Precious Memories of My Father

Hi everyone. Today in her Sunday Poser, Sadje asks us to share our most precious memory of our father or the father figure in our life.

My father was a homemaker and my and my sister’s primary caretaker when we were children. As such, he, rather than my mother, was the one I’d see when I came home from school.

As a child, I took very much after my father, but now I have very mixed feelings about our relationship. My father is intelligent and he knows it. He also knows that I am intelligent and he feels that this somehow negates all my problems. In his opinion, all people who disagree with him, particularly those in the helping professions, are stupid.

Because my father and I are both intelligent, my father did encourage my cognitive development from an early age. This is evident in my different response to my parents when prompting me, for example. There’s this Dutch nursery rhyme that goes: “One, two, three, four, paper hat, paper hat.” Whenever my mother chanted: “One, two, three, four…”, I’d reply with “paper hat”. When my father chanted the same though, I’d reply with “five!”.

this is not a direct memory I have of my father though, as I was too young to form actual, verbal memories when this happened. I do remember, however, my father teaching me math when I was about seven. He would show me square calculation by using computer chips that were square-shaped. He’d lay them in a row of, say, three, then lay them in a square of three by three and explain that this is a square calculation. (The Dutch word for the square calculation and the shape isn’t the same, so I had to follow an extra step.) Similarly, he’d explain squareroots by doing the reverse.

We would also spend long evenings looking at his world atlas to see where different countries and other geographic areas were located. I still had enough vision to, with some difficulty, follow his finger along the maps.

When I got older, I had to catch up on reading, as this was one of my weaker subjects, mostly because I didn’t like the fact that I had to read Braille. My father encouraged me, well more like forced me, to do extra reading at home. One memory I have is of me reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Dutch when I was about eleven. To show me that he, too, was taking up a challenge, he read the book in its original English. I am currently listening to the audiobook in English on Apple Books.

In short, my father nurtured my intellectual side. Currently, I much more value my creative side, which my mother nurtured (a little). Still, my memories of doing academics with my father are mostly good.

Gratitude List (April 29, 2022) #TToT

Hi everyone. I am feeling a bit meh today. I don’t really feel like writing a gratitude list, but I do feel like writing something and I can’t think of anything else to write. For both of these reasons – to have something to write and to cheer myself up -, I am going to try to write a thankful list anyway. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful for pizza today. Yes, again. Another staff is leaving and she wanted to give us pizza or pasta from the local Italian restaurant as a goodbye present.

2. I am grateful I was able to give the staff who’s leaving her present. I didn’t end up making something for her myself and initially wanted to stay in my room while the other staff gave the presents to this staff, but I am grateful I decided to go and give her one of the gifts the other staff had bought on behalf of us clients.

3. I am grateful for quiet time to write. It’s now nearly 9PM and between 6PM and 7PM, a guy from the home next door was blasting his music on top volume. Even with noise canceling headphones (unfortunately still the ones I have on loan) on, I still could hear the music clearly. I’m so glad it’s quieted down now.

4. I am grateful for a good phone talk with my mother-in-law on Wednesday. I was able to tell her I’m going to discuss entering the process of finding another care home. To my surprise and gratitude, she fully supports me.

5. I am grateful for a nice phone call with my mother on her birthday yesterday. I obviously didn’t tell her I’ll be looking for another care home. We made some smalltalk and it was okay.

6. I am grateful for sleep. Despite feeling quite on edge lately due to a lot of issues, I am sleeping relatively well.

7. I am grateful to have been able to go to the day center for a considerable time twice this week.

8. I am grateful for funny stories to listen to on YouTube. There is a Dutch children’s book author called Jacques Vriens who read his own stories aloud on YouTube. There are also English-language YouTube channels for children’s stories, which I also love, but Jacques Vriens is a childhood favorite of mine.

9. I am grateful I was able to go onto the large trampoline on Wednesday. It was great fun!

10. I am grateful to be relatively financially secure. I won’t go into detail here, but I am just happy my husband and I can handle a little financial setback.

What are you grateful for?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (July 24, 2021)

Hi everyone on this late Saturday evening. I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare even though it’s rather late for coffee here at nearly 9PM. Besides, I had green tea this evening. I can of course still make you a Senseo, although with the amount of coffee stains in and on my coffee maker I wouldn’t recommend it. So I guess a glass of water or a soft drink should suffice. I hope that’s alright. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, firstly I’d share that I’m so grateful the weather has been much milder over the past week than it was the week before. Of course, we here in Raalte weren’t personally affected by the floods either and damage control down in Limburg is still ongoing. However, the weather here has been truly beautiful.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that, thanks to the weather as well as my feet cooperating, I have been able to get in a lot of walking lately. I got in over 11K steps each day of the week so far.

