Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking inwards - on parenting and therapy

I'll freely admit that my darling son has triggered me in oh-so-many ways. Most of them very good.  Some of them not.  Like making the advent wreath. Or snapping at a minor mishap. Both family specialities. I remember perfectly well how it was to be on the receiving end of the snapping. Emotionally complex, and certainly not a rosy picture of the snapper parent.

Sometimes my reactions towards him blindsided me. I am not proud of it. It feels like regurgitated childhood hurt of my own. An at times disturbing presence. A Ghost of Christmas Past. It interferes with our relationship.

So in the realisation that most of this had absolutely nothing to do with my son, and everything to do with me ... I've gone and got some personal therapy. Which has been extremely helpful, and made me a better parent no doubt. Though the person I should really be paying is my son.

His arrival triggered strong reactions and reevaluations of my own childhood. Which was privileged in many ways. Liberal. Scandinavian. Educated. Sprawling. I got mad at my parents. I wrote about it over at We Are Family. I'm finally able to own up to that here. My anger has since subsided somewhat. And it has left room for a very different relationship with my mum in particular. One that I welcome, but that's for another blog. Suffice to say it is not all bad looking back.

This blog began as a way for me to explore the minutiae of parenting. But the more I look, the more the way in which I was parented stand in the way of me being the parent I would like to be.
I have written about realising just how high my ACE score was. That felt like being hit over the head. Recently, I've checked ACE scores with my siblings, and yup it is really that high. It is what it is. And it can be a strength. That's what I tell myself.

The further I get into this parenting stint, the stronger I feel it is very much about us parents, and how we approach things. The Danish writer, Jesper Juul ventures that all conflicts with our children hold the possibility of doing for your inner child, what your parents couldn't.  However schmalzy this may sound it rings very true to me. I think he has more a strong point.

Parenting is looking inwards, at least 50% of the time. Especially in times of conflict. Because it takes two to tango, no matter what age. The difference is that we parent are the grown ups. We can be responsible for the quality of the relationship with our children. We have the experience to be. Kids don't.

It's not that we parents all have to seek therapy (although that's a grand thought). It's the owing up to what is theirs and what it ours, the keeping of our own boundaries, and not diminishing those of others while we are at it.

In essence keeping our own and respecting the boundaries of our children is what respectful parenting is all about.

To me it's like learning a new language. And I'm an old dog. Keen, but old.

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