We can only unpack what we are either ready or willing to unpack out of our past. And as we encounter life on life’s terms, unfiltered, we will run into moments where processing will take place on the next level.
Listening to our pastor describe his relationship with his mother was just such an occasion. Now the point of the message was not specifically about his mom, and what was said passed by relatively quickly. But he also spoke about being available and willing to do anything at any time for his kids, just like his mom was for him.
Sitting there a couple spots down from my daughter, I couldn’t help but wonder what she thought of that statement. Or, if my other adult children had heard this, what the response would be at the emotional level.
Thankfully, I have spent enough time unpacking some of this in my recovery that I didn’t move immediately to self-castigation, but instead, to a post-mortem. Why had I (and why do I continue) to hold some specific boundaries where my kids are concerned?
First of all, I have raised (or hope I have raised) independent and thoughtful adults that can problem-solve on their own, with my assistance being only one of many options available to them. I saw first-hand in my family of origin what happens when you are too available and allow a child to become overly dependent on parental assistance. This creates a helpless adult, who is unprepared for life’s very real challenges and lives in fear of everyday experiences.
Second, I became a parent while I was still a child. This has nothing to do with my children, it is an artifact of my past, that just is. My mother was a practicing addict from day 1 and I was responsible for everyone and everything around me for as long as I could remember. This caused me to make a lot of poor decisions, and left wreckage that I will likely spend the rest of my life sifting through and allowing God to heal, albeit a piece at a time.
The past has had a significant impact on how I deal with others. I continue to work my recovery, submit to the principles, but it is a slow move toward wholeness, and I am not in charge of the timing or what order things get addressed in. Much was stolen from me as a child. So much so, I sometimes will feel my only power in life I have is to say no. Even if it means disappointing someone. This however has nothing to do with how much I love. Love is not measured in whether I do or don’t fulfill a request. Love is about being there when I can; in emergencies, in good times and in sharing the not so good times.
If you, as my adult child, always remember that my love won’t ever waver regardless of my yes or no, this builds trust and I feel freer to share myself with you; the harder stuff, the good with the bad.
This was shared with my children recently and shines a light on just some of the places I’ve been as a dysfunctional parent in recovery and child of an addict. Parenting through the mists of dysfunction is about continuously rooting out our mistakes and tuning them into lessons. But we must own them first.
Much love to you all.
This is beautiful! There is nothing but authenticity to give to our kids when we start making peace with our past selves and past lives! I have often felt like it’s a painful transition but, because of them, it’s one of love, a strong will and resilience.