I am still not sure I’ll sign up for Steptember, the annual fundraiser for the cerebral palsy charity this coming September. The aim is to raise funds while aiming for 10K steps each day, regardless of whether this is done while walking, wheeling, biking, etc. Last year, I did participate, but I didn’t really like the pressure I put onto myself by signing up.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve been really crafty over the past week. I have been making some new bracelets. One of them, I sent to my mother. She received it in the post today and was happy with it.

I also picked up trying to do latch hooking again. This is a yarn craft for making rugs etc. I learned this at the blindness rehabilitation center back in 2005 and tried to pick it up again briefly in the psych hospital, but was too easily frustrated for it back then. So far, I am not 100% sure I understand the technique again yet, but I’m confident that ultimately I’ll learn.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I’m truly grateful for all the comments on my blog over the past few days. It makes me feel so happy to see that others read and appreciate my writing.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would announce that tomorrow is my third blogiversary! That is, it’s the third anniversary of my having (re)started this blog. I say “re” because I used this domain (or the WordPress.com subdomain at least) back in 2011 too. I have been on WordPress for over fourteen years and have had an online diary ever since 2002. I still keep learning and growing everyday. I am so, so grateful that, contrary to what some “influencers” say, blogging isn’t dead at all. I hope it never dies.

How have you been?

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States as well as here in the Netherlands. I’ve seen lots of ads for it floating by for weeks. It’s probably been this way forever. That being said, I never quite paid much attention to Mother’s Day after getting out of elementary school. Back in the day we did the obligatory Mother’s Day crafts. Since my mother has her birthday in late April, she never quite cared (or we conditioned her not to).

I started caring again, at least a little, when I got out of the psychiatric hospital and started day activities at a center for people with intellectual disability. Most other clients still made crafty things for their mothers. I decided to join in and create something for my mother-in-law.

You see, I have never had the best relationship with my own mother. She no doubt loves me, but the way she expressed it when I was growing up is, well, kind of odd.

That plus my mother’s late April birthday means I never quite honored her for Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law though has her birthday in late November.

My own parents have always been big on independence. I understand, but they took it a bit too far given that I’m multiply-disabled. They pretty much left me to my own resources by the time I left high school at age nineteen.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, has offered to be my informal representative with my care agency. This means that she’s invited to care plan meetings and would be appointed as my guardian should I ever become incapable of making my own decisions.

One time before I was dating my now husband, I too had to appoint an informal representative for a living facility I was on the waiting list for. I appointed my father, but wasn’t happy about it. I do trust my parents to leave me to my own resources, but I don’t trust them to be there when I actually do need them. What I mean is, I am confident that they won’t approve of restrictive care measures without my consent, but I am pretty sure they will rather advocate for me to be kicked out of care.

With my mother-in-law, I am pretty much on the same page. I am not sure she’s seen my current care plan, but she has talked about it in a way that suggests she knows and understands my need for intensive support. Even my husband doesn’t know some details she appears to be in the know about.

My husband jokingly calls my mother-in-law my adoptive mother. If adults can adopt a mother, that’s quite exactly her. I am glad to have her. And just in case you were wondering, yes, my own mother is happy for my mother-in-law to be my informal representative.

A Favorite Childhood Gift

One of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts is to share about a favorite Christmas gift you received as a child. Here in the Netherlands though, Christmas isn’t that popular for gift-giving. Instead, we celebrate St. Nicholas on December 5. I can’t remember that many gifts I received for St. Nicholas and the entire celebration was one big stressor once I no longer believed in St. Nick. We celebrated it until I was 20 in 2006. Then in 2007 I was in the psych hospital and my parents didn’t want to risk inviting me. That’s how the tradition ended.

The other major gift-receiving opportunity was and still is, of course, my birthday. It is on June 27, so pretty much as far from Christmas as you get it. Still, I’m going to share about a favorite gift I received for my birthday as a child. Mama Kat twisted the prompt too by listing several things, so oh well.

