Moms and the Enabling of Toxic Masculinity

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I watched a video the other day where a mother had won a Youtube award by building her channel to over 1 million subscribers and was so excited to share about it she did a Q&A with two of her three adult sons. By the time it was over, I was pretty angry. By the time I read the comments under the video, I was so irritated I was sweating.

In the video she talked about why she started her Youtube channel. It was something she started as a way to find her purpose during the initial stages of the empty nest, which she admittedly confessed she wasn’t dealing with very well. She told her audience (mainly women her age) about the pain of the empty nest and how painful it was for her. I totally understood.

Instead of being met with compassion and understanding for sharing her transparency and truth, she was met with grievances about her; how annoying she was, they made fun of her, mocked her, imitated her, dismissed her, were not really supportive of her, and called her reaction where she described an incident of falling to the ground in devastation after they left home, “Dumb.”

When she turned to explain how painful it was for a mother to give everything, and then nobody need her anymore, he said, “So we’re to blame?” — First, she’s dumb for having the feeling at all and when she pushed back and explained herself, he accused her of blaming them. — No, they are called feelings. Talking. Not blaming. We have feelings and we are human. We are allowed to talk about them.

At one point, as the mother says she will hang the award in her office, the youngest son throws it off to the side. — Nice.

Next, they talked about diet. She told the audience about her diet and said that she ate very… “clean.” As she was searching for the word “clean,” the other son said, “horrible.” He said he’d like to visit and have more than kale and sprouts to choose from to eat. Mind you, he’s out of the house on his own…— Belittling her and being dismissive of her feelings wasn’t good enough, he needed to disagree and insult her lifestyle and diet and expect the house to be stocked with food to his liking even though he doesn’t live at home anymore.

When she asked what else annoyed them about her, one son looked at his watch and asked, “How much time do we have?”

The other son chimed in and mocked her use of reading glasses attached to her cell phone calling them a monocle. They all laugh and he added, “She has the vision of someone well past her fifties” knowing how important it is for his mother (who has a channel about beauty and staying young) to be thought of as beautiful and youthful. The other one says, “God forbid you go out without these (glasses) and we must read the entire menu to her.” — Oh, I’m just busting a gut here… I hope people are as kind to them when they are older.

Then, they accused her of not having “boundaries.”

Wait for it. Because she “never got out of asking them how their day was since their elementary school days.” — Wow. What a shitty parent. How dare she?!

She explained how she loves asking about their lives, their days, their friends, because she cared about them and still does. The one son said, “we’re just out there trying to be men.” — Yikes.

First of all, this kid doesn’t know what a boundary is. It’s some real stretchy, crazy-making behavior from him trying to compare a lack of boundaries with someone caring about you. Not even close to the same thing.

Secondly, the type of “man” who does this, is actually gaslighting you. This type of behavior needs to cease to exist in the future and that will not happen when moms (and dare I say, dads) don’t call this hurtful banter out for what it is: toxic masculinity.

She talked about her parenting and how someone once told her when she was a younger mom to light up like a Christmas tree when she saw her children. She said she loved that idea and has done that ever since. The one son says, “So, you were just ticking a box, not giving us genuine love.” She explained that she thought about how it would have made her feel as a kid if her parents would have done that and because she would have liked it, she always remembered to do it and therefore incorporated it into her parenting. The other son says, “light up like a Christmas tree… so fake.” They accused her of being a liar, a fake, of scarring them and said that the entire video wasn’t for the award, but to prove one thing: “that they caused her pain.”

There’s that narcissists epiphany they talk about.

They talked about the nice notes she used to put in their lunches. And… of course, instead of feeling grateful and appreciative, they remembered how they had to try not to let the other kids see the notes, and said that while all the other kids were trading their goodies with one another, they had apples, and carrots that no one wanted. — Oh, poor bebes. What trauma.

My blood was hot. It was all about them.

Then, I read the comments under the video. And I was beyond aggravated.

“Watching this was sheer joy.” someone wrote. (Not if you know what you’re looking at!)

“Remember when the boys in school threw rocks at us? That’s how boys show love.” (It’s not 1923 anymore, grandma.)

