June 13

I Just Don’t Remember

June 13, 2011

Parenting

A woman wrote to me:

"My adult son has been distant from me for many years. After I learned about Real Love, I made contact with him, hoping to heal the wounds he obviously has. But I got more than I bargained for.

"I just about lost it when he started telling me that when he was a child, his father—my now ex-husband—had beaten him many times with a belt, and all these years he has resented me because I didn't stop it. But I just don't remember all that, except for maybe three times. I can't believe that I could have been present for such a thing without realizing that my son was in trouble. He says that sometimes I was not in the room, but many times I was. How could I not remember my own son being beaten?

"I remember that I was very afraid of my husband then, but I know I would have stopped anything like what my son described."

If your son remembers multiple beatings, it's very likely that his memory of the events is better than yours. If I punch you in the face, for example, you will be more likely to remember it in later years than I will, simply because it would have been more painful to you than to me. We remember what hurts.

Could your son be exaggerating to some extent? Sure, but does that really matter? What matters is how he felt and how he feels now, and he feels like he was beaten many times. Moreover, you allowed him to be beaten at least three times that you can remember, so the likelihood is high that it could have happened at other times. You have an established history of allowing him to be beaten, which is what your son remembers, so the numbers don't really matter.

You've said that you were afraid of your husband in those days, so it's likely that you would not have done anything to provoke his wrath, like trying to stop him from beating your son. And when we're afraid, our memory is quite distorted, again increasing the probability that you wouldn't remember the experiences your son has described.

So what can you do now? Tell your son that you believe him. Tell him that in those days you were empty and afraid and quite incapable of loving and protecting him. That's all he really wants to know from you anyway. The details just don't matter much.

And tell him that you're doing everything you can to learn how to love him better and help him heal the wounds that you and your ex-husband caused. That's a great starting place, and then you'll grow in your ability to love him better as you continue to tell the truth and feel the love of other people.

Want to learn more?

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