It’s okay to tell yourself the truth

12 holiday seasons have passed since I learned the truth, 10 since I left the crazy circle of lies, double speak and denial.  I remember how attached I was back then to trying to keep everything as close to the same for the kids as possible.

I was reflecting yesterday how different the holidays are now.  Aside from the children being much older, I am older and wiser.  I have been able to exhale and truly create that safe space in which all of us can heal.wisdom

There are no “have to’s” no “shoulds”.  We celebrate how we want to, in a way that feeds us. This year, we “adopted” another family and bought gifts for them.  As in years past, the parents ask for the bare necessities- towels, dishes, pots and pans.  The kids ask for what kids typically ask for- clothes with the right label, the “in” toys.  The highlight was volunteering as a family at the gift distribution.  Perspective and gratitude were the main lessons.

The kids spent Christmas Eve with Mark as is now the tradition.  Tony and I went to a friend’s home for their annual gathering.  Christmas Day, the kids came over after noon, we opened gifts and then went to dinner followed by a movie.

Life is so much easier now.  I remember the fear and anxiety that hung around my shoulders like a heavy cloak.  I was told in so many ways how unnatural and selfish my decision to leave was.  Apparently it’s unnatural for a woman to have a chance at giving her children and herself an authentic life.

It’s not uncommon for mothers to put their children first- that’s our nature.  However, it is considered unnatural to remember yourself in the equation.

My hope is that if you are in a similar situation and living a lie to keep the family together- no matter how dysfunctional, that you remember yourself.  Remember your true nature- before you became the investigator, the wounded woman, the beaten down, exhausted quarterback of a team that has no strategy or plan.

I am not suggesting that the only way to reclaim yourself is to separate and divorce.  You have your own path.  I am suggesting that YOU get to matter. You get to make space to hear your own truth.  Take time to go for a walk- alone.  Meditate, run, practice yoga- whatever moves your energy and clears your head.  It is okay to tell yourself the truth.  No decisions need to be made.  Today, consider being willing to just breathe and listen.

 

Back from Purgatory

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I am working from home today with a sick Ethan, which has given me time to revisit my blog.  I am shocked it has been two years since I last posted.  I hadn’t checked it or my associated email and assumed it had faded into blog purgatory.  Surprisingly, that’s not the case.

Despite being dormant, it still gets dozens of reads a day from all over the world.  Rather than make me feel good, it makes me feel sad.  I mean, I know porn and sex addiction is eroding relationships at faster rates than ever, but to see the world map and all the numbers of clicks light it up- those numbers are people, largely women who are looking for someone who gets it- who has been there and may be a step or two in front of their path.

So, now that I am back, here’s the update:

Ethan’s middle school years went much better in terms of behavior and run ins with administration and the police (did I even just type that?! Sheesh, not the life I planned, but I digress) He was suspended twice in 7th grade for fighting and not at all in 8th grade. Score one for executive functioning!  Overall, Ethan has done much better anger wise although there were several instances of sexting/sending/receiving photos from peers in 8th grade that needed some major follow up on.

He has been seeing a counselor since last I blogged.  She is at the treatment facility where Mark had pretended to get help.  She works largely with teen boys and really seems to “get” them.  Because she works with both boys who are court ordered to see her, and boys like Ethan who have not been involved in the courts yet, she brings a real world perspective that speaks to Ethan.  He always wants to know what the furthest point is he can push it before he falls off the cliff.  She has told him that he is right on the edge and its up to him to keep himself from falling.

Although that is a scary thought that battling this beast is ultimately up to him, I know its true.  I can no more save Ethan than I could save Mark.  The only difference is that I believe Ethan still has so much light and drive for the good in the world that he wants to get better. Not for me, but for himself.

Overall, life with him has gotten so much better- he is more respectful, engaged and has taken responsibility for his learning in high school.  He is training hard for sports and has a goal of playing Division 1 football in college.  He has said that he knows this issue is the one thing that will railroad his plans- it won’t be drugs or alcohol (let’s hope!)

