Category Archives: shame

Shame Can Kill You (or make you wish you were dead)

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“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown

My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.

The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”

I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.

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Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.

I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay

… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.

I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed

… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”

I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal

… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.

Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.

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This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …

Be silent and feel ashamed.

Speak out and be shamed.

This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.

And …

 I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.

  • No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
  • No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
  • No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
  • No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
  • No longer letting shame silence us.

So …

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I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”

No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

That’s a Shame About Parenting

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11233000_10204465972546533_1083546834132125790_n“Ironically, parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children.” Brene Brown

I was at dinner one evening with a group of friends who I’ve hung out with since elementary school. While talking about our grown children, one of them said, “I’m a mom, so I’m used to being blamed.” She laughed, but I wasn’t convinced she thought it was funny.

The next week, while catching up with a friend in the middle of an aisle at HomeGoods, our conversation, as usual, came around to our children. She halfheartedly joked about spending time with her adult children and having them again and again bring up her shortcomings in conversation. She said, “I always get thrown under the bus.”

During a long lunch, another friend talked about her son, “I had to finally tell him, ‘I’ll love you no matter what, but don’t call me again until you’re ready to apologize for how you talk to me.’”

My heart ached. I’ve watched these three moms cherish their children, yet they sounded disheartened. I felt a little that way myself. Instead of encouragement, I shared that sometimes I didn’t think I could get it right as a mom either. If I hadn’t reverted to clichés like “We did our best,” I may have ended up crying in the middle of HomeGoods because I’m sorely aware of making plenty of mistakes. I know my friends are also.

After these conversations, I felt kind of desperate for a solution to the shame, blame, and judgment that comes alongside not parenting perfectly whether our children are five or 35. I’ve apologized more than once to my children for being immature and ill equipped as a mother. I’ve changed behaviors that haven’t been healthy in our relationships. I’ve prayed for guidance as a mom of young children, and now as a mom of adult children.

Still, I haven’t felt off the hook. I’ve emotionally beaten myself up for not doing a better job and sometimes my kids join in. I understand their frustration (I wasn’t happy about having imperfect parents either), but it still hurts. For a while now, I’ve wanted out from under the shame of parenting, but never as much as after talking with my friends. I want them out from under it too. I thought about a rally to free moms, a bra burning of sorts except we’d burn, oh, I don’t know, our kids’ stuffed animals or something, but a blog post is closer to my comfort zone.

I’ve also wanted something to share with my daughter who is a relatively new mom of a two-year-old daughter and a four-month-old son. Her mothering is far beyond anything I offered my children, but she still stumbles from the pedestal, that unrealistic place most of us crawl on top of when we begin our parenting journey. Up there, we decide we’re never going to hurt our children like our parents hurt us. It’s a hard fall.

All of these realizations made last week’s conversation that much sweeter. I talked for an hour in a sweltering parking lot with a dad about one of his sons. His oldest boy had recently said, “Yesterday’s conversation was the best we’ve ever had because I feel like you really heard me. You listened instead of giving advice.”

Their conversation brought my friend to tears. Our conversation brought me to tears. I could tell he was forgiving himself and I wanted what he had. That’s when he shared what he’d figured out. He stated it so passionately, I couldn’t help but be changed by it.

“I gave my kids all I had to give. That means they got the best of me and they got the worst of me. That’s the deal.”

I got in my car and, then and there, made a deal with myself. I’m thru shaming myself as a parent. Instead of making excuses for being human (like saying “I did my best”), I’m coming to terms like my friend with my imperfect love, the only kind I have to offer this side of heaven.

I gave my kids all I had to give, the best of me and the worst. That’s the deal. And that’s love.

If you’re floundering as a parent (or in any relationship), I hope what my friend shared helps you as much as it’s helping me. I appreciate your comments.

Credit: Thanks to Kristen Hawley Dutka for the photo of my daughter and her son, truly a portrait of a mom’s love.