Parenting is strange and wonderful. Many of us judge our success on how like or unalike we are from our own parents. My father was raised in a home with an alcoholic and abusive father. I heard stories about my grandfather’s anger. He once threw a television out of the window of the apartment in Brooklyn. I was raised in a home sheltered from that kind of anger.
My mother was raised by a mother obsessed with cleanliness and order. She told me my grandmother slapped her once for leaving her undies on the floor.
In my life, I only saw my father really lose his temper twice and each time I watched how it devastated him. I remember him taking his tray table into his hands and slamming it into the floor over and over, food flying everywhere. He had a long day at work and wanted to watch a special show he’d recorded on the VCR. My sister and I ignored his request not to mess with the television and when he pressed play and nothing was recorded, he snapped. He didn’t hit us or even scream at us. He removed himself and went upstairs. After about an hour, I went up to his room to apologize sure he’d still be furious and instead I found him in tears.
I remember the time I dropped the dessert my mother had just made onto the floor just before going to a party. I held my breath and froze in anticipation of the wrath. She looked at me and said. “It’s ok. It’s no big deal.” It wasn’t long after that I stopped coming home from school to see all my draws dumped out onto my bedroom floor. It’s like she just made the decision to stop shaming me into being neat and perfect. She took my father’s advice. “Let Amy be and just close her door.”
I know they tried hard at the parenting thing. I am in awe of them and in many ways, I do try to emulate them.
Of course, my challenge in parenting came as well. When my son was young, I was inundated with unsettling memories from my childhood. For years, I tried to heal myself with my spirituality. Each intuitive and healer helped for a while. But for years I was riding waves of trauma. Adding insult to injury was the fact that my parents were not here to give me any answers or support. I felt like I was drowning.
I finally went to therapy. Why, I asked her, was this coming up for me now in my life. Why, after already having so much loss? Why, when I finally have my son and my happiness? Why is everything falling apart after I’ve tried so valiantly to hold it together for so long? I didn’t like coming undone. I wasn’t weak or a victim. I’m not going to let these things “define” me.
It was obvious that my son’s age was triggering me. But the therapist also touched on something very interesting. My parents deep and unconditional love for me acted as a buffer. Their love was the salve to anything that might have been painful to me when I was young.
My biggest obstacle was understanding that my experiences were NOT my sons. But I didn’t know how to get out of the traumatic loop. My worry was obsessive and my fear felt more like terror inside my body.
Finally, the day came when I had it all sorted out. Right!? What I didn’t expect was that it’s a bit more complicated. My emotional responses are part of the complex web of experiences that make up my human journey. So, I was still riding a wave (less often) and when vulnerability would rise up, I would feel triggered and I would react and then I would feel ashamed. I would cry and stomp my feet and not understand why I couldn’t get over it. Now I know it was because the most beautiful gifts were yet to come. No one outside myself was going to cure me or heal me. I could only give that to myself. I realized that much like I viewed my grief when I lost my parents, I looked at my fear and worry with disdain. As non- spiritual. As a sign of weakness.
I’ve read that love is the opposite of fear. If you are a parent, you know this simply cannot be true. Much like grief, fear and worry have been so big and overwhelming to me because they are in proportion to how much I love. The awakening for me came when I finally stopped beating myself up. Beating myself up is what is antithetical to healthy spirituality. Until I realized this, I was only ever going to experience surface peace.
I now know how to better sit with my discomfort as it happens and just breathe. I tell myself that I am a complex human being with complex experiences and my emotions are exactly as they should be at this moment. And that is my jumping off point for any of the shifts that happen.
The truth is, I am all about the law of attraction. I’ve gotten through most of my life believing that things just work out for me. Until, of course they didn’t! I still believe in the law of attraction and how our thoughts can manifest our reality. I believe we co-create our experience. I believe we decide upon our path, challenges and all, before we arrive here. I believe we make sacred contracts. I really do wake up every morning and tell myself that I am filled with well being, joy and prosperity. I meditate 15 minutes a day and put myself into the receptive state to receive exactly what is meant for me. I believe all of this. I also believe that life happens. It’s messy, cruel and painful. So what gives? I am a walking contradiction! I’ve told myself it’s a Libra thing. And in a way, it is. It’s my gift that was written in the stars especially for me. I have this need to balance both of these truths and I now find myself more at home between heaven and earth. It is here that compassion flows into my life.
So this was a long and windy path back to parenting. Once I figured out how to embrace my very personal truth, I then had an honest and balanced way to parent my son. I can balance my fear about life being unsafe with my belief that we are also extremely powerful and resilient spiritual beings. I know he is on his own path. I will do as my parents did; try my best to empower and love him. I will keep trying to do better to honor his spirit and his journey; so beautiful and unique and different from my own.