My arm was about to hit him.
Shh, Don’t Tell! stories are meant to be heard – in the person’s own voice – as well as for the original music. Please click above and listen, if you can! The transcript is also below.
Kendra: When my reserves are low, my mom or my dad’s parenting style comes out. Where it’s I’m the lord and you’ll do what I say. Instantly.
Narrator: So Kendra yells. Loud. A lot. But it doesn’t make her feel powerful. It drains her.
Kendra: For me there’s this awful feeling of knowing I could do so much better as a parent and as a person. This human being that I’m trying to mold and create and let have life in this world can be so shattered by what I’m doing.
Narrator: When Kendra told her Shh, Don’t Tell! story, she talked about her kids – and she talked about her parents.
Kendra: So my parents got divorced when I was seven, and I was with my mom the first five years they were divorced and with mostly my dad the second five years. Both came from not the nicest of childhoods, not the kindest of parents. Either of them. And they were much kinder but I think they also didn’t know what to do in certain situations. They didn’t have the coping skills.
My mom also expected a lot, and she thinks very highly of herself. And she’s very narcissistic and very vain. And if you don’t do what she says then it’s a huge argument.
You know, it’s how you look and how you act and what you do. But she also didn’t have a lot of friends. So I became her best friend growing up, to a woman who emotionally doesn’t do very well. I never knew she’s bipolar, and when things aren’t going right for her she blows up. And she was always explosive. And always trying to leave whatever husband she was with and then always coming back and there’s always arguments – she and my stepfathers were always arguing – I always figured they were the bad people for yelling at her and then as I’m about to yell at her I’m like ohhhh..now I know why they were yelling at her all the time.
For my dad – you know, I’ve never asked him, but while I lived with my dad, he wasn’t there a lot. He was usually at the American bar. So if I needed to find him I would call the bar and they would find him. So I spent a lot of evenings at our off the base apartment by myself. And yet he was a teacher, so he knew what was happening at the school. Like he’s friends with all the teachers so he knew if the principal ever called me in. He knew immediately. So I had to be always so good and perfect and I guess I just always thought if I got better grades or lettered in cross country and did everything right that he, I don’t know, would come home. Or be there. And he wasn’t. And yet my dad and I have a great relationship all these decades later. I don’t know if he just didn’t know what to do with a teenage girl – I think there was something that wasn’t working for him that caused him to just disappear. Altogether. But I don’t really know. I think it just – it crystalized even more this impression in myself of how I was supposed to act and what I was supposed to do, to I guess gain that love. And one of the phrases my husband says to our boys is what you did was bad. You are not bad. And that is just revolutionary for me. Like – had someone said that growing up – what you are doing is not right. Let’s work on that. but you, you are right.
There was one time and Will must have been in first grade, and I get him some milk and I hand him the milk and he says ‘thanks for nothing.” And part of me felt like my arm was about to hit him. And part of me was like I wonder if he even knows what that means. So I didn’t hit him (laughs) I didn’t yell at him, and I had one of those wonderful mom moments of like, ‘do you know what that means?’ And he was like – no. He just had heard it and was trying it out. And so I explained to him and he looked at me in shock and horror – it was like, oh, I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean that, you know, to totally criticize the lack of value I have for what you did. And he never used it after that. And I was like, oh my gosh, what a mom, that’s great! And I still had energy, he’s not a puddle on the floor. Like what a great parenting moment.
Special thanks to Baby Blues Connection for help with Shh, Don’t Tell! Stories, to Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists fame for our awesome theme and other music and to cellist Collin Oldham for his terrific compositions and scoring.