I am extremely fortunate in my work; I get to connect with other families who are going through the same things we are, and who are treading the same path - who are holding the same vision for peace and love and joyfulness in their home. Part of this work means that I have the privilege of working with other parents - in support groups, classes, one-to-ones - and I am constantly struck by the incredible work they do. By the efforts they put into their parenting in doing the best they possibly can - but also the heartache, and then the courage to step up, when things aren't going well.
To hear parents speak openly of their struggles, to hold space as they express the hardships in their lives is a great honour. There is so much pain. So much pain being carried around by each and every one of us - whether we know it or not, whether we can or choose to express it or not. We all have troubling and challenging incidents from our past - childhood hurts, deaths of loved ones, hospital traumas… But it's not always big stuff. It can be just not wanting to repeat habits of a lifetime - of not wanting to stay in the rut of generations of hurt*.
And these emotional hurts have a tremendous impact on who we turn out to be - and on how we behave. We can't (and shouldn't have to) just forget the challenges we have faced - they are stored in our emotional brain, whether we remember them or not. And, if we leave them as is, if we push them down and screw the lid on tight, it isn't possible for us to move past them, and to grow and develop fully into the person we can be - the person we are meant to be.
Oh, but that's where the hard work is! Unscrewing that lid, even just a little, can feel like a pressure pot letting off built-up steam - and what if we can't get the lid back on again? What then?? But we want to grow and change and move on and be the even more amazing individual we were meant to be. And to do that, we need to take a peek back to what was, to see it and hear it and feel it - so that we can let it go.
Having safe, loving, trusting space held for us to go there - to go back and re-experience these hurts - is where the healing lies. We need someone with us who will feel it too, but who will also remind us that we are safe now, that whatever hurt us then can't hurt us now, that we will get through this. And the power also of being this space-holder cannot be underestimated, both for the sake of the person to whom we are listening, and for our own healing. Our listener becomes an outer voice to remind our inner voice of what it already knows - that we are good; and not only that we are good, that we are unconditionally loveable, that we are doing our best - that we are helpful, useful, necessary, essential.
It can be done. We can heal, slowly, carefully, bit by bit - maybe over a lifetime. But this pain we carry doesn't have to be it - it doesn't have to be this way.
Yet as I continually move towards being the parent - the person - I want to be, I have also had to learn to be ok with where I'm at, to accept the situation in this moment. But accepting my current situation is not about giving in to it, it's about knowing that this is how it is, but that things can and will change if that's what I want. It's about noticing and being with what is going on, whilst also striving gently to move forwards, whenever the time is right.
My life has changed dramatically - slowly, but dramatically - over the last 9 years since becoming a parent. It's not having children per se that has changed me - it's my vision of what can be, of the peace we can find, that drives me to keep working, to keep looking to myself to do better. And I am doing it - each week, each month, each year… Imperceptibly I move forwards, towards where I know I can be. And I know it, because here and there I see it. I see it in my acceptance of difficult situations in the moment, I see it in my children's attitudes, I see it in mine and my husband's improved relationship. And as those occasions lengthen, and get more frequent, I know I am doing this. And I know that it's worth it.
And for those of you who are happy? For those who are living life in the way that feels right to you, that serves you, right now? You don't need this. But for many parents, we can be grateful for what we have, and accepting of it, and see something brighter for ourselves up ahead. This is for the parents who, like me, are not there yet.
Healing pain is an ongoing, often lifelong process. The Hand in Hand Parenting tool of Listening Partnerships, where we hold space for another adult, and they do the same for us in return, has been invaluable for us in moving forwards and getting to a place where we don't feel stuck, and where we can make intentional changes to stop repeating unhelpful and hurtful behaviours. If you would like to find out more, alongside other parents on this amazing journey, you will be made very welcome in our little community. Listening Partnerships can also be used alongside other tools such as mindfulness and meditation, journalling, therapy and counselling, and support groups, depending on your needs and what feels right for you. And, no matter what you try, when the healing feels hard, know that it's working, that that's where the growth is. You are doing this - and we are right here with you.
*Parenting is tough work, and all parents do the best they can. For the most part, our parents, and their parents, and so on, have not been well supported or guided, and the hurts they experienced as children are, whether they know it or not, passed down to us and through our parenting to our own children. This is the point at which we are working - and this is where the hard work truly is.