I Learned To Parent Adult Children, and My Ego Shattered.

For eighteen years, I was the one. I was the woman who two growing boys adored and then eventually, most likely, stared at times, thinking, “This is one creepy adult.” Yes, they all think that at some point in their growth adventure.

One thing doesn’t waver. Their love. In the moments I stood with my morning hair askew every which way and a cup of coffee in my hand, barking orders to get us out of the house for the day, they still loved me. In the times as teenagers I morphed into mirages of my own projection-riddled mother, they still loved me. When I ran and fled situations I could not handle, they still loved me.

That’s what love looks like. It looks like the child who loves you no matter what. This love you feel when they’re little, can change as they grow older. It will manifest itself in different ways.

Then one day, they become adults. It happens just like that. They arrive into your arms, swaddled and beautiful. You snap your fingers, and they’re an adult having an opinion about the world.

Wait. What? What just happened here?

Who is this person, unique and with their own personality, now counter conversing me with all of this knowledge? What the hell do I do with this? More chips fell off the mother pedestal, and it began to tip.

But that’s not all. This is when the pedestal crumbles, and life changes. They fall in love. Yep. Now, you have four adults to figure out how to fit in with. Oh, you thought “parenting” ends when your kiddo becomes 18? Bless your heart! I feel your pain. I thought the same damn thing. Boy, was I wrong.

“Weeping Woman” by Picasso

It all becomes complicated. Your kiddo will have their own way of seeing situations, and you will have yours. You’ll think about the mistakes you made, and start to do that silly shame/blame thing. Don’t do that. It’s counter-productive and useless. It creates battles and sometimes full on wars. You have to approach this situation from a space of accountability secured with boundaries.

I am not going to feed you parenting tips. I don’t know your family dynamic. I can only share my experiences, and what I learned through them. My sons are strong willed and opinionated men. They chose strong willed and opinionated women. My role as leader of the pack ended.

I was wandering the desert alone.

“The Cell” movie

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I wasn’t shunned or made to walk the plank. Imagine you have to meet your closest friend’s new boyfriend/girlfriend, and you now have to figure out how to balance friendship while also respecting the space of your friend’s relationship.

What if you don’t like your friend’s love? What if they don’t like you? What if?

All of these questions and more will run through your mind. You will make one of the biggest mistakes a parent can ever make with their adult child. You’ll let those thoughts and opinions actually slip from your lips. If you do this, you have just dropped an atom bomb into your relationship with your adult child.

Our kids will dip and dive. They will make choices that will shock us. They’ll do amazing things we want to gush over, as if they’re still five. They’ll make decisions we think they could have made more wisely. The truth is this.
They aren’t five anymore, and frankly, unless their safety and well-being is at high risk, it’s none of our business.

OUCH. You’re thinking this. “Whatever you say lady. I brought that kid into this world and he/she will be my kid until the day I die!”

That is true. You’ll always be the parent, but if you want to keep them in your life, you may want to consider some mental changes.

I became a grandparent, and another layer was added to the now mountainous terrain of my family dynamics, which was once just an island consisting of my sons and me. On which ledge was I supposed to set up my camp?

I began to learn as I explored the side of the mountain and have long, fruitful conversations with my wondrous therapist. I finally came to rest on a ledge towards the mountain top looking down. I built my own little observatory. I planted gardens inside of it so that when my family members choose to walk through it, there will be peace for them, if they choose to see it.

Becoming an observatory in my family involved cleaning out space inside myself to build it. I first completely cleaned out the piles of opinions. That took a few truckloads. I knocked down the ego walls and cleared the rubble. I swept out the cobwebs of guilt and regret and replaced it with solid accountability pillars.

I have put up some Observatory rules for myself. As the observatory curator, I will not:

  • infuse my opinion upon their culture but instead learn, listen and understand
  • jump into their political discussions with my own input. They really don’t care much what we think. That’s okay. They have their own minds.
  • have opinions on parenting or give unsolicited advice even when asked. Trust me. I tried it. No matter what you say, you’ll most likely be told you’re wrong. “I know you’ll figure this out.” is my go to phrase now, and guess what? They do.

