For the past eight years, I have worked hard to overcome the difficulties associated with trauma recovery and parenting. It has been anything but easy. I have wanted to quit many times but I am far too stubborn and willful for that. Throughout the process, there have been little miracle milestones that have kept me on track (or put me back on track). These miracles may not seem like miracles to some, but to me, they were incredible experiences. They are incredible because they are changes in the way I viewed the world. My perspective changes. And that is a miracle.
While there have been many miracles, there have been a few that I remember best. One day, I was standing in my kitchen and it suddenly dawned on me that my children were the same as me. I don’t mean they were the same person. But my internalized belief that children were at the bottom of a human totem pole was blown up in an instant. I realized that they were no different from me. They were only born a little later. I wasn’t smarter than them. I wasn’t more privileged than them. I didn’t have more rights than them. I was simply older than they were. I had more experience at life because my birth date was before their birth date.
That began an avalanche of changes in my relationship with my children which continues to this day. I am rediscovering how to communicate with them. I used to believe it was my job to control them, to tell them what to do, to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid. In reality, it is just my job to teach them, to teach them what I learned in the 34 years before they came to this planet. And they are here to teach me too. And that is exactly what they do.
Don’t get me wrong, they still have to be disciplined when they blatantly ignore my basic safety rules. I am their parent, not their friend. But there is a difference in our daily interactions. When they ask how to do something, I respond with respectful instruction as I would to a friend. When they get frustrated with a task, I let them work through the task while supporting their varying emotions about it. When they do something ridiculous, I do my best to respond respectfully as I would want someone to respond to me.
But it isn’t easy. I never had parents who respected me. Honestly, until recently, I did not have respectful relationships at all. There weren’t many positive comments coming in my direction. And of course, it would be easy to project all of my insecurities on them, and disrespect them as well. But that doesn’t do any good. If I stop the physical and sexual abuse of my children, but I can’t respect them as individuals, I haven’t done enough to break the cycle. They will still grow up feeling they are less than others. They will still battle the demons of insecurity that I battle every day. That’s not fair to them.
But don’t get me wrong, I am not fooling myself. They are on a human journey. They will not leave childhood unscathed. They will have their stuff to address. And that is why I must respect them. Because it is our relationship that will determine their ability to listen to me one day, the day when I tell them they must go to the shadows. They must look in the dark corners of their souls for the dents they carry with them. And if I never listened to them, why would they listen to me? There would be no reason for them to do so.
So I will continue to work on my respectful communication every day. And sometimes, I will fail miserably. Sometimes, I will stand in the kitchen asking myself why I just said that. And then I will apologize and my kids will say what they always say. “It’s ok Mom.” They will say it because they know how hard I try to be the best mom I can. They will say it because their lack of traumatic experience makes them trust on a level that I can’t fathom. They will say it because they intuitively sense my genuine love for them.
And then one day, when they screw up, when they have to examine the depths of all that makes them human, when they have to apologize to their own children, I will be there to tell them “it’s ok”. And I will do so respectfully. And they will know that it really is ok to be human, to be a bit of a mess, and to be respected anyway.