“When boys are comfortable teasing their moms that much, there is nothing but love there.” (No, that much… is too much. I can bet this mother can’t say anything or it gets real bad.)

Eight to ten years ago I would have thought watching another mother with her adult sons teasing and bantering back and forth was cute too. Then, I woke up to “toxic masculinity” and the “enabling” a mother in love with her sons actually does to perpetuate this behavior. Where did I learn this? In therapy.

I’ll be clear here: I thought I had confronted this behavior many times before in my own life with my son. I later learned I hadn’t. When you seriously address this behavior, in a non-joking manner and instead say, “I’m not going to take this hurtful behavior from you anymore,” you will likely forfeit a relationship with your child. And… it gets worse after you address it. How dare you hold them accountable. They will rage like a toddler. Which is why most parents continue to allow the hurtful behavior to continue. Boy, do I get it.

Therapy for both parties; preferably together is best to talk about this harmful relationship dynamic. But, good luck getting that together… it will most likely be a wife and a court order that makes these types of men eventually go to counseling.

At one point in the video, the mom says that she isn’t going to allow her feelings to be hurt anymore because she thinks it hurts her growth. My heart broke for her. — I used to be her. Until I decided that I was tired of swallowing down my pain, smiling for the camera, and showing the world what a “great” family I had, when in fact, it was only great when I was catering to everyone’s needs, was fun and easy to be with at all times, and said nothing about my feelings.

Fuck that. That mother doesn’t live here anymore. And I make no apologies. Feeling alone inside your own family; the one you’ve nurtured and cared for for decades is the epitome of feeling invisible and taken for granted.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to write a comment out under this woman’s video because I wasn’t going to ruin her moment of joy sharing her award by being odd woman out. I wasn’t willing to go head to head with people that have nothing better to do with their time than argue with me about what I’m seeing. I don’t have to defend myself, because I’ve lived it. And, because I’ve been there and done that, I know there’s nothing I’m going to say to this woman about her son’s treatment of her that’s going to open her eyes as to what she’s dealing with until she learns it for herself. It’s an education you get along the path of learning about narcissistic abuse and it’s an education that takes a very long time to get, understand fully, and then incorporate into your life. This woman strikes me as the type of mom that would rather have a toxic family than a fractured one in various stages of healing and understanding.

Here’s what I know this many years after dealing with this kind of behavior:

  • Things said in a joking manner are said for a reason. Those things needs further investigation from both sides. And let’s be clear: joking doesn’t mean it’s funny. A mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandma, friend that’s a girl; may smile and laugh now, but that biting comment will ricochete around in her mind for a very long time. People can only take so much and moms are no different. Learn not to say the biting thing.
  • Behavior like this starts in childhood; usually in teens, and is usually perpetrated by some other toxic male they are mimicking or parroting. Hmm? I wonder who that could be? This woman has three sons all watching the behavior of the other. It makes me wonder how the dad is? I dealt with this behavior each and every time it was exhibited; usually after visitation weekends when my son was a teenager, but kids grow up and become who they really are regardless of our parenting. Soon enough, we have adult males who think dismissive, belittling, devaluing language toward their mother, or women in general, is acceptable, and attractive. — It’s not.
  • Explaining yourself to boys that act like this, isn’t going to work. Our instinct to over-explain for validation of our feelings is a trauma response from our own childhood. Don’t do it. It antagonizes their rage and they blame-shift their accountability. Narcissistic abuse is an addiction to ego. Unless they are pathological, (have antisocial tendencies) they will come to their own realization they need to change in their own time. Nothing you say or do will make them get it sooner. That may mean we have to let them go to face their consequences, grow up, and come to some accountability on their own accord. Hard to do, but necessary.
  • When you learn about narcissistic abuse the first thing they tell you, is to listen to the words toxic individuals use. You’ll realize that in many instances they project onto us what they feel about themselves: “Dumb,” “Liar,” “Fake.” “No boundaries.” “Not getting genuine love.” “Scarred.” — All things the boys are being, doing, or don’t have for their mother. Pretty eye-opening.
  • It is high time we stop telling our daughters and granddaughters that when a boy throws rocks at her that this means he likes her. It’s abuse. Not like. Not love. This is an antiquated idea about how love starts and works that is perpetuated by an older generation who thought this kind of behavior was “cute.” That kind of love doesn’t work in this life anymore. Period.

