Is Natalie's protection of her mother a reversal of roles? Does it happen often nowadays? Any personal experiences?

Use this forum to discuss the April 2018 Book of the Month, "Ironbark Hill" by Jennie Linnane
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Izesicle
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Re: Is Natalie's protection of her mother a reversal of roles? Does it happen often nowadays? Any personal experiences?

Post by Izesicle » 12 Apr 2018, 15:06

CambaReviewer wrote:
03 Apr 2018, 12:46
I think Natalie found herself in a reversal of roles where she was protecting her mother who should have protected her, but was unable to. I have friends who have experienced it, but it was not in an abusive environment. They had to take up parenting roles because of illness leading to situations where the adult had diminished responsibility. It is a huge daunting challenge that children are often not prepared for.
agreed. It definitely forces them to mature early and even sacrifice like a parent when it should be the other way around.

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Post by stacie k » 12 Apr 2018, 15:23

Natalie's protection of her mother was a reversal of roles. Her mother had a weakness where she continued to believe that Alex would change when he showed remorse and sorrow. He would change, for a period of time, but always fell prey to the alcoholism when things got tough. Irma vacillated between weak and submissive to strong and ferocious and back again. Her strength never endured long enough to make a change. Therefore, Natalie was put in a position of being the protector and had to grow up too quickly. Unfortunately, I do believe this continues to happen today. Alcoholism and drug abuse continue to steal the harmony from families and force children to suffer abuse and to take on responsibilities they should not have to bear.
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Post by slori0488 » 12 Apr 2018, 21:35

CambaReviewer wrote:
03 Apr 2018, 12:46
I think Natalie found herself in a reversal of roles where she was protecting her mother who should have protected her, but was unable to. I have friends who have experienced it, but it was not in an abusive environment. They had to take up parenting roles because of illness leading to situations where the adult had diminished responsibility. It is a huge daunting challenge that children are often not prepared for.
I agree that this reversal of roles does happen frequently in homes where abuse happens. It's unfortunate and extremely difficult on the child, but it doesn't always happen by choice. I was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic for eight years. My daughter suffered and often times was looking out for me. She wasn't paying bills or things like that, but she was worrying about me and looking for ways out etc. I had been beaten down so much. I had no money of my own. No job because I wasn't allowed to go anywhere alone. I depended on that abusive alcoholic for literally everything. I had no friends, no family, no one. I found someone to take my daughter so she was safe. I wasn't in the right mind to care for her. I had to find my own way out. I finally did. I suffer from PTSD and my depression and anxiety are still an issue, but I got out and am stronger in a lot of ways. Like Natalie I found a creative outlet but through writing. Unless you've been in an abusive situation, you can't understand why someone stays.

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Post by P0tt3ry » 13 Apr 2018, 00:56

Natalie does take on the role of protector and caregiver when her mother, Irma, needs it. However, as her mother recovers from the accidental death of a child, she steps back into the role of protector for Natalie. Irma never stops keeping the house and providing for the family. Natalie does pitch in financially and physically. As I read the story, I was reminded that it took place more then 30 years ago so I had to view the events in their historic context. In poor and lower middle-class families, older children often worked and contributed. The older children also helped care for the younger children. Women did not divorce often and abuse was more prevalent. So there was some role reversal, in my mind, but also a lot of what was normal family "sharing the load" behavior.

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Post by CambaReviewer » 13 Apr 2018, 04:03

Awesome, insightful comments everyone! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

I think it is good domestic abuse is being talked about more nowadays. Hopefully, young people affected by witnessing these abuses can find the help and support they need.

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Post by Dolor » 13 Apr 2018, 06:25

CambaReviewer wrote:
03 Apr 2018, 12:46
I think Natalie found herself in a reversal of roles where she was protecting her mother who should have protected her, but was unable to. I have friends who have experienced it, but it was not in an abusive environment. They had to take up parenting roles because of illness leading to situations where the adult had diminished responsibility. It is a huge daunting challenge that children are often not prepared for.
In my own experience, me and my mother took turns in protecting each other and my younger siblings. I'm glad my father had changed from being a vicious father into a caring grandfather. Those incidents had left a traumatic effect in me.

