This week Kaleeya, Tytus and I were at the pool. The big kids were at school. We were having fun playing in the water and enjoying some one on one time. The pool was empty for a while until another little family showed up. The parents had two young girls and an uncle and grandma with them. Their kids and mine started to talk to each other. The family was visiting from another state and the girls were six and four. The dad and uncle were in the water with the kids, while the mom and grandma stayed in the shade. Kaleeya and Tytus got out a few toys to share and they began to play some games together.
Soon Tytus was getting cold and wanted me to come sit on the lounge chairs with him. I left Kaleeya in the shallow end to play with the two sisters. I watched from my chair with Tytus snuggled up close to me.
At one point Kaleeya came over and whispered into my ear, “That dad is very kind.” Then she headed back to into the water. For a second I almost took her comment personal—as if she had just told me that I was not nice. So I became intent with my watching to try to figure out what made him so great.
As I watched, I began to see what made this dad so kind. He was a doormat! His daughters were very bossy and ungrateful for everything he did. He was hopping around like a circus clown trying to make them happy. He was bending over backwards and doing anything they demanded and everything they wanted. “Kind” was an understatement for the patience this man had with his very demanding and degrading daughters.
I could tell Kaleeya was getting sick of being told what to do, and was not impressed with the bossy duo. Soon she found her way onto my lap. Not long after she sat down, Tytus decided he would take his turn in the ringer—he headed over to play with the girls. I knew he could hold his own, but I started to get a little nervous for him to go into the game of ingratitude that was taking over the pool. This time Kaleeya and I watched from our seat.
I noticed that every time one of the girls would began to get upset, the mom or the grandma would yell something at the dad, saying things like, “Just let her do it!”, “She is talking to you!”, “Listen to her!” As if the dad had no voice, he would just do exactly what the four year old, his mother in law, or his wife was getting mad at him for.
My mind raced back to all the lessons in college psychology classes and books I have read—learning about patterns in a family’s background. I started to overanalyze this young family and the example the grandma and mom had obviously been to these young girls. They had taught them to nitpick and never be grateful for all of the things this father was obviously trying so hard to do for them. It was like the more he tried to show his love—the worse he was treated. I had the diagnosis all mapped out in my mind of all the things they were doing wrong in this scenario. I wanted to sit them down and share my knowledge on how to help their family break the patterns they had passed down from generation to generation, and show them why they needed to change.
Soon the youngest sister was throwing a fit and yelling at Tytus, her uncle, and her dad. She was telling them that they were not passing the ball in the direction that she wanted it passed in their game. The dad and uncle began to apologize to the little four year old, and threw the ball around the circle in the other direction. Soon the ball came to Tytus. He tilted his head to the side, glanced at the four year old, looked over in the opposite direction and threw the ball as hard as he could in the direction she had demanded it could not go.
At first I was proud of my little guy for standing his own with this snotty little ungrateful girl—she had a pattern in her family that obviously needed to be changed. He was showing her exactly what she needed to see. She didn’t rule the world! Not everyone was going to roll over and allow her to be the queen! Somebody was going to have to show her how to break the patterns her mom and grandma had passed down.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks—Tytus’ response was learned from the patterns of the bull headed stubburness that were potent in my own family.
My thoughts turned from this imperfect group of people—to my own imperfect crew. I began to think of the many patterns that had streamed through the generations, past and present, and the role that these patterns had played in our own lives.
I sat on that lounge chair with Kaleeya on my lap thinking back over the patterns of my past. Some of my strengths were the qualities that pulled me through some very hard times, but other times those same strengths have been my weaknesses.
I pictured my strong internal drive to have everything pulled together. I have to admit I am a bit of a control freak—but I am not alone in this intense behavior. I come from a long line of control freaks. We like to make sure we know exactly what is going on with each of the eggs in our baskets. We like things to be done the way we like them. We have an opinion about the little things others are doing, and have a tendency to think our way is the easy one. We like to see ourselves as pretty with it, and on top of things.
So obviously we also have a bad case of denial as well—because when you like to have control over everything—you usually don’t feel like you have control over anything.
One problem with thinking you are the glue that holds everything together—when your world crumbles . . . you will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it was that you did wrong. It is hard to give up the power, even when things happen out of your control.