It’s not a joy to watch a mother squirm, smile and giggle for the camera as she’s being belittled and devalued by her adult sons. If you’re not uncomfortable watching something like that, please educate yourself on toxic masculinity, narcissistic abuse, and enabling behaviors.

Teasing is one thing. I myself, love to banter, and for years I had that same innocent bantering relationship with one of my sons, but it’s important to watch for escalation in hurtful behaviors and boundary crossings. Having your feelings dismissed, being called names, being mocked for who and how you are, is not funny.

It’s time that mothers who are being devalued learn boundaries. (That means with our adult sons as well as our daughters. Yes, there’s a lot of toxic femininity, too) Stand up and say, “no more!” Take up space and do not tolerate disrespectful behaviors as something that is “cute. If they no longer want you as their parent because of this, that’s their choice. But know they are throwing a tantrum. Let them go.

It’s also time for fathers to stand up and say that belittling women; even in a joking manner is not okay. By saying nothing, you send the message that you’re fine with it.

When your adult male child doesn’t change after being told this kind of treatment hurts you, and doesn’t respond to correction, it means they don’t care and they don’t respect either of you. And yes, I know that hurts to hear, but that’s exactly how our adult kids can grow up to treat us. Even after we packed love notes in their lunchboxes and lit up like Christmas trees when we saw their face.

Our kids go on to have many more influences in their lives than just us.

Many of them can be toxic.

It’s time to write ourselves love notes and light up when we see our own faces.

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It’s The Cycle of Life, Not Generational Curses

“Break generational curses!” they scream. If they were carrying lit torches it would look much like a witch hunt. Oh, how Alpha and Omega of us. Godlike, no? To think we know best? Also known as narcissistic. As in, having an excessive view of oneself in the parenting department.

Sure. Please give the job of parenting your best shot. It’s great to see people actively parenting the children they choose to have. But, don’t be so naive to think that just because you do the exact opposite of what your parents did, that you can’t or won’t go on to make your own cycles. I can guarantee you, you did, or will. I was naive enough once too, to believe that all it would take to create a great human being and have a good relationship with my child into adulthood was to parent correctly. Hahaha! Even thinking there is a correct way to parent now makes me laugh.

Food for thought: all the parenting advice you’re reading and doing now, will be wrong when your kids have kids. Two decades after you thought you had all the answers, they may see you as toxic or as something to break. That’s what people who are shouting to break generational curses are doing and saying. That they somehow think their way of parenting will help them rise above any problems later on.

Dream on Alice.

Of course, we want people to do their best when they decide to have children, but our best doesn’t always matter in the end. And it’s not a guarantee that you will always have a relationship with your child once they are an adult.

If you have small children and are screaming about breaking generational curses, please know that your children aren’t even close to being fully formed humans yet, so you may want to grab onto some humility there and pump your breaks. If you have no children, please sit down and talk about things you have personal experience with. Thank you.

If you have adult children and are still screaming to break generational curses, please stop. There are different stages to adulthood. What you see in their twenties, may not be what they are in their thirties. No matter how seriously you take parenting, or how perfect you think you were at it, you can’t know what issues lie ahead of you.

Please stop thinking that difficult cycles end with good parenting. They do not. And it’s toxic, narcissistic, and arrogant to think they do, not to mention a slap in the face to the millions of good parents without a relationship with an adult child. Learn to be insightful enough to realize there is so much more at play in the making of a human than just us and how we raise them. Things we have no control over.

You may in fact break the cycle of abuse, but you may go on to create other cycles — just like your adult children will with their children, and on and on and on… and ALL of it will have EVERYTHING to do with you, grandma, or great grandpa! And how it all comes out in the wash is a complete and utter crapshoot.

