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What do kids see and feel?

Old 04-28-2011, 01:04 PM
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You know, I wanted to add....

The whole choking incident happened 6 hours away from the children. And we NEVER once fought, raised voices, or even had heated discussions in front of the children. And because of that... my AH was CONVINCED that we could have our disagreements and the kids wouldn't have a clue that it was going on.

I adamantly disagreed. I am convinced, and will remain so, that kids pick up more on the unspoken - the body language, the energy, etc - than they do the spoken. I remember learning that when the kids were babies... when I was stressed out, there wasn't a damn thing I could do to get them to settle. I had to just lay them in their crib, go outside and get myself pulled back together. Once I was relaxed... like magic... they settled right into me.

anyways... just my 2 cents.
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Old 04-28-2011, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by GettingBy View Post
we NEVER once fought, raised voices, or even had heated discussions in front of the children.
We didn't either. My xah stepped off the ledge at the very end and ranted and raved for hours and hours but prior to that we did not fight in front of the kids. We actually didn't really fight and argue at all ever.

Our older kids were taking their bickering to an entirely new level. It was outrageous. We mentioned it to the counselor and also that all that fighting/arguing/bickering was not modeled to them because we didn't do it.

It wasn't that we had a harmonious relationship (anything but), we just didn't verbally fight or argue. The counselor simply said the children will do the fighting the adults aren't doing. They feel that vibe in the house. They do not understand it but it was thick and they pick up on it and argue it out with each other.

I did not see then just how dysfunctional our house was. There was no physical abuse, there was no arguing and fighting, there was no mean words but oh man, the dysfunction was rampant none the less. It was an undercurrent, an emotional tension and confusion, nothing you could point at but it was there.
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Old 04-28-2011, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by wanttobehealthy View Post
I am pretty sure you weren't trying to be funny but this made me lol because if I didn't know better I'd think we had the same child. Wow. I can hear Clara (D3) saying that exactly!
Yep, same here with DS. I can ask him how his day at school went and he says "It was horrible" (his favorite story right now is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and rattles off a chain of "I fell off the swing" "Joe ran over me and stepped on my hand..." etc. My sister asks him how his day was and it's "FUN!" "I played on the swing!" "Joe and I played knights and horses!".... DS gets a big hug and snuggle time on the couch with me and then a rambunctious bear hug from his Auntie as he runs out to play with his cousins. Different people, different needs, different reactions.

What is amazing is how DS could sense when something was off with XAH. If XAH was sober when we got home, he'd run and jump on him and they'd rough house for a bit. When XAH had been drinking, DS would toddle over and hug him and then skitter backwards.
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Old 04-28-2011, 01:45 PM
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Growing up in an alcoholic home, I can say that the alcohol was definitely NOT the biggest problem for me as a child. My dad was a binge drinker and did most of his drinking AWAY from home. He would disappear for days or weeks at a time. Those times were the most awful. Not so much because he was gone, but because my mother would be unavailable too. She was obsessed, angry, sad, distracted, short with us, etc. When dad would come home, things were better. Mom would calm down.

Now that my kids are older, we've discussed some of these things from their childhood. And I find the same patterns apply. The most upsetting things they remember have to do with ME, not their alcoholic father. Me being angry for no reason (in their eyes), me being distant, depressed, or whatever. They didn't connect my anxiety and mood swings with their father's drinking (and why would they?). I was not a good mom when I was consumed with their father's alcoholism. That is the hardest thing to come to terms with, to this day.

L
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Old 04-28-2011, 01:52 PM
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Hmmm interesting thread on so many levels. Both as an ACOA and as a parent.
My parents divorced when I was about 2, but my AF (now recovering) had custody of my sister and I every other weekend and one night a week or something like that.
He was an active addict for the first 11 years of my life. I have very few memories from my childhood, but they few I have a pretty ugly. By the time I was an adolescent I had figured out that I could survive by not being noticed at all, that was what I strove for.

My daughter's father, my exABF, now lives far away from us. As I have progressed in my recovery she seems to feel more safe, confident and independent. But, as a single parent, I often walk through the door to the release of her pent-up frustration, hurt and sadness. I feel okay with that, I am learning how to support her in a healthy way and I am helping her have a childhood I never had.

