The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More on Life's Passages - Parenting

I don't think I have experienced a more joyous or frightening passage than moving into the season of parenting. The responsibility of raising children is not to be taken lightly.

Survivorship definitely has an affect on parenting.

A few years ago, a friend of mine confided that when she was young, she made the conscious choice never to have children. She said that she was positive she would damage her children the same way her parents had damaged her. She wanted to spare her unborn kids that agony. Now that she is past her child-bearing years, she has some sadness, but no regret.

I know another survivor who also decided not to have children. Although she loved kids, she didn't want to take the risk of harming them. After she married and became a caring teacher, many people marveled at her gift for nurturing little ones, and they encouraged her to have kids of her own. Still, her fear of parenting held her back. Ten years passed before she had healed enough to re-evaluate her position. She realized that she didn't have to be her mother. She is now thrilled to be the loving mother of two.

I didn't enter motherhood with as much foresight as these women. Young and newly married, I walked blindly into the decision to become a mother with a burning desire to create a new loving family. I sought to provide all the love and affection that goes with a happy childhood, along with the warmth and closeness that makes family life secure and content.

When I held my first-born daughter in my arms, joy soared through me and sang its very own special song of fulfillment and wonder. I looked at my daughter with awe. The baby was so tiny, so innocent and so vulnerable. Fear gripped me as I tried to fathom the vast responsibility, wise guidance and parental protection it would take to raise a healthy, whole human being.

I knew I had to make a conscious decision to learn a healthy method of parenting. I devoured parenting books, took parenting classes, surrounded myself with people whose parenting skills I respected and admired, and drew off of my earlier memories and experiences with my loving father.

Parenting is a lot of hard work. I tried to balance healthy parental guidance while I continued to navigate my own recovery. My daughters certainly illuminated my childhood losses. Each time I celebrated my children's triumphs, I felt the impact of my abuse and of my mother's emotional absence in my childhood and youth. As I celebrated with my girls all the important events and passages in their lives, I simultaneously experienced joy and sorrow. Joy at their milestones, happy to guide, advise and protect; I brimmed with pride and enthusiasm for them.. Then quietly, I mourned for myself.

Witnessing the mother-daughter relationship in others was especially sad. Watching mothers as they share life's passages - passing on love and wisdom to their daughters. This was never so apparent to me as when I witnessed the closeness of most mothers and daughters, where a mother guides her daughter through pregnancy, and shares the joy of childbirth. I mourned what should have been...what could have been...and was not.

Each day I journey further down the path of recovery, I discovered new ways in which my abuse affected my life, my relationships and my parenting.

Walking the fine line between the conscious choice I made not to be my mother and the less conscious choice not to be her polar opposite, kept me on my toes. After my children reached adulthood, I realized that I had leaned closer to "opposite" from my mother and had become overly involved in my children's lives. Fortunately, they were good about letting me know when I needed to "back off," and I did - for the most part.

What I didn't know as I was raising my children, was that just being the children of an abuse survivor would impact them. Although I watched over my children like a mother hen, my children were negatively affected by visits to my family members prior to our estrangement. The estrangement affected them as well. They witnessed me wrestling with my own childhood wounds. I unintentionally modeled for my children certain behaviors and responses in my adult relationships that resulted from my old wiring and abuse, such as reactions born out of PTSD.

Whenever I discover new ways in which my childhood abuse affects/affected my parenting, I tell my children and make a sincere effort to listen to what they have to say - even now in our adult-adult relationships.

I know I haven't done a perfect job; however, the good far outweighs the bad and I am always open to listening to my children.

Although my longing for a close mother/daughter relationship was never realized with my own mother, it is heartwarming to experience a loving mother/daughter relationship with my own children.

I love my children unconditionally and they know it. I did succeed at breaking the cycle of abuse, and I am happy to be the proud matriarch of a new family legacy.

4 comments:

mountainmama said...

what a wonderful post. thank you. there do seem to be so many fine lines to walk in being a parent, having also been a childhood abuse survivor. this post reflects many aspects from my life, but you make it clear that it's possible to leave old patterns behind and begin a new positive family legacy. this is my deepest hope and drives my work on myself. to be a good parent. to do my best to ensure our daughter lives a new life.

maybe having the lives we had growing up will make us even better parents. for we know all the ways we need not be. perhaps we are more conscious even than those who never tred those paths.

healandforgive said...

perhaps we are more conscious even than those who never tred those paths.Thanks MM,

In many respects I think that is true.

It is wonderful that so many survivors succeed at "breaking they cycle."

Karen said...

I LOVE THIS POST! Thank you again, Nancy! I have two small children, 7 yrs. and 9 yrs. and I am constantly wondering/worrying about how I am affecting them. I know I have broken the cycle to a certain degree but I always wonder about the emotional side of things. You can't see that as well and I know I don't always respond to them the way I should.

This post gives me hope. :)

healandforgive said...

Hope is a good thing.

Your concern for how you are affecting your children speaks volumes!