While I am always a work in progress, once I established my personal rules, I built a mental zen space where I could sit with myself, observing the happenings of my sons and family, while learning to live in non-interference or opinion. I became a space holder. I also live my own life with my own goals, dreams and career.

I let my ego go. My sons will always love me. They will also love others, their children, their friends. Our children’s love does not belong to us. It is something we are gifted by them. I hold no more expectations from my adult sons beyond the same I hold for anyone else in regard to not allowing anyone to overstep my own personal boundaries.

Instead, I live my own life. Imagine that! Some grandparents enjoy living their life for their families. Others enjoy the freedom which arrives with our children becoming adults and no longer need support. Neither are wrong nor right, only different! I am enjoying the freedom.

Parenting adult children comes with acceptance and allowance. Entering this space with ego will undoubtedly leave you extremely shattered. Attempting to maintain any relationship through control is a recipe for your child to walk away from you.

Parents, we hope our children love us in spite of our failures, and we are thankful when they do! Craft your own way in life and let your adult kids chart theirs. You need not paddle your boat beside them, hollering instructions, even if that boat tips. One of the hardest things you’ll do is force yourself to sit in silence watching as they continue to scramble back into their boat. Stay silent. That is how they learn. After all, I tipped many a boat alone through my life to be here now, having grown as a person through a myriad of lessons.

Be the laughter for your children and descendants. Be the parent they will remember loving them and reminding them how great they are. It is never too late for these bonds to strengthen. A healing parent, who releases ego, can be an inspiration for our adult children.

All in all, once we are parents of adult children, we begin our own exploration of life again, life on our own, returning to our personal passions, separate from our children, who are doing the same for themselves.

They don’t forget who we were when they were little. They hold onto the deepest parts of their memories just like we do. Sometimes that hurts when we know we had moments of failing them, but most times, it creates a massive spark of love and pride in your heart when you observe them cooking some of the things you once cooked or utilizing some of the parenting tools they once complained about.

A while ago, my eldest son borrowed my truck. After he returned it, I was out driving and flipping through my CD player when I landed upon a CD he left in it. It was filled with songs he had heard me playing around the house when he was young. When it landed on “Cat’s In the Cradle” by Harry Chaplin, nostalgia took me over. They really don’t forget. I know why this song is special to him, and my heart smarted. I also smiled that he’s amazingly eccentric in his musical choices. We’re never too far away.

To all the motherless children and adults, know that you are never forgotten.

I See You

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Liz Ianelli

I met her online, but I feel like I have known her forever. We have conversations like sisters, laughing and saying whatever we want.  We understand each other’s brash language and sarcastic thinking.  I feel so happy to have this connection.  Child abuse survivors understand other child abuse survivors.  We have our own way of conversing.  We joke about off color things. We find the macabre fascinating and nerd out on unexpected subjects.

Liz Ianelli was sent away as a teenager.  For 993 days she suffered.  Now, she rises out of the ashes to speak for those who cannot.  Liz sat down with me and shared her story on my radio show, Survivor Voices Show.

Click below to listen:

Liz’s story and incredible artwork was recently featured in ICSA Today’s 2017 Fall Quarterly Journal. After over 80 deaths of her fellow survivors, many of them suicides, Liz decided to begin the #ISeeYou campaign to inspire others and let them know they are not alone in their struggle. She rallied up her fellow survivors to make videos sharing their stories and what we deal with on a day to day basis as a result of being abused. Soon, survivors were sharing their stories. Liz hopes to continue rallying survivors, asking them to make videos as they feel comfortable.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show and her live Sunday broadcast Off the Cuff. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

GASLIGHTING: The Movie That Should Make You Shudder

Gaslighting

GASLIGHTING is a twenty minute film packed with a raw and candid look into the true-life story of a teenage girl named Brooke, played by Hannah Walters, who has suffered sexual abuse as a child. In just a short twenty minutes, her whole life unfolds. With a mother who is caught in a domestically violent relationship and rearing three other children, Brooke is often left in the care of questionable adults who use her compliance and fear to their advantage. The child welfare system continually fails her. Held silent in mental fear, she is victim blamed by teachers, her own mother and a court judge. In essence, for Brooke, there is no safe place.

