Having children is obviously a lifelong thing. Raising them is long too, but at some point you know they will be free to go out and do what they do, to plow ahead, or dawdle along, get lost, get found, get hurt, get healed, make mistakes, likely learn from those mistakes far too long into the future, and generally go in whatever direction they please, or are propelled.
Many times, over these past few years I’ve wondered at my own “freeing time.” It was more of a petulant wrenching than anything else and when I left, it was without any moral guidance, or financial insight, or emotional anchor. I went fleeing, and blind. And I made horrible choices based upon a lack of reference. But, here I am approaching my mid-forties, and I remain grateful to have avoided any consequences from those choices and actions.
(I have to add that I am not being critical of my parents; they provided me a good, safe home, healthy meals, and financial support later on in my life.)
Now it is my turn at parenting, and though I forge ahead with the same blank pages as my parents, I have hindsight and a sort of youthful insight. Yes, we have those situations where my husband and I look at each other and say “wtf?” but we get through them, and in a way that is different from the way we were raised.
One important thing I have taught my daughter (my son rolls his eyes at the prospect) is to name her feelings out loud. It’s not important the why’s or the situation, it’s about acknowledging the emotion. I explained that when we ignore the stuff that’s raging inside, or allow ourselves to wallow in it, this makes it burn brighter, and feel worse. This serves no good purpose. If we give it a name, we come face to face with the emotion; it is met unconditionally. In this way, it has nothing to fight. My daughter understood and she uses this technique often to calm herself when she is upset.
It’s a factual cycle, I think, that when it’s your turn as parent, you want to do a better job than your own parents. You realize though, at some point along the timeline, that every set is different, and not only did your parents come into the arrangement with their own baggage, their own ideas of ‘doing a better job’, they also got handed the completely blank manual. My parents weren’t perfect, and neither am I, but I feel I’m setting a new standard with my own kids by consciously planning ahead, and planting seeds that they can reap when fully grown.
I found my life tools late, but still with plenty of time to use them for the good. I know that no matter how much we prepare, and teach, and provide insight, our kids will do whatever they desire. They might end up taking that well-worn path with what we know to have sucker punches hidden behind certain trees. All we can do is hope that they remember the tools they carry that will help fight back, withstand, or get back up quicker, and realize that heading in a different, less traveled direction might be worthwhile after all.