Wednesday, 08 June 2011
I have some advice you may want to take into consideration when raising your lovely little children: don't hide things from them, especially about the family itself.
Why? Well, here's my little anecdote:
I would definitely say that I had a very sheltered life while my parents raised me. I didn't stop playing with dolls until I was thirteen, I didn't know what sex was until I was fourteen, and I didn't know my aunt was my cousin until I reached fifteen, and I didn't know my mother was diagnosed with manic depression/Bi polar disorder until I was sixteen, and I didn't know that my brothers and sisters weren't really my full blooded brothers and sisters until I was in my teens.
15-18 were the hardest years of my life because I found out so many secrets I wasn't supposed to know about my family and it tore me up. I think the biggest secret was the secret that ruined my relationship with my mother. No one told me she was bi-polar until I was in my late teens. I always just thought she was mean, cruel, and weird, and for this I resented her in my teens. When so many teenage daughters had great relationships with their moms the older they got, my relationship with my mother got worse.
One day, she would be calling me fat while she would take me shopping for new clothes that I broke down crying in the store and refused to get anything. The next day she would call me beautiful and how lucky any guy would be to get me.
As a child, I would come home from school all excited to play with my toys until I entered my room... my mother enjoyed ripping my room apart and forcing me to clean it. She would make me organized EVERYTHING. All my clothes, toys, and stuff would be dumped in the middle of my room in this massive pile and she would tell me I couldn't do anything until everything was put back in its right spot. I remember bawling my head off while I did what she told me to do.
The next day I would come home and everything in my bedroom would be re-arranged. My furniture would be moved to different places and it frustrated me because I had liked it the way it was before. Sometimes she would be so nice to me she would say, "I don't know why I'm being so nice - I'm just in a great mood!" She would get me whatever I wanted that day and let me do what I want. But I would fear what was coming the next day. Would my room be mauled again? Would she call me fat and ugly? Would she slap me?
Another time that I noticed something was wrong with my mother was when my hair got stuck in a potted plant she had on the kitchen counter. I was in there making a volcano for my science class with a friend of mine and I started to walk toward the other side of the kitchen to get some scissors. My hair caught the plant around its stem and pulled it onto the floor. Without even asking what had happened, my mother turned around and slapped me across my face as I tried to tell her it wasn't my fault! My friend even saw it happen, and my mother didn't want to hear it.
Well, after one major episode (she actually tore our front door down with a hammer) my mother got sent somewhere. My dad said she was sick and got sent to a hospital and that she would be gone for a week. She came back home with all these paintings she had painted and those color by number sheets she did for me. She was so happy to see me and she gave me the posters with the horses and said, "See what I did while I was away? I colored them for you!"
That was when I demanded to know what was going on. Why did my mom have to go to the hospital when she wasn't physically hurt or sick?
My dad sat me down and said, "I think you're old enough to understand what bi polar disorder is. Well, your mother has it. She's sick. That's why she does what she does sometimes. Your mother loves you very much, but it's hard for her to show it sometimes. She's been fighting it for a while now. But now she has medicine so she should get better, okay?"
My mother knew she had bi polar disorder but refused medicine until I was seventeen.
This made me resent her. I know her actions to me in the past were because of her bi polar disorder and manic depression, but I didn't know back then! And to suddenly expect me to forgive all her actions at seventeen is not right. To hide a thing such as this from me for seventeen years of my life is not smart. I could have comprehended this years ago and hopefully my relationship with my mother would have been better had I know before seventeen.
There are other secrets that I discovered that have hurt me. Had my parents told me while I was younger, I probably would have accepted them better, learned them better, and have a better understanding of my family which would make me have a better relationship with them as well.
But, my parents were so concerned with me having a happy, carefree childhood that they forgot that maybe I need to know the secrets, too. I don't need to know about the birds and the bees, but I would like to know that I had an older sister who died of SIDs, and that's why my dad is so over protective, or the fact that I'm the last one in the family to know that my aunt is actually my cousin that my uncle didn't want so my grandma adopted her...
So, parents, I urge you to not keep secrets like these from your kids. We can understand them at any age, probably as low as five or six. By doing this, you can help us have a better relationship with you. Especially, if you or your spouse is mentally ill - your child needs to know so they can blame the sickness and not blame you or your spouse.
Unfortunately, I blamed my mother for every horrible and nasty thing she did... and not her mental illness. She is better, thanks to her medicine, and I noticed it right away. Had she gotten medication when she was diagnosed instead of refusing to take it, maybe things would be better between her and me...
Please, don't do this to your children.