Being estranged from an adult child can feel like the ultimate failure on our part. We’re absolutely sure we did something wrong. And maybe we did? But, we can’t change it now. This is called LIFE. It’s human nature. And nature is cyclical. Ups, downs. Certain characteristics skip generations, only to show up in another. We change and grow. They change and grow. Some choose to stay the same and wither. Sometimes we outgrow others. People leave, only to come home again. We fight and make-up. Fighting to break this natural pattern to life will only break us and destroy the rest of our lives. Instead of fighting to break generational curses, learn and do better, but let’s try to dissolve our egos and stop thinking we have all the answers.

We do not.

Welcome to the Cycle of Life!

Please fasten your seatbelts and keep arms inside the car until the ride comes to a complete stop. Thank you!

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Stop! Parenting is Not the End-All-Be-All of How Our Kids Turn Out!

Did you know believing our children are who they are as adults is because of our parenting is narcissistic in and of itself? I didn’t get this point either until my therapist pointed out that by ruminating over and willingly accepting responsibility for an adults bad behavior toward me, I was actually being narcissistic and codependent. In other words — I thought that any time anything went wrong with the relationship, it must have been something I did or did not teach him as a child. It took a lot of soul searching and reflection (good thing I write memoir) to actually get her point. I was too hard-headed thinking because I was a single mother that everything he did, or didn’t do, reflected on me as his mom. It doesn’t. And, if you’re having a difficult time with an adult child, it’s not a reflection for you either.

Sure, we have to give them the best start possible in life by parenting with a balance of love, encouragement, praise — and discipline, consequences and boundaries, — but then much of our influence ends. Sometimes it ends right at eighteen. Sometimes later in their twenties, or even early thirties… but it does end. And what you see in them is the accumulation of their own lived experiences. Much of what was taught and emulated for them in childhood has long been forgotten and only their immediate circumstances prevail.

The next time your adult child hurts your feelings by being disrespectful, or downright cruel, try not to think it’s because you did something wrong as a parent. Hell, maybe you did? But, that has nothing to do with them now. And their behavior is their choice. Think about this and let yourself off the hook for their adult behavior. There are things going on in their lives we know nothing about — just like there were things going on in our lives as we were raising them, they knew nothing about.

*This post is not condoning abuse or saying we need to put up with it. We do not.

All the Turbulence that is Marriage: Please Fasten Seatbelts

Through a conversation with my hubby the other night, we stumbled upon the title for the marriage memoir I’m hoping to write.

When you’re retired; which means tired all over again, you lounge and talk about the good ole days, even when they meant you were the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. We both even dream of doing our old jobs in our sleep.

As if we’re not tired enough…

My husband is a man of few words. But, he lights up and loves talking about his air traffic days, his love of weather patterns, and his thirty-four year career. He says he never dreaded going to work and loved that no day was exactly the same. It’s an intellectual job, not a lot of physicality to it, but he’d come home each day exhausted from the mental acuity and shift work it required. Once home, he was far from wanting to control anything.

That job was left to me: the Charge Nurse. The parentified child in childhood. And that worked for a very long time. Until it didn’t.

Please fasten seatbelts.

As he was describing correct phraseology as an Air Traffic Controller; something I’ve heard him recite for almost twenty years now, my ears perked-up like never before hearing this one phrase.

“Wait, what was that phrase again?

When he said it again, I yelled, “That’s it! That’s the title for our marriage memoir!”

I won’t tell you what it is now, [enter dramatic music,] but it’s a ridiculously good title for my third book based on all the turbulence that is marriage.

If you’d like to listen to my husband controlling air traffic, you can listen here.

The video/audio is called a “tape talk” where he was being evaluated by a supervisor for proper phraseology. It’s from his ATC communications from approximately the late 1980s or early 90’s.

He was a controller in the Air Force just before the strike of 1981, and was hired by the FAA in 1985. He worked at O’Hare tower (ORD) before working at Cleveland Air Traffic Control Center (ZOB ARTCC) in Oberlin Ohio. He retired in 2014.

I love when you’re doing something else; swimming, painting, riding biking, talking… and out of the blue, the Universe throws you a crumb. Thank you! 🙏🏼

Now, if I could just finish book two.

