Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Two Choices

By Zenparenting1 @ZenParenting1
If you're like me, if you had a less than stellar childhood and upbringing, you have two choices as you become a parent:
1) Parent as you were parented, because it's the path of least resistance and you turned out "just fine," or
2) Reflect upon that which you did not like as a child and use the bad examples as ideas of what not to do.
I chose to go with the latter, obviously.
I was punished and abused. Some of that included grounding, spanking, slapping in the face, being sent to the car to sit alone (even at a very young age) when we weren't at home, yelling, screaming, threats, bodily intimidation (making fists, running up to get right in my face, lording over me, etc.), name-calling, and the like.
I was put behind the significant other of both parents. I was told that my step-mother didn't like us, because we made her feel like she was second banana. I was abandoned by my father when he remarried. I was not acknowledged as even existing, as my father would tell people he had only three kids (my three younger half-siblings) as opposed to five (including me and my brother). I was told that my step-dad was the highest priority in my mother's life and kids come second. I was moved from one home with one step-father to a new home with a new step-father while I was on a school trip and hadn't been given a clue. My trust was betrayed countless times as I said something to my mother in confidence only to find out she then repeated it to my step-father.
Had I been a boy, I would've been circumcised. My younger brother was and he is "just fine," too. He's "just fine" enough that he cut the genitals of his own three boys.
I was breastfed for a mere six weeks and then switched to cow's milk and rice cereal.
I was forced to grow up at an obscenely speedy rate. I was victim-blamed. I was not listened to. I was not believed. I was not valued. I was used as a show-piece. I was expected to live up to impossible standards. I was punished when I could not. And on and on and on.
Here I am. I turned out "just fine" and am still here to tell the tale. I grew up to excel in school. I graduated high school with honors and college Summa Cum Laude. I received countless academic rewards and was an officer in my academic honor society. I had two successful careers. I am now, according to my parents, a "good" parent. I own a home with my family. I pay my taxes. I don't break (many) laws. So, by all accounts, what was done to me turned me into a productive member of society and I have no need to do anything different to or with my son.
By all accounts, I turned out well. It serves to reason, then, that if I raised my son the same way I was raised, he'll turn out well, too. Or, maybe I turned out well (and that's certainly subjective) despite my upbringing. Maybe I want more than that for my son. I could've taken the easy route and gone with my family's status quo. It's worked for generations before me, right? Or has it?
Two ChoicesInstead, I chose to do things the hard way. (Typical.) I chose to think, reflect, make intentional choices, see my upbringing as a lesson in what NOT to do. Sure, there were positives. I took those with me. But the negatives - I analyzed them, spent years in therapy, spent longer in my head with it all, and came up with Zen Parenting. And this is a constantly evolving thing, as well. I have changed my opinion slightly (and completely) on many different things as time has passed. I have made mistakes - mistakes that I recognized, apologized for, and hope my son will learn from AND mistakes that I have yet to realize that I also hope my son will learn from - and will continue to make mistakes. As I make those mistakes, I'll continue to learn - I do this WITH my son. We learn and grow TOGETHER. I don't hide my imperfections from him. I don't hide my learning process from him. I don't keep those secrets and pretend that I'm the perfect parent. That would be doing him a grave disservice.
I choose to live differently than the way I once did, than the way my parents did and their parents before them. I am a better parent than my parents were. I hope my son will be a better parent than I am and that the legacy I leave of growth and choosing to reflect, take the good, and discard the bad will continue on.

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