I really like what Anvilhead had to say. I think that really sums up what it must be like from their side looking up at us. Thanks for that.
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by GettingBy View Post
You know, I wanted to add....

And because of that... my AH was CONVINCED that we could have our disagreements and the kids wouldn't have a clue that it was going on.

I adamantly disagreed. I am convinced, and will remain so, that kids pick up more on the unspoken -
EXACTLY! That's what I have thought, felt, said for years. Of course I should have just trusted what I knew and done something about it and left years ago but what's done is done...

I grew up in a house where we LOOKED like the perfect family. No screaming, no fighting, no acting out outside of the house-- over achieving, perfect family. Hardly. The palpable tension of not knowing what would come next, angry parents who took their hate for each other out on their kids in subtle but deadly ways showed me years and years ago that it's what is unspoken and felt that is often just as, if not more damaging than the overt fighting etc...

The anxiety my D's both have has lessened dramatically as mine has. As I've stopped making H the center of my world and have focussed on making my life mine with or without him I have been able to be the mother I knew I was but have struggled to be for the past few yrs.

I won't ever be able to make up for how distracted I was at times when I should have been 100% present for my girls but instead was worried about what AH was doing, thinking, where he was etc...

The day that it hit me that D5 (she was D4 at the time!) resembled me as a kid waaaaay too much, was the day I went to my first al anon meeting.

I lied to myself for years and said that bc the arguing occurred after the girls were in bed and that the worst they dealt with was silent tension, that that meant it wasn't "that bad". I'll have a lot of forgiving of myself someday for this-- I am no where near ready to even consider that right now. I feel like my mom card deserves to be taken away frankly bc of keeping the girls (or bringing them into a life with an alcoholic parent) in this situation this long. I can't do a damn thing about AH but the more I change what I can in me, the better off the girls are.
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:21 PM
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They pick up on everything. Also, however, children of alcoholics often do whatever it takes to get attention-- even negative attention. This quickly can manifest as self-destructive behavior.

In my case, all my attention was taken up by my alcoholic wife and her ********, and protecting my daughter from it. A side affect of this was that my daughter subconsciously noted that the way you get attention from me is by being a ********.

We are trying to break out of that dynamic now, years later, and it's very, very, very hard.

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Old 04-28-2011, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyranoak View Post
They pick up on everything. Also, however, children of alcoholics often do whatever it takes to get attention-- even negative attention. This quickly can manifest as self-destructive behavior.
I wish I'd known this, oh, 5 yrs ago... How I could have been so stupid to not see the signs of alcoholism or see that my increasing losing of my mind wasn't just bc of sleep deprivation with young kids... The stress I put my poor kids under...

D3 has SERIOUS behavioral issues that I am white knuckle scared to death of. She is in T, gets support from her T at her preschool once a week and yet tonight is an example of how environment plays SUCH a huge roll in this.

D5 and D3 are watching their one allotted show of the day. AH is not around on Wed, Thurs or Fri for dinner with the girls bc he has outpatient rehab & bc I asked him not to come by on these evenings for dinner about a week ago. Guess which nights D3 doesn't completely melt down on? Could be a fluke, but I doubt it. And I don't attitribute this all to AH btw. He and I around each other ='s palpable tension for the kids.

I saw D3's T at her preschool today and told her that dinner all together is on a permanent hiatus and what I've noticed. She's the one who pushed this idea to begin with and today was all "oh that sounds much healthier". I'm beginning to think that putting too much stock in what T's say isn't that wise.

I'm hoping to avoid having these present behavior problems become bigger ones... Fingers crossed.
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:38 PM
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Me too...

Originally Posted by wanttobehealthy View Post
I wish I'd known this, oh, 5 yrs ago...
Well, 12 years ago for me but the point is the same. Whenever I'm feeling guilty about this, which is almost always, I try and remember that everything I did I did with the best of intentions, and because it was the best decision I was capable of making at the time.

