Every parent makes decisions about how to raise their child based on their own experiences with their parents. Sometimes they are conscious decisions and sometimes they are unconscious decisions.
Questioning Your Family History
There’s a history of mental health problems in my family – my Dad took Prozac for years, though I never understood what it was and why until I had to take it myself. My eldest brother has anger issues and has been in trouble with the police because of it and my other brother (the middle child) struggles to cope with frustration. I know a lot of people will argue nature vs nurture, but there has to become a point when you have to try to break the cycle.
My parents didn’t have great relationships with their own parents, and neither did my maternal grandmother. Regardless, they all loved each other. Somehow, there’s something deep inside us that loves our parents no matter what happens and it takes a lot of damage to take that deep rooted part away, even if they preferred not to spend time around each other.
My Mum hasn’t seen her Dad for years, despite him being very elderly and having suffered a stroke several years ago. Perhaps that is just my mum’s issue. I can’t say for certain, because in my family nobody ever talks about anything.
My paternal grandparents died long before my parents even met, I know my Dad idolised his mother and his father had a drink problem and I’m not sure if hate is too strong a word, but my Dad has never had many positive words to say about his father.
I suppose back then that’s the way it was, people didn’t talk, the mother was the nurturer and the father was the disciplinarian who had a very small role to play aside from bringing in the income. But there has to become a point when you have to try to break the cycle.
Questioning Your Own Issues
So then there’s me.
I grew up being told that crying showed weakness, and we weren’t weak, our family was strong and we didn’t tolerate weakness. Nobody talked about their feelings, if we got frustrated or angry nobody told us how to calm down and talk through those problems instead of releasing it in an unhealthy way.
For my eldest brother’s release turned into violence, my middle brother liked to break stuff, and I just bottled it up and kept it locked away.
I was in teens when it manifested itself in to a mild eating disorder, insomnia and depression with self-harming. It’s still hard to reveal that side of me because I know it will always be a part of me and it will always be inside me somewhere, no matter how deep it is hidden.
After seeing a doctor once a month, taking medication and figuring out in my head why I am the way I am, suddenly the clouds lifted and I realised what I needed to do to take charge of my life. I realised the triggers and the obsessive tendencies that I to over-think things (because I’m not used to talking through anything). I realised it’s ok to show emotion.
The only thing I ever feared was becoming a mother, because that was one thing I really didn’t know how to handle. Then, in March 2012 I took a pregnancy test and it was positive!
For the final 8 months of my pregnancy I feared that I would be an awful mother. R (my partner) kept telling me he knew that I would be a brilliant mum because I had done so much to make sure that my baby was safe while inside me. But I could control the things that went in my body and how well I looked after myself, how could I possibly raise an emotionally healthy child that would know how much I loved him when I hadn’t had a great role model myself.
My family never said those 3 simple words, ‘I love you’, I don’t recall ever seeing my parents show affection to each other either, we never hugged, we never did kisses on the cheek, the only physical contact we ever had was out of anger or frustration.
I don’t blame my parents, they weren’t to know better, but there has to come a point when you have to try to break the cycle.
I tell my little Oliver how much I love him, every day. I practice gentle parenting and tell him it’s ok to cry and it’s ok to be angry or sad or frustrated. When he feels those emotions he can come to me and I will understand and I will help him deal with those emotions. I want him to know that I am always there for him, day or night.