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Relationship with parents... what happened here, was this normal?

(29 Posts)
everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 09:08:10

Not sure where to start. My friends have started having kids (I'm 30) and I've been thinking about parent-child relationships, and my relationship with my parents. I just want some views on the sort of things my parents did and how they behaved with me - was this normal? Is it still normal? Am I being a spoiled brat?

I really don't know the answers to these questions,. I've listed some examples of the things that hurt me a lot. Please be critical...if you think i'm being a drama queen, I want to know.

As a child:
* little sister was a hockey player, played in major uk events. At weekends, I would go with my parents and sister and sit and watch her. All day. I was a brat, I hated it, I cried, my parents would buy me clothes and make up I guess to shut me up. I'd make a fuss waiting for my sister.
* when i was 15, my parents took my sister to a hockey event 4 hours from home. i didn't want to go, so they left me at home for the week. when it was talked about in the future, people were told that 'i wanted to stay at home because i was so jealous of my sister.' (not the case, I was always proud of her, I just didnt like watching hockey games for 7 hours a day!!)
* when I was 21 i had my first 'proper' boyfriend. we'd been together 2 years and my parents didn't allow him to stay at christmas. He also wasnt allowed to visit on christmas eve, and i ended up meeting him on the morotrway to exchange gifts
* recently, in january, my sister had a birthday and we had plans to go to dinner. she was coming with her long term boyfriend. before i even mentioned it (and wasnt planning to actually), my parents said 'you cant invite ian' - the man i had been seeing for the last 6 months. i didn't even bother to question it as i hadnt planned on inviting him anyway, but on reflection, it feels strange and isolating
* when I was younger i had OCD. i badly needed help. i would cry to my mum at my lowest point and ask her for help. on the odd occassion she'd say 'well you'll have to see someone then,' and nothing would come of it. mostly she would be dismissive and mocking, saying i was attention seeking and jealous of my sister.
* i don't trust my parents. they open any correspondence that goes to their address that is meant for me (i have redirected it but still some bits go to them now and then)
* until the age of 15 (when i could fight back), any disagreement would result in physical violence. and i was an awful child, i cried and shouted. my dad would pull me upstairs by my hair and my mum would be encouraging it and shouting abuse as he did it. i know i was behaving terribly, but all i needed was a cuddle and to talk and feel secure, they were always the reasons i was deeply unhappy. he's also kick me and generally drag me around
* when i was 24 and split up with my ex, he sent a box of gifts for my birthday with a view to getting back together. my mum opened this and decided not to give it to me. i found out a month later and was furious. she's only ever apologised in an exasperated sort of way...she'd not really sorry and neevr has been. i've mentioned it since and i'm told im a drama queen and over the top. it really damaged my trust in her and even to this day she hasnt acnkowledged it. if she read this, she'd just think i was being self centered and dramatic. maybe I am. i don't even know anymore.

There's lots more, but i feel drained writing that. Candid views really appreciated... if i need to get a grip and put this in perspective, i need to know and stop dwelling on it all.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 09:09:51

also want to add that my parents have done a lot of good things...i've had a privileged upbringing in many ways and they sacrificed a lot for me and my sister...great education and loads of support from them. these points above are the bad ones.

MrsBertBibby Sat 14-May-16 09:15:53

They are fucked up shits. I suggest you get some distance, and, if you can fund it, counselling to help you move past it all.

MusicIsMedicine Sat 14-May-16 09:19:13

They sound emotionally abusive to me.

Do read the Stately Homes thread on here and get the book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward.

It sounds very much like your sister is treated differently to you and is the Golden Child.

Sorry you've grown up in this environment.

springydaffs Sat 14-May-16 09:20:42

I wouldn't say you're a brat from what you've said.

Your parents sound controlling and violent. Is your sister the golden child and you the black sheep?

Perhaps you could read Toxic Parents by Susan Forward. Also read up about scapegoating.


AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 14-May-16 09:22:54

It was and is not normal; what you describe is characteristic of a highly dysfunctional and emotionally unhealthy family structures.

Many adult children of such toxic parents feel as you do and think that if they were to have children they would never treat their own children in the ways they were. It is at that point do they perhaps fully realise the extent of the abuse that they themselves suffered as children.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward as a starting point.

Your parents failed you completely, you're the scapegoat for all their inherent ills.

What support did your parents ever give you really; it sounds like they have favoured your sister her entire life because she happened to be good at something that they could bask in her reflected glory from.

What sort of a relationship if any do you have with your sister these days?

They were not good parents to you and were actively abusive towards you emotionally and physically. She opened your mail and kept items meant for you; that was wrong of her to do that.

