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To be gutted by the implication of this book?

(106 Posts)
scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 11:32:51

I am reading The Book You Wish Your Parents had Read by Phillipa Perry, (Grayson's wife) and it keeps making me cry because essentially she's saying that any emotional problems your child has is down to you.

I have an extremely anxious teenager who is very unhappy at the moment. She struggles to make friends and then struggles to keep them. She worries that she smells. She worries about the cleanliness of our house and whether it will make her ill (this really touched a nerve as I try to keep the house/kitchen fairly tidy and I grew up in an extremely messy/dirty house and felt ashamed of it). When one worry subsides another flares up. It's constant. The quality of her life is affected. She's going to be referred to Camhs.

I try and try and try with her. I honestly do and have done everything I can think of to help - I go to workshops, have bought books to help me and to read with her, have tried mindfulness etc etc. Everything. I try to be encouraging, supportive, understanding, gentle.

Context: She had a difficult birth and cried non-stop for six months. I don't know if these two are related.
She has always been highly sensitive - not just emotionally but to flavours, smells, textures etc.
She has always struggled with friendships.
I've wondered about autism but she doesn't tick many of those boxes on the Cambridge University online test.

So my question is: Is it really my fault?
I get that Perry is talking about the patterns of behaviour that we pass on from our parents, but my parents were emotionally neglectful (mum was an alcoholic and very depressed) and I am actively trying to avoid repeating these patterns. But I've still ended up with a very unhappy daughter. Please tell me that the book does not speak the truth?

Zaphodsotherhead Thu 10-Oct-19 11:45:54

I have five children. All the same father, all the same upbringing (as near as can be). Of my sons, one is distant and has some anxiety problems, one is very outgoing and friendly and successful. Of my daughters, one is anxious, has a lot of phobias and difficulties socialising, the other two are very outgoing and have a lot of friends. One daughter is very successful and ambitious, one less so but very gregarious and more concerned with her friendship group than her job.

They are all very, very different people. Maybe there are similiarities in things that make them wound-up, but they are mostly laid back and happy with themselves. So I'd say a lot of what makes people people is personality-based. My kids had a difficult time when they were young (I separated from their father, was a single parent for a lot of years with no money and no support) but they all seemed to handle it differently.

So I'd say it's a nature/nurture thing, but how much of each influences each person is individual.

wowthatscrazyman Thu 10-Oct-19 11:48:17

It’s worth seeking out an opinion from an expert in female autism - a lot of autism “experts” are surprisingly ignorant about autism in girls (this was the impression I got from the autism research centre in cambridge)

scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 11:54:09

Zaphod - thank you for this, hugely reassuring. I have a happy-go-lucky second daughter but I put this down to ME not being so anxious second time around. (And having to wrangle a highly sensitive three-year-old when she was born!) But maybe it is just down to personality.

Wowthatscrazy - Yes, I had heard that autism doesn't present itself typically in girls and that they're also very good at masking. Will investigate, thanks.

scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 11:55:08

I'm interested to know if anyone else has read the book and their thoughts on it (before I burn it).

Branleuse Thu 10-Oct-19 11:55:12

i wonder if you should look further into female autism. Its really common for girls to not immediately fit standard criteria especially online tests. They are still really biased towards male presentation.

Tvstar Thu 10-Oct-19 11:56:38

There is absolutely no mileage in trying to figure out who is to blame. The things tcT affect us most deeply are the things we can't remember and you are never going to be able to unravel all that. You need to look forwards not backwards.
Anxiety is in epidemic proportions among
Teenagers. I think social media hS made things 1000 x worse
Ps where is her dad in all this

Beamur Thu 10-Oct-19 12:02:00

We are all partly the product of our upbringing plus our own personalities.
My DD is also quite an anxious person and has been seen by CAHMS at quite a young age. I felt horrifically guilty and very responsible, but I have learned from that time. I don't blame myself any more and have a lovely relationship with my DD. She's been having a flare up of her anxieties over the summer (external influences we can't control - death, school, etc) but as a family we're much more clued up about mental wellness these days.
So, instead of berating myself I put those energies into other things - and it sounds like you are a kind and supportive Mum too. Remember to take care of yourself as well.