That said, it’s not all smooth sailing for sure- I recently found evidence of him trolling on Kik for nude photos from strangers.  The net is being cast further out to sea.  I reeled him back in and we have done some course corrections and adjusted the sails.

The journey continues with the next generation.  I am more balanced in my life now and credit my burgeoning yoga practice for that.  As hard as it is for a parent to not want to fix everything, I have come to understand deeply that this is not mine to fix.  I have hope that there is so much more awareness of the impact of online access to pornography than even a few years ago. (Fight the New Drug is an an amazing organization that is doing fantastic work with teens and young adults).

So for those of you who are in the same ocean, I am back and in my little boat adjusting my sails and routinely doing Stand Up Paddle board yoga to stay sane.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s real.

Namaste

 

 

 

SMART Parents Stay Calm

Great advise!

PornProof Kids™

This is the second in a six-article series to help parents respond to a child’s accidental porn exposure or purposeful seeking it out. The first article in the series is Your Child Has Viewed Porn, Now What? 5 SMART Tips for Parents .

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The SMART Plan: 5 Tips for Parents

  • Stay calm
  • Make a plan
  • Assist your kids to sort out their feelings
  • Regularly check in with your kids
  • Train your family

Stay calm

You’ve just found Internet searches for porn on a mobile device your child uses. Or maybe on the family computer. Or maybe your child is that rare bird who tells you soon after an unwanted exposure happens.

Of course, you feel anything but calm. Especially if you see some of the graphic and illicit images they’ve just been exposed to. (Or you find out their cousin was the one who exposed them.)…

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The beast has bitten my son

As a mom, I am hardwired to be connected to my children.  Call it the maternal instinct, intuition that has exploded since motherhood began..whatever.  All I know is that I know and feel things that I don’t have “evidence” of..yet.

Usually, the experience is gratifying,  I feel affirmed there is a flow to life, something larger and magical afoot that I have tapped into.

Except for Saturday.  I just felt like I wanted to throw up.

Ethan and I had had a great week together so far, culminating with lots of drive time to away hockey games.  We sang, we joked, we laughed.  That type of easy banter, on top of him continuing to do well in school this year has helped me exhale.

That night, we got home late from his game, he showered and then he was off to bed for another game Sunday morning. I was reading in bed when he came in after 10.

“Mom, I can’t sleep.  I have to tell you something”.

“Ok, bud.  What is it?”

“I.. I  don’t want to end up like dad.”, followed by tears and gut wrenching sobs. I knew what he was referring to.

“What makes you think you will be?”

More sobs..

“I have been watching porn for awhile.”

Ah, the feeling that I have had for awhile- like my son was teetering on the edge of Darkness.  It becomes clear.  It turns out his ipod (they aren’t just for music?) that his dad gave him several years ago (and that stays at his house) has had no filters on it.  Ever.

He is a curious 13 year old who is surrounded by pornified media and other boys who regularly visit internet porn. Add in his dad who lectures him about porn being “inappropriate” but who he knows to be a regular consumer.  Mix in hormones, little supervision, boredom and “poof” off to Hell he goes.

I have no real idea what sites he has been to or how often.  When we talked he said he has been looking at porn since the beginning of this school year “once a week” while at his dad’s house.  My instinct is that it is far more.  Either way, the beast has bitten him, as he tried to access a site on his tablet at our house and the filter stopped him.  “I couldn’t sleep- I was bored”.

We talked about how it is normal to be curious about girls and sex.  I also shared that what he is looking for he won’t find in internet pornography.  Porn has nothing to do with real sex.  It is designed to be addictive and create a need for more.  It takes boys further away from understanding girls, not closer.  Pornography is a lie.

My husband and I both talked to him the next day together and separately.  We assured him he wasn’t “in trouble” and that it is a good thing that he told me. It’s larger than an imposed consequence.  It was our job as parents to protect him and not hand him the internet unabated. We all know this is on his dad, not him.

