Thursday, February 5, 2009

Worse: The offense or the hiding?

A few years ago, I was busily opening the mail, balancing the checkbook and paying bills. Something seemed off.

We were short $500.

I called my (then) husband, who was working out of town, and asked the question:

"So.... it looks like $500 was taken out of our account at an ATM in Las Vegas. Did your card get stolen?"

Silence.

"Please tell me your card was stolen..."

Then he fessed up.

"Oh uh... remember when I went there for my company meeting? I pulled that out for gambling. I didn't want to tell you about it because I knew you'd be mad."

What the....?!?!?

This, my friends, was one of many reasons we are not married anymore.

He did this with SO many things and every time I would, of course, find out. How could I NOT find out?!?

The most frustrating part of all was that he would chime back in and say, "See? I knew you'd be mad that I did that."

For years I banged my head in frustration trying to point out that YES, I probably would have been a little upset..... but the fact that you HID it from me or LIED about it..... THAT is why I'm mad now!!!

----

Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

My sweet, straight A, honor roll student Rose, has recently come home with three days of bad conduct in a row.

I had no idea. I always assume she has great daily conduct reports. I stopped looking at them weeks ago because they were always positive. She is doing so well, seems happy and her teacher has never contacted me with anything but praise.

Whenever she's had a bad conduct day before (only 1 since school started), we talked about it and I had her skip dessert or TV for the night. Not a harsh punishment, really.

But to see three in a row? Three? And she never mentioned it at all?!?!

I was pretty furious.

T: "Why, Rose, why didn't you tell me you were having bad days?"

R: "Because, Mommy, I didn't want you to be mad at me."

T: "But baby, don't you understand that I'm more mad because you hid it from me? That you didn't tell me about it at all?"

A few minutes and several self-disappointed tears later, I asked her again.

T: "Honey, do you understand why Mommy is upset?"

R: "Yes, because I had bad days at school."

Argh!!

T: "Ok, partially yes but don't hide things from me. That is far worse... much worse than having bad days. We all have bad days. You can tell me anything, baby, just don't hide things or lie to me. Ever."

My head immediately fast forwards 10 years to all sorts of bad things she could potentially hide from me. Ugh. I get nauseous thinking about it.

Dear God, is it me? What am I doing wrong to drive both my ex and my child to do this? I swear I don't freak out that much. It is me, isn't it?

Maybe I expect(ed) too much and they didn't/don't want to disappoint me?

It makes me ill to think that she can't talk to me. She always talks my ear off about her days.

I get sad thinking there will be a day when she won't share her days with me anymore.

*sniff*

Mommyhood is hard.

13 comments:

  1. My ex (soon-to-be) did this as well. He never seemed to understand it either. I, too, used to blame myself for it.

    Now that we're not together, I see things more clearly and realize he lies pretty much constantly. Definitely NOT my fault!

    As far as your daughter, I would guess that is pretty normal at that age. I think talking about it with her like you did was great! Good luck. :)

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  2. Oh T I so get this!

    I posted about Cameron lying recently - his dad does the same thing!

    I also tried to explain I get more upset if he LIES than the actual thing he did!!!

    While I understand it may be normal I do understan your fears/concerns/frustration

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  3. Mommyhood is hard but I think you did a great job with how you handled things. :)

    And I wouldn't worry about her not talking your ear off when she is older or sharing things with you. My oldest still can't stop talking ... she calls me at work between her classes to tell me random stuff.

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  4. Agreed. Your emphasis on the lying/hiding being more upsetting than the offense itself is key, I think, and I have said the same to my kids at any opportunity that has ever come up.

    And I practice that openness I want them to demonstrate toward me so that I'm not only preaching. You handled it well, T. Mommyhood IS hard. It's nice to have sounding boards like you around.

    Be well, T. Happy Friday!

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  5. Oh yeah, for me the biggest offense is the lying, concealing, omitting, etc. Cannot stand it.

    I don't think it's expecting too much or setting too high of a standard either. People (and our kids) have to learn to own up to their mistakes. Not doing so only causes greater damage.

    One of the many joys of motherhood.

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  6. Ugh. (((HUGS))) I get it. Why they don't, I don't understand. Hopefully she will start to see it your way. Maybe you need to start praising her every time she tells you something hard like "I am so proud of you for being brave enough to bring this challenge to Mommy and share it with me. Now we can tackle it together before it becomes too large of a problem." Or something like that. Good luck!

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  7. This is always a tough one. You are really dealing with a perception issue. For whatever reason your daughter did not want to disappoint you or make you mad. We don't want to disappoint those who are close to us. One thing I did learn a few years ago was that when you give positive reinforcement, don't say "I am so very proud of you for behaving or getting a good grade" Instead, say, "You must be very proud of yourself for working so hard to get a good grade or for being such a good girl that your teacher recognized it.
    By shifting your language just a little, the child recognizes that she is being/doing good for herself and not for you. Big difference in the end, this way she is not trying to not disappoint you, she is trying to not disappoint herself.
    The other factor that could have been involved here was that earlier in the school year when you were looking at the daily report you may have been praising her for good behavior and when you stopped looking frequently, you did not praise as often. This may have been her way to get your attention. Kids thrive on attention, when they don't get positive attention they will do things to get negative attention. To a child attention is attention.
    As for your ex, who knows, I doubt that it was you, his habits of avoidance were probably formed long before you met him. Sounds like you are very loving and involved Mom and that you are doing a great job! Keep doing what you are doing and keep looking for ways to refine your parenting. It is all about growing together.
    Hugs.