WheresTheEvidence Thu 10-Oct-19 12:02:31

Context: She had a difficult birth and cried non-stop for six months. I don't know if these two are related.
She has always been highly sensitive - not just emotionally but to flavours, smells, textures etc.
She has always struggled with friendships.

This sounds like me. I have sensory processing disorder and am going down the autism route as I match a lot of the checklists for female autism that I wouldn't have for male autism.

milliefiori Thu 10-Oct-19 12:05:09

OP I have an autistic boy who has all the aspects your daughter presents: found it very difficult to make friends (no success at all until age 17 when he hit the jackpot with a lovely crowd who started to include him!) Cried non stop as a baby for months on end. Sensitive to textures, tastes etc. Acute social anxiety.

I worried so much about his anxiety and chronic low self esteem. I had a very ropey upbringing and was neglected physically and emotionally, so I was determined this wouldn't happen to my DC. I have honestly spent the last 15 years ensuring I am the best mum I can be - loving, attentive, fun, supportive, giving healthy boundaries, never raising my voice, always listening, encouraging them to try things that they want or need to do better, and fostering the self-belief that they can handle them. Honestly, while i know I;m not perfect, I'd be amazed if his anxiety stems from my mothering. I think it's due to autism and some other significant physical disabilities which put him at a huge social disadvantage throughout his school life.

If you love her and care for her, provide for her, listen to her, seek help for her, trust her to be capable and encourage her to pick herself up after failure as well as celebrating success, then it's not you. It's a complex mix of nature and nurture - and nurture comes from all sorts of places - school teachers, community, siblings, wider family, peers etc as well as parents. Significant events can impact too. If Perry's book isn't helping you. put it down.

m0therofdragons Thu 10-Oct-19 12:09:55

Dd is 11 and sounds similar. She too had a difficult birth and cried and cried as a baby. I also have dtds who are much more "normal" in the sense of baby books etc.

We've done a huge amount of work with dd1 on her anxiety and teaching her to let things go she cannot control. The Whole Brain Child is a useful book. I found that she's quite black and white so grey areas make her nervous. We work with this and give scenarios of grey areas.

Re cleanliness there are things you can do - over cleaning is dangerous so I'd focus on that.

A lot off DD's anxiety comes from control or feeling out of control and lack of ability to pick up on nuances (would walk by her crying friend because she won't notice but if I said x is crying she'd show concern). I think she's probably on the spectrum but mild and manageable - but it does need proactive management.

I guess I can see that emotional well-being will be affected by parenting but until a child is grown up how do you know you did the right thing? I also think dc/adults need to take responsibility for their well-being and if a parent was doing what they did through love then holding a grudge because you've decided your parents failed is unhelpful. Dc have different needs and we all make the best judgements we can at the time with all the info we have. A child is unlikely to be privy to the whole big picture of what parents are dealing with as a whole so their perception could be wildly off.

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Thu 10-Oct-19 12:15:15

There are many wise words above. There is always nature AND nurture, never just one. Sounds like you are doing the best you can, and have been much more nurturing than your own mum. Don't be so hard on yourself flowers

Bellringer Thu 10-Oct-19 12:16:54

Many of these personality traits/mental health problems have a genetic component. Some from slight brain injury, perhaps at birth.They can be triggered or caused by envoironmental factors but may not be. Life is hard for young people.
You may find ordinary parenting inadequate and discover or be given other techniques to manage. Parent blaming is (still) all the rage. What did she think caused Grayson's idiosyncrasies? Hugs.

scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 12:18:05

TVstar - you ask where her dad is in all this, well he's 100% supportive but is reluctant to label her, says she's doing well, all the worries are normal. He likes to minimise it and emphasise how well she's doing, the positives, basically. Unsurprisingly, he didn't want me to pursue the CAMHS route but he understands why I want to. My dd prefers to talk to me about her worries, but I have been including him so he can see it for himself.

Beamur - thank you, I am feeling very wobbly, I must admit. I think I have latched on to the perceived criticism of the book because it's something else to berate myself about. I am too harsh on myself, I know I am.

