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Obviously, the world did not end.  Yay.

So rewind just a tad to the night before our Big Talk.  I had asked my husband if he would talk to our younger daughter alone and leave me out of the conversation.  He declined to acquiesce to my request.  I made it very clear that I did not believe that taking away her electronic devices and trying to force our daughter to make our choices and not hers was the right thing to do, that it would completely backfire and chase her further into her boyfriend’s arms and farther from us.

He completely agreed with me that those results were much more likely than the results he wanted out of the conversation and yet he insisted that he must still have this conversation with her. What?  Why?

Knowing that what he doesn’t want to happen has a greater chance of happening because of this conversation makes him as determined than ever to do it?  All that I can think of is this conversation with her is his way of being able to sleep at night, his way of convincing himself that he’s done everything he possibly can to be a good parent and stop her from being a bad child.  And that does seem to be his main focus, that she’s disobeying him by staying up past the curfew he’s set, by blocking him from her Facebook page, by not sharing every thought inside her head, etc.

Fast forward to the Big Talk.  My  husband has warned my sister and our renter to stay out of our house while we have our talk.  He lit every candle in the house – very unlike him – and pulled three chairs into a circle.  He sat down in one, I sat in another and he called our daughter out.  I was so embarrassed to be there I could hardly look her in the eyes but she made me so proud of her.  I thought that she really handled the situation well and while it was clear to me that she wasn’t about to just give in to her father’s nicely worded statements she also stood up for herself in small but obvious ways, at least to me.

In essence he backed off from his previous stance that all her electronics should be taken away and he focused on her health like I asked him to.  She did agree that for her health she should get to bed earlier and eat better.  We expressed our concern that she might not graduate from too many missing days and she said she does want to graduate.  We set new curfews for talking to the boyfriend to which she agreed, although I have no doubts that she never planned to follow them, and then we went out for dinner.  A nice, happy family outing where we laughed and acted completely normal.

Since then everything has been same ‘ole, same ‘ole, for our family at least.  We’ll see how long it lasts…

Yes, those words were used to describe me at about age 13 by my stepfather.  I had no idea what that meant or what I might have done to have been labeled that way, I only knew that those words wounded me in a manner that I couldn’t describe.  My stepfather also said I “looked like a whore” the first time I wore makeup out of the house and many other not very flattering things throughout the two-and-a-half years he was  married to my mother.  Yes, I know, he wasn’t very nice.

My mother had her own issues as well.  She told me, somewhere between the ages of 12 – 16, that I was too forward with men.  She said that I stood too close to guys when I talked to them, that I pushed my chest into them, I touched them too much, and more than once, my mother told me that I was just asking to be raped because of the way I behaved around men, especially ones who were significantly older than me.

I was sooooooo sheltered growing up, we had no television, strictly monitored music choices, carefully selected library books, clothing modest enough to be made fun of all through junior high school and no unsupervised interactions with the opposite sex until I was old enough that they were impossible to prevent.  Add to that the fact that I was raised by a woman who was most likely a sex addict and who was oh so scared to death that her little girl would turn out to be just like her… and I was doomed from the start.

She never taught me how to behave around men and conversely, she never taught me how NOT to behave around men either.  I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 18, and since I graduated at 17 that meant I had already moved out on my own and didn’t live with anyone of whom I could ask questions regarding the many mysteries of dating.  Mom never really welcomed those sorts of questions at any point of my life so I was pretty much on my own.  Doomed, I tell you, doomed…

All of this has come back to haunt me because this last weekend I was a chaperon on my youngest daughter’s music trip.  This involved a 15 hour bus ride there, one day at the competition, one day at a theme park and another 15 hour bus ride back.  My daughter dress and behavior both mortified and horrified me me on this particular trip.  Besides wearing Daisy Dukes, that I naively thought she only wore around the house, paired with either a skin-tight tank top or a mostly see-through shirt my daughter was one of two couples on the bus that were repeatedly asked to stop making out!  I was so embarrassed I cried.  A lot.  I told my daughter that her clothing and behavior made me embarrassed to be her mother at that moment.  She apologized.  We hugged.  She came out the next morning wearing pants and a more modest shirt.  Peace was restored.

