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*warning: f-bombs dropped below!
We didn’t totally fuck up our children.
Take a deep breath.
We’re going to get into some parenting realness here.
I am a pretty patient parent these days, but that was not always the case. I struggled with patience and healthy expression of anger when my son and daughter were especially young—ages that I know are significant in terms of emotional, cognitive, and neurological development.
I know that my overreaction here, my snappiness there, my quick yank here, my frustration, anger, rage, and inconsistency with emotional regulation negatively impacted my children in various ways.
I totally own it. And I own it with them, too.
My kids and I have talked about the times that come up in discussions of memories. We talk about how we are all learning together. We process as a family by especially ensuring our children have a safe space to talk about their feelings. They need to be able to tell us—as their parents—how we are making them feel; we need to care about what they’re saying, and we need to really listen.
Because children are wise little beings.
They are closer to God (or insert whatever word means Source/Universe/Omni). Their innocence and purity offer such simple wisdom if we, “better-knowing adults,” would only just listen.
Here’s the thing: we can let ourselves off the hook now.
Just know that there is no perfect parent. There’s no such thing! We just can’t do it. It cannot be done. So let that ship sail, my friend. Let it go.
There. Feel better? I’m with you.
We just are not going to do it perfectly. Therefore, what does that mean? It means we are inevitably going to do something to fuck up our child in some way. I know it’s not our intention. I get it. I know the feeling. But here’s the good news. It’s fine. No, really. That’s it. It’s fine.
If you’ve gotten this far, just the fact that you care enough to look at yourself and consider the ways your behavior might negatively affect your child is commendable. Cultivating self-awareness is essential to developing emotional intelligence and learning how to regulate emotions, especially during times of heightened stress and turmoil.
Children need to experience adversity so they can overcome it and develop resilience, courage, and learn through contrast. Basically, when we fuck up (and we’re going to!), our kids need to see how we fix it. They need to see and experience repair.
There have been numerous times when I’ve felt like a terrible parent, and if that resonates with you too, please, know it’s not too late to become someone you can feel proud of. I dare say it’s never too late to turn it around. But it has to come from within.
This looks like self-accountability, willingness to change patterns, and choosing to stop perpetuating trauma cycles.
We, as parents or caregivers, must be willing to own our part and see how our behaviors, our reactions, our overreactions, our lack of presence, lack of consistency, shaming, our projections, our insecurities, and our own trauma are going to affect our child.
Even if that child is now an adult, even if there is no relationship at all, by acknowledging these truths within ourselves, we keep the wheel in motion. It sends out a ripple, and it opens this space between us and that person—a space for both to grow and fill in different ways. Even if that space is being filled with more space right now, the quality of that space shifts when we do this work.
Space offers time and opportunity for reflection. It’s not something to be feared, but something to embrace. It’s a gift.
I also give my kids room to make mistakes.
They’re going to fuck up, too. I remember that I was once a child who did the same things, maybe worse! I’m sure you can remember a few things you did that were stupid, irresponsible, hurtful, and so on. How do you wish your parent(s) had shown up for you when you messed up?
How do you show up for yourself when you perceive yourself as making mistakes? I’m a work in progress in this area. I tend to be extremely hard on myself. Parenting our inner child is just as important as parenting our actual children.
All of this inner work can be done in tandem with learning to parent children, so it’s okay to be a work in progress! I don’t think any of us has it all figured out. So let’s forgive ourselves, and let’s not lose sight of who we want to be. For me, I wanted to be calmer, more patient, more in control of my emotions, and I wanted my children to feel safe in my care.
Sometimes, it takes time to allow for new information to be integrated and put into practice. We can’t expect things to change overnight. And sometimes there will be setbacks. It’s inevitable. I try to give myself grace and give my kids some grace too.
This is what it means to be human. We are social, interactive, connective creatures. We learn through self-exploration and interaction with our environment and engaging with each other.
Our kids are going to have their challenges. The best we can do is show them how to navigate hard things by doing that ourselves. Support them, talk to them, let them talk to us, listen and value their input.
>> How can we make this situation better?
>> What do you need from me? Here’s what I feel I need from you.
>> How can we hold each other accountable without hurting each other?
We can stop the cycle. It’s not too late. Especially if your children are still young.
There’s still time. And time is too precious a thing to waste feeling like shit, feeling guilty, and punishing yourself because you’re not living up to the parent you want to be.