Many thanks to the person involved here for providing this extremely insightful account which will be of great interest to anyone who’s a parent or has experienced a family breakdown:
Looking back my story began a long time ago although the last 18 months have been the critical period of time. I have three boys. I have always found my middle child challenging. From an early age I would find I was always saying his name when there was any trouble. Going back to the early years even at the age of 5 I would be treading on eggshells trying not to upset him. The general feeling for me was if he woke up in a good mood then it would be a good day. There was not only trouble at home, there was trouble in school. School generally cited his immaturity as the problem and said he would grow out of it. I tried to gain parenting help but this was very difficult to come by, I was also looking after 3 boys a lot of the time on my own with no family support and a husband who worked away regularly. I separated from his dad when he was 11.
I moved into my own house with the boys in 2014 and the trouble really started. My oldest child refused to see his dad. My other two would see him every other weekend. They would come back with sweets having being spoiled all weekend. Normal things that happen when parents are separated. I became the big bad bitch. The one that said no. The one that had rules. I would request help around the house. I would get “we don’t have to do anything at dads”. The arguments with my middle child became more intense. He would “tell his dad” and then I would not only have my child to deal with but my ex who would criticise my every move. He was also telling my child I was wrong and should deal with things differently. I may have moved to my own house but it felt like my ex still ruled my life. Things came to a critical point when my son became violent, my child trashed my home, demanding I do things that no child should ask their parent to do and ended up with him assaulting me, me fleeing the house with a bleeding head and horrific bruising to ensure my youngest child didn’t get in the house after school. My son was arrested and charged with assault on two occasions.
Following Social Service involvement we were put in touch with Neil. I and my ex-husband went for the initial meeting to see if he could help us. Even at this first meeting I felt like this could be the turning point. Neil listened, Neil also made sure I had a voice. I didn’t feel belittled, a feeling I often got when discussing anything when my ex-husband was involved.
I began meeting / having regular chats with Neil, these involved my other children and my boyfriend. Everyone was included. Not everyone wanted to be involved and that was difficult for me but Neil was very understanding. It was never judgemental. It was brilliant having someone to “sound off too” that didn’t have any personal involvement or judgement. While I had my chats, my son was also seeing Neil on a regular basis. There were several setbacks along the way with my son and Neil never gave up on him.
From listening and chatting things through with Neil I got more of an insight of how my son felt and what makes him tick. Was the bond when he was a baby damaged due to what I went through 6 months after he was born? Was he kicking against me because my eldest son wouldn’t speak with his dad, did he blame me for that, was it that I had rules? Due to the violence and destruction that I was facing on a daily basis it was difficult to see anyway forward. I was frightened of him. How could I hide that? Deep down I knew none of my requests of help, tidy up etc. were unreasonable but I had lost all confidence to tell him no. He had all the power, if I said no then something was damaged, food was thrown around, threats were made or a sustained period of swearing at me occurred. The impact this was having on everyone was huge. The stress was huge, every day was a daily struggle. Wake up, get ratty, shout, upset everyone and repeat the cycle. That was life.
A lot of my time with Neil was talking about the winners triangle and the victim triangle along with Neil encouraging me to stop being so down on myself. To look at the positives in life. Self-praise isn’t something I find easy and don’t think I ever will. But the other strategies made sense. Can we change this to a win-win situation? How could I have done it differently? Was I really wrong to feel the way I did?
I believe through my time with Neil some of the skills I have learned is to state my case and walk away, the fact is I can’t fix life for everyone. Why should I? We may all want our children to be happy with us but that is fairy-tale stuff. We are all individuals and have different mind sets and needs. People have the right to make their own decisions and be accountable. I believe I have also learned to listen better. Learned to think about things. React less. If something goes wrong do I really have to deal with it at that moment? No I can take time out to think about how to approach it. I have also most importantly I think learned that I am human and I make mistakes. I can say “I did that wrong”. This isn’t a sign of weakness.
My attitude has changed greatly. I used to look at the downside of everything. Be unable to see past what was going wrong. I can now even in the darkest moments take pleasure knowing that things are better than what they were a year ago. They are by no means perfect. I think my son loves me but is very happy to call me names when things are not going his way, very good at casting up the fact I phoned the police on him. I did what I had to do at the time. I was in danger and I can only hope one day he looks back and accepts I didn’t do this because I didn’t love him. I did it because I love him.
I believe my behaviour has also changed. A good recent example was my youngest child telling me “you make all the decisions, it is always your way”. This is a phrase my middle child used to use and unfortunately my youngest has picked up on a lot of them. A year ago this would have had me crying in a corner. Instead I decided to show my son how many decisions he actually makes. Even simple things “would you like tomato or brown sauce with your tea” what would you like for breakfast. Each time point out “that was a decision you made” by the end of the day he was rolling his eyes at me but I think I got my message across without any trouble or trying to justify his thoughts. I am a parent and it’s bloody hard and I have the right to make decisions but that doesn’t mean they don’t get to make any. I believe I am calmer in my approach to things, most of the time! I do have a lapse on a regular basis. If I do I always say “sorry reacted badly there” I still find the change difficult to deal with at times. Sometimes I don’t have the patience to compromise when we leave for work/school in the morning and these times stress me out. I find it tough when you have asked them to be ready at a certain time and it appears they are not going to do it but I do now try to give them much more space to prove they are going to do as asked even if inside I am desperate to scream “please just do it”. I think that makes me human too!
Today things are better, they are nowhere near perfect but that is an unrealistic goal. Better is good. I struggle daily with dealing with the children, question myself “have I done this right” it maybe isn’t wrong to do that but I have to get to the point where I clearly state my case and get on with it. Not fearing that there will be damage or violence on the back of it. I have my son back living with me almost full time. I have learned that there will always be people ready to pull you down, to criticise your efforts or to believe what they want to believe about you. It is hard being told “I know what you are like”, I haven’t been with my ex for 3 years but he still feels he has the right to do this, still feels he knows me best and he doesn’t. He doesn’t see me with the kids but is always willing to stick the knife in while saying “I don’t mean to be nasty” – I find these conversations very difficult. My son goes back and tells his dad very selectively what he wants to hear. Mum hasn’t dealt with this like she would have dealt with me. Even the other day I found myself justifying an incident and being asked “well did he know this had happened” should I really need to explain myself? Does the 13 year old really have to know? The answer is no but as my child believes he has been ill-treated in relation to everyone else I find myself still treading on eggshells. I still need to work on that and become stronger and say, why are we discussing this? I also have realised that contact with my ex is very detrimental to myself. Whilst I wish to maintain contact with him for the sake of my children that contact needs to be very limited. Generally when I do speak with him I feel myself being pulled backwards. My advice is recognise who is good for you and recognise who is bad. It isn’t easy but have faith in what you believe.
Perhaps being stronger in what I believed several years ago would have changed the way things are now. One big learning point is looking back doesn’t fix things. Dwelling on the past won’t help the here and now. You can learn from mistakes, we all make them but cannot dwell on them and need to concentrate on the here and now. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover from what I have been through but to have got where I am today proves I am strong and willing to fight for my kids. I only hope they realise it one day.