Thursday, May 3, 2012

Slammed Doors

When Charlotte gets really angry with me, she has been known to slam her bedroom door in defiance.  Each time this happens, I cringe, but it's not for the reason you may think.  I'm not so worried about the door frame, and the noise isn't really what gets to me.  It's actually the elicited memories that give me pause.

You see, as a kid, I was a big door slammer.  Whenever I was angry, I would stomp into my room and slam the door behind me.

This wasn't merely teenage angst, though.  It was so much more than hormones.  In fact, door slamming  was my one and only show of power during a time when I felt totally and completely powerless and invisible at home.

This habit of mine enraged my father.  And that was partly the point. I was normally compliant and obedient,  but I persisted in slamming my door when seriously angry because I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

As much as I love my dad, he never listened to me.  More than that, he often mocked my feelings, calling me a "baby" on a regular basis.  He even encouraged my siblings to join in.  When I get angry, I often get emotional, and as soon as that would happen, my father would jeer at me and refuse to listen to what I was saying.

In my father's defense, I now realize he likely has un-diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome, which could explain why my emotional displays were so incredibly infuriating and uncomfortable for him.

Still, that doesn't undo the damage that he inflicted by refusing to ever validate, or even listen to and respect, my feelings. It is no wonder that I believed that my emotional displays were evidence of my inherent weakness.  After all, no one ever told me it was okay to cry when sad.  No one ever took the time to listen to why I was angry.  No one gave me permission to feel.  Instead, I was repeatedly labeled "too sensitive" or "a baby" or "a cry baby."

So, I did the only thing that would elicit a different response.  I slammed my door.  It was my one act of power.  The one way to be heard.

Sure, it pissed my father off mightily, but that felt good.  I never felt like a baby when I made my dad mad; I felt powerful.

Though I am now 40, my dad still makes fun of me and my adolescent door slamming.  He predicts that my kids will follow in my footsteps, and he assumes it will enrage me, as it did him.

I haven't told him about Charlotte's new habit; his smug answer would just be too much for me to handle.  Plus he wouldn't believe me if I told him that the door slamming doesn't really bother me all that much. Instead of getting angry, it makes me look at my interaction with Charlotte.  Is she just angry because I disciplined her or does she feel like no one is listening to her?

When I hear that echoing slam, I remember that I want my kids to know I hear them, that I value their feelings and opinions.  We may not agree, and I won't always be able to make them happy, but I can listen.  I can validate.

And I will never call them a "baby," because I don't want my kids to think that emotions are a sign of weakness.

"I have this theory that if we're told we're bad,
then that's the only idea we'll ever have"


For more posts on the topic of "words" please visit the Spin Cycle at Second Blooming!

Second Blooming


Lizbeth said...

The thing is, you have been able to identify what bothers you about the door slamming and how it made you feel. The fact you are looking at it and trying to work with your daughter on it and thinking about it--to hear her---that's all what matters.

But I do know what you are saying. No matter how old we are, what our parents think does matter. Sigh.

gretchen said...

I absolutely LOVE that this was your spin on "words". I understand that frustration at not being heard, not being listened to, not having your words/feelings acknowledged. And it is really valuable that you have that insight, and can look at your daughter's door slamming with open eyes!

You are linked!

Alysia said...

Because of who you are, I know you will stop to listen. Even if it's through a slammed door.
Your kids are lucky to have you.

B1L said...

I'm really glad Charlotte will be able to read this someday. Love you!

Mom2LittleMiss said...

This is amazing. I'm really impressed with how you put something from your teenage years into perspective and so ELOQUENTLY! Like B1L said, this is a great post for your daughter to read someday -- she is lucky to have such a great mother!

Tiffany said...

I love that you allow your children to express their anger. I do too...and it's important.

SuziCate said...

As a sensitive person I understand the door slamming. I get too emotional to "talk" and I'm not a thrower of object, but I will slam doors!

Michele R said...

I like your Spin--I can relate to the non-empathetic parent. I think it is a disorder. I too am glad I listen to my kids.

Jim said...

My friend Chris seems like a pretty great parent on the whole. . . at least from the stories I've heard. He did stop his daughter from slamming the door though. . . but removing it from its hinges with a screw driver and telling her she could have it back when she learned not to abuse the privilege.