This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The words we say

My mom is a beautiful woman inside and out. She is tall (5'6" or at least used to be, she's shrunk a little!), very smart, a great artist, and in the 60s and 70s she had the long straight hair that was so popular. She was blonde through her twenties although it was darker by the time I was old enough to know and remember what she looked like.

This lovely young woman you see in these pictures thought she was ugly. Her mother was a petite Southern lady and this large daughter was huge and awkward. My grandmother let her daughter know she felt this way. To top it off her younger daughter was smaller boned and a ballerina. Much more in keeping with what my grandmother thought a woman should look like.

My mom was born with very large buck teeth and while she did get braces, in those days braces did not do a great job. She also had dyslexia (before anyone knew anything about learning disabilities). For this reason my mom was sent to secretarial school while still in middle school... she was too ugly to get married, and too stupid to go to college. My mom surprised everyone by becoming a National Merit Scholar.

In college my mom became engaged and married to a man about to head to Vietnam. She finished school while he was overseas. She is a loving, giving person who is very sensitive (INFJ - which is a very sensitive personality type that means she makes all her decisions with her feelings).

Upon his return from Vietnam, my father let my mom know that he thought she needed to lose weight and nothing was right about her. My mom is big boned, and even if she were nothing but bones she would probably still be a size 12. There was no way she could be what he wanted, but she still tried.

This is a beautiful, wonderful woman in her 60s. To this day, the harsh words and disapproval
poured over her as a child are still very much a part of her life. She still believes what was said about her, and allowed it to continue to happen throughout her whole life. She passed some of that on to her children - not the belief that they were ugly - my mom could never do that to another human being - but the belief that you must believe and accept others telling you what they think is wrong with you, was definitely passed on to my sister and I and was very difficult to overcome.

There is nothing I can do or say to my mom to change her self-image (believe me I've tried), but I can work with my children to try to overcome their negative images of themselves.

I try to watch every word that comes out of my mouth regarding my children.

When Bob was little I used to go to playdates and talk to the other moms about what a handful she was (she hit the "terrible twos" at 17 months and didn't quit until age 4!). She was only 18 months old and not paying any attention to me.

One day I realized that whether she heard me or not, it was still effecting how I saw her. I stopped calling her the "Bob"inator (sounds like Terminator, get it?!) and telling people about what stubborn, destructive or wild thing she'd done recently, and instead tried to switch it up. I still told stories (I needed those words of affirmation), but the words were about how "smart," "creative," and "persistant" she was. I wish it weren't true, but her behavior improved. I'm happy to report that my attitude improved too.

Listen to your words. What you're saying to your child today becomes part of who they are for the rest of their life.

*****My Mom reads my blog (Hi Grandma!) so please tell her how gorgeous she is because she doesn't believe me! Mom you were really rockin the kneesocks in that picture with baby me on the wall! *****


Lulu McCabe said...

Love that! Thank you so much for sharing such a personal perspective based on your mom's life. It can be so hard to choose affirming words in the midst of daily stress, but it's so important. We hold up a mirror and it can be a true reflection or a distorted one depending on the words we choose.

GB's Mom said...

Words are among the most important tools we have for raising our children. Words and perception. Your Mom was beautiful, but because that is not how her mom saw it, she never saw it. I was always the smart one, my sister got stuck as the stubborn one. 50 years later, my sister still doesn't realize she is smart, too.

Mom 4 Kids said...

Your Mom is beautiful both back then and now, we can see that in the pictures. I love the art work on the wall too. Most important she raised a daughter who knows how to value herself and her children, wonderful!

Debbie said...

I would say, "I can't believe your Mom thought she wasn't beautiful!" but sadly I can believe it. I know how much of people's reality is defined by their parents.

Nonetheless, when *I* saw the pictures of your Mom holding the baby, I thought, "Who is that gorgeous woman holding baby Bob? Is that Mary?" Only after reading did I realize that the BABY was you, Mary (I assume) and the gorgeous woman was your mom. With such beautiful eyes, cheek bones, and perfect skin ... all I see is beauty. I'm so sorry she couldn't see it too.

brenkachicka said...

Your mom is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Her eyes are amazing, and cheekbones! She is so lucky to have such cheekbones! And she should know people pay to have their lips plump like hers.
Wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

I thought the first picture was YOU! It's so cool when you see mother/daughter look-a-likes. Both of you are gorgeous.

Isn't it a shame what the war did to those sweet young men? My BIL is a vet who came home from VietNam a completely different person. My sister is a saint, she's stayed with him for over 40 years and believe me it was for better and for worse. His best attribute is that he absolutely ADORES her.

Another me story: yesterday a friend of mine siad that he LIKED me. I could not comprehend that I was "likable." I have had enough negative input in my recent years that now I don't even think I'm likable. I didn't realize that until last night when my friend said he liked me. Weird. Logically, of course I'm fully aware that people like me, but in my heart it's not possible. Your mom and I could do lunch!

marythemom said...

My mom's love language is also Words of Affirmation. I want you guys to know that I am forwarding your comments to her via e-mail (of course she can read it here too).

Yes, the baby being held by the gorgeous woman is me! Bob was blond by the time she was this age and had beautiful blue eyes.

Mary in TX

marythemom said...


Next time you are anywhere near here you may certainly have lunch with my mom, but I get to come too! After all, I liked you first!

YES, I DO LIKE YOU by the way! I consider you to be one of my oldest dearest friends. It's been too long by the way! If you need to hang out somewhere warm...

Mary in TX
(where it is shorts weather all ready!)

Annie said...

Good gosh; your mom was exquisitely lovely - looks JUST the way I WANTED to look (and didn't) family always told me I was beautiful and could do anything - but unfortunately I could see for myself (both what was in the mirror AND my math grades). I'm not sure what anyone thinks is wrong with the dentistry - her teeth are pretty too!

Somehow stumbled on here as we have adopted teens also.

Sharon said...

Your mom's the bomb!! LOVE her!!! She IS beautiful inside and out, and she makes the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. And that's not just because of her artwork! She IS smart (I've talked to her on numerous subjects, folks) and witty, and paints... well, the word "beautifully" doesn't do justice to what she does with paint and brushes, but I lack the time to hunt in my thesaurus. Hugs to Marythemom's mom!!!!

CB said...

That was beautiful. It made me cry and think of my mom and my grandmother both of who were compared to other more conventionally pretty girls...Your mom was and still is very pretty!