The bus ride home started at 10 pm and went through the night so the teacher required girls to sit with girls and boys to sit with boys.  My daughter was The Poster Child for love-sick teenagers all over the world in spite of my changing seats to sit in the seat in front of her and me sitting in that seat cross-way so I could watch her.  Oh. My. Gosh!  That child and her True Love held hands across the aisle, with that Brave Boy sitting very awkwardly in his seat, leaning his head against the back of the chair in front of him so that he could reach his arm forward and hold her hand.  You could almost hear that famous line from The Princess Bride “Wuv, Tuhwooo Wuv”.  I wanted to vomit.  Throughout the long, long drive home I had to tell her to stop laying down in the aisle so she could be closer to him and get back in her seat.  I had her come up and sit with me and we started watching a movie on my laptop.  She said she was going to go to sleep and went back to her own spot where, surprise, surprise, she suddenly became wide awake and started talking with the other boys sitting near her as Prince Charming had finally managed to fall asleep once she stopped being a growth on his hand.  Eventually I fell asleep for a short while (I’m old, I couldn’t help it), only to wake up and see her sitting on his lap.  More tears from me.  She feels bad and says she’s sorry again and goes back to her seat but for the remainder of the trip I am seriously considering suicide, especially because once the sun came up the “girls sitting with girls and boys sitting with boys” rule ended.  I had to stop the other couple from kissing and my daughter went back to sitting openly on Lover Boy’s lap.  I was at my wit’s end. I felt like a failure as both a parent and a chaperon. There was every chance that if I could not stop my daughter and the other couple from excessive public displays of affection that her teacher could get fired and/or the entire music department could get banned from trips requiring bus transportation.  It has happened before in this school district!

I have to admit the thought that my daughter was acting “like a virgin in heat” did come to my mind more than once.

The nightmare finally ended, the bus pulled up to the school and we silently disembarked, wordlessly loaded all our luggage into the car and quietly went home.  In the car on the way she and I started talking and I think we finally, finally connected.  I shared some of my stories about growing up with my mother.  I told my daughter that based on what I saw – and wished I could unsee – from this weekend that she looked like a girl who sleeps around (I specifically did NOT use the “virgin in heat” phrase) and that if I got that impression after only a couple of days with her and her school friends than what were her teachers and fellow students thinking?  What kind of reputation did she have around school?  I then asked her to tell me what kind of girl she is.  She appeared absolutely shocked that her behavior could be interpreted as promiscuous and told me that she does not sleep around.  I chose to believe her.

I really, really hope that this conversation actually got through to her because if it didn’t I don’t know what else I could possibly say to her that would make a difference anymore.  I feel like I’ve failed her somehow, to let her become this desperate, broken, lonely heart but I don’t know how to be a better mom.  I know I’ve done my best but I don’t think it’s good enough and I’m scared for her.  Really scared for her.

Well… not really.  But Dawn is the name my mother wanted to name me and my dad said no.

I hadn’t thought about that in years – I was so young when my mom told me that I had almost forgotten it completely.  Or more like it slipped through the cracks and landed on the “Miscellaneous Trivia” pile in the back of my brain that I shuffle through from time to time, for example, the other day when I was telling my own children what their names would have been if they were a boy… and the girl’s name I wanted to use but their father told me no with both of them.

What I do remember is I was young enough that when Mom told me she wanted to name me Dawn I thought “Why would you want to give me a boy’s name?”   That was so unlike her, she was very “boys should be boys and do boy things and girls should be little ladies and do girl things” so thinking she wanted to name me “Don” really puzzled me.  It also made me wonder if she had wanted me to be a boy instead of a girl – or maybe I really was a boy but something went wrong…  I’m pretty sure this is proof that I over-think things and always have. <sigh>

It “dawns” on me that this may be one of the few things that Dad said no to that Mom actually obeyed him on… hmm…  Different blog topic there…

At any rate, I started to wonder why Mom picked the name Dawn.

