Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Stayed

This is a hot topic that I've seen all over the news and social media this week. It is also a topic that I have struggled with sharing to those outside of my circle of friends for close to four years now. Well, today is the day that ends. 

It is easy to sit on the other side of domestic violence and judge women for staying. It is easy to say that you'd never stay and these women need to just leave. Unfortunately abuse is not always black and white, and neither are the decisions a woman must make in those relationships.

I was emotionally abused in my marriage for 2 ½ years before the abuse finally turned violent. The first time something happened I was livid. I left the house and stayed with a friend. Braden was just over 4 months old. HE apologized. I went home. Several months went by and life was good. But then it happened again. Again I left, and again HE apologized, and again I came home. As time went the abuse became more and more frequent and I stopped staying with friends. The problem was that usually when it got to the point when I was scared enough to leave, I was also terrified that HE would find me at a friend's house and hurt them, too. So I'd lie awake, all night, listening to Braden sleep and making sure that no one was going to hurt anyone I loved. There were several nights that I did stay at our house, too exhausted to leave, but too scared to stay. So I'd lie on the couch at night to make sure that HE didn't take or hurt Braden. That would sometimes go on for 3 or 4 days in a row. I was raising a toddler, working full time, and not able to sleep or feel safe in my own home.

Eventually I just started staying at hotels. Sometimes for a night at a time. Sometimes for a week. I constantly kept a bag in my car that was packed for Braden and I. And I know that some of you are reading this, judging me, asking me why I stayed.

I rationalized that he had never hit me, so it wasn't really abuse. But over those 2 ½ years I became a shell of the women that I once was.  In the end things got really scary. My marriage ended with incredible violence. I won't go into the entire story, but Amelia and I walked away with minor bruises after things finally turned violent. Guns, a SWAT team and a knife that could have easily killed Amelia and I ended my marriage. My world changed in 4 hours on a Friday afternoon.

I stayed for several reasons. First of all, with emotional abuse, it is not always black and white when you are in the middle of it. The first time seems bad, but then after so many incidents, you begin to rationalize. You tell yourself that it's really not that bad. Before long I was isolated from my friends and family, so I had no one to really talk to about most of the things that were happening.  It wasn't until after I got out and began telling my story to friends that I realized how bad it was. And I only knew that by seeing their reactions.

I also stayed because I made a promise, and I don't do failure well. I know that sounds silly, but I stood in front of my friends and family and made a promise to God to love this man forever. It didn't matter that HE had broken his promise to me. I always felt like if I was strong enough I could fix us both.

And the statistics. As a parent you always want the best for your children. Statistics say that children raised with two parents are more likely to succeed. I wanted nothing more than to give Braden that life. And the thing is, when HE was good, he was the best father you could ever want. The problem was I never knew who I was coming home to. And when HE was bad, it was just plain scary. HE could turn from good to bad in a moment and I never knew what would set him off.

But lastly, I think I stayed because I was scared. When I woke up the day after the attack I was lost. I had suddenly gone from a two parent household with two incomes to a one parent household with one income raising two children. By myself. I just kept repeating that over and over. I'm by myself. And the thing is, I had a good job. But I still couldn't make ends meet. I had to make decisions that I didn't want to make, but decisions that were necessary for my kids and I to not only survive, but to prosper. And now we are all better for it. During the abusive period I had lost friendships and some family ties. I was terrified that leaving would leave me all alone. Of course for the most part that couldn't be further from the truth, but things aren't always clear when you're in the middle of the storm.

I guess what I am trying to say in this blog, is please don't judge a woman who has been beaten for staying. Often these women don't work outside the home and have no source of income. Their spouse may take their money. Sometimes being out of an abusive relationship is just as scary as staying in one. I know that it takes courage to leave, but sometimes it takes just as much courage to stay. And I know that no one will ever understand that last statement until you have lived the life of a woman who has been abused. I found myself and made me better despite my abuse. Not all women have the ability to do that. I had a lot of faith and a good upbringing and a place to come home to. Things haven't always been easy since we've gotten out. There are still nights when I wake up scared in the middle of the night and can't sleep. There are still nights when I sleep with chairs under the door, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I made the only decisions I knew how to make at the time, and my kids and I are happier and healthier for it. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

When Love is not Enough

The Beatles once sang "Love is all You Need", and while a beautiful sentiment, I think anyone over the age of 12 would absolutely agree that this statement is unequivocally false. While love is needed in a lasting relationship of any kind, so is compromise, and passion, and laughter, and so many other things. Unfortunately in relationships sometimes love is just not enough.

And I found myself in that place recently – the place where the love remained but not much else did. I was in a relationship with a man that I loved and adored. And then things changed. We got in a fight that we could never quite recover from so I had to make the tough decision to end things. I won't lie. It was hard. Devastatingly hard. I had shared my life with this man. My dreams, my passions, but more importantly I had shared my children with him.

He put them to bed, he dried their tears, he cuddled on the couch to watch cartoons. He taught them things and was someone that they, too, had come to love. When things ended, it did not just end for me. It also ended for them.

So while I was going through the pain of healing from a breakup, I also had to break the news to my children. We sat down and I informed them that Mike wouldn't be around anymore. Of course they asked why and I stumbled through something to the effect of 'because we had a fight and we just aren't getting along.'

It took my breath away when Amelia piped up with "Just call him and tell him you're sorry." I don't know why I hadn't expected this because at our house everything can be fixed with "I'm sorry" or a band-aid. As I choked back tears I told her that sometimes it just wasn't that easy. Then Braden jumped on the band wagon. They took turns telling me how to fix it, but how do you tell your children that sometimes sorry doesn't work? That sometimes just because you love someone doesn't mean you are meant to be with them?

The answer is you don't. One day they'll find out on their own. As much as I would love to imagine that my kids will never experience heart ache or love someone that doesn't love them back, that just isn't realistic. One day, they'll figure out that life is hard and love is harder and I'm sorry doesn't always heal all wounds. But until then, it's up to me to let them know that while other people tend to drift in and out of their lives, I will always be there. That I will always love them, and for the three of us, love really is all we need. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't take me out to the ballgame...

Don't take me out to the ballgame
I'm kinda over the crowds
Keep your peanuts and crackerjacks
I don't care if I ever come back
For it's Root, Root, Root for a rain out
If we don't play that's ok
For it's 1- 2- 3 games per week
And a practice on Saturday

For those of you that know me, no the apocalypse has not occurred. Hell has not frozen over. Life as you know it has not ceased to exist. However, after June of this year the Lisowe's will no longer be playing baseball. And it breaks my heart. When I found out I was having a boy the first thing that went through my mind was how awesome it was going to be to have a little boy who could grow up to pitch (both right and left handed), be a switch hitter, and grow up to play baseball at Georgia Tech. No question in my mind.

But little league coaches and parents are ruining baseball in America. This is America's past time. A game that we love, but I'm afraid that we are ruining it. Let me take a step back.

This is Braden's third year to play, but first season out of t-ball. T-ball was great. One practice per week and one game a week played on Saturday mornings. Perfect. We've now moved up to the next league. The one with a pitching machine. Last week my child played 3 games and had a practice on Saturday. Keep in mind that 1) these games are played on school nights and 2) last at least 75 minutes. Now, if we're lucky and get the 6pm game, then I have just enough time to pick my kids up from school, shove some food down their throats between 4:45 and 5:15 pm and get back to the park by 5:30 for warm ups. Those games we'll get home at 7:45 just in time for a 2 minute shower and bed.

Now the 7:30 games are the kickers. We play a minimum of 75 minutes, and so assuming that the game starts on time (which it never does), we're getting home around 9:30. My kid is 6. He goes to bed at 8pm every night. At least he used to.

And it's not like I went out and signed my kid up for some travel team club. This is city ball. The least we can do and still be on a baseball team. And I hate it. What happened to being 6 and just being a part of a team. It's like we all have to be so competitive with what is happening in the rest of the world that we're ruining the game for these boys. Let me tell you all a secret. There is a 99.9% chance that your kid will not get a college scholarship to play baseball. I know. I used to work for a company who recruited kids for college scholarships. And if he does it will probably not be a full ride. And if your kid is lucky enough to get some money to play ball in college, there is a 99.9% chance that he will never play ball in the major leagues. Yeah, he may get drafted, but guess what, most of the players that get drafted never make it to the majors. They spend 5-10 years kicking around the minor leagues making about $1500 a month (if they're lucky) until they finally either give up or get too old to be good anymore. So, obviously it is worth ruining my son's chance at learning to love and play the game of baseball for that .01% chance that your kid will get to play professional baseball one day.

