Enablers

Standard

Enablers
By Bernadette A. Moyer

"Hello, my name is Roberto, and I will be your enabler this evening."

There are all kinds of enablers some may be knowingly enabling and others unknowingly. My father was an alcoholic and my mother the classic enabler. It was a typical co-dependent relationship. I am sure she thought she was helping him. She was a registered nurse and in a “helping” profession. She loved him and supported him and stayed with him even when his behaviors dictated that she shouldn’t have.

As a parent I am sure we enabled some behaviors that we would not have accepted from any others. We loved our children and often thought we were helping them. If we had it we wanted to share what we had with them even after they became adults. This often showed itself in “arrested development” the more we did for them, the less they did for themselves. This often leads to resentment on their side and our side too.

There is often a fine line between helping and enabling. What I have learned as a parent is that as hard as it is to watch your child fall and fail you have to step back and let them pick themselves up. Trust that they will figure it out, it is part of learning and growing up. Once they learn to pick themselves up they start to build their own confidence and become successful in life.

I hear about “enablers” quite often in my estranged parents support group. This is usually a person or a family that supports the “victim” the “co-dependent” and helps them to go against their parents. The “enablers” support them in making decisions they might otherwise never have made without the assistance of these “enablers.”

enabler1

A friend’s daughter recently was married and mom and dad were not invited, to make matters worse the grandfather gave the bride away. The grandparents took the young daughter in and supported her in estranging from her mother and father. What were they thinking and why? These are life altering decisions that will last forever. Dad is not only feeling betrayed by his own daughter but by his father too. Would the grandparents want this to have been done to them?

What should they have said and done? How about go home and work it out, all teenagers and young adults have struggles with their parents, you only have one mother and father, we love you but you have to go home and work it out.

I experienced this twice now myself with both my teenage daughters who found women to take them in and go against mom and dad. And it was always over a boy. One woman I never met even though I asked to meet with her. She “enabled” the behaviors of a struggling teenager. This woman has now raised my grandson who recently turned 18, my grandson who has no real relationship with his birth mother and who never met his maternal grandmother. So who won here? And I am left to wonder what kind of woman involves herself in another woman’s family without even meeting them for yourself and making your own opinion? Who has a better life because of her “enabling?”

Second daughter returned home seven years later, she sees now in her own words that she was “young and dumb” she got used by people that “enabled” her poor teenage behaviors. She admits to being a “defiant teenager” sadly the “enablers” used her for their own gain.

I think a lot of “enabling” points back to ego, thinking they know better or are better. Today I don’t question the young teenager who naturally rebels against her parents as part of growing up but I do question the real and true motives of the people that have enabled them. What was in it for them?

Motives, agenda and egos all play a role in the type personality that enables, ask yourself what is your true motivation and agenda and what part does your ego play? Are you helping or are you hurting? If you are doing things to impact another family that you would not want anyone to do to your family that is probably a good litmus test.

If you really want to love others and help others, stop enabling and start trusting that the people that you think you are helping will figure it out for themselves, they will! And they will love you and appreciate you all the more for not stunting their growth and allowing them to develop into their own mature and successful selves!

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Reunited After a 7 Year Estrangement

Standard

Reunited After a 7 Year Estrangement
By Bernadette A. Moyer

reunited2

I thought it would be much more awkward but it wasn’t. I thought maybe she wouldn’t show up, she says she thought maybe I wouldn’t show. I thought we would struggle to keep the conversation going, we didn’t. I can’t say we picked up where we left off because she was different and so was I.

There was a long heartfelt hug as we met one another after a long seven year estrangement. I never thought she would have done it, leave home and not look back. I still don’t believe she would have done it if not for her half-sister my daughter who was already estranged for over ten years when daughter #2 chose the same path. They teamed up together which often happens with estranged adult children, they try and take others with them. And at 18 years of age and with some normal teen/parents growing up clashes she was easy to sway and an easy target.

This child had a father and a twin brother too that she left at home, a father who was angry and crushed by her actions and behaviors. It didn’t seem that she could ever come back from the things that she said and the things that she did. But that was seven years ago.

Then one day she e-mailed, a long lengthy e-mail stating, “I was young and stupid, I’m not 18 anymore, I am soon to be 25 and newly married and I don’t want to carry this around anymore. I am in therapy and I have grown up, I am working on myself and on my life.”

It was hard to hear some of her stories, her half-sister just got up and left her one day. She moved clear across the country and more than a thousand miles away. They are no longer in communication. She said she was in an abusive relationship that lasted for five years before it ended. She worked two jobs, and at times slept on friend’s floors. She had an accident and had rolled a car and injured her head. She talked and she talked and before I could respond she said, “I know that I brought much of it on myself.”

