We all know children do not come with instructions and that we receive no prior “training” in order to become a parent yet for any other job or activity we undertake there is a period of learning before we are deemed “qualified”. It is very much a learn as you go experience and no-one can really tell you how to do what ultimately becomes the biggest task in your life, nurturing, being responsible for, guiding and teaching another person to an age and a stage where they can and do look after themselves totally and are totally responsible for themselves and their lives.
In times gone past a tribe would be involved in the upbringing of the young ones, then we moved to large family units being involved in their raising but more and more over time we have moved to the reality of just one or perhaps two people taking on this mammoth task of raising young folk and for many who are in pursuit of obtaining adequate housing and lifestyle that is in keeping with the “societal” standard more and more parents are working full time, mostly to pay off debt they incur to live the societal lifestyle standard, whilst leaving their child in another’s care who they do not really know but who has apparently received adequate training in caring for children.
It has me a bit baffled that in order to leave a child in another’s care in day care centres those others have to undergo a lot of training, cannot turn up to work drunk, cannot be abusive emotionally, mentally, physically or sexually, and yet we parents undergo absolutely no such training, nor do we have to meet such criteria. Our training is usually on the job, in the moment learning.
For others such as single parents it is also often the case that they simply must work in order to keep a roof over their and their children’s heads, clothes on everyone’s back, pay the bills and have food on the table.
It’s a huge task being a parent, often tiring and often stressful as we juggle work and family commitments all the time just winging it as we go. We all do the best we can with the awareness we have at any given time and really cannot expect much more than that from ourselves, given our lack of preparedness and training for the job.
Many children, like myself, grew up in environments where alcohol abuse, used as a medicine for coping with whatever stresses were being experienced, was common. We also grew up in an era where copping a flogging was the norm, being told not to behave in certain ways when we got angry, thereby squashing down our emotions or were projected onto by unresolved issues our parents had etc., and today much of what we grew up with would be considered child abuse.
Many of us grew up with wounds being inflicted upon us by our parents behaviour and lack of self-awareness, lack of ability to cope and in dysfunctional families, and many children still are growing up in similar environments being yelled at, put down, living with alcohol or drug addicted or abusive adults, being treated in ways that no doubt are creating wounds for them and forming patterns of behaviour which their parents are handing down to them, just as those who came before them have unconsciously done.
For myself the most mammoth task of parenting came when I would say or do things and think oohh my goodness that is not me, not really, that is my mother. My first born was a catalyst for me to become aware of and heal many wounds that had been inflicted on me as a child and for that I will always be ever so grateful to her. In the process though there were wounds unconsciously inflicted on her by me as I juggled full time work, often getting up at 3.30am and not getting back to bed until 9 – 10 o’clock at night. I was not in a position for several years where I could just not work, it was a necessity to our survival and yes it was exhausting. The only support available to me at the time was that provided by the day care centre she attended and some assistance from my own grandparents. For myself I have been working full time 90% of the time since I was a young teenager.
I was not the type of mother who would leave my child and later children on their own and go out clubbing or pubbing. I did not bring an endless stream of men home nor did I drink alcohol or wipe myself out on drugs. My child/children have always lived in nice, clean, lovely homes, always been well dressed, never gone without a meal or anything they have really needed. Luxuries have never really existed and there are many things I would have liked to have done for them or with them but just had no money or time to do those but yes good budget management has no doubt been learned along with many other necessary skills. There has been the odd holiday here or there locally but for the most part the past 25 years of my life, being an 80% of the time solo parent, has been devoted to raising two children whilst doing all that needs doing at home as well as working mostly full time with just the odd break to that here and there. Was I a perfect mother, far from it and I never will be.
I spent 10 years in and out of depression and on a mammoth journey to rid myself of all that was no longer serving me or making me happy, whilst going through what is known as a Spiritual Crisis. I worked solidly on healing the wounds which had been inflicted on me by my parents – abandonment, abuse, alcoholism and essentially I did the very best I could do given my situation and my need to be responsible for myself and my child/children, just as my parents had done before me. It wasn’t until I stopped focussing on the self indulgent hard done by mentality and started digging into my parents stories that I uncovered the why of how they had behaved towards me. I came to realise, with age, that no matter what a parent does for a child, teaches a child to do for themselves, no childhood is EVER going to be perfectly how we as children would like it to be.