If this film makes you cringe, cover your eyes, gasp or even cry then you are one of the good ones. This movie is a raw depiction about how a child protection system, justice system, parents, teachers and caregivers continually fail children who have been abused.

GASLIGHTING is a perfect example of what society must fix in order to bring about change in our world. This movie is a reminder that the planetary social construct can no longer ignore the horrors being wrought upon the most innocent of its inhabitants, our children.

Children deserve to have a safe space. Children deserve care, love and protection. GASLIGHTING will remind you of something incredibly important. That teenager you can’t stand, who you think is so horrible, is most likely in even more emotional pain. Beneath their sullen silence, the lashing out, the self-harm and inability to communicate, is a child needing someone to listen to them tell us why they are broken.

As a survivor of sexual abuse I can assure you that this ripping of innocence shatters the very core of a child. I am a firm supporter of anyone working with children being required to go through an intensive course on recognizing the signs of child abuse. GASLIGHTING should be added to the list of required viewing.

Anger is not a base emotion. Pain is. Anger is the projection of that emotion. When you see anger you are really seeing pain.

Watch GASLIGHTING here:

Gaslighting

Please support  GASLIGHTING by leaving a review or donating to the work involved in utilizing this film for global education.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show and her live Sunday broadcast Off the Cuff. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

The Outhouse and a Sears Magazine

When I was a child growing up on Sam Fife’s cult compound in Alaska, we did not have electricity or plumbing. As a result, we used the bathroom in chamber pots and outhouses. We also did not have toilet paper. Our toilet paper was often a Sears magazine with anything that wasn’t “proper” for us to see torn out of it.

We would rip out a couple of pages, sitting bare butted on top of a wooden hole, softening the glossy paper with our hands so that we could wipe as gently as possible.

I also had a severe fear that a demon would rise from the pile of human manure and snatch me down into the outhouse hole.

It was here, that I would find the toy sections of the magazine, and I would see what all the of the kids outside of the compound were getting to play with. These toys were considered evil commodities for they fed the wants and desires of the flesh; to want to play and enjoy doing it. For all “play” and attention should be only on God and what he wanted for our lives.

Yet, they left those pages in the magazine for us children to have to use as toilet paper after stealing a few seconds to dream of what could be.

So I used these pages to clean my body, dropping them to float down into a mound of lime covered feces, urine and other, already melting pages.

Your face crinkles as you read this.

Gross“, you say.

Yes. The smell covers you, rancid and fuming, even with the lime to help counter it.

When we finally got toilet paper around 1981, it was rationed. Families were given toilet paper rolls based on how many people were in their family. Then the toilet paper roll itself was rationed.

One square for number one and two squares for number two.”

The rule of thumb in regards to the use of toilet paper.

We live in this society who doesn’t understand what’s it’s like to be without even the smallest of things like toilet paper and baby wipes, diapers and showers, toilets that flush and electricity; even the freedom to be exactly who we want to be if we so choose.

Toilet meditations often reveal a lot.

I’m grateful as fuck for toilet paper and toilets that flush. Not because of third world countries who don’t have them, but because I lived a third world childhood in a first world country that was and still is so focused on third world issues that the citizens of America never pay attention to the horror children endure here in their own camp.

and for the most part, they still aren’t.

I’m done dealing with humans who claim co-consciousness and oneness or follow religions that claim to be based out of love yet are the same people supporting things like hitting children. They call it discipline. I call it abuse that damages the spinal column.

Oh, that’s just science. What do they know… unless you’re dying. Then you care about science.

Yes, I’m talking directly to you.

How can anyone be love in any way while at the same time finding a reason to support hitting, neglecting or harming the most innocent and defenseless humans on the planet?

This oxymoron of take and shut down are like gnats.

I realized today in a big way, how much humans are stuck in duality; how they think they know all, and yet, if they silenced themselves to listen, if they read the voices of us survivors who have written out our experiences, they would understand how deeply they must open their minds in order to truly bring this planet to a place of peace.

They’d understand why people like me, are grateful for toilet paper, why we fight against mind control and shorten our allowance arena.

Until you’ve lived with nothing. Until you’ve carried the scars of a shattered sacrum from too many childhood spankings, memories of outhouses and dumping chamber pots into potty dump holes, working through aching bones, untreated split skin and bruises, you can’t know. You lived a life of electricity, television and secular luxuries like getting to go to grocery stores.

