The Story Behind The Story – ‘Family Threads’ by Gwynn Rogers

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Welcome back to The Story Behind The Story series. Today’s post is by Gwynn Rogers. 

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Recently, my granddaughter was asked to interview eight people regarding their family history for her high school history class. Since she wanted to know how I was treated by my family and family beliefs from years past, I realized how the thread of cultures impacts each of us.  When I say “culture” I don’t necessarily mean foreign culture as the way each of us is raised impacts us and the next generation of family.  However, in my case I did have two foreign cultures involved in my growing up as my dad’s grandparents came from Conwy, Wales and my mom’s family came from Duederode, Lower Saxony, Germany.  So not only foreign cultures, but the ‘ways of the times’ strongly impacted me, and I suspect it impacts others in their growing up too.

So the Story Behind my Story is the way I was treated as a child because of my family’s belief systems.  I didn’t start writing until I was nearly 60 years old as I had to deal with family dynamics during my mother’s five years of strokes and her ultimate death.  By the time mom died I was an emotional basket case so I needed to purge my system of my pain.  This is when I started writing.  

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When I was a small child, I only remember my dad’s Welsh grandmother as my mom’s family died shortly after I was born.  My great grandmother on my father’s side was so stern and strict that I think if she ever smiled, her face would crack.  Great grandmother Edwards was not a loving person that I enjoyed being around.  I know that since my dad’s mom was sick a great deal while dad was growing up, that dad lived with his very stern and strict grandparents.  Their belief was that children obeyed their parents no matter what or the punishment was quite severe.  Because of this abuse my dad’s father became quite abusive and beat his wife, his daughter, and my father.  When my dad finally out grew his father, dad said that he would kill his father if he ever laid a hand on dad’s mom or sister.  Where dad stopped the physical abuse he didn’t understand about the belittling and verbal abuse that existed in his family, so it was carried forward to our family.

My mother was raised in a very strict manner also.  As an only child she was very much a loner and did not know how to get along with other people.  A book was her best friend.  What totally shocks me is that mom grew up to become a nurse.  In my mind I think of a nurse as being a caring individual, but I did not see that aspect in my mom.  The other problem is that as a child I was a sleepwalker.  Mom had no concept of what caused sleepwalking… trauma in a family.  Mom nursed her dying mother while she was pregnant with me.  Shortly after my birth, mom’s mother died.  Then 23 months later mom’s dad died suddenly of a heart attack. By then mom had birthed me and my brother.  In addition, we lived in a rural area on acreage and my dad was a traveling salesman so he was only home one weekend out of a month.  Mom definitely had a great deal of stress going on in her life as she dealt with two toddlers, growing our vegetables, and caring for the acreage. 

Since mom was distressed, I picked up on her anxiety, thus causing my sleepwalking, but mom did NOT understand this.  I would wander around the house at night and sometimes out in the rural area of our yard.  One night the neighbor way down across the road and down by the lake heard my crying.  She dressed, found me out in our rural yard down by the gravel road, picked me up, and returned me to my bed.  Mom would ask me why I did the things I did and I had absolutely NO CLUE.  I would tell mom that I didn’t know what I was doing. Mom didn’t believe me, so she would threaten to beat me.  To prevent being beaten, I would make up a story to tell mom, but of course the lie was discovered and I would be beaten anyway.  Thus, until the day my mom died she always said she could NOT believe me.  This did not create a healthy or loving relationship between us.

As my brother grew up, he became very rebellious and would not put up with my father’s orders.  Consequently, there was an enormous amount of animosity between my brother and my father.  Because of the way my parents were raised mom and dad did not understand why my brother and I would not conform to our parents’ ways of thinking and their rules. This is the “thread” I’m talking about.  Mom and dad carried forward the rules from their homes to our home.  Over the years, I would try to conform to my parents rules, but my brother grew more and more rebellious until my father beat my 16 year old brother up and he ran away from home to support himself selling drugs.  Eventually, due to numerous issues, my brother got off drugs, finished his schooling, college, and eventually received his Master’s Degree in psychology.  However, I still was in an emotional hole as I never did receive acceptance for who I was as a child.  I was exceptionally unhappy and my family rules were not fitting with me, so years later after I married, I went into therapy for eight years.

During the time I was in therapy I was taught that family is not necessarily blood relations.  Family can be created by people who accept us as we are, enjoy us, and provide us healthy support.  My parents were extremely angry about this reasoning and eventually took me out of their Will.  Mom and dad did not understand that their way of life and thinking did NOT work for me or my brother.  My parents did not connect with the idea that what I wanted to do in life did not match their expectations of me or my brother.  Unfortunately, my brother died a few days short of his 42nd birthday, so I miss the loving support of my brother now 22 years later.

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Image 4The good news is that the therapy helped me break the threads of abuse in my family background.  One day my daughter remarked out of the clear-blue sky “Mom, you sure have changed!”  My reply was “Is that a good change or a bad change?”  My daughter’s response was “A GOOD change!”

