Does anyone else have this as a parenting goal? I’d love to spare my children some (or all) of the suffering I’ve experienced but that’s impossible to predict. They will also have to move through difficult seasons and learn as they go, but not messing them up, at least on purpose, is really important to me. I know that the (false) sense of control I do have is just an illusion and ultimately it is my job to guide them as best I can.
My four children have a fun age span of 16 years. My oldest son just turned 21 and the youngest fella will be five in two weeks. I also have a 13 (almost 14) year old and my only daughter is 11. Yes, LOTS of life going on over here!
Just this past weekend, I made a trip up to Pennsylvania to assist in moving my oldest son and his girlfriend back down to Florida after a nine-month and 900-mile adventure away from the nest. There is a new level of faith required when your children are no longer easily accessible. Just knowing he’s a few miles away gives me a sense of peace.
I was pondering my parenting journey recently and comparing how I’ve shown up in different seasons.
The mother my oldest had as a young child is a lot different than my youngest and the middle ones, well, it’s been different for them too.
As humans tend to do, I’ve evolved as a person and as a mother. Who I was at the delightfully naive age of 22 and who I am now at the hopefully less naive age of 43, is different. It’s not even something I could comprehend at 22, or even 32. Prior to my first husband’s death in 2013, I did not hold the capacity to understand how much life could change. I moved along with wherever the current was taking me.
Death is funny (not funny) in how it disrupts life. Through death, I was shown how the dysfunction of my childhood had impacted my adulthood. Connecting all those dots is a very long story, so please hang with me while I button up this runaway thought train.
I didn’t know that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I only knew what I knew, which is what was taught to me by people who suffered the same fate. That sounds batty, I know. We all only know what we know and we do the best we can with that information. I love and simultaneously hate knowing this. It extends grace to where we are in whatever stage of life we are in and also inserts the possibility of knowing better so you can do better.
I previously existed in a life that had a ceiling, I got by doing the best I could and never challenged doing better.
“Don’t mess up the kids” was not something I gave much thought to until I was aware of how much my parent’s dysfunction had imprinted on my life.
If you’re like me and grew up in a less-than-optimal family environment, you probably walked away saying, “I am NOT going to be like my mom and dad!” And maybe you’re also like me and have had the honor of realizing that even though you flavored it up differently, you’re a whole lot more like your mom and dad than you would ever care to admit. DANG IT! And now I have the honor of reviewing my parenting and predicting how who I am is affecting my children and the adults they will become.
Please don’t panic, I really do intend on wrapping this up with a little sunshine.
I don’t think it’s possible to NOT impact our children in ways that we would prefer to not. We don’t get to choose how their amazing little brains are going to process their own experiences and create ways for them to show up in life. We do, however, have the opportunity to continually challenge ourselves in how we show up. If we know that there is a ceiling we currently exist under but also know that it’s possible to surpass that, it shows them they can do the same.
I know the mom I was when my oldest was a child is different than the one my little bit has but they both have access to this version of me and all future editions as well. When I am committed to knowing better so I can do better, I teach them to do the same and when I know that, I know they won’t be messed up. They will be loving, growing, evolving humans because that’s what they are learning from their mama.