Until you’ve had that all stripped from you and lived wiping yourself with magazine pages holding treasures you can never have, oh, dears, you cannot know. You can only accept and ask yourself why you can’t open your mind to care.

Be grateful for toilet paper.

Growth Sometimes Comes In Small Packages

It’s been a long run with me being a parent. I was a young mother at twenty. The parenting skills I knew, I acquired from my own mother, and well, anyone who has read “Cult Child” knows that her parenting skills were sub par.

There were things I hoped I would never do; like make mistakes. No one ever told me that was okay. No one ever told me that I was a flawed human being.

My eldest son went straight into parenthood at a young age. He is a warrior child, and while his personality is… Virgo, fact based, ready to make a move and sometimes difficult, I admire the tenacity with which he figures out supporting his family.

This is where I feel I failed as a mother. I didn’t have the best of life skills in my earlier days and because of that, my eldest especially, suffered with the same.

When his little daughter was born last week, 6 weeks before time, just a mere 3.5lbs, in the ICU, but doing so well, nothing in the past mattered for me. We sprung into action. I realize that while I cannot do everything, like be a nanny, I can be the best YaYa to these beautiful grandchildren and support my family emotionally while still maintaining my own mental health boundaries.

We are growing. I am learning. My sons are teaching me that I have to let go; that I will always be mom and they will be brothers who have secrets and moments in which I am not included. That hurts sometimes, triggering me back to being a child on the cult, shunned for some infraction. Yet, I bring my critical thinking into the forefront and remember that this is not the same. This is two brothers loving each other, and they deserve that special bond.

In this experience, through help from friends and my counselor, I’m learning my place as mom; that I cannot fix everything. I cannot rescue everyone. I can support without exhausting myself. That is my responsibility to maintain.

I am thankful today for these lessons, and I take them with me, adding to my infinite growth.

Why You Shouldn’t Stand In Front Of a Runaway Train

When my eldest son was in his early teens, he loved his trick bikes and was quite good at jumping hills. We’d go out to the dirt bike jumps before the days of cemented skate parks. I was adamant about helmets, elbow pads and knee pads.

OMG, mom. I look stupid!” He’d say.

He’d put them on, but just like I changed clothes after I left the house as a teenager, he took off his uncool protective gear when he was out of my eyesight too.

Then one day he bit it. Jamming down a hill, peddling his heart out, he crashed, straight into the gravel. His arms were like mincemeat, his face scraped up, and he was injured quite seriously.

I might have said I told you so, but more, I nursed his wounds, with pillows propped under his gauze covered arms, I felt so bad for my kiddo’s pain. Now, as a father, he requires his children to wear protective gear.  Experiences like that aren’t forgotten. 

There’s a saying; something about not standing in front of someone else’s firing squad. I think on that tonight. No matter how I explained to my son about head injuries and what could happen to him if he didn’t wear protective gear, what mattered most to him was looking cool to his friends and fitting in where he felt comfortable. He still has scars from that accident.

Life experience has taught me a harsh but valuable lesson. If someone is standing in front of a train, don’t attempt to push them out of the way. I’m not talking about suicide here. I am talking about life situations.

I am an outspoken Empath. I see much. One of the difficult parts of owning this state of being is remembering that even when I can see what is coming for someone, I have to let them have their own experience.  Sometimes we have to just let the train wreck and decide whether we want to be a part of the cleanup crew.    

By the way, that doesn’t mean you should let your kids ride bikes without protective gear.

When situations arise in adult relationships sometimes it’s best to step back, float up to an observational space and assess from all perspectives. I have to accept that sharing my experiences, information, insight and perspective doesn’t guarantee someone’s protection, because they may choose to reject it or even interpret it as judgment so they don’t have to accept any truth in it.  I know this mindset because I’ve lived it.  There have been many times I placed my ethics aside, just to have what I wanted, made myself believe it was good for me, then paid dearly in the end.  

I was in an abusive relationship many years ago.  It didn’t happen right away.  There’s always the love bombing stage.  For some narcissists this can be years.  My self esteem had waned to nearly nothing, and I convinced myself that this man would be good to me, was just working on growing himself, and so I dove in.  

