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On Parenting - A Brief

February 24, 20249 min read

They say it takes a village. Where can I get directions to this village?

Parenting – A Brief

It’s bracing when I let myself think about how much I love my kids. Breathtaking. In the beginning, sometimes it was overwhelming. How could love be so all-encompassing? Like the sunshine and a butterfly and the tempestuous ocean, all at once? Children elicit and demand all the senses be turned and tuned toward them. Always. We are hardwired so profoundly to tune our senses toward our kids that it is beyond our conscious control. Unless that wiring has been damaged, it is our nature to love our children as wildly as we do.

I don’t know what it’s like for you, but being cracked open to that kind of big love opens/ed me up to all kinds of other emotions, as well. Some of those emotions are less enjoyable than others. For example, if you have a story of a traumatic upbringing, or experienced any of the common familial dysfunctions our culture has to offer, like racism, sexism, discrimination because of your sexual or intellectual orientation, then you might find that old hurts and unresolved conflicts sometimes come explosively to the surface when you’re cracked as wide open as we are by the love we have for our kid(s).

Becoming a mom made me start thinking about all this big stuff. In the early to mid-90s, I was a new (and young) mom, incredibly sensitive, and blown out by how much love and fear I had for my children. I feared for their future. I feared for our future. And we hadn’t even been through 9/11, yet. Still, I was shell-shocked by Desert Storm, as it was all we heard about on television. What really set me up, though, was how terrorized I’d been through the late 70s and early 80s by learning about what our people had done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With visions of Hitler dancing in my pre-sleep nightmares and the incessant commentary among the grown-ups about the Cold War between the US and The Soviet Union, it’s a wonder I ever made it to having kids, at all. Looking back, it’s all so mild compared to what we’re living with today, but in those days, the walls to my fear cage were made from AIDS and mushroom clouds.

What makes me want to talk about this? If your story is anything like mine and you’re struggling to get a handle on the intense emotions parenting can bring up, understand that there are valid reasons for our intense emotions and for our less savory behaviors and patterns. Even if those patterns cause upset or pain to those you love, those patterns are actually there for good reason. And. There is a lot you can do to ‘rewire’ those patterns if you find they no longer serve your current objectives.

If you are willing to roll up your sleeves, identify those patterns and get curious about where they begin, changing them is surprisingly easy. There are literally hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of highly effective self-healing and transformational technologies for us to choose from, and new ones are emerging all the time. Find a modality, like any one of the probably hundreds of approaches to meditation, EFT, The Work by Byron Katie, Louise Hay, the type of yoga that best suits you, or anything you come across with which you find others are having success. Find self-healing modalities that make you feel good, and use them like your life depends on them.

Here’s the thing: not only do you not want to hurt the people you love (especially your kids) with your hot temper, depression or anxiety (or all of the above, as it was for me), but you don’t want to pass on the same broken patterns you likely inherited from your parents (as did they from theirs, and so on).

Even if we come from an intact, non-dysfunctional family, which I understand is now less than 50% of the US population, chances are that you were psychologically and/or emotionally pummeled simply by living in our land during these, our times. For many of us, from our early beginnings we experience pressure to perform and compete. Things we learn to live with, but few of us actually enjoy. And for many, there is also a level of social insecurity due to erratic economies and rampant, deeply-rooted corruption in our financial, political, religious, educational, governing and even entertainment systems. These inherent conditions have many a professional parent living life on a precarious edge.

To top it all off, it doesn’t help that alcohol and pills are so readily available to ‘take the edge’ off that edge. And who could blame anyone for wanting reprieve from living on an edge that’s so sharp?

Unfortunately, and this is a warning: alcohol and pills also effectively take away our sharp sensibilities. This is not me saying don’t enjoy a drink from time to time or take what your doctor prescribes. I am saying that it’s easy to fall into dependency patterns with things that seem to make us feel better when the pressures of daily life are so high. If you have kids, that pressure is even higher. I am saying that if you’re thinking of using a pharmaceutical to control depression and/or anxiety, there are many highly effective, non-pharmaceutical options that will yield permanent results, if you’re willing to take your wellbeing into your own hands, because you understand that you’re ultimately the source of your wellness (or not-wellness).

