Since I was 12 years old, my mantras have been:
"I'm never going to be like my mother! My kids will never have the life I had!"
Those feelings, thoughts and memories have driven my entire almost 15 year parenting journey.
Naturally, no matter how good or bad your parent/s were, you want to give your kids what you never had, the things you felt you missed out on. You want to do better.
What happens when your childhood was deeply laced with trauma the way you parent is based on fear?!
Just ask me. I'm a professional!! (Professional nut case) 😂
Fear, insecurity, self-scrutiny, doubt, judgement, apprehension, with a huge side of uncertainty. Oh yes, did I mention fear?!?!
Parenting naturally comes with those emotions and more.
Trauma, severe dysfunction, neglect and instability in my childhood has caused these emotions to be excessive in my parenting. My judgement is skewed because of it and I don't know what's considered regular. (Normal, regular, standard, no rule book or one way, you get my drift).
Let's say fearful emotions are present 10-15% in regular parenting (total guesstimate coz I have exactly zero idea what's normal). I'd say my fearful emotions present 40-50% of the time. Conscious or unconsciously driving me.
It's like whenever one of my girls are upset, (or whichever flavour emotion/s of the moment) my fears are triggered, then dangled in front of me calling "yoo hoo.... i'm going to get your daughter.... she's going to feel what you felt and she's going to hate you, quick, you better do something to prevent it from happening, you're going to be like you're mother."
I run my fastest 100m sprint in an attempt catch it (I came 1st in school, I'm pretty quick), planning to body tackle and smother it before it has a chance to reach her.
But I'm never quick enough.
So then I work to to reverse the effects, (without knowing if it did in fact, affect her) then reassure her of the things I think she needs (based on what I needed as a child) and reverse what she might feel. You know, so she doesn't feel what I felt when I was a kid and hate me! Then promptly beat myself up for failing to prevent this unseen (potentially non-existent) monster in the first place.
This is a cycle, mixed with everyday life and all the wonderful things it includes. I don't mean to imply it's always tense and full of negative emotions and situations, but I constantly question myself.
My confidence is shot (if it was ever really there.)
As I said, i'm sure a lot of the things I feel are normal parts of the parenting journey, none of us knew what to do when our angels came earth side and have had to learn and adapt as we go. As much as I love, adore and cherish my girls, the truth is, I'm so scared that my approach to life's gifts a lot of the time is fear-based.
I thought that thinking like this was a good thing. Being so conscious of my past and working to avoid the same outcome for my kids. I put pressure on myself to get it right in all the areas my mother got it wrong and justified it as honourably making an effort to intentionally give my girls a good life, for it to be positive, and loving, and stable, and control the outcome.
Oh, how silly of me, control the outcome! With kids! I realised, (some of which while I typed this out) I was trying to mould them into what I wanted them to think, feel, have, so that I could feel better in myself, like I achieved what I had planned all along. (For them to have a happy life, not feel like I did and not hate me.)
You imbecile!! (Me, not you!) It goes like this.
My mother and me VS me and my daughters:
I hated the way my mother treated me (my kids can't ever hate the way I treat them, do everything you can so they don't feel like this.)
I hated the way my mother made me feel (my kids can't ever feel like I upset them. They always need to feel positive towards me, do everything you can so they don't feel like this.)
I hated that my mum never prepared me for life (my kids can't be unprepared, I'll make sure they have the information they need - give them all the information you wished you had; hello overload!)
I hated my mother (My kids can't hate me, ever, I have to do everything in my power so they never hate me, coz if they do, well, that means I'm just like my mother....)
Hate. Fear. Hate. Judgement. Fear. Hate. Insecurity. Fear. Fear. Fear.
It goes on and on. (Even though I don't like the word hate!!)
It can be difficult looking at yourself so closely, uncomfortable at times and I've had some reality checks lately.
Reality checks can be a real B*tch!! But I freaking LOVE them (after the fact)...
There's a bit of a process when reality checks hit (and sometimes it takes time to get through them all):
Event or circumstance
React emotionally (usually negatively, pain, hurt, anger etc.)