Now years later when my daughter had her first child, I wondered why my daughter did not do things the way I did when I delivered my daughter.  Rules had changed for caring for children.  Now there were parenting classes and special car seats.  Parents had so much more help for learning to be a good parent than when I or even my parents had our children.

Realizing that life changes, styles change, technology changes, and rules change can be a hard concept so HOW do we accept our children for doing things their way?  It is important for children to make their own mistakes and learn from their actions.  Yes, it is very hard to let go of our ideals, but sometimes we have to.  I have a saying that I have kept near since my children were born. “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots; the other, wings.”  Author unknown.

So this thread of family culture and breaking this thread is the beginning of recognizing the Story Behind the Story.  We can be different from our family.  Also, in my case, breaking the thread means standing up for me and my beliefs.  I don’t have to do things my parents’ way anymore.  I have a right to my own opinion and being heard.

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With thanks to Google images. 

You can connect with Gwynn on her blog at http://gwynnsgritandgrin.com/

26 thoughts on “The Story Behind The Story – ‘Family Threads’ by Gwynn Rogers

  1. Wow, Gwynn, that is a story that needed to be told. The quote by Freud confirms that. I’m sure there are many similar stories hidden away waiting to be told. I hope they don’t come forth later in uglier ways. I love the words you have added: When the world is against you, family should be the ones with you. Not making you feel lower than the ones that are against you. It is so true. To be loved unconditionally is the right of every child. It is wonderful that you were able to break the cycle and improve things for your own children. The two bequests: roots and wings is a wonderful way of looking at it.
    Thank you Gulara for allowing Gwynn a safe place for sharing her story here.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Norah, Thank you for your kind and loving comment. Life has been crazy for me as I also went through a divorce after 23 years of marriage. My learning to stand up for me and voicing my opinion had its’ draw-backs too. I still have difficulty with the idea that I matter. However, what I also have done is volunteer with organizations that helped children for all my life until recently. Now it is past time to do other things. I see so many abused children and dysfunctional families it makes me cry. I would love for a child to learn that they can do productive, healthy things to change. There are supportive people out there now. Breaking the cycle IS important! Thank you again for your comments.

      Liked by 2 people

      • How wonderful for those children you helped. We all need to work together to support those children who suffer so much in dysfunctional families. I admire your contribution to doing that.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I relate to so much of Gwynn’s story. It is about breaking the ‘thread’, as Gwynn refers to it. I call it a relay, with the baton of abuse passed on through the generations. I know of many children who had abusive childhoods who said, It stops with me, and haven’t gone on to repeat the pattern. Because the way we were brought up was programmed into us, and at times of stress we often revert to autopilot, it’s really hard to take a different course. Most of the time, I manage—I say most of the time because I don’t always. But I’ve come to realise that the times I don’t are salvageable—I say I’m sorry and I try harder. I also know I’m human and I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. But right at the heart of all of my mothering is letting my kids know I love them, and that’s the biggest thing that was missing from my own childhood.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I could have repeated this comment word for word for my own life, Louise. Thank you for sharing so generously, and it’s a huge relief to know that getting things wrong with kids is not lethal and the relationship is salvageable if they know how much they are loved. I’ve been worrying so terribly with my son that I may get anything wrong… It was a tall order. I’m more relaxed with my daughter. She shines out our love for her.

      Liked by 2 people

      • We swing the pendulum back too far the other way, I think, and put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. I don’t know about you, Gulara, but when I was growing up, we were punished if we made a mistake (and even if we didn’t sometimes). I felt I had to be perfect, and as a parent, I was very unforgiving if I made a mistake. Oh, the guilt and the self-flogging! It’s a lot of pressure to put on oneself—to never make a mistake! It’s taken years and a lot of work, but I’ve realised I’m not the bad person my mother led me to think I was. I’ve actually come to think of myself as quite a nice person, and that having flaws is okay—it’s actually quite normal; no one is perfect. With that self-acceptance, the pressure to never make a mistake just melted away. It’s spun-off into all other areas of my life and relationships, including my parenting. I’m just starting to feel the freedom. I could go on and on, and write an essay on this topic— maybe I will one day! Maybe I’ll even write a book!

        Liked by 3 people

      • Louise, your words are like balm on my old wounds… Yes, guilt and self-flogging (and husband-flogging too) spoilt some of the parenting experience for me. I’m learning to enjoy myself lately, as well as the art of self-acceptance.

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    • Louise, I LOVED your comment to my story. Thank you! I too have my moments of “autopilot” as it is hard to change! There are times when I look in the mirror and want to cry as I see my mom and dad. I work very hard at keeping open communication with my children. When I goof, I make sure I apologize and encourage my kids to clear the air. We have a much better relationship this way. The VERY BEST PART is watching my children as parents be far more loving than I was… so the “THREAD” can IMPROVE too and not get worse. Thank you again for commenting.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I can’t wait to see how my children parent! The thing is, we gave our kids a ‘stable’ childhood—in other words, a firm scaffolding from which to launch into adulthood, and become parents themselves. It makes sense they’re going to be better, as they don’t have to rebuild the scaffold first! We had to struggle to survive—they’ve already got survival mastered, and can just move onwards and upwards!

