(Photos by Sage.)
Wow. This post was harder than I ever imagined to begin. Because I am thinking: Seriously? Who am I to offer advice on a subject such as this?
Who am I?
I am a mother. A daughter. A granddaughter. A wife. A daughter-in-law. A friend. A neighbor. I am an observer and a participant in both the story of violence and the story of intentional non-violence.
And I am selective as to which tradition I choose to pass on.
Indeed, I have lived the legacy of both peaceful and non-peaceful parenting from many vantage points. And I'm ready to step up and start writing a new story. Starting today.
From the comments on the earlier posts (both this one and this one) I know I've touched a nerve. And I've lost nights of sleep over worrying that someone out there feels judged and criticized by my words. And then today in the mail (the actual mail. With a stamp and paper and everything) came a note saying (among other things), "P.S. Thanks for trying and trying to get the point across about kids and respect. I think it's a big deal."
Thanks, B. I do too.
I think it's a ginormous deal. And no matter where we've been or where it looks like we're heading, we can make changes that better the lives of our children and ourselves. How empowering is that? We get to step up and take control of our choices. We're in charge! Awesome.
But before I dig in, just to be clear, I am not:
- An abuse counselor
- A psychologist – child or otherwise
- A person living with physical, emotional, or sexual violence
- A child living with violence
- A parent wresteling with depression or mental illness
- A person healing from major past trauma
I am simply, a mom. And a mom who believes that I can do better today than I did yesterday. If you are dealing with major trauma please seek help beyond this space. Here I am simply sharing my thoughts on bringing a bit more peace into your home.
Most importantly, my words are offered without judgement for where you are or where you've been; what you've said or what you've done. They are offered with hope and gratitude for where you have chosen to go from here. What an amazing gift for yourself, your family, and the future.
While I intended to start with how you think about, speak to, or otherwise engage your child, I realized that was premature. Because before our child there was us. And that story is woven deep within our story with our own children. So perhaps the first step will be the hardest one of all.
Step 1: Forgive, accept, and unconditionally love yourself.
And when you've got that one down then move on to loving, forgiving, and accepting your parents. And your child. "Oh, right. That," you say. "No problem."
Er, or not.
Because our family stories are thick with unhealed wounds. We carry them. We play them out in a new context. We remember them in every cell. Even what we choose to forget come bubbling up during times of stress.
And so I ask you to begin by doing something that may seem nearly impossible.
Why start with love, forgiveness, and acceptance? Because it's the foundation of what we're setting out to create. It's allowing ourselves, our parents, and our child to be imperfect. And within that imperfection to still be loved and accepted. Unconditionally. Think about that for a moment. Unconditional love. Isn't that a beautiful concept? We are separate from our actions. We are loved, even when we're acting like monsters. We matter, even when we don't think we should.
If you'd like some homework, grab a blank notebook and jot down three things you appreciate about yourself every night before you go to sleep. Three gifts you bring. Three bits of your sparkle. Because guess what? You were born to shine, too.
Edited to say: Please do this exercise, with our without the pencil and paper. I did it last night in my head before I fell asleep. And while I was slow starting, I came up with three things. I know you can too.
For the very brave, share it here too. (Not required, just gutsy.) Need more inspiration? This is fantastic. No go find your awesome.
So much love,
Here are the links to the complete Peaceful Parenting Series: