Defiant Boys: one mother’s story of the problems of parenting after domestic abuse
It was the message that touched me the most. Pastor Jeff had ‘called my name’ as we say back home. For the first time a Pastor I knew said out loud “what your husband has done to you is wrong; Abuse is sin”. He validated my pain and showed me from the word of God that I was right to leave my abuser. He told the story of how he once saw a mom with her two sons at a store or some place. He could tell she was abused by the way the boys openly disrespected her, ignored her in public and just made a nuisance of themselves. That woman was me. Today, and for the past five years.
Today I took my sons to church — again. It’s the only place I ever take them now. It’s their only hope. Or rather the House of the Lord is. I want them to be godly men. But they will not listen to me. It’s a 2-hour battle every Sunday to get to the 1-hour church service. It’s only seven min by subway, yet we are always late. Have always been. Even in our former church where all they did was watch cartoons and played with friends during the adult service, yet I would spend hours looking for one child. Just so we could go to church. Yes, I know. They are out of control.
They would refuse to get dressed, argue about what to wear, run off and hide, start fighting. I am ashamed. How could I have done this to myself? I thought I married a godly man, but my sons have an inherent negative bent. I see it, I know it. It is not normal. And I was losing what little was left of my mind from my abuser.
They have no regard for me, or for other adults. They have no fear. Except when they want something. How do I live like this? How do I go on with this shame? Today, they ran between the pews during the sermon. Boy 1 walked into the sanctuary from the toilet clowning and talking to himself at the top of his voice. Boy 2 would not stop running and then crawling from pew to pew, ignoring me completely. I should go home… I should stay…I should not let them make me miss worship – again… I should change church… I should keep coming. They need to be exposed to the word and people of God…I should pick a larger church…, But I am so tired all the time. But you can’t be tired you’re a Mom! Moms never get tired. And I still have to be careful about where we go. I wonder, does one ever truly leave the abuse behind? Will we ever be free, safe?
Their (mis)behavior shows the world what they’ve witnessed. It’s how they’ve seen their father treat me. How they’ve seen my colleagues, their teachers, the agency support staff treat me and talk about me in the boys’ presence. Each time we walk the streets I hear their misbehavior say to the world: “She is an abused woman. A single mother. That’s how sons of single moms (mis)behave. She’s codependent”.
What else do they say? “She’s crazy, did you know she has PTSD? How sad”. Or “She’s too hard on them, she should be kinder”. “She has no right to insist that they be good children, boys will be boys”. They’ve said that to my face. They’ve said it to the boys. The boys have said it to me. And I see it in the boys’ actions. My gut is not wrong. It’s the same way their father treated me. People around me treated me. Those helping me/us did it. On the other hand, I have been told it’s because I tolerate it. I let them. So it’s my fault. Yet every boundary I put up the boys defy. Every consequence I impose is defiantly resisted.
I deign to spank them because they have witnessed and experienced violence in the home. I have withheld privileges, imposed consequences, and been told it’s abuse. I teach my children about manners and respect and courtesy. We read the Bible and pray, I try to get each boy to do his devotions each morning. I ensure that we go to church every Sunday. It’s rare to find a church like this, where moms like me are accepted. So am I this control freak who wants to direct the course of her sons’ lives? Yet I want them to walk a more honorable path than their father. I pray for them to be good husbands and fathers. I have been told it is impossible. Each time I reached out for help in our community (and I received tons of it believe me) I was told that as long as they only did that to me at home, it was OK. This is my cross and to bear it and hope that they out grow it. They probably will…
I refused to believe that and kept reaching out for help. One day I knelt in tears huddled in my room, my 5 and 7 year old calling me names and trashing stuff in the next room. As the labels flashed through my mind, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder…I “stumbled”, as the Lord led me, upon this site. This Bible based parenting coach has been working with our family for over a year now. I have seen great improvement, yet the people around me at the time continuously and deliberately, undermined my role as a mother and we would lose whatever progress we had made just from one contact. Sending the boys notes, talking to them behind my back. Telling them they have the right to choose what they want to do and no one, not even their mother should tell them otherwise. I have sat them down and talked with them. I have explained that my sons need tough love and discipline. I have requested and then insisted that they clear things with me first before talking with my sons. I have been ignored.
And so, thirsty, worn out and afraid, I up and moved towards the scent of water. I saw a glimmer of light and rushed toward it. I moved us to “The Big City”. And the Lord met me more than halfway.
Today as they shouted and screamed and jumped and ran on the streets of “The Big City”, I tried to restrain one boy. They both shoved me. In the middle of the street Boy 2 then calmly lay down on the road yelling ‘I want to die’. It’s his favorite act when he doesn’t get his way. It was a side street usually not busy, so I turned and walked off. They just carried on playing and yelling at each other as though nothing happened.
Just like Pastor Jeff’s sermons, my Parenting Coach empowered me from God’s word to stay the course and discipline my sons. I will keep going to church with both boys. I will keep disciplining them as best I can. I will not stay in shame. This is not whom I am. It is what was done to me.
Today, I sat in church struggling to hear, straining to catch the message. Truth is I have loved the habitation of His house, and the place where His honor dwells. From my youth. And I haven’t been to church in English for 4 years.
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We are immensely grateful to the reader who wrote this post for our blog. Jeff C and I know that this woman has been through almost unspeakable abuse. May God reward her with showers of blessing for sharing her heart and struggles with our readers. Please pray for her and her boys and their ongoing safety.