The drain of parental alienation
I have been exhausted for three days, ever since I came back from a weekend at an out-of-state sports tournament with one of our girls. For three days, I have felt irritable and so tired that I swear I could have fallen asleep standing up. My energy levels are usually high, and I am never taken down easily. If anything, I tend to do too much and thrive on getting through challenges. No newbie to fatigue, I recognize that I have been more than just “very tired” – I have been depleted. So I have been angry with myself for being a wimp, for failing to shake this lethargy.
A three-day tournament, book-ended by travel, can be tiring: there are logistics to be navigated, snacks to be provided at just the right time, and, of course, cheering to be done. But I actually had an amazing weekend: our kid played phenomenally and stayed engaged with me throughout; her team has the best group of parents, ‘team moms’ and coaches; I had some engrossing adult conversations about parenting, current affairs and literature that can be hard to come by; and made sure to be there to help the team managers, who stayed with and minded the girls throughout the tournament. However, parents all around the world do all this without collapsing in a heap afterwards. Plus, being engaged and helpful is authentic – and thus, not draining – to me, and I took time to myself, rested and read… So what the heck?
It took my partner to make sense of this for me.
“What do you expect?” She said. “With parental alienation on the scene, nothing is just what it should be at face value.”
And she was right.
There is always an additional, invisible drain on our energy that is difficult to pin-point but surprisingly easy to measure: it leaves close to nothing behind.
From what I understand, a big part of our modern “stress problem” is that our bodies have not evolved for sustained, prolonged stress: adrenalin works best in short spurts that help you “quickly run away from a tiger,” but not so well if you are chased by a tiger for three months. Or a decade, as is our case of parental alienation.
As targeted parents, we always prepare for the worst. Without being aware, I anticipated the alienating mommy to show up just because I “have no business” chaperoning “her” kid to a tournament; to run interference on the phone/text; to find a way to throw me under the bus with the organizers; or to antagonize my step-daughter against me at any moment. Not to mention that if the kid was upset for any reason, let alone got hurt, it would have been cast as my fault. Furthermore, we don’t have the freedom of being a less-than-perfect parent even if for a minute. We are always “performing” in a play of the highest stakes, even if our audience is other oblivious parents and teachers. So I was indeed subconsciously in a constant state of alert for 72 hours.
Had I been able to #simplyparent my kid last weekend, I would have recovered in a day. But I haven’t because parental alienation makes a sink with an open drain out of me.