Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: A volcanic family row

My eldest daughter recently started a violent row with me, she's since apologised, but I'm finding it really hard to deal with it and move on

Share

Dear Virginia,

On the outside we’re a normal family, with a boy and a girl at university, and an older daughter. But recently our eldest came home and started a violent row with me, shouting abuse, breaking a glass over me, and storming out. As I come from a violent family, I found this really upsetting. I apologised, and she’s now apologised to my husband but says she finds me “really annoying”. I feel such a failure. Most mothers are so close to their girls. My husband and I have learned a lot through counselling but this episode has destroyed me. What can I do?

 

Yours sincerely,

Elsa

Virginia says...

I’m always baffled by violent outbursts such as this. Not to mention incredibly upset. But other people I’ve talked to find such explosions nothing but amusing or, at least, they let them wash over them.

I think it all depends on how you’ve experienced these kinds of outbreaks in the past. If you’re from an emotional and passionate family, one in which people are always having meltdowns and then making up with warm expressions of affection, these rows may not be a sign of distance but, rather, of closeness. They are all part of loving. If you never experienced such things in your childhood – as I never did – they are incredibly frightening. 

If, however, you come from a violent background, as you’ve done, and you associate these outburst with real hatred and malevolence, they can be absolutely terrifying. No matter that some rational bit of you knows that your daughter loves you, however annoying she finds you; no matter that she’s never behaved this way before; no matter that she’s apologised – though admittedly not to you. The very act of screaming and throwing sends you right back to being a terrified child in the middle of a horrible chaotic home life.

Most children can find their parents annoying at times. If that’s all she's complaining about as far you’re concerned, you’re getting off lightly. She doesn’t think you’re hateful or cruel. Just irritating at times. And there is always the other truth, which is that people often only let off steam in this way to people they feel closest to. I know it seems unfair – I wish people close to me who feel angry with life would let off steam at strangers rather than at me, but there we are.

My advice to you would be to keep away for a while. I suspect that her behaviour had very little to do with you and was just an expression of stress and frustration with life in general. I don’t think you should have it out – you risk another outbreak. If you’ve had help from counselling before, can you go back to the same counsellor and just ask for a little more help to get you through this difficult time? And I’d try, next, to meet your daughter with other people around and slowly get back to a normal relationship with no recriminations or apologies. Keep loving her. And remember it wasn’t, I’m sure, personal.

Readers say...

Don’t blame yourself

Those of us like you who have had difficult childhoods tend to take too much responsibility for others. It’s easy to end up believing the abuse of others as it taps into our old “stuff” of unworthiness. I went through hell with both my daughters and was blamed, humiliated and judged by social services and the justice system for everything they did. In fact I’d done my best like most parents, and they had to learn to be accountable for their actions. I had good support from the police, and called them many times when I didn’t feel safe at home. I too wondered if I’d ever have a good relationship with them again.

Kicking out one daughter was the best thing I did. She came to her senses swiftly and now lives a productive useful life and we have a close, happy relationship. The other daughter ended up in care (which was where her troubles really started) but we are gradually feeling our way towards mutual civility. I’ve never found out why she went off the rails, why she hated me and what I did that upset her so much. It may be that you and your daughter need to put your relationship on hold for a while. Things may get worse before they get better. I wish you strength, determination and the courage of your convictions.

Name and address withheld

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Six months ago I was banned from driving for a year – I got too many points on my licence. Somehow I’ve managed to prevent my husband from finding out and whenever he suggests I drive somewhere I’ve said I’ve felt sick, or that I’ve got the wrong glasses or I’ve made some excuse. But this summer we’re driving from the South to Scotland and  he wants me to share the driving. I know I should tell him the truth, but he’s the sort of person who would never let this drop. How can I get out of driving just for another six months?

Yours sincerely,

Adele

What would you advise Adele to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma  is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine  website Fine Wine Sellers.

Virginia Ironside’s new novel is ‘No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses’ (Quercus, £14.99)

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions