I'm just going to lay it all out today. I am both the world's best and world's worst mom and though I have always believed this, it has been this past year with some intense situations with my children that have come from my own need to shed some old wounds and heal that this has become all too apparent. And, full disclosure, I just watched an old Brene Brown Ted Talk and am both energized and sick to my stomach all at once. Yes. It's a normal day at the Croy house.
It seems as if I have spent half of my adult life peeling back the onion of my upbringing and quite honestly, a whole lot of pain. I have read self-help books, been to therapy, meditated, prayed, sat in fire ceremonies, attended lectures, and performed both elaborate and simple moon rituals to assist me in becoming a functioning adult (I still do most of these things). I have cleared more than I ever thought possible and here I am once again with a bunch of crap rising to the surface. It's like childhood is the gift that keeps on giving, but the kind of gift you really want to take back to the store. And, it seems like I've handed at least a little bit (maybe a lot) of that to my children. Way to go mom. By mom I mean me.
Maybe part of the issue is my generation. I'm a Gen X'er and as some really great articles have pointed out, we are a sort of lost generation. The generation of latchkey kids, tv dinners, sitcoms (the ruin of of our generation!), and generally being ignored. I know very few parents my age who are not hoverers or not afraid of our children being out on their own in any way possible. I guess this is what being a helicopter parenting looks like. Most likely it was our own constant navigation of life alone, with little parental guidance (in some of our cases we luckly at least to have some educators keeping us on track), that has urged us to OVER PARENT our children in some way. And, before you argue that you didn't grow up that way, I get it, some of us had parents a little more in tune and a little more hands on and if that was your experience, great. For many of us, for many of our friends, we had parents who loved us and met our basic needs, but really, the 70's and 80's were a time when our parents were either attempting to recover from their own issues or were really just interested in their own fulfillment or just had no clue, which left little time for us. Now that this little explanation is out of the way....
My husband and I have 2 children. They are vastly different, have different needs and came to us in different ways. We have attempted to parent them in the same way, but it has been obvious to us they needed really different things. Despite that knowledge, we (I) tried to put our daughter onto our son's path in some ways, desperate to give her the same experiences as him and it has come with disastrous results, largely due to what I can only say was a gross mistake on our part about the private school she attended. While I won't go into all of those details here, I will share with you that we have spent the last 18 months attempting to overcome that mistake and in the process of protecting our daughter, inadvertently lowered the bar and most likely sabotaged her success. As I have come to that realization, I have seen that this is most likely a trend among my generation and needs to be course corrected as soon as possible!
After the issues arose at my daughter's school that set us down what I can only say was a very ugly path for many months, I joined an online parenting community that largely serves families of children who come from trauma - many who are also adopted. Later in the year I was added by a friend to another online parenting community for families whose children are headed off to or are already in college. Whew, what an eye opener. Let me say I am not coming from a place of judgement. We are all just doing the best we can. It's very important that this is acknowledged. But, in the last 2 weeks I realized that like many parents in these online groups, my response to the challenges we have faced with our children the last year and a half have resulted in my taking the bar and lowering it considerably for our daughter and a little for our son. I lowered it in an effort to protect them and myself instead of raising it or at least keeping it steady to support them in overcoming challenges they are facing. I can tell you after being in those two groups that I am not alone in this detrimental style of parenting.
As I delved into the FB group I was referring to that supports parents in their implementation of The Connected Child book by Karen Purvis, I saw this play out over and over again in scenarios that parents posted. I had joined the group at the urging of a friend and will say that as far the work that Karen Purvis does, it was great. It helped me in honing my language my children and approach them from a place of connection before I stepped in with resolution or criticism (working on that one) or whatever would have come from me. But, I saw over and over and over again the confusion between connecting with our children and lowering the bar or moving them into places of entitlement or even worse, living in their wounds, which we simply need to stop. This is a FB group with over 20K members. If this group, who is actively working on better parenting or supporting their children, how many are out there doing the same thing and not even aware of it?
Last week really brought a lot of my behaviors as a mom into focus for me. My daughter was struggling. My husband was struggling. My son has his own struggles and I was struggling. This wasn't an overnight thing. This was months of trying to navigate some difficult things and bring healing to that situation. Then, over a few days an idea kept coming in front of me that originally came from my hubby. Not that it was his original thought, just an awareness he has put in front of me a few times. Then, as I was on a tour of a local high school an idea that the CEO/Head of School brought to me and then it came up again and again. When we raise the bar for our children (or ourselves) we tend to meet it. It's really fairly simple.
Actually, it was two weeks ago and my daughter began asking me how this person became famous or this person achieved athletic greatness. Then she read her first real autobiography, a memoir as she called it. It was by Anna Kendrick, whom she adores. "Mom, how did Anna Kendrick get to where she is?" My response, "Well, you read the book, YOU tell ME." She had read the book, but something eluded her. The idea of perserverence and reaching high. This was the little light shining through the pinholes in my thick parenting skull in regards to my sweet little one whom I've tried so desperately to protect. Then my hubby talked about it. Then it was mentioned in the school tour. And then, the shattering happened.
“Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.” –Lady Bird Johnson
Moms, dads, grandparents, whomever is raising kids, set the bar high. Do it now, today. That doesn't mean 100 activities or demanding all A grades, but it COULD meant those things for YOUR child. Set it high by setting boundaries and limits and setting expectations. Sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes you have to turn off the phone or take the keys or ...... It can be hard and scary and you are so afraid that you will harm them or make them feel unloved. But, the truth is, they want the boundaries and the limits and the knowledge that you are there protecting them in the right way and that you are also giving them the space to reach higher for themseslves and for their future selves. It sucks, but sometimes we have to be the bad guy.
As I wrapped up this blog post I took a few minutes away from this to check email and get my FB page ready to post and saw a friend of mine had posted a link to a parenting article. I took the bait and opened it and read it. It was so in alignment to what I am writing today and knew the Universe had a hand in my words. Though the writer comes from a different perspective, she hit the nail on the head and you can read it for yourself here. I also opened my inbox and found this blog post from Grown and Flown and it was apt for today.
Tonight I'm meeting up with a group of moms who are coming together to discuss their parenting struggles. Some I know, some I do not. What I do know is that I am getting to visit a Turkish restaurant in town I've always wanted to visit and that each of us, regardless of where we are in our parenting journey, want the best for our children and need some time away to be in communion with other moms. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others who are walking this path in times unlike any we have seen in written history. Our world is changing and we are having to adapt just as our children are having to adapt.
Just remember. Set the bar high, experience your wounds, acknowldge them, heal them, then move on and teach your children to do the same. They will be the better for it.
Peace and love,