No parent intentionally screws up their children’s development. Even so, I have never met a human being without issues to overcome. Of course, not all childhood trauma comes from our parents. It may stem from teachers, peers, other relatives, neighbors or even strangers.
Overall I think the vast majority of us learn our patterns from our parents. Some of those patterns may be positive, but many will be negative. These unhealthy patterns can last a lifetime because most of us don’t realize that they even exist, much less, that the patterns need correcting.
It’s important to remember that each of us is only doing the very best we can at any given moment, that includes our parents while they were raising us. That being said, I picked up some pretty undesirable stuff from both my mom and my dad. I love them with all my heart, but these are things I must face if I truly want to heal.
I guess a bit of background is in order before I really get started. My parents were divorced when I was five years old. My sister and I lived with our mother and spent every other weekend with our father, for the first few years, anyway.
My father remarried almost immediately after the divorce. He and his new family moved to another state when I was about eight years old. I didn’t get to see my dad again for six years.
Not only did my mother not have any skills required for a career, she also suffered from Multiple Sclerosis which prevented her from working full-time. My sister and I were raised on a welfare disability check.
The entire situation created some intensely difficult and conflicting emotions. Emotions I really had no good way to deal with as a child.
My mother had become very ill by the time I was eleven years old. Her disease progressed from that point, taking more and more of her livelihood until we were forced to move her into a nursing home when I was sixteen years old. She was just forty-five at the time.
During those five years preceding the nursing home, my sister and I cared for our mom the best we could. It was a lot of responsibility for two young girls to handle.
We certainly learned many useful skills of household management we otherwise may not have mastered at such an early age. We also rebelled against our situation every chance we got.
Always searching for that opportunity to be free of our responsibility and feel like children again, we both tended to “adopt” our friend’s parents as our own.
I grew up viewing my mother as a saint and my father, well, he bolted and I was very angry. Let’s just say I wasn’t very fond of my dad back then. I wanted to hate him, but I couldn’t. He was my dad and I loved him. So I blamed him instead, for pretty much everything.
No matter how much I admired my mother for what she endured and her determination to raise us, our relationship was upside down and backwards. The parent is supposed to care for the child, not the other way around.
This type of family dynamic can, and in my case did, create some codependency issues. I am a caretaker by the nature of my upbringing. I have always struggled with setting boundaries and taking care of myself. Everyone else’s needs always seemed to come first.
We were also very poor, living below the poverty line. My mom did a fantastic job with what little money we had, but there was never enough. Two undesirable lessons came from this unfortunate situation.
My mom always went without so that my sister and I could have what we needed. So, of course, my sister and I learned this strategy from her and brought it with us into our own adult lives.
The second was the lesson of lack. When a child grows up knowing, or being told, consistently, that there isn’t enough money, safety, food or anything else, that child will learn lack. It is a lesson that is extremely hard to let go of.
Although I am educated, I have a career, and I make a decent wage, it still feels like a struggle to make ends meet. It always feels like there just isn’t enough. I feel lack as an adult because that is what I learned as a child.
My father and I didn’t have much of a relationship when I was young. Between the ages of eight and twenty-three, I spent two weeks with him total and that’s it. We would talk on the phone and occasionally write letters. I always wanted him to be proud of me, even if I was hating on him.
My mother passed away when I was twenty-five and I realized I only had one parent left. I decided I wanted to make the best of that and try to repair my relationship with my dad.
So for the last twenty-five years my dad and I have been okay. We still live in different states, but we see each other more often. He is proud of me and he says so. Yet, I am still fairly uncomfortable around him.
Why? Because he doesn’t really know who I am. He has some strong beliefs and opinions about life and so do I. The problem? Our values don’t match, in fact, they probably couldn’t be farther apart.
I’m fine with his views and who he is, it’s all good, but my childhood fear of being abandoned by my father still exists today. I am afraid to be myself with him for fear he will reject me.
And the cherry on top is I really don’t like that I feel this way. The admission alone took a tremendous amount of effort. And I know, on some unconscious level, that I am beating myself up for not being able to overcome this fear.
My hope is that by putting this out into the world I will release some of my fear and begin to heal. Begin the process of forgiveness. Me forgiving my dad, for only being able to do his best at any given time. Me forgiving me and treating myself with kindness when I am not as far along my path as I would like to be.
Peace and love.