I remember at those beginning stages of my marriage to Shawn being plagued with this strength and weakness of wanting power. I truly believed that if Shawn’s attention wasn’t fully on me, or the things that I thought he should be focusing on—he didn’t love me. If he didn’t do the thing I suggested he do, he didn’t value me as a person. If he didn’t ask my opinion . . . then he didn’t care about me as a partner. If he was spending his Saturday washing all of our cars, when I had the expectation that we all went to the park—he must not love me enough to know what I wanted. I felt that he should value my opinion—because in my mind, my ideas were the best. He should read my mind, because if he loved me . . . I wouldn’t have to ask. If he cared enough about me, he would just know what he was supposed to do. And since I was so good at pretending that I had it all put together, he should value my very wise opinion.
Then Shawn had this pattern of believing that if he didn’t give Jordyn his unconditional, undivided attention when she was at our house—she wouldn’t know that she was loved.
At this point in our marriage, we were still far from realizing this pattern of “chase” we would play, and we were too overwhelmed with all that lay ahead to even know where to begin to address it—so we spent a lot of time darting around it and avoiding each other because of it.
In turn, the control freak inside of me began to lose it. I remember one afternoon, after receiving another one of our many “the trial has been postponed again” calls, I was taking Tytus into the doctor for a well check appointment. My pattern of wanting control was at an all time high. The trial date—that had been written in permant marker on my calendar, was not going to happen again; Shawn had spent a whole weekend ignoring me to caress his need to make Jordyn feel like his number one, so he didn’t fear her feeling unloved; and Tytus was having problems with his emotional health and allergic reactions.
My control barometer was in the red zone. I sat in the doctor’s office waiting for our turn, the whole time on the verge of tears. Soon the nurse called us back. We sat quietly in the check up room
—my face was on fire from holding back all of my emotions. Just like many in my family who had gone before me, I tried hard to sweep my emotions under the rug to keep up my perfect front.
The doctor finally walked into the room. He asked a few questions about Tytus, and did the usual checks. We discussed a few things that we could try for the little guy’s reactions and the doctor was about to leave the room. As he reached for the door he turned around, “Ashlee . . . are you . . . are you ok?”
With that permission to share . . . the storm began, I could not keep my tears in any longer, “I . . . I just can’t do it anymore. They called and changed the date of the trial again, and everything is just so hard . . . I just . . . I think they picked the wrong girl for all of this; I am not strong, not even a little bit. I can’t keep doing this. I feel like I am going crazy. I miss my normal life, where I could just be a mom . . . and do the normal things I once thought I was good at . . . and I just can’t take much more. I try to look like I am strong . . . but I need some help. I don’t know who to ask, or where to turn . . . it is like everyone thinks I am just fine now that I got married . . . like all the sudden I am not broken . . . and I just don’t know how to let go of all the control that I have lost, and I don’t know what I have control over. Everything is just . . . everywhere . . . and I don’t have control over any of it. I couldn’t control Emmett dying, or if he loved me. I can’t control if the trial will ever end . . . or begin for that matter. I am trying to be a wife and mother, but I am just so fractured . . . and I . . . I . . . I am losing it.”
I am sure he wasn’t expecting all of that when he asked if I was ok. He looked startled and resumed his position in his little rotating seat in front of us—this time I was the patient. “Ashlee, you are doing an amazing job. I know so many people who have been watching you through everything and they tell me about how strong you are, and what a great mom you have been. I can’t imagine all of the stress that is constantly on you through all of this, and the wait . . . I can bet is excruciating. Would it be ok if we had an appointment just for you to see if maybe we can do something to help you through some of this stress?”
Wall of pride . . . NO way, you can’t possibly take medication . . . you have made it this far on your own, you don’t need this. You need to be strong, you need to fight through it. You have control of yourself. You don’t need help. Medication is for the weak, who need help. You are strong . . . you don’t need help . . . you have got this. The thoughts in my mind tried to talk me out of it, but the peace in my heart knew that he was right. I was going to lose it, and it was ok to get some help.
Within a few days he had prescribed some anti-anxiety pills. I only had to stay on them for a few months, but I don’t know what I would have done without them. That pattern of bull headed “I can do anything on my own” attitude maybe got me through a lot of hard things, but it also hurt me. So many times that I needed help, my stubbornness held me back from getting it.
Even as we speak, I have had a sore tooth all summer long. Instead of just going to the dentist and letting them fix it, I have tried to tough it out. Where has that gotten me—absolutely nowhere! My tooth is still killing me, and I didn’t gain anything from waiting, except a summer full of toothaches.
Why are we so set in our ways? Why do so many of the enticements our ancestors struggled with, do we carry on in ourselves? How many times do we get frustrated with our loved ones for a characteristic they portray—when we ourselves do the same thing?
