What I Learned When My Teenagers Threw Me Under the Bus

How The Lesson Began

We set the Christmas plan: this year instead of spending Christmas dinner with their dad, they would spend it with me. We planned the menu: roast beef, roast chicken, gravy, macaroni and cheese, rolls, cranberry sauce, lasagna and French fries (yeah, I know…who does French fries for Christmas dinner?). The kids made a plan to spend Christmas Eve and open gifts with their dad. At 4 PM, they would be ready for my pick-up. They chattered about playing board games, watching movies and spending the night. Although Christmas did not fall on my custody week, they still planned to spend the evening and night with me.

shutterstock_247785061Happily and full of excitement, I did all of the dinner shopping. With Christmas cheer, I wrapped their gifts and stuffed their stockings. All four of my kids would get practical and fun gifts from me. The excitement was in the air.

Just to make sure I had the details correctly, I went over the plan with them several days before, several times (you know, teenagers can be forgetful). Yup! I had the details to the plan correctly.

Christmas evening finally rolled around. Seemed like an eternity waiting until 4 PM to pick them up from their dad’s house. Everything was already cooked. I had slaved in the kitchen making all the main dishes, leaving the lasagna and French fries to the kids.

Upon arrival to their dad’s house, they all greeted me with Christmas cheer. We exchanged secret Santa gifts, laughed and prepared to walk out the door. Then, the announcement came from their dad,

“I’m going to the [FAMILY FRIEND’S] party this evening, for whoever wants to go with me.”

I didn’t give much attention to the announcement and wasn’t sure why it was being announced anyway. The kids were coming to my house and staying.

We packed into my minivan, and then the announcement of all announcements came,

“Mom, we are going with dad to [FAMILY FRIEND’S] party this evening. Dad will pick us up.”

“Huh?” I questioned with confusion.

With the same declaration of clarity, they repeated,

“We’re going with dad to [FAMILY FRIEND’S] party this evening.”

(“Dad, the enemy?”  I thought to myself.)

“But I thought we planned to spend Christmas evening at my house. You all would stay the night. Right?” I reminded them.

“Yeah, but we want to go to [FAMILY FRIEND’S] party. Okay?

“Okay??? Okay??? No, it’s not okay!!!” I responded.

And right there in the driveway of their dad’s house, I gave my “It’s not okay” lecture to them.

They were confused and offended.

I was pissed off. I felt they threw me under the bus.

When we got to my house, the kids prepared the final dinner items. There was quietness in the house, although there was a lot of noise with TV, music, and other guests’ chatter.

Before we ate, the kids tore through their gifts from me and dug into their stockings for the treats I had stuffed in them. They ate and then disappeared upstairs for a few hours. The next words from them were,

“Bye Mom.”

They were out the door with their dad to head to the party.

The Lesson Unfolds

Upon reflection the following day of the evening’s event, I realized two important things:

  1. I did not get a Christmas gift from my teenagers. (In fairness, I did get a secret Santa gift from one of the kids). Not one!
  2. My teenagers take me for granted…and I have allowed it.

Just to be clear, I’m not whining about no Christmas gift. That’s not the point. However, Christmas is about giving and I want my children to understand that giving includes those who consistently, year-in-year-out give to them. That should be a no-brainer! Giving does not have to include an expense: a hand-made card, a letter, a video story, a photo story. Anything expressing the spirit of the season would have been acceptable.

The point of the matter here is the second realization: that my teenagers take me for granted, and I have allowed it.


The Lesson Revealed

But why? Why would I allow someone to take me for granted? Certainly, I didn’t allow it on purpose.

Three days later, after giving this realization thoughtful consideration, I came to understand why I have allowed it:

Because I am a people-pleaser! Yes. I am. I was a husband-pleaser when I was married. I was a children-pleaser while married and while divorced.

Being a people-pleaser is good: you think of other’s needs before your own, meaning you can be self-less.

But, being a people-pleaser isn’t good either: you sacrifice what’s best for you to make someone else happy. Sacrifice is what I did year after year only to end up resenting all the sacrifice after I divorced their father. When I think about where I might be on the corporate ladder had I remained in the workforce, steam comes out my ears and tears well-up in my eyes. When I think about the breakdown I had – in front of my kids – I have regretted a breakdown had to occur for me to honor my needs. Yet, I still defaulted to people-pleasing behavior.


One Thing People-Pleasers Must Learn

What people-pleasers like me must learn is how to listen to your authentic voice. This means that you must ask yourself, “What is it that I want?” “What might be in MY best interest?” These are difficult questions for a people-pleaser to ask of him/herself. But they must be asked. When you ask these questions regularly, and in all types of situations and learn to listen to the answer, you will experience what your authentic voice sounds like. Your authentic voice exists. People-pleasers haven’t developed the skill to listen…we’re too busy pleasing J


People-Pleaser Fears

I know listening to your authentic voice may cause a bit of anxiety. I get it. Listening to my authentic voice was scary at first. Fears begin to surface at the thought of not people-pleasing at your own expense:

  • Will the world fall apart?
  • Will my relationship end?
  • Will my partner find someone else who will please him?
  • Will friends and co-workers stop liking me?
  • Will my children throw me under the bus?

Maybe. Maybe not.

People-pleasing at your own expense never works out in your favor. You’ll lose one way or another, so what difference do the questions make anyway? Instead of letting your fears take over, think about the win-win that can exist in your life if you balance your needs and wants with those of others. At a minimum, consider what’s in your best interest.


People-Pleaser Question

My mentor once told me, “you teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate.” Tolerating the needs of others before your own, ignoring your own, or dishonoring your own needs in order to please means you will be taken for granted. That’s the treatment.

Does the “disease-to-please” show up in your relationships? At what cost to you?

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