Currently, I’m still writing, but deciding where to stop the second memoir. In my opinion, a great memoir is about a superb ending that brings it all around on itself again. And sadly, sometimes the story we set out to write isn’t the one that gets told.

It’s a huge job to figure it all out, but one that I love dearly. I’m in love with trying to control the narrative at first, only to have it take on a life of it’s own halfway through when you become more of a receiver and less of a writer. It’s thee most fascinating process, ever. And I’m grateful I have the time to do it.

If you’re interested in part one, you can buy it here.

If you’d like to see the book trailer my hubby made for me on iMovie, you can see that here.

Errr. This is your Captain speaking, You may now move about the cabin freely.

Just kidding!

Is it Unused or Unallowed Creativity?

I belong to quite a few art groups and each day I’m amazed at just how much women have to give up in order to be loved, to exist, and to count in their own damn families. Still.

God forbid they be curious, find joy, and use their creativity. They have to live to serve others instead.

The stories I’ve read boil my blood.

—Women who can’t have a craftroom or small area in the house because their husband has a wood shop in the garage and an office in the house. There’s no room for her dreams.

— Women who are shoved down in the basement with no windows and no heat asking if anyone in the group has suggestions in lighting and heating sources so they can see and still craft in the cold. Her comfort doesn’t matter.

— One woman wrote that she and her husband were moving and he wouldn’t “allow her” to take her art supplies. She was in the group asking where they could be donated. And although many of the charities recommended in the group benefitted children and schools, she was heart-broken. Her belongings didn’t matter.

And my favorite: Women who aren’t “allowed” to have craft supplies because their husband’s think it’s a waste of their time and money– while they themselves have elaborate hobbies that involve guns, golf, and huge, expensive machinery, mancaves with popcorn machines, fully stocked bars, and 70-inch flatscreen TV’s…

That would be the mother-fucking day.

I’ve read about husbands who:

*Don’t want things strewn across the kitchen table where they eat.
*Don’t want the added expense from their wallets.
*Don’t want their wives to spend time away from tending to their needs.
*Men who don’t want to put together furniture or help his wife set up a separate room because he can’t fit it into his T-time for a round of golf with his buddies.

One woman took a photo of a large piece of furniture still in the box she bought from IKEA that sat in the garage for six months because her husband refused to help her. When she finally found the gumption to do it herself she discovered it was ruined from water damage.

It all makes me so mad I want to spit.

Oftentimes, if she’s determined enough, she does get a room. And she proudly shows a photo of it saying she did all the heavy lifting and assembly by herself. — You go girl!

I’ve been dabbling at the kitchen table; first painting sweatshirts with puff paints (‘member those?) and later I painted ceramics when my son was little. When my kids were teens and the bedrooms were filled, I sat at the kitchen island and painted and art journaled at the dining room table we rarely used.

Brene Brown says that, “Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow and shame.”

You know what that fuels?

Dis-ease.

I process some very benign things in my art journal. What typically comes up are flowers, positive quotes and bright colors because that’s who I am at my core. Happy.

But, I also process deep pain there too. Sometimes my art is the colors of a bruise. Sometimes shades of dripping red with black angry messages from gaping wounds that will not heal. They are not pretty pages, but when I’m done, I feel better. It’s up and out of my body, my head… where it can’t hurt me or others. And I just close the book on them when I’m done or rip them out and throw them away.

I’m lucky to have graduated from a kitchen table to an actual room of my own after my kids left the house. But, I didn’t ask. I took.

I’m lucky to have a husband who enjoys seeing me following my joy. And he’s damn lucky he does too. Because I am that kind of bitch who won’t be pushed back in her seat and told she doesn’t matter.

Ladies! If you want a room of your own, don’t ask! Take! Take up space! Stake your claim! Carve out a place for just you! It doesn’t need to be elaborate or even huge. Use old Goodwill furniture, cheap Dollar store supplies and shoebox storage if you have to, but just don’t lose your freedom to create. It’s so important for everybody’s health, but especially for us women who repeatedly squish ourselves up against the walls of small spaces and who already give so much to so many.

Please stop putting yourself on the back burner and begging to exist in your own damn family.