Look at these stinkers...aren't they precious?!
This picture of my youngest two kids was taken on Independence Day, 2008 right about the time my parenting got seriously called into question by...me.
It started innocently enough, the radio station in our minivan was playing the top pop songs when, for some reason, I really began to tune in to the lyrics. Oh wait a minute, I know why...it was because Mia began to sing along with a Rihanna tune word-for-word making my ears perk up to know, brand new to age four, she was talking about the smell of sex (of course totally oblivious to what the song really meant). The moment gave me great pause because I realized whether she understood the lyrics in that moment or not, she was internalizing the message.
I know I was sensitive to this possibility because, on the opposite end of my parenting spectrum at the time, was my eldest son struggling through addiction. And, while I wasted little time on why he was enmeshed in this disease, and certainly no time on "why me", the situation was alarming enough to my heart and mind to really question what I was bringing, in terms of the outside world and my own attitude and energy, into my impressionable children's lives.
What I have found in the years since I began looking at my parenting is that we are all quite susceptible to the way we were raised and how, for many of us, our inner child was silenced and stifled from becoming who we were meant to be...as a matter of fact, many of us spend our adult years trying to figure out who we really are and what truly matters on our life journey ("finding oneself") mainly because our role models, teachers, coaches and others found ways to tell us who we were, what we could like, how to behave when we were young.
The second avenue of lasting impression on us can be seen in the daily messages we receive and internalize. We live in a culture that, in large part, continuously, blatantly and indirectly, emphasizes money, physical beauty, competition, and external achievement in the name of perseverance at all costs, dedication no matter what, and loyalty to being committed...unless it's a lifetime.
Rather than teaching us empathy, compassion, tolerance, diversity, self-acceptance and inner beauty.
And it's really easy as a parent to look the other way (or play deaf) to popular song lyrics or questionable movies or television shows. In the name of what? Not wanting to cause waves, to look "uncool", or because of a desire to stay on your child's "good" side.
The thing of it is, we don't even realize how deeply our upbringing affects us until we have young children of our own and we begin to catch ourselves saying things like, "I'm turning into my mother." Or, "My dad said there'd be payback one day." Aspects of our early years, such as how our parents related to one another, what roles each played in the everyday family atmosphere we were surrounded in, and how they handled stressful situations all write directly on who we become and how we deal with life.
I see so clearly at times the unfinished business I carry from my family of origin being played out in my marriage, in my relationships with my kids, and even in choosing to confront a neighbor or friend about a conflict I have with them.
I replaced my dad with my husband to the tune of for years not being able to exercise my voice for fear of not being heard, or being misunderstood, or worse yet dismissed as not important or less than worthwhile.
Which isn't fair to my husband or my dad...however, it's ME who's had to work hard at finding and regaining my voice, sense of self, and value.
What I learned by osmosis from my wonderful, nurturing mom was that kids and grandkids come before my own needs, voice, desires. While caring for family is incredibly important, sacrificing oneself in the process is, I know, not what my mom had in mind, and surely not what she wanted me to pick up on.
The value in looking back at the feelings surrounding your raising throughout your family of origin allows you to remember and connect how those crucial personality traits and characteristics play out in our lives, especially in our close relationships, today.
When we don't take stock or practice making changes healthier for ourselves and our kids, we are apt to repeat patterns and cycles.
Which is a disservice to the children we called into the world to help us see exactly where we needed to find and grow ourselves.
So, stop blaming your child for their misbehavior and look at why it's triggering your frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. And then begin to work on where YOU need to grow.
Maybe it begins with changing the radio station...