Bob’s decision was to dig in and try hard to learn to be a different kind of person so that he could provide different parenting for his children. He would attempt to put his children first. He would try to maintain positive connections by being physically and emotionally present. He would talk about feelings, learn to be comfortable doing so, and encourage his children to do the same. He would face his childhood experiences, which will be related in a later post, and take them for what they were—a complicated mix of good and bad experiences that had affected him deeply. With that realization he wept for what had happened to him and for the painful struggle that lay ahead.
If we have experienced similarly painful experiences to those Bob had in his childhood, it can be challenging to provide a different kind of life for our children. We may find it to be far trickier than we had anticipated. It is hard to do something for someone else that we have never known in our own lives. We can choose to live so that we never have to face our early hardships. We can have successful careers and many partners and relationships. We can pursue interesting hobbies and worthwhile service projects. If things get too intense or if someone becomes too dependent on us, as dependent as we once were upon our parents who may have failed us, we can always leave. “Skip out the back, Jack.” But if we decide to rear children, it is certain that we will come face to face with our own early years.
If we were abandoned early in life through divorce, death or other circumstances, we need to address the pain those circumstances have brought us. We must acknowledge the ways it has affected us, and, in many cases, distorted our relationships with others. It usually requires a ruthless self-inventory. Questions about how we spend our time and what matters most to us must be answered with brutal honesty. Feedback from others whom we trust can be very informative about our capacity for commitment. Therapy can be helpful. It isn’t that we want to hold onto hurt or nurse our grievances, but pain, like all of life’s experiences, becomes imprinted in our memories. When we acknowledge and explore it with our adult brain, it becomes less the alienated monster and more the beam of light that heightens understanding of ourselves and compassion toward the sorrows of others.
Unselfish and deeply personal commitment is inevitably affected by our own personal histories. If we are to relate to our children on an intimate and authentic level, it is essential that we face with honesty the issues of our own childhoods just as Bob did in the basement of the parking garage. It is how we unravel the knots within the inevitable family entanglement.
Check in next time to see how our childhoods, our own personal history, inevitably effects out parenting.
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Last reviewed: 11 Jul 2013