The Wright Life BlogMost of us want to improve some aspect of our lives. Some of us want more - more fulfilling relationships, more satisfying careers, more money, more free time or to better manage the time we have. Sometimes we have a dream we are afraid to pursue, and sometimes we¹re not sure what we want, we just know we don¹t have it. The Wright Life is a blog devoted to inspiring readers how to make those life changes.
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It seems fitting to write this blog on the heels of Mother’s Day; as we all remember those moments filled with joy, pride and unblemished love. Parenting is an enormous event for which there is little adequate preparation. Parenting is a hurricane, or a tidal wave, an eclipse. We THINK we know how we are going to behave going in (‘when I have a child I am NEVER going to..’) but the reality is far more complex than what I gleaned from my own childhood and endless episodes of Father Knows Best.
My roost was ruled by my mother, a funny beautiful force of nature, who spouted decrees without much apparent thought. The answer was no before you even finished your sentence. Going directly to my father was considered an act of treason. When my father told us to order whatever we wanted from the menu, and my mother ordered the least expensive option, we knew what we were supposed to do. Whether there was any kind of consensus going on behind the scenes, we never knew, but the general assumption was that she certainly won the war, if not most of the battles. You did not want to make my mother upset. Ever. I loved her completely, even though I was afraid of her half the time. When she loved you, you felt crazy joy. Now, although my husband’s roost was also, apparently, ruled by his mother, his father would come home and change all the rules. Reverse decisions. Ask for the kid’s point of view (what?? This would have gotten him crucified in my house), and worse, take his kids word over his wife’s. Mix these two people together and, well, you can see where this is going…
Almost all of us who are parents have powerful memories of that moment when our children were born, or we first saw them. When our only desire for them was to grow and learn. It is usually a moment of deep bonding between parents and their child. Then the unconscious parenting begins. Maybe a little subtle and passive-aggressive at first, but it becomes clear that there are different points of view over parenting styles and who should be doing what. We start keeping score. We think we know best or we think our spouse knows best. We begin spouting statements and behaving in ways we can’t recognize (I once, 6 months pregnant, wrestled with my teenage son trying to push him out of my room). My favorite cartoonist, Roz Chast, recounts how she once threw a hotdog at her son, and asked her daughter, when presented with a report card of 4 A’s and 1 B, what happened in B class. These are not moments of pride. These are moments when it seems you are in a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. AND YOU ARE. Your body is being snatched because you are unconscious. The body snatchers are your interpretation of your parents, your childhood, and all of your beliefs about yourself and life that you allow to take charge of your words and actions. Sometimes it is obvious (I’m sure Roz knew that hot dog throwing was not her finer parenting moment) and sometimes it is unconscious, but as long as your old beliefs dictate your parenting, when your children manifest behavior that is not ok with you, you will not be able to shift it. To parent with purpose you need to find a way to partner with your spouse to see what is really happening and address the root cause.
So. Easier said than done. How do you do that? The simple answer is to be willing to become self-aware. If you are willing to look at yourself, your parenting, your children, with honesty but without judgment. If you can see when are indulging or judging behavior that does not feel ok, and you are willing to see why, you will begin to get answers. We all act like complete idiots sometimes. Sometimes there is even malice. Sometimes we get intimidated by our children’s anger. All of that is normal; none of it is parenting with purpose.
Martha Wright is a Life Coach and seminar leader with over 20 years experience designing and teaching life skills in Fortune 500 companies around the world. She lives in Princeton NJ. Follow her on Facebook and twitter. http://www.wrightlifecoach.com.
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Out With The Old Pain
In With The New Self-forgiveness
1 comment - Last on 01/18/2011