I can’t remember whether I had invited anyone to a birthday party when I turned eleven. After all, I was pretty much friendless at the time. However, I did celebrate it with my family. The main gift I remember getting was a Barbie doll with aerobic attire. I named her Teresa. I loved the doll, even though I knew already that eleven was a little old to play with it.

Later that summer, my mother took me on a “mother-daughter walk”, which was mainly an opportunity for her to tell me the school had recommended I go residential there. She claimed the reason was that I had behavior problems, which she attributed to my having too many toys. I can’t follow that train of thought other than through some idea that I was so spoiled I somehow felt entitled to have tantrums. That wasn’t true, for clarity’s sake. In any case, my mother regretted having given me the Barbie doll.

I cherished Teresa even more from that moment on. When, during the following school year, I’d have a meltdown, my mother would often pack a random number of toys and claim to throw them out. (In reality, she hid them in her room downstairs.)

The followign year, when I turned twelve, I felt so ashamed for still playing with Barbie dolls that I claimed they’d aged with me, so it was okay. Most of the dolls are still with my parents, I think. I think at one point I broke Teresa’s leg though and had to actually throw her out.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Mother As Place of Attachment

It’s already been eighteen months since I last wrote about what I read in The Emotionally Absent Mother. Still, the book hasn’t just sat there. I struggled to move on from Mother As Source. The next section is titled Mother As Place of Attachment. Somehow, this is a really hard section. I don’t really know why. I mean, yes, part of the reason I struggle to move on in writing about this book, is that I do it publicly and what if my parents read this? Then again, I don’t really care. I’m in groups on Facebook for childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse survivors too. Though the member list of private groups isn’t available to non-members, I’m pretty sure they know somehow. Honestly, regarding this, I care more about my husband’s opinion than my parents’.

But there’s something specifically about this section that is hard. I’m not even sure what. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a lot of early memories of my mother. I attribute this to my father being the homemaker and primary caretaker in our household. But fathers can “mother” too.

The first question asked in the section on your mother as place of attachment, is to rate your sense of connectedness to your mother on a scale of 1 to 10. The next question is how your sense of connectedness evolved over the years.

Well, with my mother, I am generally at a 5. I don’t feel she “gets” me, but we do get along okay. Like I said when discussing mother as source, I don’t feel that I’m made of her, but she isn’t from another planet either. Or maybe she’s from Venus. I mean, we’re not constantly disconnected.

Over the years, my sense of connectedness to my mother has stayed the same. I never quite felt like we had a strong bond, but I didn’t feel totally alienated either.

My father is a different story. We had a strong connection, maybe around 8, when I was a child. Now we’re at a 3 at best. Like I said in my mother as source post, as a child, I saw my father as the embodiment of intelligence, success and well what other positive characteristics are there really? When I got to question his having sole ownership of the truth at around age 15, things started to change. Or did things change earlier on? I’m not sure.

Another question is about bodily contact. This is where I get to question whether the schism occurred earlier than age 15. When I was a young child, my father definitely did give both my sister and me lots of opportunities for bodily contact. I remember when my sister and I were little, my father would wrap us in a towel and drag us to our bedroom. He called this “swordfish” and my sister always asked for “sordsish”.

My mother says that, around age 7 or 8, I stopped wanting to sit in my parents’ lap. From then on, bodily contact like hugging or good-night kisses was very ritualistic. I remember around age 11, being forced to read a certain number of pages in Braille if I wanted a good-night kiss. This at the time felt very distressing. I haven’t studied emotional development except in the context of intellectual disability, so I have really no idea whether it’s normal to still want good-night kisses at that age. I guess not.

As a side note, I did initiate physical contact such as hand-holding with practically every adult until I was at least 12. In my psych eval report from age 11, the ed psych notes that I claim not to need a cane but grab her hand immediately anyway. That first bit was no doubt related to my difficult accepting my blindness, but I don’t think the second bit is fully. Even as an adult, I truly crave physical contact and am a bit indiscriminate in who can give it to me. I mean, I am pretty clear that no male staff can provide me with physical comfort (or help me with personal care). With regards to female staff though (and the entire current staff of my home is female), I do accept physical comfort. I honestly don’t know how my husband feels about this.

PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

A Phone Conversation with My Mother

Last Monday, my mother called me. She rarely if ever used to call me when I still lived with my husband, but now she’s been the first to attempt contact a few times already. I don’t know whether I need to feel bad about not contacting her first, as conversations usually get uncomfortable for both of us.

