“There can’t be a future without a past.”
Well…. I think, given that they generally are a largely influential part of our lives, we can’t help but pick up some of their good and bad qualities. For a long time, their behavior and values are all that we know. However, as we grow and venture out into the world more and more, we start to experience how other people behave. Sometimes this makes us count our blessings, and other times it may make us resentful.
From my personal experiences, I’ve tried to establish a kind of middle ground. One that does more for my kids than I felt my parents did, but less than what my friend’s parents did. Let me explain.
My parents were about as hands-off as parents could be. No one made me wear a helmet when I rode my bike or banned me from watching inappropriate TV shows with my older brother. Yet, if I wasn’t at the dinner table by 5 p.m. I was grounded… Go figure. My parents were pro freedom, as I call it. If I wanted to take rollerskating lessons they said sure. If I wanted to quite those lessons, they said sure. But by God, if I ventured off our block, I was grounded. (I ventured. I ventured hard.)
Then there were my friend’s parents… They pushed their kids into everything. Track, swimming, karate… And my friends ultimately ended up resenting their parents for it.
So, when I became a parent, I made the conscious decision to reach the ideal middle ground. I won’t force my kids into things they have zero interest in, but when they do try things I’ll make sure they follow through on their commitments. For example, when my kids wanted to take karate, I told them they had to stick with it for at least six months. After that they could quit or continue. They both quit. At around five months they wanted to throw in the towel, but I made them stick it out. I’m proud of myself for making them follow through on their obligations. I also think they’ll have a stronger work ethic throughout life if they start practicing now.
That covers our parenting styles, but what about us as adults, as individuals? Are we our parents? I think this is tough to answer because so much changes from when our parents were growing up and what life was like during their formative years in contrast to ours.
Let’s look at my mom, for example. She was raised by a single mom which was almost unheard of in the 50’s and 60’s. She was an incredible artist (I mean truly gifted) and all around creative person. However, when she had kids she just let that part of herself fall to the wayside. She could have run successful galleries, been a graphic designer or pretty much anything she wanted. She wanted to raise her kids more though. Of course I appreciate the fact that she was a dedicated and loving parent, my best friend, and my whole world. But I often find myself at a fork in the road, probably similar to what she experienced, and see that I can either choose the 100% parent route or the other route.
Unlike my mom, I need the career stuff. I am a better person in general if I have the outlet that work provides. When my kids were just toddlers, I was a stay at home mom on and off. At first, I was still in college earning my Bachelor’s. When they started kinder and first grade, I was working at a tech start-up. Balancing everything made me a crazy person…. Seriously. I was short tempered and pent up. But I tried to keep all of that bottled up because that’s what good moms do, right? To help ease my stress and be there more for my kids, I stopped working outside the house for a bit. At first it was great. I volunteered with the school, got more involved in my kids’ homework, and baked. I ended up falling in love with the volunteering I was doing. I got more and more into it until I was essentially working again… But this time, I was actually happy. I suddenly felt fulfilled personally and professionally. (That experience turned out to be integral to where I am now, but more on that another time.)
My mom passed away just before my kids were born, so I never had the chance to get any parenting advice from the one person I wanted it from. So all I can do is look back at my mom’s choices and decide if they are ones I would want to do the same, or would I change something. All I can say for sure is that I know I would regret letting a part of
myself dwindle. I also think being true to myself sets a good example for my kids to know what they want and to go for it. So, I blend as much of my individual interests into my life as I can without compromising my parenting.
So, am I my mother? No. I am Mom 2.0 – The past experiences and lessons I’ve learned from my mom are as much of a part of me and my choices as anything can be. There can’t be a future without a past. Our parents shape us, whether we strive to emulate them as much as we can, or whether we learn what not to be – They are a part of what makes us who we are. And, one day, our kids will need to decide how much of us they want to carry with them through their choices.
Hope you enjoyed this little post!