Refereeing Life’s Lessons

I think one of the hardest things to learn as a parent is when to stand back and allow life, not me, to be the teacher.  Harder if you are a recovering control freak as I am.

I had a very chaotic childhood.  After reading a lot on the subject I came to understand that children in those situations learn to compensate by trying to control every aspect of their lives.

Let me be here to tell you that it doesn’t work.  At all.   And I was well into my twenties when I figured that one out.  Okay,  so I am a slow learner.  That, or I was terrified to take the scary leap and relinquish the illusion of control (because that’s all it really is – an illusion) and find out the gifts of life that awaited me.  To give up control is to gain control, by allowing.  The ultimate conundrum, but it works.  At least for me.  And when I finally did embrace that lesson wholeheartedly, life took a quantum leap forward in the most positive ways.

By the way, that lesson doesn’t apply to kids.   At least initially.  And then it becomes hard to know when to let the leash out.  You just have to learn to trust your gut and assess the situation on an age appropriate basis.  Early on, it’s about locking the matches and dangerous substances up and containing the little whirling dervishes.  It’s even more difficult to know who to trust the dervishes care to when you are not present.  I didn’t listen to my gut on that one. I failed.

I have a daughter  who is four years older than her twin brothers.  Her one minute apart yin and yang,  black and white, couldn’t be more different brothers.  When the boys were six months old, my mother died unexpectedly.

I had my father in assisted living with dementia. I had a beloved business mentor die three days after my mother.  I had my parents house to sell.  I had their estate to handle.  I had their bills to pay in the meantime.  I had to deal with my father calling at all hours of the day and night asking if my mom had died or begging to go on a driving vacation together.  (It should be noted that I didn’t travel anywhere with my parents after I was twelve years old.  But that’s a story for another time.)  I had necessary knee surgery.

God never gives you more than you can handle?  Humbug!  (And amen.)

When there had been a one to one ratio of adults to children while my mom was alive, things were smooth.  Hectic?  Yes, indeed.  But we had man to man coverage.  Now we went to zone defense and were completely overwhelmed.  When you are punch drunk from life’s circumstances, you still think you are taking it in stride.  Maybe that is a coping mechanism but it is not true.  Not by any means.

So I sat there watching the laundry pile up to the point we had to run downstairs daily to dig out clean undies from the huge mountain on the table.   Shopping for groceries was an adventure beyond description.  My husband was working long hours and I just dealt with the tsunami on a daily basis and tried to hang on.  Sometimes better than others.

It became quickly apparent that we needed to find some full time help.

M. Scott Peck, the noted psychiatrist, wrote a book trying to understand the true nature of evil, “The People of the Lie”.  His premise is that “the central defect of evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.”  Evil people walk among us under the disguise of normal and moral.  There is  a great deal of narcissism in people who are evil.

Peck goes on to elaborate:  “Evil is the use of power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of our own sick selves.  In short it is scapegoating.  A predominant characteristic … of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating.  Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at any one who does reproach them.  They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection.”

In other words, evil is a master of disguise.  Like my father.  Like Lisa.

She had impeccable references and passed a background check.  She seemed to be very eager and willing to take on extra tasks (like Mount Laundry) and help me dig out from the residue of the tsunami and get organized again.  I was so focused on bringing order to mayhem that I ignored a couple of flags in the interview.  “You’re so nice that I have stopped interviewing until you give me your answer” flew right by me.  Or I ducked.

The process of the evil narcissist is subtle.  Baby steps at first to see what small bits of power they can take.

Peck stated it better than I:  “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual, organization, or entity.  But this means we give away our power to that person.”

Yep, I handed over the keys to the kingdom.  What is worse, I did so with a fairly strong lack of awareness that I was doing so.  It happened a little bit at a time.

The boys were okay.  Being babies, it was about feeding and bathing and changing  and watching them while they played.  It was my daughter that I threw under the bus.  It is that which is unforgivable with in me.

She greeted Lisa with enthusiasm and complete trust that what Lisa said, she meant.  The faux sweetness and light didn’t last long.  I would come home and find Chelsea on restriction to her room for not putting away her laundry properly.   My husband and I arranged for Lisa to stay late two hours one evening a week so we could have a brief date.  Whenever we got home she would be mad because we were being “disrespectful”.  She was on our phone to one man or another a LOT.  I found out long ex post facto, that she was calling my fellow neighborhood moms, saying she was me to set up playdates and such.  She was shaving money from the grocery bill. The narcissist wanted to be me.

She was trying to take over my life.  She almost won.

One night, after about four months of this, I snapped.  I went ballistic.  I told her to pack a bag and a time would be arranged where she would be able to pick up the rest of her stuff.  She was baffled and immediately went to wounded mode.  Why was I being so mean and unreasonable to her?

When I’m done, I’m done.  She was gone.

I went into my daughter’s room and, sobbing, told her how incredibly sorry I was for allowing Lisa into our lives.  I was sorry that I had not supported Chelsea during this time.

“But she started out so nice, Mom.”  From the mouths of babes.

I write this now, fifteen years later to try and come to some kind of closure about the whole thing.  I have been scrapbooking that year and the period she was with us.  I throw out most every picture with her in it.  It helps a bit.  Just a bit.

Whenever trust issues come up with my daughter, her peers, or other women, or me, I gulp hard.  It is a scar and I put it there.  Perhaps in time it will abate.  Mother/daughter relationships go through phases.  We have our ups and downs and some micro dramas.  (A few macro dramas as well.)  I am told this is normal.  I don’t know.  I didn’t know normal for half my life.  No excuse.

About a year later, I got a call for a reference for Lisa from an agency.  I told them that I wouldn’t let her tend to my dead pet rat.  I recommended her highly as long as you keep her away from children and your cash.  A bit of karma.

I would ask that whoever is reading this give me some feedback and advice on forgiveness.  I need to learn how to accept my mistakes. I need to forgive my encounter with “People of the Lie”.

No matter how bad they were.

I vigilantly count my blessings every day.   One of the main blessings was learning that there is a difference between letting the flow take you where it needs to and surrendering control.   A big difference.  I have my hand on the wheel.  I have ever since she left.  Thank you for the lesson God.

God help anyone who comes at my kids.

About marysigmond

After four generations in Chicago, a big city transplant to the "wild west" of western South Dakota in 2004. Mom, domestic goddess, CEO of my world and fond of musing about what is becoming the second half of my life. It's a big old goofy world.
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One Response to Refereeing Life’s Lessons

  1. Charlie says:

    Not sure if you are looking for forgiveness to yourself or to others. I’m a believer that forgiveness is given to those who have earned and deserve it. Thus, if you are looking for self-forgiveness, you have both earned it and deserve it.

    Lisa has done nothing (in what you have written) to earn or deserve forgiveness so none need be granted. But as much time has passed, and given that time both heals and softens, let it go as you can’t change it after the fact. Just continue to use it as a learning exercise (i.e. “trust your gut”).

    Life is too precious and too short. Love and cherish family and life. On balance, you and I have both been blessed, so continue (as you have) to do good things.

    Keep writing. It’s cathartic and helps others when you share your thoughts.

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