I am 50 now, still raising one child on my own and I have two grand-daughters. For the past two years since a work contract ended I have been working my butt off, often up to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week to study so I have the mainstream qualifications necessary to tie up in a neat bow that which I love to do whilst also establishing a business out of what I love to do, not just doing any longer what I have felt I have needed to do to survive since I walked out of home at 14. My whole parental life has been a situation of my children are part of my life but they are not my whole entire life as I saw ever so many women whilst I was growing up who made their children their entire life and then once the children had left the nest, as children rightly do, they were lost and had no sense of identity other than being someone’s Mum.
One of the greatest gifts given to me on this journey was seeing how patterns of behaviour have been passed down through the generations and how at some point in every child’s life it is a totally necessary part of growing up and taking responsibility for themselves that they do whatever is needed to also heal the wounds their parents unconsciously inflicted on them and learn to totally stand on their own two feet. That they cease to blame or accuse their parent/s for whatever they feel or think the parent has or hasn’t done which is not to their liking.
It is said children choose us, we do not choose them and from my experiences with my children that was very much the situation. Children come through us, they do not belong to us. We give them the gift of life out of love, what they ultimately do with that life is entirely up to them but there must come a point in all our lives where we stop attacking, blaming and getting our knickers in a twist because our parents didn’t or don’t do what we believe as children or even as adults they “should” do now or should have done way back when, or what we expect them to do. We all at some stage reach the point where we simply have to start parenting ourselves. When we love others, truly love them, we have no expectations of them. We don’t chuck hissy fits at them, nor do we ignore them or be rude to them simply because they are not doing what we think they should be doing or what we want them to do.
Many children these days seem to expect that their parents, after they have raised them and they have children of their own should be there to constantly offer support and guidance and to look after grand-children whilst they go off and do whatever. Guess what kiddies, many of us grandparents are tired having raised our own families and whilst many of us dearly love our grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them, we have reached an age where we also enjoy our quiet time, when we can get it.
We don’t have the energy we once had nor do we much have the tolerance for noise we used to have. Life moves, finally, at a bit of a slower pace for us and we have learnt the hard way that having expectations of anyone is just a recipe for heartache and disappointment. We can no longer be bothered engaging ourselves in the dramas of youth either with your relationship issues and we live very much in the moment of now for we know there truly is no guarantee of tomorrow for any of us. We’ve learnt that whilst having goals is essential if we are to create and achieve what we would like to experience in life, it is futile making set in cement plans. Plans rarely ever turn out how we plan and so we move more easily in the flow of life rather than constantly battling with that flow. Our emotional life has become much more stable, we don’t suffer the highs and lows that we did like a pendulum at full pelt swinging from one extreme to another at a younger age and if things pan out according to skeletal plans made they do, if they don’t we don’t get in a fluster about any of it much anymore.
We all come here to learn and grow, not to have everyone do what we think they should do. We come here to experience ever so much and we cannot ever expect that one person is going to be able to give us all we need. As I have always said to my two – you have one father and mother but if you are really lucky you will meet many who will fulfil the gaps in those roles because neither I nor your father will EVER be able to give you all you need or want.
So regardless of our ages if we haven’t yet healed our parental wounds we are still acting out of them with barriers and defence mechanisms and having re-actions rather than responses towards our parents and also towards others. We all have them, there is no escaping them but ultimately at the end of the day it is OUR responsibility to heal them, not our parent’s responsibility to do that for us, nor can we blame them for what we think or feel, nor the lessons we have chosen to come here and learn which they have so beautifully provided for us to learn by giving us the ultimate gift, the gift of life.
Copyright C. O’Connor 2014.
Image sourced from Pixabay.
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