“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.”
Last night I put all four of you to sleep in your own cots. Waking up in the morning, in my bed, I’m arrested under a tangle of limbs in all directions and at the oddest angles. I was vaguely aware of them, one by one, crawling into my bed at different times in the night. Some parts of me feel truly sore from having stayed weighed under in the same position for the last few hours. But my heart feels so full and warm as I watch all of you cuddled up together.
As I reached out to ruffle your hair, my dearest daughter, remorse washed over me. Little one, am I being a good mother to you? Teaching you responsibility and independence at such an early age. You turn six next week. Just six! You are so much more responsible than your eight year old brother.
Your mother, your younger two sisters, spending time playing with them, helping me bathe them and dress them up. You even help me tidy up the rooms and fold the laundry in your own little ways. I love the way you tidy up the shoe rack, searching and collecting shoes scattered around the house, pairing them like you are solving puzzles and arranging them in neat rows on the rack. You make such a mundane task seem like a fun thing to do.
Making your Own Sunshine
But I worry little one. Am I doing it right? Your grandparents did what they thought was best for me as they raised their children.
But as Virginia Satir said “Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending.”
I write this letter to prepare you my dear child, to learn the good lessons from the bad experiences caused by toxic parenting. Parents also make mistakes despite their best intentions. But you, my sunny-natured one, can still come out shining from behind any cloud.
He who controls your purse strings, controls you
My best advice to you dear daughter is to stand on your own two feet. Be independent. Be strong. Let no one bully you. Not even your own parents. As you grow up, begin your career, get married and raise your own children, be in control of your finances. Today, you see me typing at my computer, working on articles, despite the pressures of raising four children. I am indulging in my passion, I have an outlet for my creativity and most importantly it gives me financial freedom.
Your father is the provider in our home, but I am not dependent on him for my personal needs. Fathers and husbands don’t quite understand a female’s unlimited fancy for clothes, makeup or shoes. But they tend to leave you alone as long as you don’t trouble them for the money. My weakness is buying pretty dresses for my children and cute plastic containers for the kitchen.
On a more serious note, financial independence gives you the means to take care of yourself, it equips you to handle better the obstacles life will throw at you. But remember, money is never enough and it shouldn’t be the goal.
Let Go of the Need to Seek Approval
Seeking validation from anyone, even parents, will only lead to harm and low self esteem. Correcting children’s mistakes is a an important part of parenting, but sometimes people don’t know where to stop. When parents are overly critical, the child tends to develop a harsh inner critic and many children end up with anxiety disorders as they grow older. Validating your own thoughts and feelings will help you manage your emotions more effectively.
Learn to Deal With Guilt and Manipulation
You are responsible for your own happiness. Expecting others to make you happy will only give you disappointments in life. The same rule applies to your parents too. Some toxic parents place unrealistic expectations on their children’s shoulders by repeatedly drilling in stories of sacrifices made to raise them up. Such parents may demand their children give up their own desires in order to do what the parents want.
Learn to deal firmly with anyone, even parents, if they use manipulation, guilt, and self-pity to make you do whatever they want.
The Healing Power of Forgiveness
Even I had my share of grudges against my parents, especially my father. But when I became a parent, I was better able to understand that no parent is perfect. I learned to stop judging them and blaming them for not understanding me better. They were times I felt abandoned, when they didn’t realize I needed them desperately by my side.
Finally getting through those troubled times by myself, solving my own problems, have actually made me a stronger and independent person. Even if they are unwilling to understand or acknowledge their mistakes, forgiving them and yourself, is the best way to begin healing.
These are valuable insights in any relationship. It applies to emotional dealings with all the people in your life, from your boss to your mother-in-law and your own children. Let no one dictate your life, your emotions or your happiness.
Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com