No matter where you try to look it up “Dawn” means “daylight, daybreak and sunrise” pretty much everywhere.  It’s a very literal word, not a lot of hidden meanings or secret messages found there.  For symbolism it represents things like starting over, a new day, hope, end of darkness and 99.9% of the time “dawn” is associated with good things.  Just hearing the word “dawn” usually brings positive feelings, right?  Unless you’re a night owl like me and someone says “We’re leaving at dawn”.  Then I just wanna cry and it’s not because the sunrise is so beautiful…

As her first-born maybe Mom was looking at my birth as the beginning of a new chapter in her life, the start of a different way of living, change, fresh hope, something good finally coming her way…

It would seem that she most likely thought of me as her new beginning, which is both eye-opening and sobering.  I wonder if my not meeting her expectations and failing to be the perfect child led her to withdraw herself from me, making me feel unloved by her and never good enough for most of my life.  Because that’s exactly what I’ve done with my own children.  My poor girls, they probably would have been better off if I had given them up for adoption at birth, God forgive me for being such a selfish mother!

Each time I became pregnant I expected to give birth to someone who would love me unconditionally.  I thought the mother-child bond was automatic because kids love their mothers, right?  I wasn’t being loved unconditionally by my own family so I guess it was rather unreasonable to expect it from my own children.  When I finally acknowledged that my children didn’t love me the way I wanted them to and it seemed that they barely even liked me, well, I just shut down and stopped pursuing a relationship with them entirely until just about a year ago.  Now they’re both in high school and I’m trying to stop being their mother and just be their friend so that we have some sort of teeny-tiny foundational relationship to keep us in touch after they leave home.

Looking back I see that is precisely what my mother did with me.  I shouldn’t be so hard on her, she did try her best.  I never wanted to be like her but look at me now, wow…

I’m afraid it’s too late – I’m afraid that my daughters will graduate, go to college and come home for the obligatory Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with no phone calls or emails in between.  That’s a horribly depressing thought…

I need a Dawn of my own, a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate, light breaking into dark places and making them bright and free.   I am Saved but what I need is a revival, a fresh awakening, a re-filling.  I need dawn to come and break the darkness in my heart.

I think maybe I failed my mother by not being her Dawn.  I wish she were still alive, I think I’m finally brave enough to talk to her about these sorts of things now.

My dawn, my sunrise is here – Jesus is my new beginning.  All I have to do is Trust and Obey, Just Keep Swimming, stop living in the past and accept the gift of still having a future.

Isn’t it supposed to be really calm in the eye of the hurricane?  I kind of feel like that’s where my husband and I are at… We’ve been working our way through several different issues and have worked things out just enough to have made visible progress towards a common goal (staying married) but I see a storm coming in that we each have separate goals as well and our separate goals do not necessarily play well with each other.  This could get ugly…but not today.

Sunday afternoon was no fun at all.  He was angry about several things and giving me the silent treatment…ahh the “good ‘ole silent treatment”, those few words pretty much sum up the first 10 years of our marriage.  Him being silent because he was mad at me and me being silent because I never knew what would set him off next…

But to be fair, God has really worked on his heart and the silent treatment is almost a thing of the past.  It used to be that when he was upset with me he wouldn’t speak to me for weeks and I would get the evil eye whenever he looked at me during that time period.  Then slowly, over the last 7 years, the silent treatment started lasting only 1 week instead of 2, and then it was only 5 days instead of 7, and then we reached a point where it was only 3 days and now, finally, the silent treatment lasts approximately 3 hours.  Nowadays I usually get a heartfelt apology before the day is over if he realizes that he was hurtful to me in some fashion.  So yes, there is definite growth and improvement in him and he’s really not the terrible schmuck you probably think he is from reading all of my other posts.  He’s just a regular guy with regular problems.  He still needs to get over them but nothing about my life with him is life-threatening.

I know we have more battles to face.

