The older we get the more likely it is that we will choose to settle in and remain stuck in our ways. After all, what is more comforting–trying to make difficult changes or deciding to stay the same? I will not pretend to have the market cornered on messed up experiences. I will not even try to make excuses for my mistakes. We all had at least one thing handed to us that we wish we could have given back. For me, it has been my battle to eliminate dysfunctional thoughts. Thoughts that eventually make way for destructive action. And those actions that push others away. Sometimes I can see myself reacting negatively to an event–but I am powerless to stop it. Part of my struggle has to do with a lack of self awareness. It is easier to continue traveling on a well-trudged road created by those with a similar genetic makeup. Easier to run with the dysfunctional patterns that I was handed when I was young. I often cannot see that the patterns I am repeating are negative because such were the tools that were given to me. Anger was the answer for my wounded vulnerability. Hostility was my protection against the endless cycle of abandonment and hurting. Manipulation was the only way to get what I needed. For years I trusted in these war-like emotions to keep me safe from attacks by people who were supposed to love me. They were my coping mechanisms and my first steps into codependency. There was a point in my life when I had no choice in how I was treated or how long I would be hurting.
But now these emotions have become excuses for me.
Parents are the first homes for their children. We exist to welcome and nurture them–as the protectors of their souls. This is not a perfect job, nor one where you can take off when you are exhausted. We were chosen. Given an opportunity to pour purpose and breathe life onto their innocent, blank slates.
Slates that are always, always influenced by their surroundings.
Parents/mentors/extended family have an important responsibility to guide children away from hardship–but to stand firmly by their side when pain is inevitable. We are NOT meant to wound these innocent spirits with self-righteous ideas of who we THINK they should be. Especially, when their idea of who they are conflicts with what we were taught to believe.
If home is not SAFE, children will learn to outsource their needs. They will run–into the arms of others who may give them false information and take advantage of their hearts. They will lie and tell you what you want to hear when they think you cannot handle their truths. They will form guards against any connections to you.
I am reminded of children who “come out” to conservative parents. And parents who then attack the very thing they were meant to protect. There are parents who refuse to listen when their child is screaming for their attention. And parents who later blame themselves for the consequences.
I am reminded of myself. When I was younger I did everything I could to get away from home. I felt invalidated and broken. So much so, I delayed my potential for nearly a decade before I discovered that I was worth so much more.
Now I know that I am my home.
Sometimes, parents fail and we are left to keep our home safe. This is okay. Things like this happen to people everyday. We fall off our paths and run in a million different directions. We chase after things we do not need and leave our homes open without any security. We make mistakes then drag ourselves back in the game.
I remember the night my parents fully separated before their divorce. I was 3, maybe 4–and it was late at night. My father came to my mother’s bed (the bed they used to share) where I was sleeping and kissed me goodnight. I could not process the pain on his face or register the finality of this moment. He told me he loved me and I said I love you too, believing I would see him tomorrow. My mother stood in the doorway. A stranger to this exchange. An outsider who didn’t know what to say.
In the morning he was gone.
For a child, life seems to drag along. Waiting feels like an endless dance with misery. A tango of hope mixed with agonizing defeat. But children never have to force themselves to believe anything. After all, parents do not lie without a good reason. When I first learned to walk and my father taught me how to navigate the living room. He pushed chairs and tables out of the way–instilling in me a belief that everything would be okay as long as I kept moving.
One foot in front of the other.
Mistakes will be made. Promises are irrevocably broken as we try to pick ourselves up from our hardest heartbreaks. When I was younger it was more acceptable to blame the adult in charge whenever I was unsuccessful. If I messed up, I could take solace in the fact that my mother or my father “made me this way”. I would search my heart and find this infected wound carved out of my disappointment for being let down before I could even write my first name.
But I am not a kid anymore.
I cannot lie and say I do not know what I am doing. I cannot run when things do not go my way. I cannot pretend to be innocent when I hurt other people. Or deny responsibility when I make a mistake. Even children smell guilty consciences and use it for their own personal gain.
Wrapping apologetic parents around innocent little fingers.
I never wanted to repeat the patterns displayed for me. No parent consciously decides to damage their children and alter the natural, happy course of their lives. I wanted the nuclear family. Sunday dinners, Saturday trips and Friday night games. More than anything I wanted secure and stable consistency. But the truth of my reality is the head of my household is me.
I could tell you I am strong and brave and resilient. Capable of overcoming my failures honorably. But I am just another adult.