One of my greatest challenges has been parenting children with BIG emotions as someone who isn’t comfortable with feeling the feelings.
Add in a dash of dissociation and disorganized attachment and you have yourself what could be right little mess friend!
I am an only child of parents who married and had me somewhat young and who weren't quite right for one another. They loved me but they didn't like each other much most of the time. They fought often, separating and reuniting countless times through my childhood until I encouraged them to get a divorce in my early teens. My parents did the best they could but they had their own struggles and didn't have the wealth of knowledge we do about raising a child to emotional maturity. In addition, I was an "easy" and "mature" child so any emotional needs I had sometimes weren't met and I didn't learn "healthy" coping mechanisms.
As an only child, I didn't have anyone to process with and relied upon myself for that. Children also tend to think that their emotions take up too much space in a home that's often chaotic. It's no surprise that the coping mechanisms I developed were compartmentalization and dissociation.
As I grew, my instinct with loud, messy feelings is “it’s fine. You’re okay,” shut it down, and then remove myself when it becomes TOO much.
But parenting while healing and reparenting yourself…it’s funny. Funny because sometimes it feels like the children you are given are specifically the children you need to heal your wounds.
One of my boys is highly emotional. I’m talking he WANTS TO FEEL SAD and is channeling his inner emo kid sometimes. The other boy? He wants to cuddle and snuggle all the time (did I mention I’m also not a hugger?! 😬)
So here I am with these kids that full on TRIGGER my biggest areas I need to heal. These children that challenge me in the best and worst ways. These children who make me SEE my triggers and my wounds and help me to know what to heal.
So I spent time doing the work. I recognize my triggers and wounds. I stop dissociating and disconnecting and running away so much. I teach myself that I CAN handle big emotions and the boys learn that they can too. I learn how to accept and support big feelings without dismissing them. I grow and they grow.
I knew instinctually that something like this past week and a half was coming. We had an elderly dog and we adopted a hamster (friendly tip: don't do it! They only live 2 years! It's heartbreak waiting to happen!!). We half joked that Bas and Ninja would go within days of one another and that it was going to wreck our kids...one of them in particular. The same boy who was heartbroken by the unexpected loss of a beloved kitten that slept in the bed with him at 3 years old. (When that kitten died, I checked out to be honest. I felt like I was on autopilot. I patted heads with a "there there" mentality and went through the motions.)
But friend, here is where the growth is shown: in the challenging times. Because after the loss of our family dog, I grieved with my children. I allowed them the space to just be sad. I assured them that yes, it's very sad to lose someone dear and helped them with ways to grieve and feel sad with purpose. We talked about all of the fun places and things we were able to do with Bas. We told funny stories of the times Ninja escaped. I made a video and an album of photos of Bas and encouraged the sad boy to look through the album when he was ready. We held a little service for Ninja and made her a little flower bouquet and headstone. We cried and we hugged and we felt the sadness. And then we allowed ourselves to feel joy again. Because as a friend said recently after the loss of her sister, "that great joy and great sorrow can coexist."
So here's why I share this all. Not as a pat on the back for myself, but as a reminder to myself and you. A reminder that just because you feel broken, it doesn't mean you can't be healed. A reminder that you can overcome the wounds of your childhood and your trauma.
A reminder that you can be a breaker of generational wounds.
A reminder that you can reparent yourself while parenting your trauma.
A reminder that parenthood doesn't have to be triggering but healing.
A reminder that your children were given the perfect parent for them.
A reminder that you'll mess up (maybe a lot!) during parenting, but that your kids will be just fine.
A reminder that you are more than capable of more than you can imagine. I believe in you.