This picture tells part of my story.
I didn't have an easy childhood (from an emotional and psychological perspective). Even though the things I've lived may have been common for that time, it was not by any means traditional, and it was certainly very hard for me to go through. And that led me to adopt with my first child a lot of the behaviors I was inflicted on by my mom. While I was concerned with protecting her from many of the situations that I was put through, I was repeating others that I would’ve never consciously chosen for her.
But I did. Unadvisedly. Unwillingly. And there isn't a day in my life when I don’t regret it.
Don't get me wrong: studies show that the matching of personalities between mother and child is a factor in their interaction and future success for their relationship. But as an adult, I had to know better. I didn't, but I should have.
It was only through therapy that I could slowly see how I was blindly repeating behaviors that I despised. Through the analysis of my history and the history of the women in my life (my mom and grandma), I noticed an intergenerational pattern of behavior that did nothing but to assume the child as an evil being whose behavior had to be corrected as firmly and strongly as possible.
Yes, I know that for many decades that was the prevailing belief all around the world, which is why our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were - most of the time - raised with "tough love" and a strong hand (most times, with a lot more than just a hand). But that never felt right to me. I remember a lot of the strong feelings that I had as a child, of feeling misunderstood in my love and desire for attention, of being misinterpreted in my intentions... Don't you? If that was how I felt, how could I assert that my child was not feeling the same way?
When I made all these connections I decided to break the cycle. Yes, it had been like that with my mom and my grandmother, but it didn't have to continue to be like that. I decided then that I would look at my child - and all children - through the eyes of the child that I once was, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that they come from a good place. Inflicting pain, hurt and the betrayal of our family's children was going to stop at me.
Unfortunately, despite of my good intentions, that was (once again) a mistake. Because by assuming that every child needs what I used to need I was not seeing my child. I was trying to heal myself and my own childhood through her, which was obviously a mistake. Everybody wants to be seen, and so did my then 11 year old daughter. Of course she rebelled. As smart as she is, she understood that at an unconscious level and basically behaved as if she was telling me to f* off.
A little while after that I noticed that mistake and worked to correct it. Actually, since she was 11 I have been working to correct my well-intentioned wrongdoings. I have always wondered and worried if it’d be truly possible to rescue our story and do something else, if I’d be able to delete from her mind and heart all those times that I was not good enough for her. of my well-intentioned wrongdoings. I didn't know if that would be possible, but I decided that it was worth the fight.
So, I did fight. And maybe I still am fighting.
And even though I like to think that I somehow succeeded, she still carries a lot of resentment towards me, for the mother that I was not equipped to be. With reason!
While I have to accept that that hurt, and resentment may never go away, there’s nothing left for me than to spend my life trying to wash her with all the love she may not have felt in her early years.
If you ever see yourself in a situation of indescribable anger towards your child’s misbehavior, try to look back and ask yourself who are you really angry with.
When your parents were aggressive and punitive towards you they were probably dealing with past issues. And that was not your fault. But your awareness of that is crucial to empower you to stop the cycle. You can be for your kids what you wish your parents had been to you. Or you can look at them hard enough to see what they need as their own beings.
No, what your parents did was NOT to bring you up with ethics and values. The way they raised did not make you a better human being. Spanking, neglect and (emotional, physical or psychological) abuse will never bring up the best in people.
There are other ways to teach your children values without making them feel unworthy, unloved, unseen, disrespected and humiliated.
If you are interested in learning more, let's talk. I can help you heal your own wounds so that you can stop unintentionally hurting others. It may be a lengthy process but it is very worthy it.