Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Surely the one thing most parents have in common, regardless of race, religion or class, is to ensure the wellbeing of their children. I always felt intuitively I would be a good mother but I can safely say I never expected THEM to teach ME as much as they have. Furthermore, I have come to find the notion that because we are older, that must mean we are in some way superior, quite naive.
Is there an equation to a happy family? A sum that equals good parenting? Nowadays there seems to be an algorithm or acronym for almost everything... If there was some magical mathematical sum to steer us into the right direction, what might that look like? What makes a well rounded child? What creates a loving two way relationship? What qualities would you wish your child to have in the future? And how would you plan to ensure that happens?
One minute your baby is teeny tiny fragile, and the next minute you're making old person noises when picking them up... suddenly they’re putting full sentences together… making sarcastic jokes and goodness forbid; talking back! What happens when you realise the relationship you thought would turn out so rewarding suddenly starts to disintegrate. Where did that cute baby go..? Suddenly, it all seems a drag.. A chore.. Suddenly it's rushing around being their chauffeur, their stylist, their personal chef, their PA, and thanks to COVID, even their teacher, (home educators aside!) but never really their friend.
You hear it all the time: time flies. So it can be quite a slap in the face when you realise you don't actually have that great relationship with your child that you always thought would be planned. Have you maybe just been going through the motions and suddenly you're in an autopilot situation going “what the hell happened here!?”
It's possible that this amazing parent/child relationship dream has been an abstract vision in your mind all along. When we design a house, look at the work that goes in? We need an architect, a good foundation and a reliable system. When we make a dress, when we cook an intricate dish from scratch, when we start a business… All these things only reach success when our vision goes from abstract to detailed. The same goes for that parent/child relationship. It’s easy to hold a picture perfect vision of it in our heart or head from childhood, but for this relationship to last the longevity most of us desire, bursting with an abundance of love and compassion, we have to start looking at the details of that relationship. What is the work needed for the foundation?
We are told on an airplane to put our oxygen mask on first, then attend to our children. This makes sense for our wellbeing too. Ideally we’d all be totally sane and functional humans when we procreate but that’s not the reality for a lot of people. And that’s ok. What is great however, is when you reach a point in your life, where the love you have for your child, overrides your discomfort for change. Growth is daunting, and scary, and uncomfortable. But what's worse…? What is the alternative…? How do you ensure the ghosts of your past don’t haunt your present? Or worse yet, bubble over into your current relationships! Is your unresolved trauma affecting the relationship you have with your children and other loved ones? The answers are only to be found, when we look within.
No one I have come across so far in my study has put it quite like Dr Shefali, and if you are not familiar with her, I highly recommend you look her up, parent or not. Her views on how we are often raised by parents who themselves were unconscious, make deciphering and accepting some of our childhood trauma a lot easier. Then we can hopefully break the pattern of our parents and stop recreating that same trauma with our own offspring.