Children are our second chance to have a great parent-child relationship – Laura Schlessinger
I think so many of us who did not have a great relationship to our parents very consciously, almost to the point of deterministically wanting to correct this wrong with our own children. Because we did not have the most ideal family life, and for many of us (like myself) who grew up in negative and depressing households, we want a do-over once we are presented an opportunity to make a family. This is why the quote above struck a chord with me. And I have moments where I ask myself if I am having children to fix what I could not fix with my own parents. I am brutally self-reflective like that and I read a lot of books and listen to plenty of advise (well-meaning ones) to understand why I do the things I do.
When we were pregnant with our triplets, I really disliked it when people assumed our families were going to swoop in and save the day, and help us with the difficult newborn stage. There was no swooping in, there wasn’t even a discussion of a possible swooping in. Instead there were only disparaging remarks, “You can’t possibly be pregnant with triplets. Its just impossible,” from my own mother, who asked me over the next ten weeks if there were still three babies inside me even after I showed her the ultrasound. Its not that she does not know Science. Its more about an unwillingness to ever accept or acknowledge me, my wishes, and what I believe. “Why do you want to waste your life taking care of children,” from my own father. “So many children, what a headache,” he continues to say to anyone who wants to listen. My inner emotionally unfulfilled child of course says, how can parents say such things to their own child and about their own grandchildren. When I was pregnant and possibly hostile, I avoided interacting with my parents at all costs. And it did not help my case when everyone around me, even strangers would say, oh surely one of your families will help. It was more infuriating when close, personal friends would say it because they should know me better.
The above is just an example of a terrible moment. My life has been subjected with similar terrible moments like above. These moments behave in cycles. And anyone else raised in households where their parents do not know how to positively express negative emotions and challenges will understand.
I really hoped for a different dynamic with my girls and its work in progress. And although they are extremely small still, I find myself totally sounding and behaving like my parents when something does not go my way. For example, when Livia refuses to sleep, I use threats to get her to sleep and I used the exact same threats my mother used to use with me. These negative tools that I am so familiar with suddenly become a comfort zone when I am at a loss with my own child. And I am completely aware that I am sound and behaving like my mother, but I just could not stop myself. In that moment, being my mother was the easiest thing to do. When I tell my husband about these challenges he always says its okay, you did know better because that was how you were raised. But I should know and be better. I read, I reflect, I want to do better. This is also why I always tell myself after a particularly bad day: tomorrow is another chance to improve and make things better.
There isn’t a very positive conclusion to this post. I just wanted to share my personal struggle with parenting and wanting to be a more positive parent when there is a lack of positive models from my own upbringing. I have actually come to terms as to why my parents behaved the way they did. I have forgiven them and we still have a relationship today, despite it continually being a frustrating relationship. But I am still figuring out how to raise my daughters in an environment where their grandparents are not exactly the kind of cheerleaders they might see from other families. For starters, I make sure I emotionally connect to each of them everyday from the moment they are born. Even on bad days. With Livia, when we have a difficult patch, which is quite frequent during the terrible twos, we usually hug it out and talk about it. Well I do most of the talking since she is still building vocabulary, but I found out that is a good way for her to learn to express emotions by seeing how its used in context. With the babies, I sing to them, I hold them constantly and I read to them. I think these baby steps in wanting to be a more positive parent will eventually become significant overtime and hopefully, when they become parents themselves, they do not need to do the kind of reverse psychology I have to do with myself constantly because they were raised differently from me.