Still on my Parenting 'L' Plates
by Beverley Paine, May 2014
I am a mum, a grandma and a mother-in-law. This stage of life throws a different perspective on being a parent.
Growing up I never wanted to be like my mum or my dad. Still don’t. My kids and my husband reassure me I’m not a bit like them, but I know I am, it is impossible not to be. Sure there are lots of differences and I deliberately and conscientiously strive to be different every day. My desire to be different has meant that I parent consciously, constructing and reflecting on my responses and modifying my reactions thoughtfully.
I am also acutely aware that I parented my children the way I did, not out of love but from fear: fear of being stupid or ignorant or botching it up, of not being good enough, of inadvertently giving them psychological and emotional scars they would have to work through for the rest of their lives. It didn’t really matter how hard I tried as a parent I still managed to make mistakes. Genetics are against me being the mum I wanted to be, the mum I longed to have as a child and still fantasize about. The indoctrination and conditioning prevalent in the era in which I grew up was against me too.
The difference between me and my parents is that my kids forgive me for my parenting mistakes. It is time for me to embrace that the mum I wanted to be is a myth. I’m just a learner mum, always will be. My wobbly self-esteem means I still worry that I am not good enough, that the many mistakes I make will be judged forever. But that is my problem. I think my kids forgive me because I own it as my problem. My parents, on the other hand, know that they graduated from being learner parents with distinctions. They have nothing more to learn, they know how to parent.
Despite feeling inadequate and often challenged I’m here, learning and sharing, growing. I never want to step away from the raw emotion and confusion that parenting is, because I might inadvertently ‘graduate’ myself and become one of those people who know ‘how to be a good parent’.
This Mothers Day I am going to forgive my mother and my mother-in-law. I'm sorry I didn't do this earlier; it has taken me this long to grow and to understand that it was my choice to carry and nurture the pain from old wounds year after year, using that energy to build a shield that not only protected me but kept me from experiencing life fully.
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