We got his Ipod from his dad’s house and took it into Apple to have filters put on it (luckily he knew all the access codes).  When his dad came to pick him up, I initiated the conversation at Ethan’s request.  “Ethan was upset last night because he has been feeling ashamed about viewing pornography.”  “Where is he watching that?” “On his Ipod” “Why does he have it at night?” “Um, you would need to answer that because it stays at your house and doesn’t have any filters on it, does it?”

Deflection..”we tried to put them on a few weeks ago, remember Ethan but we couldn’t blah, blah…” (Yay, that’s probably when I threw a fit about his tablet not having filters.  Little did I know his Ipod could access the internet all along!) “I check your history and I haven’t seen anything.” “That’s because he clears the history, right Ethan?” He nods- Mark shows no emotion. The student has outsmarted the teacher.

“Anyway, we stopped at your house today and picked it up- Tony and Ethan took care of it.  We are wiping everything off and starting over.”

“What about all the stuff I bought that’s on there?”

Really?!  That was his concern.

I am grateful that Ethan came to me, has continued to be honest and is open to talking about it, even though it is “awkward”.  We have removed his easy access, at least what we know about.  I’m checking into counselors to see if there is someone who can help him sort through all of this confusing stuff in his life.

“I don’t need to talk to anyone, Mom. I just won’t watch it anymore.”

Ah, if only it were that simple…..

You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know

I found out over the weekend that in addition to having a tablet (which now thankfully has filters!), Ethan has had an Ipod at his dad’s with a Snapchat account. I swear, every time I turn around, it’s another bullet in his gun!

I called Mark this morning to ask about it and find out what other social media Ethan is signed up for.  Our conversation went like this:

“Social media, like Facebook?”

“Yes, you know- Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter. What accounts does he have on his Ipod and tablet?”

“None”

“Really?  Because this weekend, he told me he has SnapChat on his Ipod- he is connected to Boozehag (Mark’s 4 year long distance “cover”)”

Oh yeah, he has that, but I didn’t sign him up for it.

Well, who did?

I don’t know.

You didn’t ask or tell him he can’t just sign up for accounts without getting a parent’s permission?!

Silence

OK, so you were aware he has it.

Well yeah.

But you just said he wasn’t signed up for anything.

No, you asked me if I signed him up for any social media, and I haven’t.

(The circle talk and semantic games are dizzying before my second cup of coffee!)

Ok, let’s try again.  How long has he had it?

I don’t know.

1 month, 3 months- what’s your best guess?

Probably 3 months

Ok- how have you been monitoring his activity?

What do you mean?

Aggh!!! At this point, I want to smack the back of his head through the phone.  This from the man with adult friend finder and Little Red Book accounts!!  I won’t bore you with the rest of the dialogue because if you have ever been or are in a relationship with an addict, this is probably sounding very familiar.

The upshot is this: My son has been completely unsupervised on Snapchat and I later find out in the conversation, Instagram.  Awesome!  No one told me but apparently his boozehag is connected to my son she can keep an eye on his activity.  Seriously?!

Given Snapchat images leave no trace or history, that would be pretty hard to monitor.

This conversation happens the same day I get an email from my attorney with a draft of an agreement from his attorney saying I agree to release Mark from the treatment requirement and no internet in his home portion of our marital settlement agreement.

Given its all proven to be ineffective and unenforceable anyway, what difference does it make, right?  Wrong.

It would require I un-see what I have seen, un-know what I know and un-hear every lie I have been told. It goes against every protective maternal instinct I have and I can’t do it.  I won’t.

 

Happy Birthday Ethan- Here’s a Loaded Gun

My son just turned 13 this week.  He has been in a very stable place these last few months with his mood and Adhd issues.  Middle school has started off really well with no major incidents.  Historically, winter is his spin out time.  Here in the Midwest, sunshine is reduced and based on some research and mom common sense, I have started to give him a vitamin D supplement. I let Mark know to try to have some consistency but I swear I saw my words float right out of his head.

Its hard to respect women, I suppose, once porn has pickled your brain.

Yesterday, I picked Ethan up from school to take him in for a med check.  He hasn’t seen the dr. in months, as all has been stable and we just called for refills.  He plopped down in the passenger seat and quickly took something out of his backpack.  “What’s that, bud?” I asked as we drove away from school.

“A tablet.”

“Cool, are you using one at school?”

“No, its mine.  Dad gave it to me for my birthday.”

Now any one of you who is co-parenting after a divorce has learned, like me, to take a breath when encountering a surprise from the other side of your child’s life.  “Huh, well that’s cool.  What kind of things can you do on it?  Play games, watch videos?  Can you get on the internet anywhere?”

“Anywhere there’s Wi-fi”  ”

“So, what kind of filters did Dad put on it?”

“Filters, what’s that?”

Exactly.

Mark had promised the court counselor if he “won” our placement study and got permission to have internet access again (despite the fact he’s had it for awhile against court order), he would put filters on all his devices to protect the children.

Ethan’s nose was in his tablet the whole ride there and back playing games, including a gambling one. “So this adds another screen to your world.  What kind of limits do you have for screen time at dad’s? (Knowing there are none)”

“None, really”  Super- but love his honesty.  He doesn’t try to cover the truth to protect his dad, thankfully!

We got home and shortly thereafter Mark comes to pick up Ethan.  Pleasant chit chat about his homework etc.  Ethan’s nose is still firmly rooted in his tablet.

“So, Mark share with me what you have in place to protect our son while on the gift you got him”.

Silence.

Suddenly, I’m looking at his back as he calls out to Ethan to pack up so they can leave.  I wait for him to turn around back around. 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi……hmmm, could grow a beard here waiting, so I try again, walking towards him.

“Mark, did you hear my question?”

“What?  yes.  I am going to put a filter on it like I said I would you know…before.”

“Great, what kind?”

“Um…. bitfinder”.

“Oh, haven’t heard of that one- how does it work?”

Piercing daggers narrowly miss me. Ethan watches from the living room.

“Its a parental filter, I haven’t had a chance to install it yet.” (Shouldn’t that have been done before giving our son access to the entire internet?!)

“Well when you do, please share the details with me”

“Sure. ETHAN, let’s go!”

“Oh, and I know we have talked about this before, but given his new toy, you may want to get clear with him on a limit to screen time.”

“Yeah, sure”

“Or just ignore it and we will just hope for the best”

Seriously, I shouldn’t be surprised, but the degree to which Mark doesn’t get it astounds me.  Most parents without a porn issue know to protect their children from what can be accessed online.  I would think someone with his history would want to do everything to help ensure his son doesn’t fall into the same hellhole he has lived in.And then it clicks..again.

He isn’t thinking like a parent. He is unthinking like an addict.

I know that for a 13 year old boy with issues of self monitoring and compulsive tendencies, this “gift” is like handing him a loaded gun to play Russian roulette with.

I also know that 1/2 of his life is spent with an addict in complete denial and I have followed every path available to me to try to reduce that.

So, what’s a mom to do?

When Ethan comes back here in a few days, we will check the history and have a chat about the filter (if its on by then..any gamblers out there?).

To keep sane, I pray, practice yoga and send Reiki energy to protect my son.  I never waiver from my truth.  I breathe in and breathe out.  And I pray.

Say Something, I’m giving up on you

I stumbled onto this video last night and it struck such a deep chord. So many holidays that I had spent in the void came rushing in.

Watching Mark go through the motions, seeing our “perfect” life but feeling a void.

He said the right things, but there was no heart.  I thought it was me.

I thank God that I learned the truth and stopped living that lie.

Say Something

I’m Giving Up On You

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you

Anywhere I would’ve followed you

And I will swallow my pride

You are the one that I love and I’m saying goodbye

Say Something

I’m Giving Up On You