Back to the substances that dull our imaginations and cause our presence and our patience to dwindle                         

Alcohol and pills seem to be a much-needed, albeit temporary, solution to the pressures of modern life, but they aren’t a sustainable solution. They do nothing to keep you sharp and vital and even less to ensure your children’s access to your best you during that fleeting time when they need you most. If you think about it, could it have been the presence of those very substances in the lives of your own parents that helped solidify your own insecurities? Could some of the pressure you’re experiencing now have anything to do with the insecurities that became during your childhood, because you couldn’t quite find a way to get what you needed, emotionally speaking, from your parents?

Can’t seem to find your best self? Don’t have the time it will take to look for that best version of you, the one you imagine being late at night, after another hectic day?

There’s always the argument for how much time we (do or don’t) have. For many of us, there seems to be little time for the kind of deep R&R that an individual needs in order to meet all the demands of living in our modern culture. But some people do have the time. I’d say there is plenty of time, but in order to access that time I had to be willing to abandon several patterns in order to find the time and replace those abandoned patterns with new ones to continue to have the time I need to care for myself in a way that eliminates my experience of depression and/or anxiety. That’s for another post, so stay tuned.

Getting cracked open by love to the extent that having a kid brought about made me psychologically and emotionally vulnerable to the big conditions we face as a nation, as a world and as a species; conditions so many of us have simply ‘learned to live with’. What else are we going to do?

If learning to ‘live with it’ involves pills or alcohol, please consider what I’m sharing here, and please consider finding help to discover other ways of ‘living with it’ that will make you feel better in a healthy, natural way, empower your children, and revitalize your most important relationships. There are SO MANY other ways besides altering substances to make ‘living with it’ easier – to make living with yourself easier – that won’t destroy your health or your connections with the ones who love you.

If you are thinking of having a family, take your time! Ask lots of questions. Find out about one another’s parenting styles. Take this quiz to see if your partner’s parenting styles are compatible with your own. If they aren’t, think again about making a family. It could just be a timing thing, so this isn’t about your relationship specifically, but more about where you’re at as a couple and where you’re each at as individuals. I’m bringing this up now, because I learned the hard way that if your parenting styles aren’t compatible, the chances of your intimate partnership lasting are slim to none. This isn’t scientific data, this is based on my own experiences and witnessing the demise of friend’s and client’s seemingly awesome relationships that went sour when they found that their parenting styles didn’t match.

Finally, if you’re already a parent, about to become one or just thinking about it, surrender to your love for your children. It might sound strange, but it takes a lot of courage to make room in your life for the big kind of love that comes to us when we become parents. Especially when you discover just how immense and uncontrollable it is. Nobody told me about this important detail, so I wasn’t at all prepared to handle it. What I’ve noticed is that big love has an interesting way of uncovering all the fears that lurk just beneath the surface. Although unpleasant, this is a GOOD THING, because, if you understand that that big love is there to show you where latent fear resides in your other-than-conscious mind and emotions, then you’ll understand that there is nothing more to do than to let the fears rise to the surface SO THAT they can pass as you learn to let them go.

The discovery of that big love comes to most of us as a result of becoming parents, but certainly isn’t limited to parents. Still, this note is for parents: take heart. Know that your love for your children, although sometimes overwhelming, is the greatest gift you can give to them AND to you. So let it be. Let it rule. Give yourself over to that love, and give your kids over to whatever it is that you rely on when the chips are down. If you can do this, you can have fun with your kids while they still want to hang out with you. Because believe me, although having kids makes for long days (and nights), those early years are surprisingly short, and they’ll be past before you know it.

To your wild and precious life!

Angelina

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