Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mini Me

Recently my sister-in-law posted a status update on her facebook. She was so entertained because Bella had asked her Grammy to turn the radio down in the car to alleviate her headache. Grammy replied that if she would stop talking it would help her headache go away.

Bella's response amused many other FB users that know me as well as Michelle.. "I can't stop talking, I am just like my mom."

I have taught my children to only speak truth. Sometimes it bites me in the butt.

Onto the serious part of the post. I wanted to write this down before I forgot.

There are three things that I have learned recently in therapy. They were key in helping me along my journey with codependency. They were BIG parts of the puzzle in teaching me to fight my codependent need to be loved.

1-I could not handle criticism.

All of these things came into play with my parenting today. You see, Bella is a mini-me, in almost every single way. She is not just my only brunette child, she is a codependent. She came that way. She has an insatiable need to be loved. It's exhausting. God knows what he is doing because parenting her has been vital to my own healing.

Today I decided that it was time for me to share some of my therapy with Bella. If I didn't learn about fighting my need to be loved until 37, how much better will it be for her to understand it earlier? Well, I pretty much botched trying to take my knowledge from my brain to Bella's. There's a reason that therapists are licensed and I am not. I found the story a little amusing.

Bella was throwing a jumbo sized fit because Abigail had wrongfully criticized her. Apologies had been made, but those of you with codependent experience know that an apology never equates the end. Bella couldn't make herself let it go. She can't handle criticism. Remember that was #1 from the above things I learned about myself. She was abandoned and she wanted us to know about it. She also wanted us to hurt because in her jumbled mind, us experiencing pain, makes her pain turn into a sad form of love. She started going on and on about how nobody loves her. She screamed at me that she always does things for me and I never do things for her. You have NO idea how horrible this is unless you have lived through it. And we have lived through it hundreds of times.

I caught my smirk before it surfaced as I finally understood what I had to do. Months ago I quit trying to coddle to the girl while she created her own hell and ours as well. In fact remembering this prior post, I am a little stunned that my love declaration had actually worked. It usually does not. Usually coddling or sympathizing makes things a million times worse. Today was the day to teach Bella about her love tank.

I happened to be making chocolate chip cookies. I told Bella that she would not get to play again until she was ready to have a talk with me. She took about an hour to come around. Just enough time for me to prep my discussion. We sat at the kitchen table.

I brought a pitcher of water, a glass, and a large spoonful of cookie dough. I made sure I had her full attention. As she watched me, I handed her the cookie dough. As I stretched out to her, I said, "As the first part of our talk, I just want you to know how much I love you. I am giving you this abundant amount of cookie dough just because I love you."

She pushed it away. Actually, she whacked it out of my hand. Hmmm. At this moment I knew my assumptions are right. The kid needs to be loved, but just like her mom she is not good at receiving love. Remember that was #2 thing learned on my step to recovery. I said, "Oh, I am sorry, I guess you don't want this. You must not want to know how much I love you." She was still angry. I asked her if she wanted it, and in her "I don't know what the heck I am feeling and why I am feeling this way" mood, she spit out, "No." I give her one last chance, "O.k., that is fine, because it looks really good to me and I will eat it." I put it up to my mouth and she snatched it out of my hand. So, she does want to be loved after all. Progress.

I then explained the theory of the love tank to Bella. I said to her that everyone has a love tank like this cup inside of them. It is what holds their love. People get their love tanks filled in many ways. They can fill it themselves, or they can get love from other people, or even their Father in Heaven or Jesus Christ. It can be filled when someone compliments them, or when they get a hug......etc. etc. Bella was intrigued. She started participating in the conversation, giving me ideas of how people feel loved. I then reminded her that I had just given her cookie dough and that it should add a few drops of love into her love tank. I also reminded her that she almost didn't get that love because she so rudely swatted it out my hand.

So, we physically filled the tank, I mean the cup. Then, I said to Bella, "This next part is really important and I want you to understand this so that you can be happier. Bella, you are a lot like your mom and I didn't learn this until this year and I wish I would have understood sooner." "Bella, you and I, we have leaks in our love tanks." Then, by her suggestion, we got out a plastic baggy and filled it. We cut off a corner and watched the love tank shrivel and die. I explained that because we have leaks in our love tanks, it stays shriveled up most of the time. When someone criticizes us, it hurts more than it does for other people because it's not like them when they just get a scoop taken off the top, it's like they take our shriveled tank and step all over it.

It got through to her because she immediately burst out in tears. "I don't want a leak in my love tank!! Why do I have to have a leak in my love tank?" Yeah for me. It only took 10 minutes to successfully teach her item #3.

I said, "Don't worry, you can fix it."

Bella: "I don't know how to fix it. I am going to have a broken love tank for forever."

Me: "You can fix it. I've been fixing mine."

Bella, crying in agony, "How?"

I then went on to explain that all she has to do are some really simple things. I got out some toothpicks. And demonstrated that she uses tools to stop her leak. At this point, I was glad she had gone back to sulking on the couch because I totally lied and told her that the toothpicks worked brilliantly at stopping the leak, when really they didn't work at all.

I came up with four ideas for her. The first toothpick was that she should pray to her Heavenly Father to help her fix it. The second was to love herself. The third was to remember that people love her even if they correct her from time to time. And lastly, and most importantly, don't forget that she has a leak and when she starts feeling sad, think about the love that leaked out.

So, needless to say, the kid now may not figure anything out for herself until she is past the age of 37 because I just completely screwed up a botched therapy session. But, I tried.

And because I am working on fixing my love tank, I am going to tell myself I did a great job, even if I didn't.


ShEiLa said...

I think you did an excellent job Alice... I think you explained the whole reality on terms she could understand.

I am a little bit jealous that you are actually getting something out of therapy... I went before and quit because I was getting NOTHING from the guy... He wasn't helping me at all.

I can relate to so much of what you said... thanks for the mini-counseling session.


Donna said...

Love it! What a wise mom you are to help her recongize what you know now. Be proud, take a bow.

Donna said...

Ps. I love the new blog layout

Katy Beth said...

I think it was perfect. You know by now that even if a kid does not show you outwardly that they understood, later on you will see the effects in their actions. She'll thank you for the talk one day.

RedefinedPossibilities said...

Patience, Alice.

One Happy Family said...

You did great! Maybe you aren't licensed but you are qualified to teach her and I think you did a sincere job. I'm big on thinking that we all have our own experiences to help others esp. those in our families. The four "toothpicks" are great ideas I'm sure Bella will remember, even if she remembers just one think of the power she'll have to overcome. Powerful!

One Happy Family said...

You did great! Maybe you aren't licensed but you are qualified to teach her and I think you did a sincere job. I'm big on thinking that we all have our own experiences to help others esp. those in our families. The four "toothpicks" are great ideas I'm sure Bella will remember, even if she remembers just one think of the power she'll have to overcome. Powerful!