I have to tell myself this often. Occasionally I get through a day where I don't feel guilty about this, but it's rare. Those are good days.

Take care,

Cyranoak
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:41 PM
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I believe that children can pick up on feelings and energy, positive and negative.

I won't go into detail, but my sister was talking to me over the weekend about somewhere she used to work, and many of the children there suffered from Attachment Disorder. This was a disorder in adopted children (in the facility she worked), and it didn't seem to matter if they were adopted hours or years after they were born.
Studies are now showing that those who were adopted hours after being born were typically resented by their birth mothers, leading scientists to believe that the baby picked up on those vibes while still unborn.

Another example, my youngest brother was always hiding behind the couch, crying silently, an hour before my mother would start another of her screaming tirades. He was rarely wrong.
Young children still listen to their feelings, and I believe they are VERY good at picking up on things.
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:51 PM
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Crap- reading this thread is making me want to BURY my head in the sand.

Starcat- I WAS your brother and I see D3 sooooo much the same. The attachment d/o thing is something I am really interested in. I don't think it's an accident I opted to work with EH kids. I can relate to many of them. My mom gave me, on mother's day (as a punishment I guess?) when I was 8, a poster my father made when she and I came home from the hospital. She told me that I should have it since he'd clearly loved me more since before I was even born. There's much more to the story but the jist of it is that I wonder now, reading your post, whether I knew even before birth just how much my mother resented me... Interesting stuff.

You know, maybe I need to be reading this thread bc it is making me determined, even if I have to fight a wicked battle, that I will NOT have the girls alone with AH but nor will I stay in the same house for a moment longer than I need to.

I guess the one thing I can remind myself of when I feel like the antithesis of mother of the year (most days) is that I love my kids with every fiber of me and have done the best I could under the circumstances to keep them safe and that since the instant I learned I was pregnant I have wanted and tried (even if I have failed at times) to put them first. That's got to count for something right? God knows where I learned to be a loving mother since my own mother tells stories to this day (and proudly) about how she would have been okay never actually giving birth to any of us-- she just liked being pregnant and the attn it got her. My blood runs a little cold everytime I hear that...
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Old 04-28-2011, 02:54 PM
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Hey Cyranoak,
I was just thinking-- your D is 12 ish you said? Not to lessen the significance of her growing up with an A mom but some of the nightmarish behavior [I]could be[I] at least somewhat attributable to pre-teen hormones... I've said for years that I'd rather have a class full of delinquent boys over teenage girls bc boy oh boy do they have enough negative attention tactics to drive even Mother Theresa crazy.

I think there's a HP reason I had 2 girls...

Originally Posted by Cyranoak View Post
They pick up on everything. Also, however, children of alcoholics often do whatever it takes to get attention-- even negative attention. This quickly can manifest as self-destructive behavior.

In my case, all my attention was taken up by my alcoholic wife and her ********, and protecting my daughter from it. A side affect of this was that my daughter subconsciously noted that the way you get attention from me is by being a ********.

We are trying to break out of that dynamic now, years later, and it's very, very, very hard.

Cyranoak
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Old 04-28-2011, 03:33 PM
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This line of thought suffocates me. I get consumed with it and my parenting response to being consumed and suffocated with things I can't undo is to either disengage or get overly agitated about being perfect. No one here has said that (the opposite actually - which is good) but I thought I'd share this poem. It is hanging on my wall at work so I can read it before I go home.

Start Where You Stand by Berton Braley

Start where you stand and never mind the past,
The past won't help you in beginning new,
If you have left it all behind at last
Why, that's enough, you're done with it, you're through;
This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned,
Don't give the vanished days a backward look,
Start where you stand.

The world won't care about your old defeats
If you can start anew and win success;
The future is your time, and time is fleet
And there is much of work and strain and stress;
Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,
Here is a brand-new trial right at hand,
The future is for him who does and dares,
Start where you stand.

Old failures will not halt, old triumphs aid,
To-day's the thing, to-morrow soon will be;
Get in the fight and face it unafraid,
And leave the past to ancient history,
What has been, has been; yesterday is dead
And by it you are neither blessed nor banned;
Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead,
Start where you stand.

