Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

"You were a difficult child to bring up, everybody knew it, they knew you were weird"

(9 Posts)
lauren42 Thu 26-May-16 13:29:09

I'm not sure where to start with this, as I feel I am betraying my parents my even writing it down.

The title is a comment my mum makes whenever there's any disagreement between us or in the family. Recently I've begun to question this, seeing my friends have kids and thinking kids arent difficult, they're just kids. It's the paretns' job to look after them in the right way.

My dad hit me. Not to the point where I would be covered in bruises, just the odd bruise here and there. Bedtimes were always traumatic. I was so scared as a child about school up until the age of 8, and I remember my dad dragging me upstairs by a limb and slamming the door on me to lock me in my room if I wouldnt go to bed. I can't imagine doing this to a child. I would want to talk to them and ask why they were upset or what they needed. I'm so confused.

One day I was dancing to some music in the living room with my sister (something on MTV), and my mum said 'are you showing off again.' I wasn't. In fact that was probably be the least likely thing i would have done particularly at that age when i was so timid. I was just dancing.

There were no locks on the bathroom and my dad would walk in if he 'needed' to speak that second.

When I was in 6th form I wasn't allowed to cook my own food or buy my own food (I had a job that I loved alongside school and could afford it). If I bought anything back to cook they would go mad saying it was their house and if I didnt like their rules then get out, I wasnt to mess up their kitchen.

When I was 21 I had my first proper boyfriend. We were together for 4 years. After my exams he took me to a spa day, and he had tagged it on facebook. I never heard the end of it because I had apprently complained about my exam stress to my parents, but was busy having spa days... i dont really know what the problem was but it wasnt ok with them.

I'm close to my younger sister, but she has always been the more easygoing one between us. I actually disagree with this, but that's always been the label. She is a fantastic singer and went all round the country in shows when she was younger. when I was 13 I didnt want to go with my parents and my sister for her to have a one week intensive teaching course (it was in the middle of nowhere), and so my parents left my in the house for 9 nights and told everyone i wanted to stay behind and that i had a jealousy problem with my sister. Again, i would never think of doing this if i had two kids. I'd organise it so it was about both of them, or i would stay behind or my partner would.

My parents constantly tell me they have gone above and beyond for me. In some ways they probably have. Theyve given me the best education etc. But now Im older (and it upsets me to say it) I actually think they are quite selfish. Everything is about them. I asked them if I could leave a vaccum cleaner in their house when i moved (picked it up and couldnt drop it off immediately for logistical reasons), and Ive been told many times that theyre 'always helping me out more than most parents,' with this sort of thing as an example. to me, that's just common decency, and i would do it for them without consideration if it was the other way around.

there's a lot more but i am so tired today and drained emotionally. I'm starting to wonder if i actually am the difficult person my parents have labelled me.

I feel guilty for saying these things because I have a generally happy life. A good job, good pay, a nice home (helped for by money my parents gave), I can go on holidays now and then and my friends all live reasonably close by. But I feel completely fucked up when it comes to my parents. And they've given up a lot for me to be where I am today, and I know they love me. But whenever I am around them, I feel i'm the odd one out.

This has had a progressively worse effect on me as i've got older, and I have started to be unable to properly piece together things as a child...I forget chucks of time. Maybe that's just because it's 20 years ago now. I'm not sure what I'm asking... am I an awful person for feeling this way? I feel so confused.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 26-May-16 13:42:31

Hi lauren

Its not you, its them.

Many now adult children of such toxic parents have FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) in spades and you certainly do. Its just three of many damaging legacies such people leave their offspring.

What happened to you was not your fault, you were but a child and your parents abjectly let you down. THEY were the difficult ones and they abused you, they were the ones who made you feel bad and weird. None of that was your doing, the fault is ALL theirs. It is not your fault that they acted like this, you did not cause them to do that.

Your dad was physically violent towards you as a child and your mother enabled his abuse it by turning a blind eye to what was happening to you. Your sister was the "golden child" in the dysfunctional family of origin and she was always more favoured. You were assigned the scapegoat role. Its all very typical of a narcissistic family structure.

The current level of contact you have with these people needs to be lowered further to the point of having no contact with them. They were not good parents to you and are awful examples of grandparents to your own children. I would also keep your children well away from your parents.

I would suggest you post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these Relationships pages and read the resources at the start of that thread. "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward would be a good starting point for you.

I would also suggest you start to untangle all this with a therapist and importantly one who has NO bias about keeping families together despite the presence of mistreatment. BACP are good and do not charge the earth; I mention someone like them as NHS counselling has long waiting lists and you would only receive a limited number of sessions.

Sassypants82 Thu 26-May-16 13:43:23

I really don't think you're awful at all. It sounds like they regularly said & did things that hace had a huge negative impact on your confidence & self esteem. Also sounds like they tried to make out that there were issues between yourself & your sister where none existed. I would recommend seeking some counselling to work this all out. I'm not one bit surprised that you feel down & confused about your upbringing. Best of luck OP. X

KickAssAngel Thu 26-May-16 13:52:43

I had a very similar experience of childhood, although not quite so severe (ie shouting, rather than hitting). My mum still tells me that I'm awkward and stubborn. My older sister is the golden child, and I'm the family scapegoat. When I was five I used to do big dramatic attempts at running away from home and/or get a kitchen knife to cut myself. A caring parent would be concerned and see this as a sign of distress - I got told off for being a problem.