Like, on Monday, I had just been in an angry outburst when she called. I couldn’t avoid telling her, as I needed a few minutes to regroup. That caused the conversation to center on my (perceivped by either of us) problems and my mother’s attempt to solve them. She was offering me all kinds of advice. If I just stop panicking at frustrating situations or learn to cope with unexpected change, I’ll be able to live with my husband again. I never even said I want to leave the care facility. Of course though, I’m supposed to have this as my ultimate goal anyway. Who, after all, would choose to live in care if they didn’t absolutely need to?

I was terribly triggered by my mother’s unwanted advice. When processing this conversation with my husband yesterday though, I was reminded of her perspective.

You know, I was born prematurely. My mother already feels guilty about that to some extent, as if she was the one kicking me out of her womb. Well, obviously she wasn’t.

Then in our discussion, I disclosed to my husband that I was most likely exposed to valproic acid, an anticonvulsant, in utero. My mother isn’t certain of it, as she took different anticonvulsants for her epilepsy over the years. However, all valproates and most other anticonvulsants have some risk of affecting the fetus when taken by pregnant women. The realization that this might’ve contributed to my developmental disabilities, didn’t happen right away even though in the 1980s, valproates carried warning labels already. It probably came when I was last assessed for autism in 2017 and my mother was asked whether she took any substances or medications during pregnancy. At around the same time or shortly before, there was an article in the newspaper my parents read about large numbers of French women being given valproic acid during pregnancy as late as 2014. This lead to over 4000 children having serious birth defects and even more having developmental disorders. Up to 40% of children exposed to valproates in utero are autistic.

My husband expressed that this may be a factor in my mother’s trying to deny the significance of my autism. After all, if she did something to contribute to me being disabled, she’d have to deal with immense guilt if admitting its full significance. Then it is more understandable that she’s in some denial. It may also explain, I now realize, why she’s trying to “fix” me. I told her she doesn’t need to, but she remains my Mom.

For clarity’s sake, a pregnant woman getting a seizure may be harmful to both mother and child and my mother said this risk was fairly high in her case if she didn’t take meds. I don’t know, as my mother has been seizure-free for 30+ years and off meds for as long as I can remember. However, I mean this to undo the blame. The doctors did what they thought was best, at least that’s what I assume. My mother and I have some questions here too, as my mother also took part in a trial of aspirin to prevent premature birth, which obviously didn’t work. My mother at least did what she thought was best. She never intended to have me early or cause me fetal anticonvulsant syndrome. More importantly though, there’s no need to fix me. I’m content the way things are right now.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 15, 2019)

Hi everyone, how are you? Let’s catch up over a cup of coffee or once again green tea in my case. I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was full of ups and some downs, though the downs weren’t as low as I’d expected. As regular readers of this blog know, I will be moving to the care facility in Raalte in eight days. My staff, my husband and I have been doing some preparation in regards to my leaving my current day activities and going to start up in Raalte.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I finally told my mother I’ll be going to the care facility. I sugarcoated it a little, saying I’d be staying at my care agency in Raalte during the week and going home to my husband on week-ends. As a result, at first she wasn’t sure I’d be actually sleeping at the care facility. After a little “but I thought you were doing so well” and all, she wished me good luck at the place.

I am not 100% sure how to feel about it. In a way, this seemingly supportive attitude contradicts my memories from years before and that is hard to adapt to. However, I’m trying to be grateful for her support. I haven’t talked to my father or sister about it yet.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my sister gave birth to a baby girl, Janneke Sietske, last Tuesday. She is named Janneke after my sister’s and my grandma who died last year and Sietske after one of my brother-in-law’s grandmothers. Janneke had some health issues early on and we haven’t been able to visit yet. We’re planning on visiting her next week though.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that today, my husband and I made some small banana soaps for the staff at day activities. I’ll give them to them on Friday, when I have my leave-taking party.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my last appoitnment with my nurse practitioner went okay. He has referred me to the mental health agency in Raalte. I haven’t seen the referral letter, but he said he’d written about my trauma but that, for now, here and now work is most appropriate for me. I did try to get it through that ultimately, I do want to process my trauma. I’m not sure that will happen, as most likely I can’t get trauma therapy without at least a C-PTSD diagnosis if not DID/OSDD. Precisely getting my trauma-related issues assessed is a huge trigger for me.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I finally finished The Fault in Our Stars, which I started reading already three weeks ago. I will hopefully be able to finish at least one more book before the end of the month.

