I grew up in a house where anger was not welcome, or even really allowed. With all the love my parents had for us, loving all expressions of emotions was hard for them - and I know there were good reasons for that. Still, I do not remember feeling angry as a child, so I imagine I must have put it aside pretty early in the game. I also remember distraction was a go-to whenever any uncomfortable feelings arose.
As I grew older and learnt to feel anger, I was gifted the best possible teacher - a daughter who got angry, expressed it loudly, and felt it often (at least that was my experience of her at the time). I promised myself that I will do it differently, that ours will be a household where all feelings are allowed, all feelings are welcome. I promised myself I will never use distraction.
As I was sitting with my daughter who was really angry about something, and making space for all that she felt, I noticed she had trouble coming back from that space. She was moving between mad, sad and overwhelmed. For the first time it struck me then - she needed my support, she needed another nervous system to help her nervous system come back to balance. Not just allow all of her feelings to come out (which I will always, always advocate), but also be a safe haven.
I realised that in my quest to create a house where all feelings are welcome, I overcompensated. I was so busy making space for feelings and avoiding distraction, I forgot about providing support.
I believe this is another layer of what Anaïs Nin wrote about: We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
We want to parent in the best way we can, I have no doubt about that.
And so many of us also want to parent differently (at least to some degree or in some aspects) than we were parented. And that requires a lot of reflection, self-compassion and awareness.
It also requires being mindful of those moments when we want to make sure we do things really, really differently - and as an effect of this we don't notice we've gone over the line. It might look differently, after all all of us have our own narratives and aspirations. Maybe these are familiar:
If you grew up in a household where you experienced lack - you may want to make sure your child does not, and so it may be challenging for you to say "no" to anything your child wants or is asking for;
If you grew up in a house where you were made responsible for your caregivers feelings and want to make sure your children never feel that way, you may end up never expressing feelings in front of your children;
If you grew up in a house where conflict of any kind meant withdrawing of affection, you may jump in to stop any conflict your child might get involved in before it even happens.
I am almost convinced this needs to happen - the pendulum needs to swing from one extreme to another, before we find a middle ground.
I grew up in Poland where for generations parenting meant making sure your children are fed, dressed, and never ever speak when they are not asked. Where we have a saying "Children and fish have no voices." And so in recent generations, the pendulum had to swing to the other extreme - parents raising children as their equals, asking children to make decisions, overcompensating for decades and decades of "no voices". Only now are we finding the middle ground.
If you noticed that you're doing that as well - you are in good company. We have all done this, and if you've noticed that this is what you're doing I want to take bow. It takes so much courage to notice where we've crossed the line.
I've shared one of mine. If you feel like it, hop into comments and share yours, so that we can all learn with and from each other.
This parenting journey, as always, starts with ourselves.
With so much care,