Apparently, while I was teaching my kids to read and write and be decent human beings I was also teaching them to use me as their personal punching bag. Every day, without fail, one of my kids will vent at me and, while venting, will find a way to blame me for whatever has occurred in their lives. Venting about missing a deadline to turn in a paper? Must be because I didn’t teach them better time management skills. Venting about being sick? Must be because I didn’t tell them what medicines they should be taking. Venting about not being independent enough? Must be because I didn’t make them do more chores!
As their mom I am happy to be a sounding board when they are struggling with a problem. I am happy to listen while they beat themselves up for making a mistake and, of course, I will always be there if they are having a hard time and just need a shoulder to cry on but, seriously, why is everything my fault?!?
Because I set up our lives to be that way, that’s why.
I walk around feeling guilty for everything that goes wrong in my kids’ lives. (Yes, I have issues, but that should be obvious by the title of my blog.) I assume that I have failed in some way if they screw up.
It’s funny because whenever my kids do something well I never think, Wow, I did a great job parenting my child. Nope, apparently my influence does not extend to the good stuff – just the bad.
Even now, I’m thinking: They blame me because I taught them to blame me!
A friend of mine told me that her 22-year-old daughter was complaining recently about her lack of money management skills. “You should have forced me to work through college and pay all of my bills so I would have a better understanding of how to deal with money issues!” she told her mom. My friend told me that she felt strangely guilty for a minute before she realized that her daughter was just mad at herself for not having the foresight to take on money management responsibilities earlier.
“The way to deal with this behavior,” my friend explained, “is to recognize that the kids are simply projecting their blame on you, an easy and convenient target.” To deal with this bullshit, I mean, behavior, I am supposed to substitute the word “I” for “you” every time my kids start to blame me for something. So when son calls me from college and starts to bitch about his lingering head cold telling me, “You did not tell me what meds would make me feel better!” I am supposed to be hearing, “I did not figure out what meds would make me feel better.“
Hmmm…I feel better already; that might actually work. (Or, I could just not take his calls – hey, don’t judge; it’s a work in progress.)
Last night I had another opportunity to use my new anti-projection techniques. My youngest told me I should go back in time and force him to do more chores because then he would be more independent. He said the reason he is not independent is because I always do everything for him (this from the kid who asks me to get up and get him a bowl of ice cream every night while he sits on the couch).
He’s right, of course, I should have forced him and his brother to do more. I should have dealt with the nonstop whining that ensued whenever I asked them to do anything. I should have dealt with the resulting pools of water from their attempts at washing the dishes or the dog or pretty much anything involving water. I should have dealt with the glacial pace at which any chore I asked them to do was accomplished.
But I didn’t.
Is it too late??
Clearly my kid wishes he was more independent, at least that’s what his outburst indicated when I substituted “I” for “you” in his statements. What he was really saying was that he should have forced himself to do chores but, let’s face it, it’s so much easier to blame me because, like most people, he would rather sit on the couch and have someone get him ice cream than get up and get it himself.
And what about me? What am I projecting when I lash out at my kids for not doing something? When I yelled back at my son last night and said, “You should make yourself independent!” did I actually mean that I was mad at myself for not making him help around the house?
So, last night, in order to help my son on his quest for independence, I left. I stomped out of the house to meet my friends and thought, I’ll show him, I’ll make him fend for himself…right after I put dinner on the table and remind my husband to clean up.
Hey, baby steps. I just figured out how to deal with my projection issues you can’t expect me to take on my avoidance issues at the same time.