1.  There’s the whole joint counselling sessions that we will need to go to that he doesn’t think are necessary.

2.  There’s our extreme personality differences – we took a personality test while we were engaged and were strongly encouraged by the pastor NOT to marry because of the results.  Obviously we paid no attention to the godly advice we were given and went full-steam ahead into this 19+ year disaster we’ve called “true love”.  Ugh..  I’ll not get into those now, I think I’ve pretty much listed them all in one post or another…

3.  How we are raising our teenaged daughters has become a source of disagreements between us.

4.  Where we attend church is still a sore spot with both of us although we have managed to put this issue on the back burner for now and are focusing on the more immediate problem of our marriage.

But right now, at the moment, we are in a peaceful place.  The Eye of the Hurricane – hopefully will give us a chance to catch our breath, step back from our problems and refresh ourselves for what’s coming next.  Do I know what the future holds?  Uh uh.  But God does and I am choosing to trust Him a little more each day and that decision seems to bring the Eye of the Hurricane with me, wherever I go.  It follows me, keeping me in the center of that peaceful, restful place until it’s time for me to join the battle again.  In the mean time I just keep praying… save me, save me.

It’s taken me a whole week to get this down but boy oh boy, oh boy… the Orchestra trip to Portland with my youngest daughter lots of fun and had some very scary parts at the same time.  The day started far earlier than I would have chosen and we took a charter bus that had pulsing breaks and a very rough ride – seemed like the trip took forever – but we did arrive in Portland just in time for dinner.

Our first meal in Portland was in Chinatown at an amazing Chinese restaurant and the meal was served family style (they put large plates of food on the table and everybody serves themselves), it was fabulous!  Fried rice, mandarin chicken, beef and broccoli, garlic green beans, salt and pepper shrimp, egg drop soup and even more dishes that I can’t remember the names of but all yummy!  Afterwards the kids were given about 20 minutes to wander downtown.  One group of students (NOT the group I was with) found an X rated donut shop and one of them came back with a donut shaped like, ahem,well, like a twig and berries… and it was a guy who bought it – I mean come on, seriously?

The group I was with saw what I believed to be the camp of Occupy Portland and homeless people were everywhere.  One of the homeless men shook hands with one of our beautiful young girls (again, not in my group) and wouldn’t let her hand go until he managed to get a hug out of her.  That was scary for me to hear after she got back on the bus and exactly why I stayed so close to my daughter.  There were only 4 chaperons for about 35 kids so the kids were supposed to stay in groups of 4 or more – I don’t know what her fellow students were thinking or why they didn’t stop him, or did she just wander off alone?  Teenagers can be so oblivious sometimes… At any rate she came back unharmed and didn’t think it was any big deal.

This morning the old bus driver tucked his shirt into his tighty whities, which were unfortunately riding higher than jeans – oh my eyes!  He was a nice guy, old enough to be my father, maybe even my grandfather but boy, oh boy, did he need help with his clothing for most of the trip!

I brought the board game “Quelf” and it was soooo much fun to watch 8 kids play with a bunch more watching.  If you haven’t played it you’re really missing out.  It’s very random and goofy – great for bringing a group that doesn’t know each other very well together or making family time better.  It was worth every penny!

The Chamber Orchestra was the group that went and they also had 2 String Quartets.  One of the String Quartets placed 2nd in the entire thing, they scored 97.5 out of 100 and the school that beat them was from a great big giant school in the Seattle area so we felt like we did pretty good!

We wandered around Downtown Portland from 7:30 pm – 10 pm on a Saturday night.  My daughter was trying to convince me that I didn’t have to stay with her every moment of the trip and that she should be able to go with the other kids… without me. Heck no!  I personally don’t see how any teacher, much less two of them could think it’s a good idea to turn a bunch of teenagers loose in downtown Portland and trust them to find their way back on the light-rail system to the charter bus… but I remember when I was in high school the same exact thing happened to me, I was with a group of kids from my high school and we made it to a premiere music event and the folks in charge let us roam the downtown streets of the state capitol until 10 or 11 pm…  It’s strange to see how much more evil is in this world now than there was 20 years ago and yet all the kids still made it back to the bus safely.  It’s just not something I would do if I were in charge, that’s for sure!

