While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On an “it only gets worse” view of child-rearing: When my son was born (1982), I was a volunteer EMT and received a bit of sage advice from an ER doc. You will have two power struggles: the first at around the age of 2 (and the parents must win that one), and the second around the age of 18 (and the child needs to win that one).
The “it only gets worse” part only comes when the parents cede that first one.
If we insist on reasonable accountability from our kids, lead by example and provide a loving, caring environment, it does indeed get much much easier. If, on the other hand, we fail our kids when they’re 2, they then become 150-pound, screaming, tantrum-throwing adults. In this case it gets way harder.
Love and leadership. It’s not hard. Sadly, some parents just don’t get it.
On understanding the early stages of abuse: I was in a relationship once with a man who initially seemed charming and wonderful, but who took exception for nearly everything I said about him. He would not listen when I explained I meant no harm, and the end result was that over time, I came to feel responsible for his happiness, and I questioned my worth because I was constantly being painted as a bad, uncaring, lousy person, and constantly put in a situation where I spent a lot of energy trying to explain myself/clarify and communicate better.
Doing this took away energy from other things in my life (my friends, my job, etc.), isolated me and made me preoccupied with fixing something that wasn’t really broken. My boyfriend, despite his concerns and complaints, was not interested in ever connecting about the perceived issues.
He used my growing unease about offending him and my censoring myself as a means to control me. He’d punish me for imagined slights and constantly paint me to be a bad person to our friends, thus isolating me and interfering with my ability to socialize and to have healthy self-esteem.
By making me feel paranoid about voicing anything he might perceive as criticism early on, he effectively and calculatedly stifled my voice. It meant that by the time he very abruptly and shockingly changed from charming and sweet boyfriend to abusive inhumane monster, I was already solidly prepped to stay silent! This is how abusers get away with what they do, by instituting this kind of mind control and manipulation to allow them to escalate later on. I would be very careful when dealing with anyone who forces their partner to tiptoe around speaking their mind.
On planning a wedding under the pressure of Mom’s demands: Head to the courthouse, get hitched — just you, prospective hubby and justice of the peace. Tell mom to plan any party she wishes and let you know when and where to show up. Plan another party on your own nickel for your friends.
Been there, done that. Everyone equally offended. Life goes on.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. Mountain time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.