Months later, after being choked in an elevator, running for my life, having my head slammed repeatedly against a wall as my helpless younger, pre-teen son stood by, my then partner was finally arrested. 

I received a phone call from the assistant district attorney. 

Do you know his record?” She asked me. 

I replied that I didn’t.  

Ah, well let’s see, pimping and pandering and kidnapping.”  She read the former charges he’d been incarcerated for. 

I asked him about them when I accepted his collect call from jail. He had an explanation; an ex-girlfriend who just had it out for him and since he was a guy, he got stuck with the charges.  

Ah.” I thought.  “How messed up they did that to him.”

Need I remind you that I had been choked, beaten and exposed my child to domestic violence just weeks earlier?  This is the depth of a narcissistic mind controller. 

I went to court on his behalf,  because you see, I was the One.  He was going to change for me.  I asked the judge to grant him counseling because, well, he just had anger issues. My abuser.  I stood and pled HIS case.  

Not my case.

Not my kid’s case.

His.

He didn’t win and was incarcerated.  I was at the prison doors when he was released.  I took him back.  News flash.  He continued to abuse me until I finally left.  Fled would be a better word.  I fled. 

I sat and listened to a domestic violence counselor, who the assistant district attorney asked to call me, beg me not to be with this individual. 

They never change, girl. Not the narcissism that comes with being a pimp, ex or not.  It’s in their DNA.”

Still I didn’t listen, believing that I was the one who would be special.  There is no telling where I would be or what would have happened had I not finally gained the courage to leave and never look back. 

I ponder now on those days understanding that this time in my life was extremely indicative of how I viewed myself.  I assess my life now, and what I still must rid in order to continue growing and becoming better as a human being.   I know my worth.  I am in control of me.  I say when, where and how.   I stand on my feet.  No one will ever abuse me again.  There is only one chance to see the signs of narcissistic behavior in a potential partner, and I am a ghost. 

I must always realize where I am in this life’s journey, focusing inward and ask myself the question I am asking myself every day.

Is this situation/relationship/friendship contributing to my greater good?”

Every situation can contribute to our good if we choose the path which yields fruit. 

A Moment In the Mind of a Mother With DID

I stand still in my slippered feet. The girls are at the table coloring. My youngest son is visiting from college and is recalling a childhood moment with me.

“You took me to watch The Grinch, remember?” He asks. His eyebrows are furrowed.

“I did?” I am flipping through the years like micro film, trying to bring up the memory.

“Oh my gosh, mom! How can you not remember that?” He exclaims. I drown in his frustration.

I am on the spot standing in shame. How careless I must seem to not remember an experience that is so obviously a fond memory for him. What kind of mother would not remember that moment? What kind of mother doesn’t remember special memories with her children?

A mother with DID. I want to say this as he continues on, his brother joining him, but they don’t pause to let words in, and they’re certainly not seemingly interested.

“You DO know who the Grinch is, right?” My eldest asks.

“Of course I do.” I reply.

And they go on to tell me of the movie, and I remember Jim Carey’s antics and sparkly green fur. I just don’t remember seeing it at a theater.

But I can’t say it right now, with granddaughters happily coloring away in their coloring books and my sons in their own energy, laughing and remembering.

I can’t say how I will claw away at the particles of blank spaces trying to find this moment. I can’t let out the lump in my throat that outside of those who understand my cult aftermath, I will stand judged and misunderstood more than not. There will be no room for explanation or conversations that open doorways to understanding.

I can only quietly walk away and wish I could switch minds with them for a day. Then maybe we could understand each other. I could see myself from their perspective. I could understand them more if I could see me like they do.

It’s not their responsibility, but it’s mine to remember. I walk away wincing the ache of failure. How can I ever explain to them the maze that is my brain? How can I draw out blank spaces, pain and the exhausting  strain of remembering?

I accept that only those who have suffered similarly to me can feel with me. Only those who have experienced the fragmented pieces that are the aftermath of a complex childhood filled with physical, sexual and mental torture, can truly understand what we become, who arrives to help us through, and why we stand staring, akwardly on the spot, holding blank spaces in our palms.