My parents were not perfect, who is? But the big picture of how they parented me (and continue to) left a lasting effect; it has inspired much of the parenting I do today. I am more grateful than I can express to have been born into their lives, not only because of this but because I enjoy their company and as their daughter, they are obligated to bless me with it frequently ha. I can’t speak for my parents and their motivations, I can’t explain their priorities or strategies completely but I wanted to share the experience as it was for me as the child and the ways in which I feel my parents actions and choices helped me to feel respected and trusted and therefore, capable and worthy.
- There were only two rules in our family; always consider the consequences and keep us informed. We were trusted to make decisions about our life, as long as we fulfilled these two very sensible conditions. I still think they are pure genius, making informed choices is something we should all seek to do and something I still strongly believe in. In the end, a child could make a decision whether you “allow” them too or not, shifting your priority to being invited into their choices makes far more sense to me than blanket rules.
- Mistakes were not punished. I’ve made mistakes, of course I have. But I can’t remember my parents ever punishing or shaming me for them, instead they supported me in finding and enacting solutions. I now feel that when I make a mistake, there is no point beating myself up when I could channel that energy into fixing it. I dwell on what has happened only to reflect on what next and where to from here.
- They showed up. I played about 8 different sports through my childhood as well as various other extra curricular activities. Most only stuck for a season or two yet every single one was treated with importance and not just something I was bound to discover was not for me. They were always supportive, interested and when able to be, present. Discovering what was not for me was just part of the process of finding what was. Their confidence in my ability to figure out my likes and dislikes helped to build on my own. They have never stopped showing up which is how I know they’ll read this, hi Mum&Dad!
- Help and advice has no strings. They are kind to be kind, they give to give. To me it communicated that their choice is not motivated by the result but by the people they want to be and the actions they want to take. And this is how I like to be guided in my actions too; I am detached from the choices of others, they are not a reflection of me and instead choose to do things based on the kind of person I want to be. They never held expectations of how the help is to be appreciated, used or reciprocated. Their advice was never a command expected to be followed. This not only helped me feel like a capable person but ensured I was much more likely to seek their assistance and opinion.
- They didn’t push their own agendas or beliefs, they lived them for me to witness. The message I always got from my parents was that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are a kind person. Being able to explore my options has led me to developing a very strong foundation of ideals and priorities. I see so many people compromising “their” beliefs and it makes me wonder if that is because they didn’t arrive at them themselves but instead where forced (or strongly “guided”) into the direction; they seem so conflicted and confused and hesitant to see it as actually a rejection of the belief of others. They stagnate, transfixed on this internal struggle. My intense loyalty to my beliefs is born out of the fact they are my own; if my loyalty changes then I have no issue in reassessing my beliefs. My alignment is internal and always able to be questioned.
- They supported my choices, even when they didn’t agree. I’m sure I’ve made choices they wouldn’t necessarily have made, perhaps even those they strongly disagree with but they have always been 100% behind me. This has meant from a young age, I’ve felt ownership over my decisions. I’ve always felt as though it is my life and therefore my choice; subsequently I can’t remember a time I made a decision based on external influences such as peer pressure. I don’t drink coffee or coke, I’ve actually never felt reason to try either. I’ve tasted alcohol but never partaken in excessive consumption. I’ve not smoked. I’ve not done drugs. Yet I have been around all of these things; my parents kept a constant supply of diet coke in the house as they both drunk it, I went to parties and clubs where my friends (almost always all of them) made the opposite choice but if I’m not interested, I feel absolutely no compulsion to do something just because it is done. This has brought me strength in rejecting other conventions, I have lots of practice behind me of questioning the majority held beliefs and standing by my own. I am content to be completely me.
- They were real. Real people with strengths and flaws, with fears and aspirations, with likes and dislikes, with feelings. By allowing me to see this, I felt connected not to the idea of a parent but to them. While I watched other teenagers dismiss a change in circumstances or running late as no big deal, I always felt a responsibility to let my parents know if things changed because I cared about how my actions would effect them; I didn’t want them to worry, I didn’t want them to be waiting around for me when I had no intention of being there. I valued their mental energy and time. I valued them. This has helped set the tone for other relationships in my life; I am always striving to be empathetic and to see things from the perspective of others.
So thank you to my parents for respecting and trusting me, it can’t have always been easy. I wasn’t always appreciative of you to the extent you deserved but having my own children and watching the struggles others face in detaching from their childhood experiences in order to parent in a respectful fashion really helped me to see how truly, unbelievably lucky I am. I am building on the foundations you gave me rather than having to demolish and start from scratch. The work you have saved me from having to do has allowed me to think beyond it.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants — Issac Newton
If you are somebody who is trying to reject the beliefs your childhood experiences reinforced and parenting in a different direction from that of your own childhood, I hope this encourages you to continue doing the difficult yet powerful work to retrain your conditioning; it is a beautiful legacy to leave your children.