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"My parents did their best" - Really, even though it was emotionally and physically abusive?

(197 Posts)
ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 14:49:07

"My parents did their best"
I was interested to read this recently, and it got me thinking...
I wonder if this is just a convenient let-off clause.

Is this the same as a drunk getting into a car, and then causing an accident - They cannot say "well I was drunk and did not know what I was doing, so you can't hold it against me!". The drunk is still held accountable for the damage/injury, whether they were competent to drive or not.

If it serves to ignore their toxicity in the present day, dysfunction can and usually will continue.

I think accountability is only a small part of dismantling dysfunction, but without that initial self-introspection, the toxic bubble stays intact.

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:11:39

You deserved so much better, vent away if you need to, it will help you in the long run.
Your last sentence shows what an amazing mother you truly must be. Your children have the right mother.

Yennifer Mon 03-Feb-20 17:12:28

I wouldn't be estranged if my mother could admit to even some of it and change that behaviour. She used to say it never happened and I thought I must be a bit mad. Especially denying something she said right after saying it! Then I couldn't go to other family for support because she had convinced them I was a liar. Another thing she would do which broke relationships for me was say something really vile about someone to me then go tell them I said it! I didn't know that was happening till years later. I never even thought to ask why I wasnt close to people, I was so convinced I wasn't worth people's affection. I don't think abusive people, whoever they are to us, admit to mistakes to anyone really. They just think they are the victim and have done some quite amazing mental gymnastics to get there x

welbeck Mon 03-Feb-20 17:14:51

i think it is rare for people to be able to admit that they were abusive, in any situation.
if they can have the insight and humbleness to do so, that in itself can bring some healing, as it takes the sting out of the memory, which otherwise can continue to bite.
not to admit it, or even be open to the possibility, ie to take seriously the other's reported experience, is indeed adding insult (denial/gaslighting) to injury (the abuse).

there is a thread on MN revealingly titled, but we took you to stately homes...

rosecarmel Mon 03-Feb-20 17:15:48

I didn't do my best, I followed a pattern-

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:21:32

Yes, sadly, you have no real choice about estrangement. Your P sounds narcissitic. Meaning: The narcissistic personality is also just a response to childhood trauma. But they seem to concoct their own reality, whilst negating yours.

Typical narc style right there. Gaslighting, smear campaign and to top it all off they exist in a fantasy lie-world.
For the child to go NC is an herculean effort.

Stand proud.

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:23:30

Yes rosecarmel We are all only following our family blueprint, changing it when and where we can.

Hetty58 Mon 03-Feb-20 17:23:55

My sister just denies that there was anything wrong. It's as if she's forgotten all about it and edited her memories. In her world I've exaggerated or made it up - all very strange. My 'compensation' was that, when Mum died, all I felt was relief, no grief at all.

Yennifer Mon 03-Feb-20 17:27:51

I've done it too. I've been abusive, I've thought manipulating people to get my own way was fine. I've thought that denying something awful I've said would be an easier option. Then I saw the looks on my children's faces and it hurt me in ways I didn't know I could. So I've worked on it and I've changed and I've walked away and made my own normal. I'll keep trying to stop the past defining me and I have strong bonds with my children. If I'd carried on I would have lost them, I could see it in their eyes and I never want to see that look again x x x

Greymar Mon 03-Feb-20 17:33:03

My mother most certainly concocted her own reality and also loves magical thinking. I only met one Grandparent, who I find it difficult to believe was an abuser. Also, looking at body language in photos, I see no sign of abuse. Where did it come from, I wonder?

Yennifer Mon 03-Feb-20 17:34:19

Magical thinking is such a good description x

Smileless2012 Mon 03-Feb-20 17:34:42

I wonder if you could explain what you mean by "punishment tools" and "food punishments" ananimous.

TBH I don't think, depending on the context that telling a child they are selfish or silly is subtle abuse. For example when a child refuses to share their toys, that is being selfish and if a child is being silly, they're being silly.

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:40:36

Yes, I know this dynamic myself.

It sounds like you were the "scapegoat" child, and your sister was "the golden" child (of course everything was rosy!) and I'm guessing your mother played you off against each other.

When your mother died, so did the lie.

Sara65 Mon 03-Feb-20 17:41:56


I recognise all of the above, I’m estranged from my mother and never want anything else to do with her.

But, I know she had problems for which she received no professional help, as she would have done these days. I also think we were a bad match, she may have done better with a different daughter.

I don’t like her, she made me feel really bad about myself for a long time, but it’s behind me, and a don’t blame her, I think she may have done as well as she was able.

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:43:28


Use of: belt/ruler/wooden spoon etc

"Go to bed without your supper!"

Sara65 Mon 03-Feb-20 17:43:30

Replying to your post from 17.08

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:47:03

I would say:

"Sharing is caring" - instead of being mean to the child and calling them selfish.

I would never label a child anything, especially "silly".

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:48:50

Sorry, I'm doing dinner, will pop back soon

ananimous Mon 03-Feb-20 17:55:55


Potatoes on. grin

No child is a bad match - that is her dysfunctional behaviour towards a child.

All children should feel absolutely wanted and loved, not difficult or a bad match.

Yes, you can accept her illness, know she was on autopilot, without needing to inflict it upon yourself.

Smileless2012 Mon 03-Feb-20 17:59:36

I don't agree that giving a child who is old enough to understand, the correct label for selfish behaviour is subtle abuse. Nor do I agree that in response to a child's silly behaviour, to say it is silly is labelling them. In both cases it is the behaviour that is being 'labelled' not the child.

Thanks ananimous for your definitions of 'punishment tools' and 'food punishment' I'm in total agreement.

boheminan Mon 03-Feb-20 17:59:55

Hetty58 you speak for me. May I PM you?

Yennifer Mon 03-Feb-20 18:00:25

Monkey see monkey do x

Smileless2012 Mon 03-Feb-20 18:02:26

Sorry Yennifer I don't understand your post.

welbeck Mon 03-Feb-20 18:03:18

but I wonder about some of the things we expect from, or impose upon children.
I mean, why should they be required to share their things. they have so little control over the details of their lives, where they live, with whom, which school, what to eat, wear, visit, do... why should they not at least be asked whether they want to share their things.
adults have so much more choice, yet I wont be called selfish for not wanting my neighbour to drive my car, or eat my food, borrow my clothes, take over my tiddleywinks.

Sara65 Mon 03-Feb-20 18:09:19


She wasn’t physically abusive, not beyond the odd smack, and in those days that was the norm.

But I can still see that look on her face when she spoke to me, somewhere between dislike and disgust, and never quite making eye contact.

I was lucky, I had a lot of good adults in my life, and I saw that how we lived was totally different to most people, I think a lot of people realised things weren’t great, but people didn’t interfere in those days, and anyway we were never harmed.

It took me a long time, but now I’m free, but I wish her no ill will.

Smileless2012 Mon 03-Feb-20 18:11:09

IMO learning to share is an important social skill to be learned welbeck and in adulthood extends to sharing some of what you have with those less fortunate.