I can also assure you that the days of sandlot ball and pick-up games are a thing of the past. Because guess what, anyone who knows how to play baseball is on a travel team out of town somewhere on the weekends. And they're either playing or practicing until 9:30 every night of the week. So that leaves no time for pick-up games and playing just for the love of the game. Which isn't that why we got our kids into playing to begin with?

And we've been lucky enough to have a great coach the past three years. He doesn't yell at the kids, ever. I did see him throw his hat once, but I fully supported that action based on the mutiny that was occurring with the tiny humans on the field. What about the ones that don't have great coaches? The ones where the coaches yell and scream at kids? I just can't imagine…

So I made a decision. No more baseball for us. Braden was upset, but Braden is not the only one given up 12 hours of his life each week at the ballpark and I have to make the decisions that are best for my family. And what is best for my family is actually being a family. Eating dinner together at night. Spending time with each other, and most importantly, spending time letting my kids be kids.  If we want baseball, we'll head up to Dickey Stephens and watch the Travs play. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parenting someone else...

Being a parent is hard. I don't think that anyone on the planet will ever tell you that it isn't. But at my house, being a parent to Braden is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. And it is not that he is any worse than Amelia is. But Amelia and I are two peas in a pod. She is my mini-me. I get her. She is my loud-outgoing-stubborn-hogs the spotlight-do things her way whether you like it or not-kid. Or to sum her up, me.

On the other hand, Braden and I are as unalike as two people can get, and yet so much the same. Braden is my introvert. You may not be able to tell it because he is not one of those introverts that sits in a corner afraid to speak to anyone. But he is most comfortable when he is around people he knows in a place where he is not the spotlight. I don't get that. I am happiest in a room full of people where all of the attention is on me.  It also makes it hard at home because sometimes he just likes to be alone. So I play with Amelia. And then at the end of the day I feel bad because I spent more time with her than I did with him. It is also hard when we are in a situation that he is not necessarily comfortable with because I don't get that. I don't walk into a room and worry about meeting people. I walk into a room and take it by storm. So sometimes I get frustrated at him because he isn't that way. He'd rather hang back and do his own thing, and I sometimes mistake that behavior for rude and get frustrated at him. Which I think in turn makes him more uncomfortable in the situation.

And this morning the poor kid woke up in tears because he had to do something that he wasn't comfortable with – speak in front of the class. He had to learn a nursery rhyme and dress to match and recite it in front of the class. I had him learn a new rhyme, that up until last night he was struggling with remembering. It didn't occur to me until well after the epic morning meltdown and subsequent tearful drive to school that getting in front of the class was hard enough for him. I wanted him to challenge himself to learn something new, while not realizing that he was already tackling something really scary for him. I didn't think about it because I've never been that way. I've spoken literally in front of thousands of people before and never gotten super nervous. As a matter of fact, I thrive on those kinds of situations. When I was 16 I was the keynote speaker at a Governor's Conference and I ATE IT UP! I did get a report from the teacher that he did a great job, so we may just have to go dance in the rain this afternoon to celebrate (his rhyme was Rain, Rain Go Away so he's already dressed in the boots and raincoat).

But the biggest thing that scares me about parenting him is the way that we are alike. Braden and I are both people-pleasers (I realize this may be hard for some of you to believe about me, but just ask my mother or pretty much any teacher I ever had from K-12). And specifically that Braden would live and die to please me. And what worries me is that I love to be busy. I love to be in the mix. I love being around people and trying new things and being praised for a job well done. I love to be and do all of the things that Braden is not. My concern is that Braden wants so badly to please me that he'll do the things that he thinks I want him to do instead of doing the things in this life that will truly make him happy.

Sitting at a computer I can think about how I'll never let this happen again. That I'll never be upset because he is scared in social situations or mad because he is upset about speaking in front of a class full of people. But I know that isn't true. As much as I wish that it was, I've been me for 32 years and 11 months. I've not ever had to think about being someone else because I'm happy with who I am. But as a parent I've got to start thinking about what it means to be someone else. What it means to be a 5 year old little boy that wants nothing more than to be left alone and loved by his mother for who he is happy being.