Working the program in my relationship with my husband is a piece of cake when I compare it to working the program regarding my son. I constantly wrestle with questions of whether I am a controlling parent or a parent providing structure. When is detachment appropriate with my seven-year-old son and when am I allowing too much freedom? When am I providing too much information about the family addiction dynamics and when am I keeping secrets? What is normal behavior on my son’s part and when is his behavior a reaction to being part of an addictive family? What makes answering these questions all the more difficult is the fact that I grew up in a dysfunctional family, so I don’t have a clue as to what is “normal.”
One day in an S-Anon meeting I shared these concerns with some members of the group. One member said she reads everything she can find about parenting and normal developmental stages for children. That was helpful to me, but I felt this kind of knowledge does not answer the basic question of “When am I providing guidance and when am I acting out my need to be in control?” Today when I am in the middle of a heated interchange with my son, I take some time out. If I am at home, I read recovery literature about control. If we are in public, I repeat the serenity prayer in my head. These actions calm me so that I can get in touch with my underlying feelings. I have been able to identify a feeling I call “wanting to shove a square peg into a round hole”—the “do it my way or else” feeling. Those are the times that I am not really parenting, but acting out my own fears by trying to controlling others.
I am a long way from being the kind of parent I would like to be, but I have become the kind of parent who can admit her shortcomings. Hopefully this will create an atmosphere in my home where things can be questioned and discussed. If my child feels safe engaging in conversation with me, I have come a long way toward healing in our relationship.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 91.