Sunday we “slept in”, ha, ha and then boarded the bus for the long trip home.  I spent most of the bus ride watching the series “Taken” by Stephen Spielberg.  We came home and went to bed early, my daughter had to go to school the next morning but I had wisely taken the day off and so I think I went to bed at 9:30 pm Sunday night and didn’t get out of bed until 5 pm Monday evening… It was wonderful!

I received a thank you email from the orchestra teacher – she said I was an excellent chaperon and she was glad to have me.  That was really nice because I felt like I kind of “forced” my way into being a chaperon because of my daughter’s medical issues and she would have rather had someone else be there.  The teacher even said she would recommend me to another teacher to be a chaperon on the next trip my daughter would be taking with the Jazz Band/Jazz Choir, whoo hoo!  It’s nice to do something right!

In my  quest to “find myself” I realize I must acknowledge my upbringing – I was raised by a very proud woman and I see how sometimes I still walk in her footsteps despite my best efforts to be someone else. Perhaps it was the same for her as well. Caught in her mother’s shadow, unable to break free.

My mother was the oldest of 8 siblings, 6 girls and 2 boys (in the middle, of course). Raised in the back country of a lush land with heavy winters she had all the usual stories of walking up hill, barefoot in the snow both ways to school, never enough to eat or wear and making do, doing over or doing without. My mother also told scary stories about her childhood:

Her dad had sex with the babysitter.
Her mom killed a lover for being unfaithful to her (still being a married woman herself…)
Her dad was going to kill her for being a Christian but her mother stepped in and took the beating.
Her teacher snuck her extra food from the cafeteria for years which she took home and fed her family with until somebody found out and put an end to it.
Her pastor sexually abused her.
Her father sexually abused her.
Lots of men sexually abused her.
Her mother crippled, maimed and killed much loved pets to hurt her and her siblings.
Her mother was a practicing witch.
Her youngest sister has a different father than the other 5 siblings.
After they moved out of her childhood home everything living that was placed in her mother’s bedroom by the new owners died – birds, plants, everything.

And the list goes on…

Do I believe all of it? I used to but I don’t know what to believe anymore. After my mother’s death I went through her papers and found letter after letter to people she was or had been close to filled with criticism and poisonous words against them.  No wonder so few people attended her funeral…

What I do know is that I grew up never knowing the majority of my extended family and to this day most of them don’t know me. I know that whenever her mother was in town my mother kept me and my siblings indoors for fear that Grandma would drive by and harm us – in the days before drive-by shootings were popular. I know that my mother asked me, when I was in junior high school, if anyone was sexually abusing me because I was acting like a victim. I told her I didn’t think so but it planted a seed in my head and I tried very hard to think of some time I could have possibly been abused because if my mother said it, it must be true, eh? Pleasing my mother was so strongly ingrained into my head that I tried to find a way that I could have been a victim because that seemed to be the answer she was looking for.  I know now how twisted that is.  I know that my mother accused not less than 10 men throughout her life of sexually abusing either herself, my sister or my children. I know there was something wrong with my mother’s mental processes. My current guess is that she was maybe bi-polar. Essentially I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional, mentally and emotionally abusive family but because there was no sexual or physical abuse, nothing that would really grab the attention of teachers or doctors so I just grew up thinking it was “normal”.

My mother married my father while they were both in Bible College. Being the oldest of a hoard of youngsters my mother, like her mother, was a strong and dominating woman, making quick decisions and expecting to be obeyed. My father was the second youngest of 10 siblings and, from what I’ve been told (by my mother…), also had a very strong and dominating woman for a mother. When my father married my mother he just traded one boss for another and I doubt his life was pleasant.

