They battle forces of darkness none of us can see.
December 5, 2015 10:38 AM   Subscribe

"But at some point, my dad stepped into a phone booth and vowed to be more than the sum of his upbringing. He took on the monsters that followed him and declared war on the dysfunctional demons he carried. He chose to give his children the childhood he didn’t have." A Love Letter to the Cycle Breakers. [TW: childhood abuse]
posted by shiu mai baby (9 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting this. I can think of some people to send it to.
posted by salvia at 11:08 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

thanks for this. my dad too was a cycle breaker, for which I am profoundly grateful. he & his sister broke the cycle but they also lost their younger brother to the demons.
posted by supermedusa at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

You know, I can't help but catch a whiff of condescension from this article, which is almost certainly a result of coming from a dysfunctional home myself. It's difficult to listen to someone who hasn't shared that experience try to talk to you about it without wanting to tell them to shut the fuck up while they're still ahead -- no matter how sincere or well-intentioned they might be. Which is why things like support groups, ACOA, etc. can be tremendously powerful.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

My mother was one of these. She told me enough stories about her upbringing for me to realize that she must have had superhuman patience in never treating me like her mother treated me, because I was a total pain in the ass. Especially as a teenager.

Thanks, Marie-Jeanne.
posted by egypturnash at 12:43 PM on December 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

My father was not very nice, BUT I knew he was trying to break a cycle of abuse... I had to respect him for never raising a hand at me, but when he was drinking he still occasionally threw out some cruel words and there was always the feeling that if I went TOO FAR, he'd 'un-break the cycle', so I was still intimidated, but respected him (I respected him even more for quitting smoking cold turkey when I was diagnosed with asthma). With no children myself, I totally broke the cycle.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:01 PM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

This was my dad, too. He's still fighting and his experiences have left him fragile in some ways, odd for such a big, strong character - he's mercurial and was quick to anger and has the biggest heart. But his father was a bully and a twisted man who sat on the same bus as my ten year old dad going to the very same football match as him but my dad went with a neighbour because his own father ignored him. Dad was in the school football team and captained the cricket team and his father never once watched him play. He only stopped hitting Dad when Dad was finally big enough to turn on him.

But my grandfather too had not had it easy. He was a physically powerful man - not as tall as my dad but incredibly broad and stocky with arms like legs; as a boy, his own father had made him fight grown men in public bare knuckle boxing matches. There's your cycle.

My dad broke that cycle - he supported us, he loved us and was proud of our accomplishments, he never raised a clenched fist to us or threatened us or did anything to make us scared of him. Given that he had no good example, no-one around him to model himself on, he did pretty well. Again, he's nowhere near perfect - he drank too much at times and got into fights as a boy and young man, and can still lose his temper and get petty and petulant. But I'm proud of him and I am lucky to have a dad like him.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

What a nice thing to do for parents who are fighting those demons. I was raised in such a family and for so long after I became a parent I had to battle in secret, ashamed of the way my mind was urging me to lash out. It never goes away completely but with a loving, understanding wife and, in my case, dedication to the Buddha's teachings I have come to a much better place. I can see the good results in my kids, who don't fear me as I feared my Dad. I loved the man and finally made peace with him before he passed away. That was only the first of a thousand steps. Any other parent out there who wants to put on that cape can do it too. You're not alone.
posted by I Am Mr. Ed at 4:48 PM on December 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Great piece. It's a huge moral achievement to take on full and sole responsibility for your behaviour like this and not allow yourself any of the slack that you've got every valid reason to think you're entitled to.
posted by Segundus at 2:19 AM on December 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Amazing. I am reminded of the horrors my dad experienced as a child from his parents. He went into that phonebooth every day. He really did. As a dad now I know how hard it can be to do that. He could have just hung it up and walked away or worse. He put his pain aside and simply loved us.
posted by by3170 at 1:58 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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