Powering Through The Shame

It was an interesting weekend. So much, in fact, that I’ve had to sit on some thoughts over the past couple of days just to process it all. I’ll try to not make this story too wordy.

Both Sunshine and I had the kids over the past weekend and decided, since it was a long weekend here in Canada (Victoria Day was our holiday on Monday), that we would try to get the kids together one more time and see if we could manage to all get along…especially important after our difficult weekend this past Easter.

Since her girls hadn’t seen my dad since before he went to Florida to live in retirement last November, we decided to all have a family weekend at my dad’s place. He loves the girls and Sunshine as if they were his own flesh and blood, not just because they’re related by marriage.

So let me say right up front that Sunshine and I worked GREAT together. She was able to relax a little bit (not one of her strong suits) and I was able to not stress over every little detail and interact with the kids in a more positive way (not one of my strong suits). We were on the same page almost all weekend and had a great time with our children.

The time spent with my dad, however, was less than ideal.

Pretty much on a consistent basis all weekend, my dad put me down and made “jabs” at me in front of my family. Whether it was making fun of my weight, bringing up something that I did when I was younger that had nothing to do with the conversation at hand, or simply talking down to me…it was an extremely uncomfortable weekend. Primarily, it was uncomfortable because my wife had to experience it all.

Y’see, I’m kind of used to being treated this way. I don’t expect my dad to change any time soon, so I just take it in stride and try to let it all slide off my back. Sure it bothers me, but he’s an old leopard; he isn’t changing his spots any time soon.

Sunshine, however, isn’t used to seeing the constant barrage of negativity. She understands me completely (better than I understand myself, in fact) and realizes that I have the issues that I have because of my upbringing. She sees my continual struggles as an adult be exacerbated by how my father continues to treat me.

She can probably explain the fine details much better than I can, but she was NOT happy when the weekend was over. In fact, she told me on Monday morning that it would be a VERY long time before she would even consider staying at my dad’s again…especially with the kids.

She doesn’t want her girls to think it is okay to treat somebody that way. My son sees it, obviously, but dad doesn’t lay into me as much when it’s just my son and I visiting (I guess having a 7-year-old isn’t the greatest audience in the world) so he (hopefully) only sees how I treat him instead. I do my best to treat my son differently than the way I’m treated…so my hope is that he grows up feeling strong and empowered and confident in whoever he is and whatever he chooses to do.

There were more than one occasion that words my father spoke actually hurt me, and Sunshine could see that. She doesn’t want to see me go through that again.

I love my father. I really do. I know he isn’t purposely trying to cut me down or make me feel inferior. In his eyes, those biting comments are supposed to spark some kind of fire within me to make me do what he sees as being the right thing.

So when he comments about my weight, he feels as though shaming me in front of my family will make me want to do something about it and suddenly drop 20-30 pounds.  When he brings up an embarrassing story from my past for no reason other than to shame me in front of my wife and kids…well, I guess I don’t really know what he’s trying to accomplish other than make himself feel superior in some way.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, my weekend with Sunshine was great because our family was close-knit and had a great time together. If anything, my dad helped our marriage grow a little bit stronger…so I guess I should be a bit more appreciative.

It’s tough to work through these issues when, after 41 years, the root of the problem is still in full effect.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it…probably nothing. I do know, however, that I need to ensure I never take my internal anger out of my family. They are the root of my happiness and are my reason for living. If ever I need anything, I just have to turn to my wife and she’s there for me.

It’s just a shame I can’t say the same thing for my dad.

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4 thoughts on “Powering Through The Shame

  1. Alright, I have to say one thing here in regards to this. You said that when he says these things to you that he isn’t trying to cut you down or make you feel inferior…and honestly, I have to disagree with that statement. I don’t think he realizes that’s what he’s doing, but that’s EXACTLY what is happening. Underneath your father’s larger-than-life exterior, he’s just as weak and scared as everyone else. Likely more so, in fact. He cuts people down and points out their weaknesses so he CAN feel better about himself. He makes himself feel bigger by making other people feel smaller. Again, I don’t think it’s a conscious thing when he does it, it’s just what he does. Because although you’re his primary target, he does it to everyone around him — your little brother, ME, even his wife…pointing out their “lesser” qualities (in a joking way, usually, but it still hurts).

    THIS is why I told you that you need to stop cutting YOURSELF down when you’re not around your dad. When you do that, you’re replacing his voice with your own, when you should be doing everything you can to be your own best friend and advocate.

    I know that you love your dad and you want desperately to be the person that HE wants you to be…but you know what? I see the person that you ARE, and that’s so much better than anything your father could ever imagine for you. Take a moment to think about what your life might look like right now if you did everything that HE wanted you to do. Would you be happy? Would you feel fulfilled? Would you be where you are right now mentally and emotionally? I think you know the answers to those questions.

    I don’t know what the answer to this issue is, either. You love your dad and for as much as HE hurts YOU, you are the bigger man here and you don’t want to hurt him back. That speaks volumes about the quality of man you are, particularly compared to him. But I feel as though you need to find a way to deal with this so that you protect yourself better and do a better job of being your own friend. You have to start putting your own needs and well-being ahead of your father’s if you’re going to get ahead in this.

    Sorry for the HUGE comment. I just have so many passionate thoughts on all of this (as you well know). I really feel that your father, and your relationship with him, is at the root of your lingering self-esteem and anger issues. If you can worth through this, then you’re going to be a happier person.

    I love you so very, very much.

  2. Sounds very familiar, though it’s my mother (and she doesn’t do it in a joking way). I agree totally with Sunshine but I wonder if anyone calls him on this? I noticed once I started standing up for myself to my mother, she didn’t put me down as much. This kind of thing can do a lot of damage to someone’s self-esteem and I think that’s the root of all of your self-sabotage. It was for me. My therapist told me that my mother is a narcissist and when he told me that, I defended her. It was then that I realized how much she had screwed up my head. There’s a lot of info out there about daughter’s of narcissistic mothers that may help you even though it’s your father. This is not something to just ignore. It’s had an affect on your daily life and he’s now hurting your family. My therapist told me that the best thing to do to get over the damage my mother had done to me, was to move away from her. That’s how serious this is. Don’t just dismiss the narcissistic parent thing (i did that and wish I hadn’t wasted the time). Do some research on what a narcissistic parent looks like. You will be surprised when you suddenly realize you are reading about your own life. You deserve so much better!

  3. Wow, I had no idea your dad was this way. I am so sorry, that is just awful behavior. And I do tend to agree with Sunshine’s opinion that he knows what he is doing, because he likely does, deep down. And shaming anyone into losing weight is NEVER the right approach. EVER.

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