I'm 47 now and more or less OK with all of this, but it's taken a lot of thinking about. I live 4,000 miles from my parents and rarely see them. We get on fine if we just have phone calls or meet up for lunch. They are deeply dysfunctional and blind to their faults, but they do actually love me in a warped way, so some semblance of a relationship is possible. BUT I can't get too close or see too much of them. If I stay with them for more than 2 or 3 days I go back to how awful I felt as a child, and end up hiding in my room and crying.

It's not you, it's them, but you will never make them see that. So just try to step back to get some perspective and work on what you want your life to be, and how you want to feel. It is totally normal to react this way now that you're an adult, and actually part of how to get over the abuse and become a happier human, so keep going with your thoughts.

Rowanhart Thu 26-May-16 14:00:14

I don't think you're awful. I fully understand where you are. Don't want to steal your thread but I'm hoping my own experiences will help.

I love my Mam dearly and I know she's a good person.

However, she was horrifically abused in all ways as a child and sometimes that came out in her treatment of me when I was little.

Some of your stuff sounds v familiar (the occasional violence/accusations of showing off). There was only the two of us and sometimes life was awful. I would regularly write apology letters as a little one. Sometimes she wouldn't speak to me for days and that meant total silence. Occasionally she'd completely trash my bedroom and then make me clean it up. A couple of times she binned every toy I owned as punishment, no matter how much I loved them.

When I was 15 my Mam got the help she needed and mostly stopped being so aggressive and angry.

However we did have some violent clashes when I was older.
They escalated when I started fighting back and then when I hurt her for the first time, they stopped.

My Mam often says to people I was a terrible teenager in world and has convinced herself reason we get on well now is that I grew out of it. I don't know whether it's denial. We had our last two big emotional arguments shortly after my little one was born and I said to her 'I can't do this any more Mam. I love you but I can't bare it. It's too much.' For some reason that seemed to shock her more than anything. That I was actually at the point of walking away. Because we love each other to bits.

She's also incredibly generous, a fantastic grandmother and we now have the best relationship we've ever had. It's been three years and no clash which I largely put down to our mutual adoration of my kids and her fear of losing us all.

There is something else I did though too, and this is my advice to you. I finally forgave her.

I didn't have the big sit down chat where she felt bad. I didn't accuse her. I decided that forgiveness was something I needed to do to really move on. And it worked.

I think you should challenge the rhetoric about you next time (That's not my memory of my childhood...), but I think trying to let it go might help most of all.

Because our parents are fuck ups. All you can do is try encourage the positive non fucked up behaviour. And love them regardless because we know that they love us.

timelytess Thu 26-May-16 14:05:54

Do get some counselling. It will help.
I had the opportunity to tell my parents some home truths when I was in my late twenties/early thirties - that helped.
Probably there is no resolution that will satisfy you - they won't believe they did anything wrong, even if its as clear as day that they did - but when they're dead its too late to even try.
I have no regrets about 'things unsaid' to my mum - she was a bitch and we both knew it. I do have 'things unsaid' for my ex husband who died last year - he needed telling at least one more time what an absolute bastard he was.
Get counselling and when you're feeling strong, tell them.

ricketytickety Thu 26-May-16 14:23:29

Yep, it's your parents. But there is no way they'll ever admit that to you or themselves. It's just easier to blame you.

I suspect you have actually turned into a people pleaser...constantly trying to work out what people want and attempting to deliver it, but wondering why you can't ever form very close relationships with them. Or why your parents keep having a pop, whilst giving you 'help'.

You may wonder: do they actually love you? The answer is: in their own dysfunctional way but it is conditional. Often there is a golden child who gets all the 'love', then a scapegoat who is always trouble (they can't 'love' more than one child) and sometmes a forgotten child who simply doesn't matter much. These roles can shift around too - the golden child might fall off her pedalstal if she doesn't play ball and then one of the other children suddenly becomes perfection personified.

It happens because some people have very abusive childhoods or are narcissistic genetically and when they are parents are simply unable to give more than one child their full attention. They then become obsessed with this child as an extension of their own love for themselves (the golden child - your sister- is not seen as her own person to be loved for what she is, rather what your parent/s want her to be). The other children then fall into one or two roles to explain why they aren't given as much 'positive' attention (basically excuses to explain why they can't stand/cope with the other children). 1. the scapegoat who is told off not because the parent can't cope with them being around (reality is the parent can't have more than one extension of themselves), and told the it is because they are inherently bad. The forgotten child just ignored because basically they are unwanted and don't fit the picture in the parents' mind.

So, it is your parents. They fit the scenario well. They see their children as possessions rather than people in their own right and both of you fit into particular roles that suit your parents' view of things.

None of this is your fault.

It is also a product of either nurture or nature on the psychology of your parents so they are not just unwilling to behave differently: often they are incapable of behaving differently. If you see it like that it frees you from some of the confusing feelings you have about them because you want to love them in an unconditional way whilst their behaviour makes you question whether they are good people or not.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 26-May-16 14:35:57

I don't care if you had misbehaved, your dad was wrong to hit you. Added to that your parents had some odd ideas and in that set-up it's not in the least unusual to see your sibling treated very differently.

However you are now living apart and have confounded your parents' expectations and the so-called 'difficult' child is flourishing. Yes you are the odd one out in the same way the 'ugly duckling' became a swan.

I hope you can source some counselling and recognise that you are encumbered by baggage of their devising but actually you can thrive in spite of them.

Yoksha Thu 26-May-16 15:50:20

Nothing much to add OP. Except I found it so sad and harsh the comment your mum made when you exhibited spontaneity when you danced to MTV. I love just jumping up and dancing when I'm alone. Its a simple pleasure for me. I should imagine it's stunted your exuberant personality.

It's not you. It most definitely is them.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now