A discussion for people who grew up in violent homes: What do you do about December 25th?

Because I didn't want rain to fall on others' parades, I waited until December 26th to start this discussion.

The short story:

I try to ignore December 25th.

I've had years of practice so it's kind of easy.

When I was a kid I enjoyed getting toys. I enjoyed getting clothes less.

During the violent years I wasn't a happy kid and I hated having to pretend I was happy.

I "got even with" my dad before he died. I didn't care and didn't go to his funeral.

I'm happier now than he ever was.

I've told my Getting Even story in memoir form and feel no need to retell it.

If you grew up in a violent home, what is your short story?

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I don't do anything in particular for Christmas.   I haven't been at a "family Christmas" since before 1985. 

Years ago I would get very depressed during the holiday season.  It's difficult for people who are refugees from what's euphemistically called their FOO (family of origin).  The people you usually associate with, disappear while they visit their FOOs.  

But then I found my depression was being caused by hidden food allergies.  I'm now pretty cheerful during this season. 

For a long time I thought my emotional suffering was all about my family background.  That's the common idea, and my feelings seemed like that.  It revolutionized my understanding of myself when I found out that allergies were also part of the cause. 

I've reconnected with my cousins on my father's side.  They also came from a bad family, but they haven't so far been unpleasant to associate with.  Family is a good thing if you can find some that don't hurt to be around. 

I think it's rather horrible to cut a tree for Christmas.  Or to buy a plastic tree that then goes to a landfill. 

Don't worry about raining on others' parades with reality.  Reality is not rain :) 

Luara, I appreciate your reminding me that reality isn't rain. I lived for so long in Catholicism's unreality that I came to see it as a reality.

My mom did me what I later saw as a huge favor when she drove 150 miles (one way) to tell me I was going to college because I was too lazy to get a job. It took that big a shock to get me out of RC's unreality.

Several years later, after a woman she knew from PTA saw a newspaper notice of my graduation and complimented her, she changed her attitude. I thought, but did not tell her, "It's about damn time!"

I long wondered what kind of people my FOO (including grandparents, etc) really were. Now, it no longer matters.

I didn't grow up in a violent home, but I handle Christmas about the same way you do. My upbringing was in a home where you do as they say, not as they do. They also believed a child should be seen and not heard, even though they got it in their heads that I was to be a preacher. I think they wanted to turn me on and off like a radio. We went through the motions but never once did I hear the words "I love you." It was all pretty hollow. My step-father tried but he had a resentment of me. I was living proof that my mother was not his first love. This showed in many ways.

Today my sister and my mother have passed. I'm civil but distant to my step-father even though we live about 10 miles apart. I talk to him on the phone a lot, but only go and visit maybe 5 times a year. Maybe this is my "getting even."

I'm slowly getting better as I get older, and I have become much more tolerant over the years. I'm a hard person to know, but the irony of what I write here is that I have passed some of the above on into my own children. This is the shame here. I could have "cured it" by fully becoming that preacher that my parents wanted, but then I would have been living a lie.

Dennis, thank you for adding mention of the non-physical forms of abuse.

I so often think of violence as including physical violence, verbal violence and emotional violence (such as neglect) that people have to remind me to mention them all.

I too heard (and I assume my siblings heard) adults say children should be seen and not heard. Years after they died I learned via a German-language, English-subtitled movie that silence was part of the culture in which they grew up.

I too did not once hear my parents say "I love you." Some years ago a woman asked me what I learned about love from my parents. I told her I learned nothing about love, only about duty.

Materially, however, my parents provided well. I knew of no alcohol or physical neglect issues. The word "abuse" wasn't among the words I used until I saw the words of Dorothy Law Nolte, which I include below. They were widely circulated for years before anyone identified the author.

Children Learn What They Live

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

When children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
When children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
When children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
When children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
When children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

When children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
When children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

When children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
When children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
When children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
When children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
When children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
When children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
When children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
When children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
When children live with fairness, they learn justice.
When children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
When children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves.
When children live with friendliness, they learn to find love in the world.

To Nolte's first seven lines, I added When children live with violence, they learn to feel fear.

I too did not once hear my parents say "I love you."

My parents would say "We love you, but ..." and there would follow some negative comment, putdown.

And "we" - so an artificiality

Luara, this is exactly what my parents said and did. "We love you, but . . . ." and it was always one of them talking and always "we."

Once I got out on my own (married or single) they always came by "just to see me." The visits lasted maybe 15 minutes and the real reason for the visit was to "tell me what to do." Then they were gone. Any expressed concern for my spouse was totally fake! No wonder I was multi-married and have also passed this attitude on to my own children. We have to break the cycle somewhere.

I remember turning 9 years old in Kansas living with my parents. Before that I lived with my grandparents. Shortly before my mother died she told me again that I did not live with grandma and grandpa. She only allowed me to stay with them for summer vacation. My remarks were always something like "then why do I remember going to school there and coming home to them at night?"

Mom was always telling me the above but I never let her win.


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