What’s been up with you lately?

Mother As Source

I was finally able to read The Emotionally Absent Mother again, since transferring it from my computer to my iPhone. Until I did this, I was unable to read any of my EPUB eBooks, because the program I used for it was no longer supported by my screen reader. I missed reading this book in particular, since it had a lot of eye-opening questions in it. I last wrote about it last August, when I shared about good enough mother messages. Now, I am moving on in the book and starting with the roles good enough mothers have. The first one is mother as source.

This section starts with the assertion that mother is what we’re made of. It goes on to assert that, both literally and on a more spiritual level, we come from mother. Literally, we come out of her womb. Spiritually, nature is often seen as coming from the ocean, which is in mythology seen as a mother goddess.

This whole assertion seems a bit off to me. Like I said in my post last August, I was raised primarily by my father as a child. Obviously, I came from my mother’s womb, but this is hard to imagine.

One of the thought-provoking questions in this section is to imagine yourself in your mother’s womb. If you can’t imagine this, you are encouraged to imagine being engulfed by her energy. This gave me uneasy feelings. I have never felt able to see that I come from my mother. In fact, my parents used to joke that the neonatologist brought me into the world, not my mother.

Good enough mother-sources are able to create a positive and welcoming environment for their children with their presence. They make the child feel proud to be of her. As such, the next question in the book is whether you wanted to be similar to your mother or as different as possible (or anything in between). If someone were to say you’re so like your mother, would you be proud?

I have to clarify here that my mother herself didn’t and still doesn’t have the healthiest self-esteem. She used to say, and it came across only half jokingly, that I inherited all my bad characteristics from her and all the good ones from my father. As untrue as this is, I didn’t grow up feeling proud to be like my mother, because she didn’t convey that she had any characteristics to be proud of.

With respect to my father, who primarily raised me, I wanted to be like him as much as possible. Until I was an adolescent, I saw my father as the ultimate embodiment of success and every other positive quality. Then I started realizing that he too has his flaws. I now feel more closely related to my mother than to him.

The next question is whether you can imagine being proud to be of your mother. Do you identify yourself in relation to her? My short answer to this is “No”. I identify myself more in relation to my mother-in-law than my own mother.

In short, I do not feel my mother was able to be a good enough source. Of course, physically she wasn’t, by no fault of her own. By this I mean that all her pregnancies were complicated and the one with me ended in my premature birth. I don’t want to say that somehow she rejected me, because I know she didn’t. Once I was born, in fact, I was more unconditionally – or should I say less conditionally? – welcomed by her than by my father.

Of course, the stress of having had four pregnancy losses prior to being pregnant with me, could’ve caused her body to be less welcoming to a fetus. That, however, and I want to be very clear about this, isn’t her fault, or anyone’s fault. There is nothing my mother did to cause my premature birth!

Angry

Hiya everyone,
My name is Kelly. I am 10-years-old. I am so angry now. I wanna call my mother and shout at her and all that, but the grown-up people say I can’t. I am angry because my parents say I’m angry too easily when in fact it’s them who do stuff like tough love.

I mean my mother says “So you wanna go residential at Bartiméus?”. That’s the school for the blind we go to. So if I’m not being good she’s gonna send me away. She also throws out my toys cause she says I’m defiant because I have too many toys.

Oh and Mrs. B our low vision teacher doesn’t want me to do low vision anymore. Well I don’t care what people think.

I was typing up this memory thingy but then my Internet crashed and I lost the piece I’d written. I will try to share again.

One day a social worker comes by my house to talk to my parents. I dunno who wants it my parents or the social worker. My mother says the social worker had said I’m angry too easily and I need play therapy. I go there during biology class, which is the only interesting class in school. so it sucks. I gotta play with this grown-up man I don’t even know. I wanna flood the water tray and throw out the purple dolls in the dollhouse because ya know, dolls can’t be purple. I don’t know why but my parents take me out of this therpay after four sessions. So why the fuck did they put me into it? I mean I’m not supposed to magically snap out of my anger by four sessions of stupid play therapy am I?

I’m confused now. Yes I’m angry. My parents say I wanna make them miserable. I have stopped caring. They’re gonna put me in residential if I don’t stop playing with my toys anyway and yet I’m suppose to play with this grown-up during biology class. I’m so angry. I don’t know why, cannot write it in English or maybe not even in Dutch either. I’m just pissed off.