A Parent’s Dysaffirmation
Woe is the parent who parents like their parent. Unfortunately, that’s all we know really. At a certain age, we decide ‘I will never do to my kids what my parents did to me,’ and yet sometimes we can’t help it. Like romantic relationships, we model ourselves after our parents even if it’s trying to be their antithesis.
Lee says: I don’t know what amazes me more; a parent who wants to be exactly like their mom and dad because they did such an incredible job or a parent who believes her parentage was the anti-instruction booklet to child rearing. Regardless of your stance, or even if you hover in the middle, unless you work on your issues with your parents (yes you do have them) your children are doomed to repeat some of your pains.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and it was fabulous. I woke up to a yummy cup of coffee and my three kids gave me each a flower and cards. I found out later that the flower and card idea belonged to my middle child, Bobby, who had been planning this for 9 days. I am a middle child as well and if you read our bio, you will find that Booby was born the day before my birthday; a mere week before Christmas. Regardless of your stance on God or fate, these coincidences are kind of amazing. You see, Bobby is a planner, like me. He keeps the family together and works at creating situations where we can enjoy each other. He likes to help out and is really affectionate.
My middle child, screwed by Christmas and busily keeping the family together way-of-being has magically manifested itself to my son. I lie. There is nothing magical about it. It’s simple transference. It’s tall glass of cold nature with a shot of nurture on the side. My issues are mirrored in my kid. It’s my own personal cautionary tale that I can see acted out in vivo. So when Mommy says ‘Just wait till you have your own kids…’ she knew she was seeing her life issues playing out before her very eyes.
Our parents wish us kids as a punishment and then lavish those kids with love and gifts for doing a good job. We expect our kids to fulfill something in us and get bitterly disappointed since they only mirror us. ‘I will have children to fill my emptiness and then blame them because I have no free time’ is a dysaffirmation I see played out over and over again. God forbid we resent our kids. The guilt of the resentment cripples us and we become substandard parents because of it; somehow believing that these kids can sense our resentment and compensating for it with permissiveness and mushy boundaries.
There is no hocus pocus to this people. The Hindus talk of karma or you can call it physics. Negative action will create a negative reaction. A warped childhood will beget another one. This is why we are all warped. Every parent has made a mistake. They do the best they can do with what they have. If their tool box is filled with memories of love, nurturing, laughter, play and happiness, they will parent with those. Since most of us were parented with a mixed bag of fear, lack of boundaries, lack of respect, parents a little too wrapped up in their own lives or smotherers, our kids will suffer our lack of resources.
What’s the answer? How do we stop the cycle of crappy parenting? Work on yourself. Deal with your issues. Trust me when I tell you that you are not alone and there are millions of other people with the same problem. You can’t heal your wounds through parenting your kids. Trying to deal with this on your own is exactly what your parents did and look how well they turned out.
Paul says: My parents used threats and intimidation. After a lot of psychological work on myself, I realized that that was not the way I wanted to parent. Now I use duct tape.