I always assumed that motherhood itself would teach me what I needed to know once I started having children. I did not come in with any preconceived notions about who my children were going to be. I knew I would have to discover and nurture their individuality for myself. What I did not anticipate was how often I would be parenting my children the way that I was parented, even when I see that it is not working.
My parents did an amazing job; I honestly believed they did their very best for me as parents. But even their best efforts left me lacking in fundamentals that I believe are vital to development into whole, functional adulthood. As an adult, I have been faithfully filling in the gaps by the grace of God to ensure that I am not experiencing the world from a place of wounding, but rather a place of wholeness.
I see a lot of myself in my oldest son and it is disconcerting. We are both highly sensitive to harsh words, failures and punishment. We both have a deep desire to be seen, acknowledged and loved in overt ways. But even with that knowledge, I find myself raising him the way that I was raised even though many of my childhood experiences that are tied to the techniques I am repeating were not pleasant. Being punished (to inflict pain and humiliation) rather than disciplined (to correct and impart a lesson) had me convinced that my family hated me when I was much younger.
I see the same inclinations in my son. Yet I find myself defaulting to the mindset that demands unquestioned obedience from my children and brings the hammer down on any semblance of defiance, no matter how small. Because a disobedient child is the shame of any parent. Even if it’s just a developmental phase. Even if he’s only a toddler. I was programmed a long time ago that your children are yours to command and control and if they do not fall in line, you must break their will and build them back up.
But is that really what God has called me to do as a mother in the lives of my children? Break them down to build them back up? And in whose image? Because if I am more committed to raising “good kids” than helping them become who God called them to be then I am surely raising them into idolatry – creating them to look more like my own ideas so I can show the world that I am a good mother.
As I continue in this journey as a mom, I find myself not only raising my kids, but raising myself. Reparenting myself away from my own traumas and wounded inner-child and doing my very best to model wholeness to my offsprings rather than looking to them to heal me. It is not my children’s job to complete me. I need to do that work outside of them so that they can reap the benefit of a whole mother who loves securely.
Who knew at the age of thirty-six that I would be raising myself?