A good friend of mine recently said to me that her shrink told her that for the most part, "You parent the way you were parented unless you make constant conscious decisions to make changes".
Oh yeah. Uh-huh. Yeup.
Before having a child there were 2.7 million things I was not going to do as a mom, mostly because I had issues with the way I was raised (who doesn't, right?). It's not that my parents did a bad job, on the contrary, they did the very best with what resources they had (both internal and external). I had a very fortunate childhood in many respects; growing up in a middle class family I never really wanted for anything that I did not get, and growing up middle class in New York meant I had access to the many things that make me the well-rounded woman I am today. I am grateful for everything my parents did, and continue to do, for me.
Here's the thing though: there were things they just did not get right. Trust me, I know there are things I am not getting right, so this isn't an invective here, I just know that there are certain things that could've been done differently. The real kick in the pants though? When I find myself doing one of those things as a parent. When I realize that I am in the same room as my child and I have had my nose buried in a book or my work for way too long I immediately feel gut-punched. "I'm ignoring Theo! He's going to feel like he doesn't matter! I swore I'd never do that to him; what's wrong with me?" Yes, I know that for the most part those are my childhood issues and they don't necessarily apply to Theo, but I feel the same regardless. Sometimes I recognize that it would be so much easier to just go through my job as Mom in some sort of sleepwalking state - not being introspective and not making conscious decisions to make changes in how I relate to my child. It's painful to drudge up childhood upsets and even more painful to realize that you are doing something that you hated being done to you as a child. It's hard as hell to face the ways in which you aren't what you thought you would be and to make changes within yourself. Damn hard. And while I know that one day my son might point out the ways in which I "failed" him despite all the effort I make to be the best Mama in the world, all I can do is keep trying, and if that day should come I will be able to look him in the eyes and say, "Baby, I did everything in my power to be everything you needed and more. And even more than that, I loved you enough to rip myself apart and sew myself anew, over and over and over again."
Do you struggle with this same theme? What are the ways in which you find yourself struggling to not parent as you were parented?