Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lessons In Failure

It was the third time within a month that I had completely lost it and gone off at J. From the outside looking in, I was a raging lunatic that needed to be put away for everyone's good. It had become a predictable pattern. J would commit her offense, I would begin by asking "Why ?" she would have nothing to say for herself. The more I insisted on knowing what she was thinking when she did what she did, the more inert she turned. Her inertness infuriated me.

The anger and decibel levels would mount, J would cower in fear. Then I would have my melt-down , say and do things that I would in normal circumstances find most unconscionable. The child would be screaming and crying in sheer terror. Then I would cool, look back upon the episode in shock and dismay; try to make it right. If only there was a way to turn the clock back, go back to the moment just before it all started.

As soon as I returned to some semblance of normalcy, J would go out of her way to forgive and forget, over-anxious to accept blame for the sake of peace. I realized her sense of powerlessness in the face of my fury made her willing to do anything to regain balance and equilibrium in our relationship. She was acting from her survival instincts and I was conveying a message that would hurt her for the rest of her life.

She was equating the demonstration of love to accepting abusive behavior without question. As she grew up, she would expect no better or different from any other significant relationship. If someone loved her dearly (or even said that they did so), she would give them carte blanche to treat her badly in a fit to rage and then claim temporary loss of sanity. I was not not doing much different and I was teaching her by example. To J, whatever Mommy does is right and by extension if someone else does the same, they are right too.

Of course, I could not undo the damage I had already done but thanks to my epiphany after the third episode I sat her down and explained how she had no reason to put up with my despicable behavior. I was in the wrong and she was within her rights to tell me so. I told her I would love and respect her so much more if she was bold, stood up for herself and spoke the truth without flinching. I explained to her why the way I had behaved with her was unacceptable no matter who it was from including her mother.

I explained to J that every human being has a God-given right to be treated with respect and dignity and anyone who tries to violate it is always culpable. There are no excuses. She must not try to make amends for them like she had done with me. I was wrong and I had to do whatever it took to earn her love and trust again. Never repeating the mistake was the first step in that direction. Despite my failings as a mother, I hope have had the sense teach J the importance of recognizing those failings for what they are not accept them as a part of unconditional love.

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