My mother didn’t want children at first but said that before she became pregnant with me she changed her mind and then did want children.  She was so shocked when, in late high school, I told her how unloved and wanted I felt for my entire life.  My mother never told me I was pretty or that I did a good job at anything. Later in life she explained that she didn’t want me to get a big head so she would even stop other people from complimenting me as a little girl. The words she did say were mostly pointing out the negatives of what was done incorrectly by myself or anyone else, consequently, I grew up believing that I was ugly and never good enough and by the time she began to change her speech pattern (when I was in late high school) to include compliments toward me I couldn’t believe her, I was only suspicious of her.  I was in junior high the one and only time I told her I was sucida.  She verbally lashed out at me with anger in her voice and told me how selfish suicide was and therefore how selfish I was for considering it.  No empathy, no love, no “How can I help?” or “Do you need someone to talk to?”, just anger.

If my memory serves me correctly, my mother left my father when I was in 5th grade, they tried getting back together when I was in 6th grade and then officially divorced when I was in 7th grade.  My mother met my step-father when I was in 8th grade, married him when I was in 9th grade and had my sister when I was in 10th grade.

My step-father was only 12 older than me and I think he was 15 years younger than my mother – and he had four children from a previous marriage. I’ve always looked older than I really am so at first glance people often assumed that my sister was mine and his and that my mother was the baby’s grandma who lived with us. Awkward! My step-father was/is a mechanical genius but had a very quick temper and frequently threatened us with physical violence, not against the disobedient child but against a sibling.  If we didn’t ask how high when he said jump he would most often threaten to punch my littlest brother in the face. To be fair though, I don’t actually remember that he ever followed through with his threats but I know I shed lots of tears in private and I suspect my brothers did too. I could have handled violence done to myself but when he threatened my little brothers there was nothing else to do but obey. And before you get carried away thinking he was a monster, none of his demands were terrible, they were things like clean up the living room, do your dishes, don’t wear those clothes or that makeup… When my mother finally divorced him a lifetime later (2 ½ years) none of us, including my sister, his daughter, didn’t see him again for over 20 years. Today we are beginning to be friends and he has no idea that his behavior towards us was abusive, for him it was normal. I think the thing that actually shocked me the most when I met him again was that he views even me and my brothers (ex-step-children) as his own children that our mother took away from him when they divorced.

Their separation and later divorce seemed quite violent at the time but now that I am older I realize it was actually pretty tame, just very emotionally charged. My step-father was angry about something (when wasn’t he?) and he went searching through the house for his gun. My mother, who somehow had the foresight to dismantle the gun and hide the pieces and bullets in separate locations throughout the house, wound up being shoved through a wall and had a broken collarbone before he finally left.  Just that by itself probably qualifies me as a Post-Trauamatic Stress victim but that diagnosis was still pretty new and undiscovered territory back then so my brothers and I were left to cope with it alone, as best we could.

I was 16 and a junior in high school when I was thrust into the position of being a second mother to my 18 month old sister because of the divorce. I drove her to daycare, went to high school, came back and worked at the daycare until closing and drove her home. For years she would mix-up my name with “Mom” just like a mother runs through all her children’s names before finding the right one, “Jerry, I mean Tom”… (Now she is old enough that we can be really good friends and enjoy hanging out together.)

All my life my mother would say “When you turn 18 I’ll buy you a set of suitcases and help you pack.” At about age 17 she started saying stuff like “You know you don’t have to leave the house when you turn 18, right?” Ummm… no, I didn’t know that and yes, I was definitely moving out. (I have been very careful not to say this phrase to my own girls.)  Looking back I truly wonder if my mother was bi-polar.

Once again, I am out of time.  I could probably write a book about my upbringing but you get the jist of it.  Lots of negativity, not very much affection or visible love.  It’s a wonder I’m still sane – or am I?  lol.  Unfortunately, because I never saw a “functioning” family growing up and don’t really know what that looks like, I’ve brought my mother’s parenting skills into my own parenthood and I feel so sorry for my children.  I did the best I could, although she probably did too, and all I can do right now is pray that they make a sucessful transition to adulthood without needing too much counseling as they grow older.  God save us all!