"You can become everything that once undid you."
I just read that post and pretty much became a puddle. I haven't let myself really dig deep on this and write a post about it because I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what people will think. I'm afraid of my girls one day reading it and feeling pain...and animosity towards someone they never got the chance to know. I'm afraid of calling myself out and bringing the ugly to the table. I'm just afraid.
But, I also feel that those who have had full disclosure in their writing about parenting have reaped the benefits of change. They've risen above. Every day I strive for that as a parent and try to leave the baggage behind.
If you read the post linked in that quote you will get a very small glimpse into what is so hard for me to articulate. So please read it before continuing to read this.
"You don’t think about how you can open your mouth and let the sharp side of your tongue tear the innards out of a soul —- and there’s no way you can stuff the whole bloody mess back."
I don't need a disclaimer, but it's going to sound like one anyway. My dad gave me everything. He was generous to a fault and worked hard for us to be able to live an easy life. He was immensely talented and driven. He was also tough. He could make you feel small and less than in a matter of seconds. He had high expectations with less than helpful guidance for reaching them. He could judge harshly and evoke a kind of stress that will never leave my side.
When I became a parent I had high expectations for myself as well. I am educated in the field of child development. I assumed I could do it all. I let the educated part of myself believe that the human part would be pushed out of the picture. In other words, I never once considered I would be like him.
"When you’re upset, you upset what’s really in you."
Then one day after a few small encounters with Lila like the one in Ann's post, I had a sickening feeling. I got panicky and my hands started to sweat. I knew then that there were other forces at work in my path through motherhood. I knew then that I had to fight and SHOW UP and acknowledge that the baggage of my childhood was being dumped at my doorstep...even if I tried to pretend it wasn't.
"It’s like a flashing supernova, the look in a child’s eyes and there’s a flaring mirror and you see you are everything you’d said you’d never become."
I have strong willed kids. This is a good thing. I want that for them. I want them to always believe that they can do anything. Yet for a while I behaved at times like that will needed to be squashed. I could feel myself being quick to anger, expecting too much, and being less than compassionate. I could make a lot of excuses. Everything from Evie as a newborn sucked the life out of me to Lila knowing all of my buttons and pushing them incessantly. But, at the end of the day I have known the frustrating reality. I can be like him. I can be generous and driven. I can also be tough and expect too much.
"How can grace get a hold of you when the past won’t let go of you? How do you leave a legacy different than the one you’ve been left? "
This morning was one of those times. I let the morning get the best of me, and I can freely say I was not a good mom today. Again, there are excuses. I didn't get enough sleep being the biggest one. It's just interesting that after a long, rough morning I come across that blog post. I have the luxury of Katie watching my girls all day. I have spent the better part of the day trying to understand how I can make changes. I'm not writing about this looking for someone to hold my hand or try to make me feel better. Everyone has their baggage. My hope is that if I can acknowledge mine and aim to rise above it, just like Ann, then others will too.
I've come a long way since that first moment of panic. Maybe that's why my posts are very self-helpy these days. I've relied on the intense need to exemplify the good parts of me that are my dad and shake off the bad...to leave a different legacy. I know in his heart he had hoped to do the same, and I believe he made some progress. His tumultuous upbringing is hopefully one day going to be my book baby if that tells you anything. I can't hold it against him, and I can't keep holding it against me either. Becoming a parent shows you just how human and vulnerable you are. It brings out the very best and the very scary that you maybe didn't even know was there. The amazing part is, it gives you the opportunity to be better, to provide and instill better, and to want better for yourself and your kids.
(All quotes in this post are from the blog post by Ann Voskamp linked at the top.)