But there was much success and accomplishments too. She went to school and she became a Certified Nurses Aid. She maintained her independence and learned how to multi-task and hold down the responsibilities of a full time job. She survived.

She said that she goes to church and reads the bible she said some things made her think and she shakes her head at all the untruths she told as a teenager. In her words she was a “defiant daughter.” She seemed happy but different. She talked with a slight lisp that I don’t remember her having. I took it all in. At times I held her hand. She made me cry. They weren’t sad tears but tears of relief. I was just so happy to see her. I was genuinely happy that she was doing well and okay.

After two hours at our local coffee shop I was surprised that she didn’t want to leave me yet and I said, “Why don’t you come home with me and see your father?” I text messaged him that I was on my way and bringing her home with me. He can be more intimidating than I am and I told her not to worry I would help ease any awkwardness but it turned out that it wasn’t necessary. By the time I arrived home she was already there and out of her car and they were chatting. He said the first thing she said to him was, “I was young and I was dumb and I am sorry” he hugged her.

She came inside the house, this was her childhood home where she lived for 18 years and 10 months, and she recited the exact date that she left home. She said she always remembered it and it was October 2, 2010. Today we have a new date, a date of reconciliation, February 25, 2017.

Her dad asked her if she wanted to see her old bedroom. She did. I could see and feel her checking out the house. We chatted before sitting down at the kitchen table to chat even more and take some pictures. I was amused in a good way by her. She was definitely grown up and matured, she was also confident and really chatty and at ease within herself and with us. There was no game. It was all real.

In the past and for many years, almost two decades now, I have shared my stories and written much about estrangement. I wrote articles for parents of estranged adult children and for the adult estranged children. I have been interviewed on this subject and I have talked with thousands of estranged mothers and fathers across the country and beyond. For many years I have belonged and participated in several estranged support groups for parents of estranged adult children. I have seen and I have heard it all. As much as I have written on this subject I have read so much more.

The stories may be different and some are amazingly the same the emotional journey is often quite similar, it starts with shock, hurt, anger, shame, denial and sadness. There is a whole lot of hurt and anger and sadness that comes when an adult child decides to estrange themselves. Then comes the hardest part that seems to arrive after anger, and that is the acceptance. There is a new normal in learning how to live without your child. It feels wrong it feels awkward, it just doesn’t feel right.

A large majority of adult children never return home to mom and dad, they just don’t. I give our daughter a lot of credit, it took courage it took guts and it took maturity to face us again. She has grown up and she has proven to be a survivor. It had to be when she was ready; it had to be on her terms.

Today I feel like I received a huge gift from her and from God and so did her dad, I hope that she feels that way too. Her dad was hurt and he was angry but there wasn’t a single day that he didn’t pray for her.

She says that she is sorry but also acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is today, the person that she has become if not for the road that she chose. Today she is newly married and in love with her new husband and a home owner with a job and a dog called Bailey. She is happy. Sweet, what more could any parent want for their adult child?

“Reconciliation means doing away with anger, bitterness and resentment.” Healing.com

So the takeaway is never stop praying and always be open and receptive and if and when the chance comes for a reunion and a reconciliation just have those arm open and be ready to listen and to embrace and love your child. Just love that child!

And in the meantime don’t stop living and loving and learning because life with or without your child is a gift and it is a gift that should never be squandered and always be appreciated.

Here is to the future … however much or however little let it be grounded in love and in acceptance. We pray. Amen.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Parental Love

Standard

Parental Love
By Bernadette A. Moyer

i-love-my-parents-quotes-3

There is no greater opportunity for love like the love a parent has for their child.

“Parental love is a limited reflection of a limited love. In the experience of parental love I was wounded as were you, and every other human being. Most parents are the best and the greatest, but in the human experience, parents are also very broken people.” Henri J.M. Nouwen

I am always intrigued by how parents speak about their children and equally intrigued about how children speak about their parents. Parents aren’t perfect and neither are their offspring.

The kids that profess to come from the “perfect family” alarm me as much as the ones who declare they are a product of the “worst family” I suspect neither to be 100% true.

In a recent news story three tiger cubs band together as their mother’s maternal instincts fail. It was a first time mother in a zoo and the staff there is tasked with nurturing the baby cubs. The vet says that they won’t re-introduce the mother because she won’t recognize them. There was no bonding that took place. Most mothers could never imagine this and yet it happens, it also happens that offspring reject their parents.

Most parents would literally kill for their children, hurt the child and suffer the parental consequences.

John has a grown daughter that he once loved dearly and would have killed for, today they are estranged. His feelings have changed. Now he states, “she is not a good person, I don’t like her and how she acts” it is hard to imagine how he could feel one way and then the exact opposite way.

