Today I had a mini-breakdown. (Again, I know)
I was hurt and upset that I spend most of my time taking care of the kids, and no matter what I do, I'm the bad guy. Not the TV-esque lovable anti-hero. Nope. The straight up bad guy. The one you hope gets taken down by the cops or the plague or something.
Now my husband...my husband is very much the protagonist. He swoops in, sans cape, to save the day. And I love him for it, but I resent it, too.
I was upset because the kids talk to him, listen to him, want to be around him. I wondered why they don't want that from me. Then I realised. It's because I don't give them what they need. I'm very good at following a to-do list. "Get the kids dressed, put them on the bus, do laundry, call school for IEP followup, cook dinner, help with homework, make sure everyone does chores and gets showered." I'm a very efficient task manager and manners police.
But what I'm not good at is emotional connections. I can empathize and psychoanalyze with the best of them, but when it comes to good, old-fashioned sympathy, I have none. When the kids are acting out, or upset, I find myself thinking "Why are they upset about that? When I was a kid..."
Then I realised, this is one more way I have turned into my mother.
Sympathy, I think, is a learned trait. When you're small, and you skin your knee, if someone comes up to you, and says "Poor baby, let's get a bandaid." you learn how to do that with others. But if you grew up, as I did, with either nobody around to care, or someone was around that would bring up instances of how their childhood was worse ("My sister's bike got stolen. My dad threw her on the ground and stomped on her until her ribs broke." This was a common story from my childhood. Anytime I cried or got upset, this was what my mother told me. Or another lovely anecdote.), then you learn that your pain isn't painful enough-your feelings aren't valid enough-you're not enough. Ever.
So while my husband was learning how to soothe and be soothed, I was learning that my experiences were not bad enough to worry or fuss about.
And this is something that I am doing with my foster kids. I was upset with how they act after visitation. My husband said "This is the worst thing that has ever happened to them." My reaction? "Really? They get taken from their parents. Their parents never hit them. Their parents never touched them inappropriately. The mom is trying her hardest to get them back. They have a ton of people who care about them. Why the F--- are they upset?"
After I said that, I stopped. Then burst into tears. Because my sister, in one of our last conversations, told me I was just like our mom: emotionally unavailable. So I let her in. And she died; she left me after I was vulnerable. But she was right.
How does one learn something they were never taught? I googled "Becoming emotionally available". The first site I looked at had a list. The first thing: love yourself. How the hell am I supposed to love myself? How does that happen? What are the steps?
It's like I was given a brick, and told "Make a pyramid". Without knowing how to make more bricks, or how to build a structure, or even if the type of brick I was given is the right kind for structure stability. How do I give kids something that they need, if I don't have enough of it to even give to myself?
I have no idea where to start, what to do, whom to ask, or where to go. But I know I'm drowning.
Too bad my next shrink appointment isn't for another 2 weeks.