Joanna posted a quote on her blog Team Effort that I read tonight that really spurred me to examine something in detail I’ve known about for a while.
The longing for love that is in every child is the longing to be recognized….
~Eckhart Tolle (from A New Earth, p.105)
I think if that deep need to be seen [or as I interpret it, recognized or accepted unconditionally] wasn’t satisfied, as it likely wasn’t for most of us, we feel that loss forever. I think this sadness and this longing underpins much of what goes wrong in our world today…..so many people trying so hard to fill up that hole, by acquiring more things, or working longer hours, or drinking, or drugging, or gambling, and then, sadly, denying that same need in their own children, setting up yet another generation. I think that longing to be recognized is something most of us, if we sat still long enough, would admit to feeling.
I responded to her post:
Yes. I agree with that. Even when (naively, before children) I thought I had risen above it, had denied needing parental acceptance and unconditional love, and felt I’d effectively dealt with the loss, it was still a part of me. I’m 38 years old now and still feel the effects of not having unconditional acceptance and recognition as a valid and important part of the family.
My parents used intimidation, manipulation, and fear to control my sisters and I (though my oldest sister actually started following in their footsteps at an early age), and it left a lot of scars that we’ve been working for years to mend (and fairly successfully, though it really did take many years and a lot of work). There was both physical and/or emotional abuse between my mother and father and mother and step-father and to us kids. They fairly routinely rejected me and my ideas as highly unimportant and marginalized most of my existence. To some extent, I still feel that way with my family (though it’s not quite as bad as it was, and as long as I’m careful what topics I talk about). They have a hard time accepting me or my ways of thinking. It had extended into some measure of my parenting too – when they decried my attachment parenting as promoting my girls’ over-dependence on me, or when they cringed and commented negatively about how long I breastfed my last child – which by the way, was 3 years and 1 month, I’m really proud to report.
I had experienced more anger than I ever thought possible now that I’ve been a mother for a while, but I realized that it was a lot of buried pain, combined with no understanding or training of how to deal with intense emotions (both theirs and mine). I realized early on how ill-equipped I was to meet the emotional needs of very young, very closely spaced children, particularly when one was as sensitive, if not more so, than I was and twice as intense.
Having children can bring you square into your own past. Having no positive role model really does leave you stranded and you have to expend a lot of time and energy to do it (parenting) right. If you’ve never been shown how, if you want to do it differently than your parents did it, you have to research and make choices and hope you chose the best way for your children. And if you have children with different needs (and most do), you have to tailor it to each one.
I believe it can be done, and I think I have made great progress over the past 7 years, but I continue to struggle at times because there’s no one to really guide me ahead. Well, I need to modify that a bit: my step-mom has offered some really good, sound and loving advice from time to time and she really believes I’m a good mother even though she’d never really known how dark some of my days were (and now long past, thank goodness).
The strangest thing was that my middle child, with her extreme temperament, who was at first almost my complete undoing, has taught me the most about how to parent from the heart, to see the child underneath the behavior, and search for the truth that wasn’t readily apparent, because she really needed me to find the perfect way to parent her. She’s the one that defied all standard mainstream parenting advice. Quite honestly, by her very nature, she truly needed better than that.
I want more emotionally for them than I ever got, and I want them to have no doubt about how much they are loved and cared for and how much they matter to me and their dad.
I hope, in the end that’s the legacy that they will have.