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Wow! Gulara, I am SO TOUCHED by everyone’s words! After submitting my story to you and seeing the other stories I thought I had made a HUGE mistake and thought of withdrawing my story as it is so different from the others. However, the part that I should have added to my story is that I have volunteered with various children’s organizations that help children since my children were toddlers. There are so many children out there who have suffered abuse from little to extensive. I TRULY hope that my story helps some people… maybe change their ways.

    Thank you SO MUCH Gulara for running my story. Big Hugs to you!

    Liked by 4 people

    • It’s an absolute pleasure and honour to have your story here, Gwynn. Your voice matters, your story matters, your time and volunteering with children for many years absolutely matters. And I hope people find solace and inspiration in this post. Thank you for trusting me on this one – your story fits my series perfectly!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Dear Gwynn, this is such a touching story! I want to encourage you to continue on your writing journey! What you wrote her must have been heavy on your heart, and I am happy that you let it out, let it flow onto the page. Again, continue writing and continue healing. Thank you Gulara for having Gwynn today!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Solveig, so inspiring to be our true self, isn’t it. We are not our stories, we are so much more. Yet when we carry those stories untold they can get in our way to shine our true light. I find every time I share something I used to hide or feel ashamed of, I feel lighter and brighter, and hopefully, the world is a better place for it. So moved by Gwynn’s courage to share her story today.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I hope that she’ll feel the confidence increasing after this post, just like it did for me.
        Why do we hide things? why can we not just accept our past and not be ashamed of it? Writing does so much good. And this piece was filled with courage.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Solveig, writing and researching various issues has helped me understand the past and heal. I am sorry that mom and I never could have a discussion about the past. Maybe talking would have changed our relationship… but I’ll never know. I so truly hope my story will help others who had the similar situation or help people helping abused kids. You might want to go into my family section and read my story “Acceptance.” There you will get the full story. Thanks so much for commenting Solveig.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you Gulara and Gwynn for this excellent post which I’m now re-reading! And the comments are so excellent too …
    Most of us come from normally dysfunctional families … some more dysfunctional than others. It takes courage to weed out what hangs heavy on us and not allow it to drag us down and repeating those same errors. We owe it to our children not to pass on what’s been drilled into us. It can be hard to disobey authority but thankfully we can do this – consciously.
    I look back on all that has been and gone and while my childhood was not a particularly happy one, I am grateful for much. Especially the opportunity to see those challenges in my life unfold as I had to make my own way and be true to my own self.
    Thank you both again … and Gwynn, keep on writing. You express yourself well … and it’s NEVER too late ….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susan, you and my brother chose your own ways. I was trying to be a “good girl” and follow my parents orders. I had no idea the damage I would do to myself by not taking a stand or going off to do what I loved. Now, I constantly tell people to do what YOU LOVE… follow your heart and dreams. I had no clue that 1) I had and opinion and 2) that I had a RIGHT to an opinion. I still have a bit of a difficulty in that area, but I’m far better than I was. My first marriage was an attempt to escape from my family… but I still didn’t know I had an opinion. This has been my problem in my jobs over the years too. Discovering I have a voice and an opinion have been important too me.

      Susan, you are a very wise woman and have accomplished much. So has Gulara. I feel very fortunate to have met you both. Thank you for your support. Now, I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as my day is just beginning. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Susan, for your wise words and all the encouragement. I’m learning to draw lessons from and find gratitude for the events of my past. One thing is clear to me: if I had a half-decent life, I’d never leave my country 😀 So, I’m thankful for the incentives I had to go far away to find myself and build the life I could never imagine having back home.
      And thank you for introducing Gwynn to me 🙂 You nominated her to that Challenge with photos we did a few months ago. She’s been so kind and supportive of my writing ever since…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Just an amazing story Gwynn. You are a wonderfully strong person and a great example to all of us. It’s never too late indeed. Being a ‘good girl’ comes at a price, but I am so glad you had such a strength of character to break away from the past and not let it define you. I think there was a bit of that same ‘good girl’ in me too, the peacemaker. But life teachers us otherwise. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Silvia, life definitely did NOT go the way I thought it would, or even the way my parents thought my life would go. These days there are so many more options as to what I could have done. I have broken away from my family, but there ARE times I look in the mirror and scream as I see my parents. It is hard to stay different as the past keeps tiptoeing in.

      You are one of the amazing people that I have met out here in Blogging Land. I do so appreciate you and all my blogging friends… BUT DARN I wish we were closer so I could get a Hug, or we could go have tea or a glass of wine! Oh yes, I can’t forget the cheese and crackers! 😉 Thank you for being out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, Gwynn,

    I’m sorry it took me so long to get to this post. I wanted to read it when I could devote my full attention to it. It’s a powerful story. Here’s to your hard work (and it is hard work…I know from experience) overcoming the status quo and forging your own path. It’s a privilege to know you.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Pingback: Celebrating 2015 – Reflections | Dr Gulara Vincent

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