I spent my child raising years worrying about every word that came out of my mouth, living in fear of every moment my children were not with me. Now, I fear I smothered my children. I fear I did not let them grow into who they might have been without a sense of my fear overwhelming them.
Are they happy, self-loving human beings as I wanted for them to be? I worry that I didn’t let them know how much I loved them, I didn’t talk to them enough, I wasn’t open enough with them, I didn’t say I love you enough.
I grew up in an atmosphere of fear. I was afraid of my mom—she being the disciplinarian. My mom loved me, I know this. She was a work-a-holic though and often not home. But, if I needed her--say when a long time boy friend broke up with me in high school-- she stayed up all night with me as I cried, ranted, raved and vented my grief. On a day to day basis though--she was pretty unavailable. I was also afraid of my step-dad—he being the person who could make me feel dumb, unloved, unwanted with but a few words. I did not want to create that same atmosphere for my children. I wanted them to feel love, to know peace, to see joy. And in many regards they did. I know they know I love them. I know that I helped them see the beauty in the world. I know I created family traditions that they still come back to today--that family culture that glues a family together.
I tried so hard to love them, to create the relationship I never had with my parents, but in the trying so hard, I fear I created something else. I am not sure how to name it…. is it insecurity… a not knowing how capable and perfect they are, just as they are? Did I protect them so much that they now don’t trust their own sense of self? They are each of them, such perfect, beautiful individuals with much to contribute to the world.
The question is, can I let go. Can I trust that they will each, in their own way, grow and learn and become… who they want to be, regardless of my fumbling parenting attempt? Can I now find the freedom to live in peace, knowing that my children are a product of love, that we all grow up in less than perfect situations and that we all have to grow from wherever our starting place is…
If I could rewrite my story…. my parenting… my children’s lives… from conception to now…. I would love more and worry less. I would allow for more spontaneous outbursts. I would allow for conflict. Growing up with constant conflict, with yelling and anger, I vowed that my children would never have to live in such a situation. But… did I teach them that conflict was bad… that you should do anything to avoid conflict?
As a sixty year old… I am less afraid of conflict now. I am less likely to run from it. I know that I grow from conflict… I hope that my children do not need sixty years to learn this lesson, that I fear I didn’t teach them because I couldn’t –I didn’t know it yet.
I am freer today than I have ever been. I am more able to deal with conflict--not perfectly and not always, but better able. I know that I have grown the most when there has been conflict. I am able to love myself more, to accept me as I am and know that I am okay just this way.
I struggle every day with the choice to allow my children their own path. I worry, I fear… and I work to let that go. To know that their journey is starting where it starts and they have the choice to be a product of my parenting…. or to be who they choose to be today. I hope they exercise that choice, that freedom.