Stop and think what's really going on (and what triggered such emotions and reactions)
Talk it out
Figure out how I can use what's happened to learn and grow
I'm now in step #5.
I have learned a few things:
I can't and shouldn't try to control the outcome, what will be, will be.
I've already broken the vicious cycle I was scared my kids would live (except I'm still trapped).
My kids are a lot wiser than I give them credit for, I can learn a lot from them, don't get caught in the adult vs child game. It's not a game of power-play.
They do listen (even when I think they don't and rolls their eyes at you).
My girls just want me to be mum! (not mum who doesn't want to be like my mother.)
That last one is the biggest reality check and wake up call that I cried when my daughter told me (and whenever I think about it) because deep down, I want that too! (I just don't know how.)
I'm trying to right my own mothers wrongs when it's got nothing to do with her and my girls are suffering because of it. What a slap in the face that was to realise!
I've spent so much time and energy trying to be, parent, act, control everything based on my own painful childhood, I've missed the opportunities to find myself as a parent and see my kids for who they truly are, to find our own rhythm of dancing, because of fear!
So my promise to my family is to do and be better. To work on discovering who I am as a mum now. Not based on my past. Not based on my pain.
The little (and not so little) hearts that I have helped shape into incredible young women deserve to be free from the reigns of my own fear. I need to trust in my own ability (and theirs) to do my best, make mistakes, learn, let go and love the process. In many ways, I'm growing up with them.
Children are their own little people and need a safe space to grow confidently into who they are, with positive support and guidance.
They need their spirit to be uplifted and encouraged, not shadowed by the fears of someone scared of their feelings getting hurt based on fear. They need love and acceptance for who they are right now, everyday.
I've got work to do on myself, to change my thoughts and become confident in myself for who I am as a parent. Just me, not based on fear.
My biggest fear, is that my kids grow up to hate me. Ironically, if I continue the way I have, that's more likely to happen because I tried so hard and missed all the things they really needed and were trying to tell me.
I'm slowly learning to accept my kids may hate me from time to time. But it's normal, and totally ok. It means i'm doing my job. It's my job to be the adult and set the boundaries, rules and keep them alive. (Apparently they need feeding constantly?!) 😂
And if my girls scream "I hate you", it's not personal, they still love me.
Parenting based around fear is a recipe for disaster. Not to mention emotionally draining and taxing on everyone.
One of the greatest sayings I've ever heard about parenting:
While we think we hold the power to raise our children, the reality is that our children have the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become.
It's time for me to get some help so I can put these fears to bed, learning how to parent from a place of love for my girls, not letting my fearful emotions drive me. Learning to be who they need me to be, not who I think I should be. I want that too.
Despite knowing where I've been making mistakes, I am proud of myself for doing my best to create a happy, stable and positive life for my girls. They're amazing creatures, and I'm at least confident I haven't got it entirely wrong. There is a lot of things I've done right, and great. They're empathetic, kind-hearted, generous, playful, happy, deeply loved girls.
They just happen to have a mum who had a shitty start in life and has a lot to learn, but is doing her best, (aren't we all!) That means I have to make more of an effort to let go of my shit to create more space to be filled with life from these amazing human beans. (I can't not reference the BFG whenever I want to say human beings.)
Lesson #(lost count) - Don't be so hard on yourself. Life's hard enough as it is, stop beating yourself up. You're doing the best you can.
I'm also not afraid to tell my girls where i'm coming from. It was our open communication which in fact helped me realise some of these greatest lessons, and my hope is that by admitting where I've been looking at things the wrong way, then working to learn and grow from those lessons, they too will understand we are all flawed, we all make mistakes, but through working with our challenges, (not trying to bury them) and pushing through them, we come out stronger the other side.
It is after all between the cracks our light shines through.
My daughters, my greatest teachers! (Maybe that will be the title of my next book!?)
Can you relate?
What are the best things you learned about parenting from your parents or your own journey? Hit reply or leave a comment below and let me know, it could help me (and others) on this wonderfully rewarding (and challenging) journey.