I laughed the other day at the park when Tytus was ticked off about me letting Kaleeya ride her bike around the whole pond. He dragged his feet and whined the whole way because he wanted to run up and down the hill instead of ride around the trail like we had planned. Where did he get such a stubborn control freak arrogance? . . . well he got it from me! So I am learning to laugh when my kids do something that I probably did a million times to my own mother. They come in their own package, but some of the things our children do that we see as weak—are just some of the strengths we have passed on. Someday those strengths may pull them through something hard; and other times these weaknesses may hold them back.
Every family has patterns that have been set and carried on for years. Some of these traits are priceless treasures and amazing characteristics, but many are dark emotionally driven fears. What patterns has your family passed down, that are not worth carrying on? I made a list last night of all the patterns I don’t want in my family anymore. Some I saw in my husband or our children—but most of them I found within myself.
Every family is unique and different. Some families are excellent sweepers. Everything is swept under a rug, where they feel it is safe and will never be revealed. Some families are fakers, they pretend everything is perfect on the outside, and then behind closed doors everything explodes. Some families struggle with addictions. Some families struggle with arrogance and pride. Some become doormats and let others walk all over them. Some families have histories of affairs, or gambling or pornography addictions. Some families are sleeve wearers—they tell everyone everything that is going on in their life and in their mind; and then others hold everything inside.
Now I am making the human race sound like a bunch of sheep—like we are all just followers. I know that not all people follow the patterns of their heritage’s past . . . but I believe that is because somewhere the patterns were broken. I think we all have weaknesses that can be passed or carried on in our beliefs and behaviors, but many have learned to overcome or break these patterns.
Our history is not our destiny.
Just because your dad, your grandpa, and your great grandpa died of an alcohol addiction—it doesn’t mean you will. I believe we have a choice. If alcoholism is in your blood—don’t take a sip. If you have already been sucked in by that addiction—get help out. Maybe your mother beat you every day of your childhood—that doesn’t mean you have to become the same kind of abusive parent. Maybe your dad was a yeller—and you hate that you have followed his lead. You can stop that pattern in yourself! We are never destined for anything. We may feel that the weaknesses passed on from our parents tempt us to join them—but the only way they win . . . is if we lose.
We can chose to follow in footsteps, or we can pattern our own course.
Every trail that has ever been tread had to begin with one person. Some have called these pioneers—the first to adventure from the normal life they once knew, creating a new path. Being a pioneer doesn’t always take a wagon and some oxen. Being the pioneer of your life can mean breaking patterns that were once followed blindly.
you can find hope in yourself as you center your desires on making yourself the best you can be. You may not be able to change anyone else, but you can always make a difference inside of yourself. Stop chasing the patterns of crazy that came from generations back. You will never have all the control of the things around you, and you will not always feel like the #1. You may never feel like you have it all pulled together, but you can find hope in yourself as you center your desires on making yourself the best you can be. You may not be able to change anyone else, but you can always make a difference inside of yourself. Sometimes that means asking for help, and other times it means figuring it out on your own. Fighting to change a pattern doesn’t always have to be done alone, but sometimes it is when you make shifts on your own that you will find a true change of heart.
One thing is for sure—patterns of behavior were not all intended to be carried on. They may be the tool that is holding you back from the life you want to have. Just like the walls of the past that get triggered to be built, patterns of the past can be broken and changed.
Examine who you want to become, and what behaviors or patterns are keeping you from those goals. And then make a change. Seek for a power much greater than your own to help you find the answers to change the parts of you that are holding YOU back. It is inside of ourselves that we will find the answers to our role in the world.
“If you really want to understand the social world, if you really want to understand yourself and others, and, beyond that, if you really want to overcome many of the obstacles that prevent you from living your fullest, richest life, you need to understand the influence of the subliminal world that is hidden within each of us.” (Decide Now: The Good Life or The Best Life, p 189)
Maybe your walls were built with the patterns from the examples before you, but you can be the pioneer to a new pattern of life. Our heritage of weakness doesn’t have to be what we become. Turn to God to make those weaknesses become strong. He has promised that his grace can heal even our weaknesses, and they can become our strengths.
Believe in Him as your soles find new paths from the ones you once followed before. Take His hand, and let Him help you remember the worth of your soul . . . for you are great in the sight of God, and even your path matters to Him.
Questions to Ponder:
- What patterns from your past can you identify that need to change?
- How does faith and hope give you the ability to change?