Wednesday, 30 January 2008

My childhood thoughts on the legal system and also the silent parent

This is a response I gave to an email over Christmas from someone requesting my thoughts about their Parental Alienation situation. I've reread it today and noticed things that I haven't yet posted on here:

I'm not a psychologist or a professional at anything other than being a Mum. I can only speak from my own experience but I'm MORE than happy to try and help.

The mom involved sounds really insecure and terrified of losing her kids but she's going to make it happen all by herself, from what I can see. She must be hurting a lot to behave the way she does.

However, this doesn't make it right - and telling YOU that you can't tell that boy that you love him is ahborrent and wrong. When I was a child, I thought it was one of the greatest things in the world when my stepdad said he loved me/liked me/approved of me in any way at all. I loved it. I never mentioned it to my male parent because ... well, you sound like you know exactly what would happen. I was so unsettled and unsure of myself that to hear that someone loved me was a miracle. Even just a laugh after a silly joke, a pat on the back and "You're a great kid!" did me good.

Wow. I'm trying to put myself in my 13 year old brain. I remember any mention of lawyers and courts terrified me, literally. I didn't understand them and all they brought to my mind was prison. I didn't want anyone to go to prison. Also, the word "fight", as in "fighting in court" horrified me. I had visions of people beating each other up - and again prison. Every time my male parent mentioned courts and lawyers, my stomach turned over and into knots. He liked to talk about legal processes and the care system for kids and so on - hideous stuff for a child. I had visions of being taken from my home and being in a children's home without any of my family and possessions. I STILL to this day have nightmares about the law courts getting involved in my life because of what someone else has said about me and taking my kids off me - and feeling powerless because no one is listening to me. It's never happened of course and never will, but even before I had kids I had nightmares about being in prison and kept away from my brothers (who I adore).

I think the biggest issue for me at 13 was that I felt that no one was listening to me. The male parent didn't listen to the positive things I said about my mum and her family - he'd yell at me that none of it was real, that they were evil homewreckers etc etc. Mum didn't listen to the things I said about him because he was a liar and she knew it (but I didn't!). I didn't know how to tell her how much stress I felt. I was tense all the time - and snappy and nervous and grumpy. I was so SCARED all the time. I didn't know who to trust either. He was untrustworthy because he wanted to take me from my home and my brothers and my friends whether I liked it or not, and yet she was untrustworthy because he had told me all those terrible things about her that made her untrustworthy in my eyes. My stepfather once took me out in the car to a shop and back again. It wasn't a long trip. He said to me, "What's wrong?!". They knew something was wrong - and I would have told him every single thing if that car trip had been longer because before we knew it, we were home again. I tried to tell my school teachers, but my sentence, "My dad is always moaning at me" just seemed like a whiny kid. They didn't know it meant so much more. Also, because the alienator lied so much and fed me with so many lies, my credibility was severely damaged - another reason no one listened to me because they didn't realise that I wasn't lying - as far as I was concerned. I was spouting his lies.

Household rules and chores - if someone had asked me to make a rota for the chores and to chair a meeting about houserules, I would have shut right up! If I'd made the rules jointly with everyone else (and received explanations for curfew that made sense like, "If you're late, I start panicking like you wouldn't believe that you've been run over or kidnapped or fell and hit your head", instead of "Because I said so", (my own mother's personal favourite and, I admit, sometimes mine :>)), then I'd have had nothing to complain about. I felt SO pulled by what was happening that I felt powerless. I had no control over anything, not even my own mind so when I was given rules, I instinctively reacted negatively because my little brain didn't want to cope with anymore pressure.

One sentence that I wish I'd known to say when I was his age, something I would have said with the alienator during a quiet, calm, good moment: "I love both my parents."

You asked about defending yourselves and avoiding calling her a liar. It did me no good whatsoever that my mother never defended herself - it backed up and supported everything that he said about her. In her way, she was hoping it would end and also trying to be dignified, and, just like you, trying to keep things pleasant. However, there were odd occasions when she said little things that brought me up short and made me stop and think. For example, he swears that he always got up with me in the night when I was a baby. I repeated that more than once to her and eventually she said, "But I breastfed you so that can't be true, can it?" That was it: no argument, no raised voice, just a single little sentence that stopped me. It was completely true and completely logical. I remember going back to him with that information to see what he would say: he covered his tracks by spluttering, "Well ... um ... well, I carried you to her from your crib". I noticed his discomfort. However, one sentence wasn't enough and it was soon snowed under by everything else he said.

I WANTED her to defend herself and tell me he was lying or wrong. I really did. I didn't want the things he said to be true. I didn't want any more tension or yelling or anger, but I didn't want her to stay silent. I didn't want to think she didn't love me or that she loved my sister more - because I got that stuff too. It made me so jealous of my sister. I had such a hard time with their relationship. I wanted the same relationship.

I also should have had counselling because counselling has now been able to free me from all that horror. A third party telling him to believe in his own instincts could make all the difference. Also, being told that your step son's mum is angry because she loves him and is scared of losing him might help. Not sure.

Wow, I've gone on a bit. I hope something here helps you. Please do come back to me if you need to. I'm happy to help because, as this loooong email shows, it's a subject I'm passionate about!!!! You know what will work for you and your family so if none of this is any good, let me know and I'll have another think. I won't be offended!


Bob said...


Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this from a child's view.
I find it helpful to understand what my kids must feel.
It helps me NOT to give up trying.

Also thank you for joining the PAPA group. Please tell people there about your blog, I think it will help them as well.

Thanks you for efforts! Hopeful it will help other children as well as parents going through this.

Also go to A women I know has produce, sings recorded songs about PA/PAS I think you might like them,

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the response to my email - and I'm happy you posted it on your blog. Your site has been a source of helpful information and insight to what we could only have "imagined" our children are going through. Friends and family always say "when they get older, they will figure it out" but our daily struggle is to find the best way to comfort and support our children while they are still children.

Letting those parents, who are skittish of making things worse by standing up for themselves and their children, know that deep inside the children are needing that reassurance may be the most important thing that we can learn from you. We were always aware of what was going on, and always felt helpless to deal with it. Your words have shed any doubts about what we must do and prompted us to research the best developmental ways to discuss issues with the children, instead of keeping silent, hoping that things will just get better for them.

My husband and I cannot thank you enough. You have given us the courage to right what we had assumed was a lost cause. Our children will have better lives for it.