Wherestheevidence - interested to know what going down this route involved? Was it a referral from the GP? I'm not sure how to find out about specifically female autism experts.

Milliefiori - thank you for saying it's not me! You sound like a lovely parent to your son.

Does anyone know if CAMHS can help diagnose autism in females or would I have to find someone independently?

YippeeKayakOtherBuckets Thu 10-Oct-19 12:18:55

I’ve read bits of the book as we sell it at work. I very nearly threw it across the shop.

I do actually think she speaks a lot of sense BUT it’s a shit book to read when you’ve already got older kids.

I do want to revisit it at some point but I need to steel myself, some of the passages about how I was parented and how that’s informed my own parenting really resonated. But it is all a bit ‘this is all your fault’. It’s not.

LadyCarolinePooterVonThigh Thu 10-Oct-19 12:24:58

Philippa Perry has one child.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Thu 10-Oct-19 12:25:21

Have you not heard the phrase, "A mother's place is in the wrong", scattercushion? I think many women are hard-wired to look for the blame in what somebody says and, quite often, apply it to themselves. I think (although generalising) men are better at being pragmatic and less inclined to overthink.

My Mum did the best she could, under really difficult circumstances, and whilst the old boot drives me nuts sometimes, I wouldn't have swapped her for the world - or I wouldn't now. Back as a teen I probably would have.

The point I'm making is that unless you can directly attribute something that you did or didn't do, that has adversely affected your daughter, you should be more gentle with yourself and less inclined to slap yourself with blame 'tickets'. It won't help but it will bring you down and make you less able to support your daughter.

TL:DR - Give yourself a break. You're doing better than you think you are. smilethanks

scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 12:26:01

Bell-ringer - thank you. I think I am always looking for help because I want someone else to have a go, I feel like I'm not helping and I don't know if I ever have.

Yippee - yes, when your kids are older, basically it's just 'apologise for the damage done'. Let's have a book-hurling competition.

ALadyofLetters Thu 10-Oct-19 12:26:50

I’ve read the book and although I enjoyed it, I’m not on board with some of her conclusions. Some of the parts about insecure attachments were interesting but I do wonder what the rationale is for some people struggling with anxiety and then others who had v similar experiences do not. It seemed an old fashioned approach to me- dig deep enough into the psyche and discover that it is all your parent’s fault.

I agree with what other have said about looking at how autism differs in girls. It presents v differently.

HoppingPavlova Thu 10-Oct-19 12:26:58

Yep, definitely encourage her to be assessed for autism. Those checklists are only good for picking it up in boys, not girls.

milliefiori Thu 10-Oct-19 12:28:11

OP - the SENCO at her school might be qualified to run the test. Our SENCO managed to get hold of an Ed Psych who co-ran the tests and DS came out as 'text book Asperger even though we don't use that term these days' (the Ed Psych's words.)

AlphaNumericalSequence Thu 10-Oct-19 12:29:33

I have similar worries about my older son, who is very unhappy and mentally unwell. He was diagnosed as autistic aged about 20, and has had several psychotic problems. I think all the time about the childhood I gave him and how much I may have contributed to his unhappiness. My younger son is absolutely the opposite -- happy, chilled, sociable.

I haven't read the book that you mention, but i am wondering whether it could be that you are reading it through a prism of self-blame and seeing in it more of a willingness to blame the parents than is actualy there. The reason for wondering this is that I find it hard to believe that a compassionate and psychologically insightful person would write a book that is so hard on parents.

scattercushion Thu 10-Oct-19 12:29:54

Lyingwitch - oh that's brilliant, a mother's place is in the wrong! Need to get it on a T-shirt.

ALadyofLetters Thu 10-Oct-19 12:30:07

Yes, I also thought at times but you only had one child! You can’t help but leave a newborn to cry when you busy wiping a toddler’s bum or wiping cornflakes off the sofa!

Trinpy Thu 10-Oct-19 12:30:38

Before you even mentioned autism I was all ready to say that I was exactly like that as a child, my parents were fab, I was just autistic.

I haven't read that book but I have read about it on another man thread and it didn't sound like something I should read (breeds on all my parenting insecurities!).

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