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  8. my kids are scared to tell me stuff, nothing really happens at school but if something happens or they break something or anything they think I will be mad at, I always praise them for telling me. That is tough...when I have caught them hiding something form me, I tell them that is how they will find themselves punished! Ohhhh so hard!

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  9. The reason the ex did it is easy......

    "it is far easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission...."

    I think thats a phase for kids.

    Hope your weekend is excellent!!

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  10. This line from your husband is priceless: "See? I knew you'd be mad that I did that."

    Sorry, but it really did make me laugh. I realize it was no laughing matter to you at the time!

    I agree, lieing is bad. But I also think it's fine for kids to keep some things to themselves (as long as they aren't lieing about it). There have to be boundaries at some point. For instance, I don't think it's healthy for a parent of a teen (like me) to probe about every single detail about my daughter's life. She gains a lot by knowing I trust her judgment on certain matters.

    That said, I agree it's great to have open communication. i.e. you can come talk to me if you need to.

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  11. I was so reminded of a similar situation not only from my own 10-year old daughter but also from my own childhood, that I was inspired to write a blog about it.

    http://iusedtohavehair.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/the-fear-of-doing-wrong/

    And don't worry, T...you're CERTAINLY not alone in this.

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  12. > For years I banged my head in frustration trying to point out that YES, I probably would have been a little upset..... but the fact that you HID it from me or LIED about it..... THAT is why I'm mad now!!!

    Understood!

    Yet, if your daughter is demonstrating the same behaviors that your ex-husband demonstrated, it might be an indication that the way you react to disclosures might be influencing the difficulty of making disclosures.

    If you blow up at people for screwing up, they're way less likely to disclose screw-ups. If you then explain that it's even worse that they deceived you, that oddly enough probably won't make them any more likely to disclose to you. The problem is that they fear your reaction to the screw-up. Obviously, the best solution is "don't screw up". But since they're people, and therefore they're guaranteed to screw up, "don't screw up" is a pretty inadequate solution.

    Blowing up at someone for screwing up isn't the best reaction, IMO. 'Specially if people are showing themselves to be hesitant to tell you things out of fear of your reaction.

    > we talked about it and I had her skip dessert or TV for the night. Not a harsh punishment, really.

    Not in your book, at least.

    To a kid?... parental disapproval might be way more harsh than you realize.

    > I was pretty furious.

    Understood! I probably would've been, too!

    But since kids are very good at recognizing fury in parents, I'm guessing that Rose was pretty upset with herself for "making you" furious. Not that anyone can make anyone else feel an emotion, but kids don't really get that, and lots of adults don't, either.

    What you describe makes it seem likely that Rose will hide more things in the future. Harsher consequences are probably not the best way to curb this behavior.

    > T: "But baby, don't you understand that I'm more mad because you hid it from me? That you didn't tell me about it at all?"
    > A few minutes and several self-disappointed tears later, I asked her again.
    > T: "Honey, do you understand why Mommy is upset?"
    > R: "Yes, because I had bad days at school."

    Sounds like the way many adults would react, let alone a kid. When my kids' mom blew up at me, I knew that she claimed to be mad primarily because of lies or deception. But that was obviously bunk; she would've flipped out on me even if I'd immediately disclosed what was up. She proved that many times before making the claim that it was the deception that really mattered. Those were just words: her actions proved that it didn't work out the way she said it did. So the words stopped being useful at all.

    > T: "Ok, partially yes but don't hide things from me. That is far worse... much worse than having bad days. We all have bad days. You can tell me anything, baby, just don't hide things or lie to me. Ever."

    Here's the unsaid (but probably well-heard) conclusion to that:

    "It won't make an appreciable difference; I'll blow up at you whether you tell me right away, or whether you hide it for a while and then I find out. If you get good enough at deceiving me, though, you don't have to get blown up at all."

    > Dear God, is it me? What am I doing wrong to drive both my ex and my child to do this? I swear I don't freak out that much. It is me, isn't it?

    I don't think it's you. I think it's a sensitivity to you. It sounds like the way you react to things that upset you is fairly desireable to avoid. At least, it sounds like the people you react to are taking increasingly extreme measures to avoid having you react to them.

    > Maybe I expect(ed) too much and they didn't/don't want to disappoint me?

    Maybe so. Or maybe it's that you're harsher than you realize when someone does something that you choose to get angry about.

    > It makes me ill to think that she can't talk to me. She always talks my ear off about her days.

    It's not a serious problem yet. You can effect a change, but really the only person you can change is you. Trying to force kids to change becomes increasingly less effective the older they get and the harder parents try.

    > Mommyhood is hard.

    Try to remember childhood. I promise ya, it's way harder than you realize. Being a teenage kid is the most amazingly difficult thing I've ever done, though I didn't have a childhood any more tramatic than anyone else I know. Just 'cause kids don't deal with rent and careers and lovers doesn't mean that they aren't being pushed the very limits of their coping experience by the things that are thrown at them. Being a kid is really difficult.

    Mark had some great insight, IMO. Ugh, I hope I didn't just poison it with my stamp of approval. *wince*

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  13. Sage is right! Having grow up with the 'meanest' Mom in the world (which I'm glad and will not trade it with anything in the world!)...I'd say it is a phase...

    This happens a lot of times between me and my Mom, 'til that one day, she stopped being mad...well she did, but she started something like...next time tell me so I can help you...something...so it was like a sympathy...and from there on, I always make it a point to tell her my challenges...'til now.

    (((HUGS))))

    Wish you a great week...

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