I've read some dreadful stories about terrible things parents have done to their children. My parents never abused us, they never physically hurt us, starved us, or beat us. I think what they did was basically ignore us - the old adage "children should be seen and not heard" was the standard for my upbringing (and preferably not seen too much either!) We were raised to know our place and to keep our heads down and to stay out of trouble.
I have no memory of being told I was loved, or being asked what I'd like to do. I don't think I even knew that children could have a say in anything or make a decision about something that pertained to the family. We just sat in the back seat and went where we were told, when we were told. We stayed out from under foot and didn't back answer, we expected nothing and were not disappointed. My mother once commented, when I asked my children what they wanted in their sandwich, "why are you asking them what they'd like?" She had no concept of children having a voice and learning to make decisions for themselves.
Compliments were never given, affirmation was never heard, there was no understanding that children need to be nurtured and encouraged. Even now in adulthood it is rare to hear anything positive expressed. They just never understood the need to build into their children so we would have an innate sense of who we were and our worthiness and place in the world.
We slept in the back of the car when our parents visited friends for evening get-togethers, we wandered around killing time when our parents went to the car races, we sat on the beach or entertained ourselves when we were taken to our parents' weekender. No family fun times that I can recall and no family memories stored away. My mum made a bit of an effort to attend school and sporting events when it fitted into her schedule, but my dad never did.
My brothers rebelled in their own way in order to get some attention - my middle brother went completely off the rails for most of high school and got into a fair amount of trouble - I think it was his way of asking to be seen. Instead it got him kicked out of home and living in a caravan. We all moved out as soon as we could and made our way in life based on our own merits.
|paraphrased from Steve Maraboli|
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS
My brothers held a lot of resentment towards the selfishness of our parents, and my only response was "remember what it feels like and don't do it to your own children - don't propagate their mistakes." If you repeat the same mistakes and struggles in your own parenting then the problems just pass from generation to generation. The sad part is that my younger brother made a lot of the same mistakes and has no contact with his children now.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN PATH
I read about girls who want to marry men just like their fathers. I chose someone who was the polar opposite to my dad. We raised our children in the church, in the country, surrounded by extended family, and with traditions and laughter, and supported them to the best of our ability. There may not have been a lot of money but there was a lot of love. I'm sure they have plenty of stories to tell about when we didn't always get it right (those always come up at family Christmas gatherings!), but I'd like to think that there are just as many stories about when we parented well.
I look at our two adult children and how grounded and self confident and balanced they are. It warms my heart to see them display qualities naturally that it took me decades to learn on my own. They have a deep seated sense of self and their place in the world - their right to an opinion and a voice. I'd like to think that I learned from the mistakes my parents made and used those lessons to be a better parent. I hope my children think so.