What it takes to Rewrite your Parenting Story
“The future depends on what you do today.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve been thinking about the courage of my two grandmothers, after a trip to my sister's this week and a full day combing through family photos and archives.
Lily grew up in a respected English family in a pretty Victorian house. When she finished her teacher’s training, instead teaching in a nearby school, she elected to take up a post in a small remote community in the interior of British Columbia. I can only imagine the courage it took to break ranks with her family’s expectations, move past her own fears and step up into the stagecoach, not knowing what lay ahead of her.
Anna, my Bavarian grandma, was a poor ‘spinster’ when my grandfather proposed not only marriage but moving to Canada and hopefully eking out a living on a farm. I can picture her family trying to talk her out of it, their fear of never seeing her again. I’m sure she had many trepidations. What faith and bravery to take the path into unknown territory.
Today’s letter is about two things it takes to do the inner and outer work of releasing inherited parenting patterns and writing a new parenting story. One of the requirements is courage – actually stepping into the exploration even though you’re afraid.
But first is getting real… so let’s start there.
1. Being honest with yourself
To do this work and heal these wounds, you’ll have to admit you’re repeating an unhealthy parenting pattern. I know that’s why you’re here. And yet, I want to say that more than a passing nod is needed: it requires an honest acknowledgement in your heart.
I was terrified when I saw myself repeating my mom’s parenting pattern. Stopped in my tracks. How could I have ended up yelling the same things that caused me so much pain? How could I fly into the same kind of rages that terrified me? How could I be doing this to these innocent children? I was mortified.
And in my shock and disgrace, I told no one. I certainly didn’t want to tell a friend or sibling that I was exploding uncontrollably. What would they think of me? I didn’t want anyone to know that I was failing at motherhood. I was ashamed that I didn’t have what it takes to be a good mother.
Other parents tell me that, when they recognized the themselves repeating their parent’s pattern, they berated themselves. You’re such a terrible parent. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you stop doing that? Lots of harsh reprimands dragging themselves down, but without making any moves toward change. Just going in circles of self-criticism.
The other common response is denial. You hear your mother’s voice coming out of your mouth. You see your father’s expression on your own face. And you don’t know what to do. So you pretend it didn’t happen, look the other way and go on with the next thing. For me, as long as I avoided looking in the mirror after I’d yelled those unkind words, I could pretend everything was a-ok.
We can tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do – it’s just the cards we were dealt. We can sweep it under the carpet, hiding it from everyone, including ourselves. It’s easy to deceive ourselves.
But when we admit that we’ve inherited an unhealthy pattern that we were determined not to repeat, when we confess to ourselves that we did that thing again, when we look in the mirror and honestly acknowledge what we see, we take the first step toward releasing the pattern.
So, with my gentle voice and a ton of compassion, I ask you how you might be deceiving yourself. What truth about your way of parenting are you sweeping under the carpet where neither you nor others can see? What are you repeating even though you don’t want to and lying awake regretting? What is it about how you are with your kids that you don’t want anyone else to see?
Come clean and name it. Tell yourself the truth. Divulge it to someone you trust. Let it out into the open because that’s how healing takes place – when the wound is exposed to fresh air.
2. Courage to change
It’s our biological human nature to keep things the same. We stay in our comfort zones and those familiar ways of being that we’ve cultivated and defined ourselves by. That’s the easiest and apparently safest thing to do.
And yet, you feel called, maybe even compelled, to make a change. You’re not satisfied with perpetuating unhealthy patterns – not you. You have a vision of something better and you know it’s the right thing to do. You are made for transformation and evolution.
And it’s scary.
Of course, it is. For most of us, walking into the unknown is hard. It asks for a strength of the heart that we sometimes aren’t sure we can muster. Especially when voices in our head are warning us: you might get hurt, it might not work, could ruin your relationships and turn your world upside down. You may never see Germany again.
That’s what courage is - the ability to do something that frightens us, to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Another truth is that it’s risky to change your way of being. Releasing inherited parenting patterns will have you speaking and moving in new ways. People will see you differently. You will feel different.
Some of the consequences may be predictable to you but many are not. And that’s when a part of you will holler “It’s unsafe. Go back. You can’t trust this pathway.”
What if you did it anyway?
I know that, somewhere inside, you already hold a vision of what will be possible when you let your courage eclipse fear. You’ve glimpsed it, had a taste of it.
What if you took a step toward releasing the patterns you’ve inherited? Even if you doubt. Even if you’re scared. What if you go ahead and take one step into that space between what is ‘no longer’ and what is ‘not yet’?
The choice is yours. How your story turns out is up to you. You can choose comfort or courage. You can stay stuck here or buy the steamship passage to Canada.
Courage is honouring the new version of yourself that’s emerging. Responding to what you know in your bones must be done. Creating space for it. Taking action and moving toward it.
I believe so passionately in this evolutionary work. I am certain that we are meant to heal the wounds of our childhoods. I have sensed, in my own healing, the healing of my mother and grandmothers. I have heard my ancient ancestors cheering me on in my dreams. I have felt their support at my back.
And I want that for you too.
When you are honest with yourself and when you let your brave heart lead the way, you are on your path to freedom from inherited parenting patterns. And creating brand new ones. May it be so.
With you on the journey,
One more thing...
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