Thursday, April 11, 2024

How I'm healing from parentification by parenting myself instead

 I've been talking a lot lately being parentified from young childhood on up to almost 60. Parentification in my experience was both being expected to be the parent to my parents and stepparents and also to parent my half siblings. From very young childhood the roles were reversed. From age 5, I learned that adult behavior, maturity and understanding was expected of me. It may have been earlier than that but I have very few memories of that time. I have always thought this was because no child remembers but everyone I speak to about it tells me that they have many memories of this age. In fact one cousin who is my age, shared memories of things we did and happy times we had together that I do not recall. The more I thought about it the more I realize that I have virtually no memories that are happy for most of my life up until I moved out of the house. The happy memories I do have center around time spent with extended family. I will blog more on that. 

Thank you for letting me segue. And back to the parentification. I do not remember a time where I did not feel obliged, expected, even demanded to be an adult and parent to my parents, stepparents and siblings. I do not remember being allowed to be a child or a teenager but rather an overburdened adult with no preparation for that role. I remember my parents behaving in very immature, childish and selfish ways that I was expected to normalize, by making excuses, hiding, lying about to extended family, covering for and fixing. I was expected to tolerate all forms of abuse, neglect, abandonment, manipulation and exploitation from all four parents and siblings. I was treated very harshly if one of them even sensed that I did not like it. But I was also expected to present to others that all was fine.

Also the role and expectations flip-flopped. Sometimes they were the parent albeit very autocratic and and inconsistent ones. And very much when it was convenient for them. I was to be the adult when they did not want to be when they wanted act childishly. I was to be the child when they needed something done or a scapegoat. Or to save face for Grandma and Grandpa so they would not know. The flip flopping was very random and unexpected and always caught me off guard. So I learned to be on guard all the time. Their punishment was very severe when I missed my cue in the game. Sometimes there was punishment for no reason at all. And my biological parents let their new spouses have their way with me. I was very clearly told that it was my responsibility to fix anything. So if someone was having a bad day or just feeling like picking on someone or being nasty that role fell to me. 

It's kind of like I had to raise perpetual teenagers. But yet not. I have as a real parent raised actual teenagers and none of them ever did anything remotely so vindictive or cruel. I don't know exactly why they did this. Maybe they were narcissists or sociopaths or histrionic or just vindictive. What I do know is that it was confusing, terrifying and crippling. 

Their treatment sabotaged my self-esteem and in fact entire sense of self.  I did not exist, or if I did only in a sort of limbo, waiting for the next command or demand. I had no individuality, no needs, wants, ambitions, feelings or thoughts.  I was just a shadow, scapegoat , servant, surrogate spouse and surrogate parent. 

I know this sounds exaggerated or made up. It does to me too. And the gaslighting by both parents confirms that. I was just making it up, showing off, too sensitive, selfish. However, because I know that other people exist and not just to serve, I'm beginning to realize that maybe I do too. Maybe it's time to stop parenting my parents and start parenting myself. 

There is a 4 year old girl in Grand Rapids who plays alone and doesn't know that you shouldn't touch Dead rabbits. There is a 5 year old in Newago who walks to school alone and lives in fear  of pedophiles and "Dark Shadows. There is a 6-year-old in Alaska who plays down by the docks alone and watches her mother cheat on her father. This little girl also comforts her father when he threatens suicide. She is left abandoned and terrified on an island while her mother goes to Seattle and her father is cluelessly and carelessly having a grand adventure in the Aleutian chain, while his daughter cries herself to sleep. 

And that is only the beginning. There's sexually abused 11-year-old me. And 12-year-old me left alone with four little kids. And 13-year-old me made to do the work of an adult. And it goes on... Those stories will be part of my series on my backstory. 

So suffice it to say there are a lot of lonely, scared, exhausted, traumatized little Marilisas who need my parenting a hell of a lot more than these grown ass adults who just weaponized it. And I think all those little girls will appreciate a friend like me as well. 

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