He says, “I have feelings too” in reference to the things that she has said about him and done to him.

We all witness the Trump family and the adult children that seem to have such a close and loving relationship with their father. Whether you like him or not, he maintains close, loving and supportive relations with all his kids.

When my own daughter became a teenager and started acting out like so many teenagers do, it was the first time that I saw her through different lenses. In her behaviors I witnessed her father who was deceased before her third birthday and although not around she had many of his traits and characteristics.

Parents are people with the same wide range of feelings as all others and kids can make their parents proud as easily as they can disappoint them. Parents find joy in their children and they also suffer sadness and grief because of them too. It is no different than any other relationship.

Maybe we expect too much from our kids and therefore can be disappointed. I think the best place to be is where I am today. My children are all adults aged 25 to 36 and I no longer view them as a reflection of myself or my parenting but rather as their own unique individuals.

There is such freedom in having adult children that you are no longer responsible for and you can do as much as you want with them and for them or as little as you choose.

Today I view parenting as though the gift is and was in the giving and like any gift if it was well received all the better but my part was solely as the parent that gave the gift of parenting.

Parenting is an awesome responsibility and it is not an exact science. Most all of us go into it wanting and doing our very best. Where the outcomes may be different the tasks, responsibilities, love, commitment and efforts involved in parenting are all so similar.

“There is nothing wrong with the pleasure that comes from a big meal, a sexy night, or victory on the playing field — but it is fleeting. Raising kids, working through marriage troubles, and volunteering at a soup kitchen may be less pleasurable, but these pursuits provide fulfillment – a sense that you’re the best person you can be.”

From LOVE THAT BOY by Ron Fournier

Happy parenting and happy being the best that you can be …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
Books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Estranged Dad

Standard

IMAG2534The Estranged Dad
By Bernadette A. Moyer

Dads hurt too! Barely a day goes by when I don’t hear from an estranged mother who is grieving over an adult child that decided to dismiss mom and dad from their life. Rarely but very rarely do I hear from the dad’s. But when I do the pain shared is no different than what the women have shared. Men seem to keep it in, are more cut and dry about it and seldom do they show their grief outwardly.

When I asked my own husband “what single thing in your life has hurt you the most?’” I was surprised by his response.

This is a man who grew up in “The Projects” and who became a widower at age 32 just after his wife delivered twins pre-maturely. He had a younger brother that he loved commit suicide; he is a man that held his mother’s hand as she died and has a father suffering from severe dementia. (Since this article was written his father has died)

His response; “our girls” and “It didn’t have to be this way.” He was talking about their estrangement. They chose to turn away from their family under the guise of “abuse.” Both times it was over a teen boyfriend that they were determined to have and neither one ended up with.

My husband was a huge support to my daughter. One year he wrote the entire check for her Catholic prep school tuition. During high school he drove her to school every day before going to work. He was invested in her success even though she was not his biological daughter. He attended every single father-daughter dinner throughout high school and he wasn’t just happy to do it but he was proud.

His twin daughter is his namesake that he took up for the entire time she lived at home. Always doing battle with anyone that came to tell him that she was failing, he didn’t want to hear it or believe it. Whether it was a teacher or an employer he only wanted to hear the best about his daughter.

Many times it would be her own twin brother reporting to dad about her latest scheme and how awful she made him feel. He dismissed his only son to support his daughter. To him, she walked on water. Until … right up until he could no longer look the other way. Until she would not only estrange but declare that she was “abandoned.” After all she needed to have a story to support her decisions to disrespect the house rules. And at the age of 18 she certainly had every right to live her life, her way. But we all know that when we live with our parents and in our parent’s house, it is by our parents rules.

Fathers take it differently from what mothers do and looking back I would be willing to bet that my husband stayed strong so that I could be the one that fell apart.

My son describes his twin and her departure as a “low blow” and a “sucker punch” to their father. I believe she acted in haste as many teens do and at the time truly did not comprehend the magnitude of the decisions that she was making. Friends will come and friends will go, but family is forever, or it is supposed to be. He was also the one that didn’t want us to go after. He stated, “She will just do it again” and “I know her better than anyone” and “we are better off without her.”

This is not what any parent wants to hear. We raised our twins to have their own interests and seldom did their interests intersect. He was an Eagle Scout involved in the theater and drama; she played the flute, went to band camps and played soccer. Although we always hoped they would be close and we tried to instill in them the importance of looking out for one another. We thought it was a blessing that they had each other. Little did we know that our desire to keep them together and close was often at our son’s expense and well-being.

