Parenting is … repairing our broken past as it shows up.

Posted on January 19, 2020

Parenting is … repairing our broken past as it shows up.

Every year, when my husband and son leave for their two-week-long hiking trip to the foot of the Himalayas, my girlfriend and I set aside a night for a sleepover at my home. The highlight of our time together earlier this week was watching the first professional cuts of my daughter’s wedding videos.

As we spotted common friends among the images, we got into a deep dive about the transitions of life some of the people we know are going through. Although divorces and separations are a common topic with our generation, we empathized with the difficulties and challenges such changes bring. As each of us shared our personal experiences of life with our husbands over half a century, I was deeply touched when my friend said, “You know, when we don’t repair, we repeat.”

I reflected on that at length the next day. There have been many instances when I was pushed to address deep-rooted triggers during arguments and disagreements with my kids. Often fear-based outbursts stem from painful, unresolved experiences with friends, family, or peers. This became more obvious to me as I heard myself hit replay on irritating, repetitive words and phrases that my parents had said to me when I was growing up.

“What’s the big deal, Mom. I was only 20 minutes late,” argued my 16-year-old son when he started driving. “When you become a parent, you’ll understand!” I barked back. The next morning my 19-year-old daughter, who had heard that exchange, pointed out how meaningless my go-to line was. She told me: “You used to say that to me, and I always internally rolled my eyes when I heard it. Honestly, until we become parents we won’t really know, so how about saying something like, ‘I get worried about your safety, and if you don’t call to let me know ahead of time, I will reconsider your driving privileges until you are more responsible.’ And, Mom, honestly, your body language and your face when you say things like that are so degrading that it interferes with getting your point across.”

She was right. I knew exactly why I said that. It’s a line my mom used to say to me as she stood, one hand on her hip, frowning with lips curled. I probably repeated it to my kids twice as many times as my mom had said it to me.

My daughter’s words reminded me that if we don’t stop and repair that which is no longer serving today’s mind-set, we will just hit repeat and remain ineffective. What’s worse is that we’ll push our kids away and lose our connection with them. It’s moments like these that have inspired me to always start my parenting talks with, “I stand before you because my kids have done a stellar job in raising me.”

Yes, my kids have done a stellar job in mirroring back to me my weaknesses. And I’m grateful that my inner awareness stays open to listen and help me change. My kids have helped me recognize and repair my old, dated habits and the broken parts of my past that show up in parenting even today.

My aspiration is that each one of us commits to this type of mindful growth along with our children, so we can commune with them and stay connected. As hard as it is, this commitment brings us immense joy as we reflect back on our parenting journey.