Your dad was the main instigator in terms of physical abuse and your mother enabled that to happen and continue. You were starved of affection emotionally. These people used money and material things to buy your affections. Yours was really not a happy household at all, I would think that your favoured golden child sister was treated very differently.

I would seriously consider seeing a therapist and importantly one who has NO bias about keeping families together despite the presence of mistreatment.

If you do go onto start a family of your own you are going to need to keep your children well away from your parents.

CommonBurdock Sat 14-May-16 09:32:41

flowers OP. They were abusive and failed you terribly.

The sooner you make the break from them and forge your own path in life, the happier you'll be. How dare they do that to you.

Parenting when your own parents were shit is really hard. But possible.

Just remember it's them not you.

DoreenLethal Sat 14-May-16 09:34:31

You are the scapegoat
Your sister is the Golden Child
Your parents are nasty abusers and have followed this through to your adult life.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 10:14:57

Thanks for the replies.

It's hard to take in, let alone accept. They're good people, kind and friendly and have a laugh. I just struggle with the above.

springydaffs Sat 14-May-16 10:15:15

Hang on a minute - we don't know if op's sister is the golden child.

Was your sister also physically abused in the way you were , sun?

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 10:20:25

She seems to have a much better relationship with them. I am quite close to her, and out of the family, I trust her the most. She's talked about how she felt stressed with the hockey and sometimes she will agree with me if i talk about the above, but she ultimately has the opinion that that's just life and thats how it is sometimes, and our parents aren't terrible and could have been worse, which is right.

She was always the 'calmer' child, and i cant remember my dad hitting her like he did with me, but i was ALOT more difficult, i was argumentative and unhappy, whereas she was more settled. i cant really remember the difference in treatment or if there was any...i just have memories of feeling left out and as if i was the odd one out. i know my mum sees my sister as more like her, but then im sure that happens with lots of children and parents.

springydaffs Sat 14-May-16 10:38:13

Just one article I found when I googled scapegoating

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 10:39:09

I do have the odd memory of my sister being dragged upstairs but it's maybe once or twice. nothing like how they were with me, but i'm almost certain that's about the fact i was so argumentative and she was a much quieter, happier child.

665TheNeighbourOfTheBeast Sat 14-May-16 11:05:08

Being described as "difficult" is interesting - its easy for a child to intenalise and believe - especially as you look back at your reactions and are uncomfortable with them. That too is worth a second look.
The facts - such as the list you have above, are irrefutable as they are based on interactions with others - so I can see why you have used them as "fixed points" in your memories of your parents treatment of you, and they are not nice at all ! But the thing that springs to mind most obviously - and would be the hardest thing to accuratly remember - it what their tolerance level was for you.
You say you screamed and shouted - I assume you didnt walk into a room and start screaming and shouting ....?
So what brought about that level of frustration - and I would have to question how quickly their intolerance of your needs - would boil over into violence - verbal or physical.

There is a clear pattern of your parents ignoring your needs - or even not acknowleging you had then from the things you describe - your sister (however she might have been hot- housed ) had acknowleged needs and these were met by the behaviour of your whole family.
How were your needs met or was the clothing you didnt ask for it.?
I expect if you could look back as an outsider you would see a huge disparity in the point at which they would get annoyed with you and your sister. I say this because of your discomfort with the way you behaved - the reason you are uncomfortable is because you are rarely pushed into this state by anything you have encountered as an adult or outside your family home. I expect their tolerance of you was very low - they simply found you much more irritating than your sister - and punished you for that - this is their own shortcomings (scapegoating) not yours.

Mellifera Sat 14-May-16 11:41:07

OP, you probably weren't difficult as a child. Maybe you challenged their abusive behaviour and they responded with abuse.
Let's face it, they were/are abusive.

Remember that you were the child, they were the adults. They have failed you and you knew it when you were growing up. Your stroppiness was probably a direct response to their unfair treatment of you.

Your needs weren't met, you said you needed a hug and some support but didn't get it.

I agree with PP to try and access some therapy.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 14-May-16 12:22:49

"They're good people, kind and friendly and have a laugh"

Perhaps to other people but they are not and were not kind to you.

Your sister was the more favoured golden child, that is why she did not cop as much abuse as you did.

Re your comment:-

"i know my mum sees my sister as more like her, but then im sure that happens with lots of children and parents".

Not in normal emotionally healthy families it does not. Your own familial template here is warped. Your mother likely saw your sister as perhaps even an extension of her. She certainly bathed in her favoured DDs reflected prowess.

Toxic parents often describe the less favoured child as "difficult"; its a common charge levelled at the child now adult. I do not think you were difficult at all or even argumentative; you were simply crying out to be heard and have a voice. They never gave you the emotional sustenance that you so needed from them.

BTW it is not your fault they are like this; their own families of origin did that lot of damage to them.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 15:37:09

Thank you everyone.

I feel so messed up right now. I don't know how to deal with it. Even now, talking to my parents is never actually talking. it's stressful, patronising, bitchy even.

I feel bullied when the entire family get together, and when i react, i'm made to look like the irrational, crazy person.

The more I am away from my parents, the more I realise nobody else treats me like that or makes me feel this way. That;s the only thing that makes me think maybe im not the problem but they are. I feel lost.

springydaffs Sat 14-May-16 15:59:04


Have you looked at the links and book suggestions yet?

Knowledge is power in situations like this - you need to get genned up on what is going on in your family.

Then you won't take it so personally - in fact, not personally at all; because you will see it has nothing to do with you, it's all them.

Ime, recovery from a family like this was a process. It didn't (still doesn't) happen overnight: they had a long time to pummel this stuff into us, it takes a long time to get it out. I've had a lot of therapy.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 16:07:59

Thanks so much for talking. I feel so alone! I'm with them now as there's big birthday tonight. been dreading it all week.

i would like a better relationship with them, but then i think what;s the an adult now, and dont have to spend time with them so maybe thats the solution.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 16:08:21

and im going to look at the book thats been suggested smile

BeauGlacons Sat 14-May-16 16:23:44

You sound fabulous. They sound awful. Of course you kicked off a bit, you were being physically and emotionally abused. What did they do equivalent for you to hockey: Singing, art, piano, pony? No, thought not, no wonder you had a short fuse, you were being neglected.

You can't change the past, only the future. Make your own life and live it to the full. Minimise contact if being with them makes you unhappy xxxx

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 16:31:57

Beau that made me a laugh a little as my sister actually did have a pony!!

They did do things for me, for instance they tried to get me into playing an instrument but I didnt really enjoy it. I enjoyed dancing and did some of that but they werent interested or bothered by it in the same way they were with my sister and hockey...though thats probably because she was talented and good at hockey, whereas i was just your average kid doing a bit of dancing!!

I have mentioned this to my parents in the past...they laugh and say i wasnt interested in anything and if i had been then they would have done exactly the same for me as they did for my sister. they also say 'oh we were just awful werent we' in a jokey way. another comment they make is that 'oh ignore all the sacrifices we made, you obviously had a terrible childhood.'

they did do some nice things... but i felt VERY insecure as a child and i still feel very insecure now where they are involved. luckily i have people around me who are respectful and kind to me and that has enabled me to see that not everyone is toxic.

mummytime Sat 14-May-16 16:50:20

I 100% agree it's not you it's them.

There is a thread here which has "Stately Homes" in the title, it's a good place for people with toxic families to hang out. Do try to get some counselling through work or your GP.
I am sure you are a lovely person.

OurBlanche Sat 14-May-16 17:02:17

Stop and think... your sister has said she was stressed with the hockey, you describe her as more compliant... did she continue with hockey to keep them happy, do you think?

Was her coping mechanism any better than yours?

Sometimes parents are so determined that their kids will have certain type of childhood that they arrange all sorts of things without really considering the child's perspective. You were punished for speaking out, yours sister was forced to continue with hockey for not speaking out... might that be true?

My parents would have looked perfect from the outside, they still look like perfect great aunts and uncles. But their focus is now, as it was back then, how we looked to others, how good we made them look.

At 50 I see tried, narrow minded 70 somethings who still have no idea why I am low contact with them. DH detests them for how they dismiss me so easily, but is pleasant enough to them as he agrees that they are, as they have always been, Essentially Harmless (to misquote Douglas Adams) and, as they live in another country, we don't have to see them much at all!

All I can suggest is that you stop seeing yourself through their eyes. That starts by identifying something you do, you love and are good at that they dismiss. Ponder it: why do they dismiss it? Why do you love it? Why should their opinion matter to you?

For me it was the realisation that they think they threw me out when I was 17 and spent years half supporting me as I simply could not cope alone. They did throw me out and within 6 months I moved 200 miles away and had no contact with them for 3 years. They don't remember missing me, they did not report me as missing, and I know it was 3 years (Live Aid up to the year before I got married).

They simply do not know the real me and the real me has been quite successful and is very happy, thank you. The 'me' they know is a total stranger to me.

You need to find that separation. It will be there. When you find it, even the slightest of cracks, the smallest difference (according to my mother I hate mushrooms, according to me I love them - that is enough of a difference to work with) work at it until you can easily spot their construct and get rid of it.

Good luck.

everybitofsun Sat 14-May-16 17:09:22

thank you so much.

replies are helping so much!! i need to think of them as people, not parents, and not try and turn to them becasue whenever i do, it's just destructive.

when i look at them as people, i think theyre ok but have many issues that mainly relate to them being very self centered. i'm not perfect, but im shocked at how they behave sometimes.

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