My husband isn’t the kind of guy that has regrets. He lives and he learns and he has accepted that the daughter he loved and adored didn’t or doesn’t hold him in the same esteem. His immediate response when she left wasn’t one of hurt or of anger, his response was “I am so disappointed.”

We find it amusing that you can raise kids in the same home, at the same time with the same parents and schools and everything and how one child can be so appreciative and happy and constantly reflects on all the good things he had in his childhood. He states; “I had a great childhood” and another child who was probably given even more states that they weren’t happy and estrange.

From all the parents I have talked with over the 16 years since estrangement entered my life I hear many common threads. Parents that feel betrayed by their children. And their kids lied to them and lied about them. Kids that grow up and decide to estrange from their parents while making the choice to play the victim rather than to succeed in life.

The parents in my support group are the ones that are just like my husband. They are really great dads who gave it their all and never dreamt that all the efforts he put forth would be minimalized and unappreciated. My husband is a strong man, a Christian that prays every single day for the daughter that he thought he raised.

We have great memories of all our kids and all the years that we were raising them. We are so happy that we survived those years with our marriage intact and even stronger. It easily could have gone another way.

Like all the moms and dads who have done the work and raised their children; we want for our children what we have always wanted for them. We want them to be happy, to have peace and good health and a good long life filled with as much love as possible.

Thinking of every dad out there on this Father’s Day and every single day …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

New books! Along The Way and Another way available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Estranged … Now what?

Standard

Estranged … Now what?
By Bernadette A Moyer

lifegoeson

Knowing what I know now and after my own experience and hearing from thousands of mothers and fathers who are estranged from their adult children, I would do things differently!

I should not have wasted my time, my heart and my tears over someone who was already so far gone from me. Today I would say that yes you will be hurt and yes you might be shocked but what you really need to do is get over it and get over it as quickly as possible.

It is okay to love the child that you had and to reflect fondly on them but it is also necessary to let them go in peace and in love. When it is over, it is over. Some situations will allow for a reboot and another chance, some never will.

Today I believe that adult kids that estrange enjoy the satisfaction they receive in knowing how much they hurt their parents and their families. It is all about control. It is all about being selfish and all about them. It is the choice that they alone have made.

And the stories they will tell is that they were the victims. Think about it? A nice son or a nice daughter wouldn’t cut mom and dad out of their life. They will need to justify their actions and that means making mom and dad out to be the bad guys. And the more they can paint themselves as a victim, the more they can manipulate others and command support for their cause and position.

Don’t play along and don’t play their games. Find things to do that will occupy your time and utilize your talents. Go to a therapist or go to the gym but keep moving. Life is all about forward movement. You can think, hope and pray that they return, but whatever you do, do not compromise the quality of your own life in the process. Remember if they do return you will have grown and changed and taken better care of yourself. And if they never return you will be healthier, stronger and better able to manage and enjoy your life.

Because if you compromise your life away you will eventually regret it and you won’t get those lost years back. Our response should be one that says I hold myself up in the highest. I will not allow you or any other to destroy me or my joy. My life with you or without you, matters. I am important and I deserve to be happy.

Back then so much of my life wasn’t even mine. Maybe that was a huge part of the problem? I had given so much of myself away in being a wife and a mother, a career woman and a friend. The last person who received my time and attention was me.

Learn to retreat in healthy ways. It is okay to be alone with yourself. It is okay to grieve and to process. It is okay to feel the loss and the pain. But don’t stay there and don’t get stuck there. Being a victim is never attractive no matter how it comes about. Fight for yourself. You are worth the very best!

There will always be up and down days. Some days you will have stronger and better coping skills. Some days will be tough. It takes time. It takes time to acknowledge this, to accept this and then to learn how to live with it. In our disbelief and in our shock we tend to want to fight it. Very little is resolved in hanging on to that which has already left us.

Where it may seem so unnatural and so unkind, remember it is happening in record numbers and in families around the world. You are not alone. This month marks 18 years since the trauma of estrangement entered my life like an uninvited guest. I have been through all the stages from denial, anger, hurts and trying everything and anything and to finally arriving at pure total acceptance. My life is so great right now and I don’t think I could be happier or be surrounded by more love. I am so lucky to have survived it.

I thank everyone that reached out to me and shared their stories and supported me through all my writings. I would not have made it through without the love and support of so many people.

My best advice is to try and build an even better life. All those things that you wanted to do but never took the time to do; make the time and do them. Life goes on. Life is lived by looking forward and not from behind. You are worth so much more than to have the child or children that you gave your life for and invested so heavily in, discard you.

Remember it isn’t about you. It is all about them and their choices …

In God’s peace and love … Bernadette

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A Moyer available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble