Thursday, December 07, 2006

Boundaries and parents

In my small group the other night we had a funny (but all too serious) time of talking about our respective parents. It seems several people had an awful time with their relatives over the Thanksgiving holidays. Most group members said that their families of origin were/are dysfunctional to a degree - some more, some less (who's not, right?). I recommended a book by Susan Forward called Toxic Parents: Overcoming their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life.

Later, I remembered a good song by one of my favorite songwriter-singer-guitarists, David Wilcox. The song is called "Covert War," from his Home Again record. Anyone with toxic parents will appreciate these lyrics. They illustrate the importance, as adults, of setting boundaries with our parents:

Dear Mom and Dad
Here's why I can't come home
I can talk to either one of you just fine
When it's either one, alone

But the Thanksgiving table
Is going to be pulled out bigger
If we talk at all
One of you will pull the trigger

I used to run those battle lines
Trying to smooth over what got said
Trying to get a medal
Trying to get some shrapnel in my head
Thought it was my duty
To plead and to implore
But I caught too much crossfire
In your covert war

The television talks, fills the air
So you don't have to start
You claim your territories in the rooms upstairs
To keep yourselves apart

Holy days, they bring us all together
After so much left unsaid
You taught us well not to kick under the table
You kick under your breath instead

I used to stand between you
Trying to smooth over what got said
Trying to get a medal
Trying to get some shrapnel in my head

Thought it was my duty
To plead and to implore
But I caught too much crossfire
In your covert war

Of course there was the anger where the love is strong
It spilled like gasoline
It's crude but it's a power we can draw upon
If it fuels the right machine

I love you and I'd never want to see you bleed
When comments cut like steel
So to hold your fire I'd block the shot and take the hit for you
As if I could not feel

I thought they'd passed right through me
That I had no scars to hide
But now I open up and try to love
And I find they're still inside

I used to run those battle lines trying to plead and to implore
Please won't you hold the cease-fire out a little longer
Until the next uproar

I took it all in childhood
But I can't take it no more
'Cause I caught too much crossfire
In your covert war


3 comments:

Jill said...

The scary thing is thinking about what are kids might say about us when they get older!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I have toxic parents. I went home over Thanksgiving and once again experienced the toxicness/toxicity of my family. It's really hard, though, because I am the only one who sees it. And setting these boundaries has made me the 'bad girl' and 'hateful daughter' and 'dysfunctional' one. The holidays make me accutely aware of our dysfunction, and I feel sad and quite lonely. My family's love for me seems contingent on me being who they want me to be and not who I really am.

Thanks for reminding me that it is ok to not go home.

Mike said...

Anonymous - it hurts to read about your experience. May God bless you in the struggle.