Here is another short one I have at home. When the old tapes start playing (about screwed up yesterdays and fatalistic tomorrows) I go read this - to replace them and get back into the present, which is actually quite good if I don't muck it up, haha.

"One day at a time - this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering." Ida Scott Taylor.

I use the serenity prayer a lot too. They replace the endless awfulizing loops with more positive ones
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Old 04-28-2011, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by wanttobehealthy View Post
I think there's a HP reason I had 2 girls...
Well the heck.

I have four boys.

I spent 28 years saying 'boys are dumb' and 'boys are gross'

Now I have four.

They act like monkeys and pee all over the toilet. Humph.

I love them though!

I am probably learning something here but not sure what, lol.
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Old 04-28-2011, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
They act like monkeys and pee all over the toilet. Humph.

I love them though!

I am probably learning something here but not sure what, lol.
How to clean toilets?

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Old 04-28-2011, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
They act like monkeys and pee all over the toilet. Humph.

I love them though!

I am probably learning something here but not sure what, lol.
OMG! I thought it was just something in the potty training that we forgot to teach my nephews and DS and that they were refusing to learn now! Kind of relieved to hear it may be just a young boy trait.

Myself, I've learned to say - No boys in my bathroom!
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Old 04-29-2011, 08:08 AM
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I'm an ACOA. Here's my personal perspective.

If you believe in people being empaths, do you think a child gets that from their parents?
I do believe some people are more empathetic than others (I am one of them). I feel other people's feelings. It's horrible. It's as though I have no skin. I don't think it is a heritable trait, but I do think that some people are just more sensitive to things. I don't believe it is something you LEARN; I believe it is something you ARE. For instance, sounds weird, but I have many times in life been able to SENSE when someone I have been close to is in trouble or in distress, without having been in any type of contact with them. It has happened too often for me to believe it was ever just sheer coincidence.

If so, do you think my son is reacting the way he does because he knows his mom is "off"?
Maybe. Maybe not. But not necessarily. What you describe about your son at that age I also witnessed in my niece with her mother. It may be just that these children crave or need more attention and love from their parent than that parent is able to give them. I personally think that when a small child like that wants picked up, the adult should pick the child up and comfort the child for whatever reason the child needs comfort. Unfortunately, alcoholic parents are rather selfish, and often put THEIR wants and needs before their childrens' wants and needs. Sadly, a mother's love cannot be replaced, IMO.

Ultimately, is this why, as others have stated, a child will eventually see through the BS of the drunk parent?
I don't think your scenario answers why the child will eventually see through the "BS" of the drunk parent. It is very difficult, as a child, to see through a drunk parent's BS. As a child, I did not have the analytical ability or even enough attention span to be able to begin to identify the alcoholic BS, nor did I ever even think to. Life was what it was; I was just learning my place in the world. I believe the effect of having an alcoholic parent was that I learned a sick, distorted view of my self, the world, and my place in it.

The only way I understood my father's "BS" was through what my mother said and how my mother acted in response to him, really. As an ACOA, I can tell you that EVERY word, every look, every gesture, every action that my father made toward me, I took 110% seriously. I did not begin to "see through the BS" until I was about 39 years old and that was some time after I had found Al-Anon. It is very difficult to be a child of an alcoholic, no matter what age. We are different. I have no doubt. IMO, the best thing you can do for your child is learn about children of alcoholics and do your best to teach him things that counterbalance what the alcoholic parent instills him. Like love, boundaries, forgiveness, peace, routine, etc. The same kinds of things we talk about on SR.

They learn that the sober parent is good and the drunk one is bad? Even at a young age?
In my experience, no. I loved and love BOTH my parents, I never saw my alcoholic parent as “bad.” I saw him as my dad. I think the way my mother talked about him, both then and now, and reacted to him, made it easier for me to, later in life, accept his alcoholism and deal with him in a healthy manner. My siblings, not so much. Your spouse is what she is. Life is what it is. We don't have to judge; it's counter-productive anyway. We can just accept. Hope something here is helpful to you.
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