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Post by Emmanae » 13 Apr 2018, 09:25

lesler wrote:
04 Apr 2018, 08:56
Agreed. Natalie had to be an adult when she should have been a child, and that will affect her hypothetical relationships for the rest of her life.
Yes, this. I had to do as much as an adult from the time I was 8. Defending my older sisters (and our pets) from our abuser was part of it. Now my mom comes to me complaining about how her husband is ‘all of a sudden’ nasty to her. No duh, we told you what was happening for EIGHTEEN years, of course he’s turned on you now, we’re gone and won’t take his sh*t anymore. Sorry this took a personal turn! 😣

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Post by 6912dirtyfeet » 15 Apr 2018, 03:30

When the child has to become the parent, a protective shield comes out. Even if Natalies mom could not help her, Natalie without hesitation took on the caregiver role for her mother and siblings. When the roles in a family end up being reversed the child has to put any feelings of fear aside and care for the parent jut as that parent would do for their child. It automatically makes the child become an adult. It happens more and more every day. Not only with parents but sometimes grandparents. Nothing hurts worse or makes you feel less than human than when a child tells about the abuse to an adult and the child is accused of lying or just seeking attention. That sends the message to anyone being abused that no one will believe them when and if they do decide to tell. Bottling that kind of trauma up can have damaging results in ones future.

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 15 Apr 2018, 16:27

As an adoptive parent, we had to really understand the psychology of trauma. Children in abusive or even traumatic situations frequently make attempts to protect younger siblings or parents if the parent is viewed as weak. Often the child internalizes the conflict or abuse, believing that they are somehow responsible. If removed from the abusive situation and placed in a safe placement, the child or children often still continue to try to protect the perceived weaker person.

The fact that these roles become reversed in the story is completely realistic. I’ve even seen it to some degree in my own kids, and they had very little history of abuse.

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Post by Chill01 » 15 Apr 2018, 17:04

I agree that Natalie assumed a caregiver role of her mother. I think the scene at the start of the book when she came out against her stepfather when he was abusing her mother causing him to stop, led to her taking on that role. She felt empowered by this which is what made her grow into the role.

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Post by cpru68 » 15 Apr 2018, 17:31

I found myself so frustrated with Natalie’s mom! Especially the scene where she is helping Natalie clean up after a truly horrible beating by her step father. I think a child will always rush to see the best in his or her parent or parents no matter the situation. Natalie’s mom played the role of enabler to the max, and convincingly so. When children are subjected to the acts of an enabler, they feel sorry for this person who is always making excuses for the abuser. Therefore, Natalie becomes the mother of the house by taking on the responsibility that should never have been enforced upon her. I think this scenario repeats itself in many households to this very day.
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Post by bb587 » 16 Apr 2018, 08:25

Yes, Alex was bad. Yes, Irma was meek. But the way Natalie talks seems typical of a teenager. It's natural to find fault in your parents at the age and natural for you to believe you're better than that. Its the time to exercise your independence.

I'll admit, this particular situation was worse than average, but I don't think Natalie's reaction was atypical.

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Post by RebeccasReading » 16 Apr 2018, 17:49

This is an unfortunate situation that many kids need to deal with. Whether it's illness, substance abuse, emotional problems, or abuse--it's not uncommon for the parent to be unable to play the role of the adult. I think it's probably less frequent of an occurrence these days,since society has so many social services for children in need.

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Post by DustinPBrown » 17 Apr 2018, 06:08

CambaReviewer wrote:
03 Apr 2018, 12:46
I think Natalie found herself in a reversal of roles where she was protecting her mother who should have protected her, but was unable to. I have friends who have experienced it, but it was not in an abusive environment. They had to take up parenting roles because of illness leading to situations where the adult had diminished responsibility. It is a huge daunting challenge that children are often not prepared for.
I know someone who is more of a parent to his mother than she is to him. She behaves like a child a lot of the time, and he has to be firm with her. It's super sucky when people have to do that. Everyone deserves someone they can rely on, and that person is usually at least one parent. If you can't count on a parent, then it's much harder to find someone you can.

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Post by CambaReviewer » 17 Apr 2018, 12:20

Thanks, everyone for your comments and sharing of personal experiences. It helps to let out the hurt even if the situation has changed and things are much better. Kudos to all the children who had to rise to the occasion and become caregivers! It is a huge responsibility for young people.

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