems to be much more difficult for the mom's to separate themselves from the children. Its not a weakness or a strength, its simply how mothers are wired.
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  7. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    This does seem to be true. Maybe acknowledging that true thing can help us get through it. To acknowledge that the most traumatic battle we are going to face as we learn to practice detachment parenting is going to be the one we wage with our own psyches, I mean. Maybe, understanding the parameters of the battlefield ~ that we are engaging in something that goes against the grain of the way we are wired, of the way we were constructed, of every instinctual response we have, could help us find our bearings.

    Or could give us a sane reference point, some way to figure out what is happening to us when, once we figure out that term "enabling", we decide not to enable.

    I suffered more when I said no and she suffered than I did when I gave her whatever it was she needed and she did something bad anyway and suffered.

    Then, I could be mad.

    I suffered less over the things that happened to my son because, even in the worst of it, he had a male's focus and determination.

    He still does.

    When I said no and she suffered and I chose to keep saying no, it was like I had lost my sane reference point. The imagery was excruciating. What I had the self discipline to stand firm on while I was awake would break through in nightmares when I was asleep.

    Those were the hardest times. With both kids, waking up in the night already tightened into it and able only to pray the Serenity Prayer because I had no other words.

    I had nothing.

    Maybe if I could have understood why that was happening, I would have been able to nurture myself through. I can't even describe it ~ anymore than I can describe the feelings of happiness and rightness in my world when, for right this minute, my family is coping so beautifully.

    The challenges are manageable.

    And that has to have happened because I stepped back, stopped enabling them to have any safe harbor but the one they would create for themselves and their children.

    You must be right, Jabber. Moms are wired differently. If I were in the thick of it right now with one of my kids, I would still be trapped in the immediacy of it. I would not be working my way through to acceptance. I still remember how little any of the bad things mattered when we thought we were losing difficult child daughter. Not the times that were sudden, but the time we thought she was experiencing organ failure, and we had time to anticipate a known thing.

    There was no resentment. All that stuff fell away, and I was so happy just to hear her voice, just to laugh with her. D H was mystified about that. He was sad about the end of the story, sad to think she was dying. I was grateful to have time.

    I did not have to say no.

    I could just love her.

    No more lies, because there was nothing she needed and so, none of that mattered.

    In that way, D H and I were very different.


    Okay, so here is the thing: Moms willingly carry a growing burden, knowing only that this is a person they are birthing that they don't even know yet. They are sick, they become ungainly, nothing fits. Then come the last months, when her body isn't her own in any aspect.

    Suddenly, she is eating things that she cannot get enough of and may not have enjoyed, before the pregnancy.

    That's how complete the takeover is.

    Then comes labor.

    Then come those first months when there is nothing for the mom but that baby.

    And we willingly go through it again for another person we don't even know, yet, or love.

    It would be best for us to remember this about ourselves, so we more fully understand the nature of the battle.

    The stakes are so high.

    Both our son and our daughter have decided to come home with their families more than one time over the past two or three years. Two of our grandchildren have made that same request, more than once. Every time, we have had to say no. (I have had to. D H says automatic NO. And he doesn't agonize over it. He agonizes over whether I am going to take it to "yes", with everything that implies for our marriage. He does not agonize over the kids or even, the grands. Again, in this, we are very different.) Had we taken anyone in, we would have taken them all.

    How could we not.

    And yet, though it was a very hard thing to say no, and a hard thing not to help with money...everyone is doing well, is handling his or her life, and is a stronger, better person because of it.

    So, that's my detachment story.

    Examining this aspect of the trauma of it has been helpful to me, Jabber.

    Thank you.

    So it isn't that the phrase you posted for us is an impossible thing. It is that we can know now that it is going to seem impossible for us and yet, that it is the best of the horrifying choices that are ours to make.

    We do need to give ourselves credit for our bravery. We truly are warriors.

    And that is the crux of PTSD for us.

    We have routinely breached our own instinctual responses.

    We did that.

    For the sakes of our kids, we even did that.



    That means we are very strong.

    That is something worth knowing, about ourselves.
  8. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Jabs, in your case that is true. But it isn't always the case. There are many neglectful mothers and abuse is most often at the hands of mothers. I did foster care and most of the kids ended up there because of abusive and neglectful mothers on drugs. There are many neglectful moms these days with work and divorce and "I have to be good to ME and my kids will have to deal with it" attitudes. While I agree with the latter once the kids are grown, I really don't think that this is appropriate thinking with minor/young children.
    Also, while dads tend to be tougher on male kids, I know both of my husbands (haha...soap opera "All My Husbands"...there have only been two) were far more worried about their daughters than their sons. I don't think either could have detached from girl child.
  9. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but I have to contradict you here. Men DO agonize over it, we just internalize that struggle. We go out of our way to NOT show weakness and indecision is considered weakness. Its how we're wired.

    I wish our son had some of this!! Or, at least in the case of the focus, maybe a bit less. He just gets so focused, so invested in one narrow concept and course of action, that he doesn't see the reality of the consequences of that action because that narrow vision doesn't allow for room to see it.
  10. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    MWM, this was a generalization referring to....non-difficult child...parents. Sorry, couldn't think of a better way to phrase that. I cant say that I know any women other than those who are either addicts or have serious mental health issues who wouldn't put their children's well being over their own. Granted, I'm not exactly a social butterfly and don't know all that many women so cant claim huge experience in this either.

    As far as daughters go, I don't have one so cant say how I'd be in that situation. Knowing how old fashioned I can be about the treatment of women its probably a pretty good bet that I'd have a more difficult time detaching from a daughter that my son.