Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sifting Through:: Parenting & Trust

Lately I have been revisiting my childhood and the ideas and perceptions I adopted about the world and life.  It's incredibly difficult to let some of them go.  I keep finding that I continue to use them as excuses for who I am when I am misunderstood, judged or "called out" to defend myself; how I feel, what I think and choose to do or not do.

Sometimes I question if they are really excuses, or simply parts of who I am that I fail to accept because of what the rest of the world tells me.

One thing I didn't learn was trust.  Not in myself, or anyone else.

I think that is one of the biggest things we can teach our children.  Trust.

But I wasn't.

I was lied to repeatedly growing up.  It was done in the name of protection.  I'm just not convinced it was for my protection.  Early childhood experiences were swept under the rug and never spoken of as if they never happened.  Again for my protection.  Somehow that doesn't fly.  Call it protection.  It feels like denial.

Secrets always come out.  It may be ten days or 18 years, but they always come out.

Mine did.

Over time it has become less about the lies and more about my not being trusted with the truth.  

Some say I should have never been told the truth.  I disagree.  We need to protect our children, but we need also to trust them.  Do not deny your children the truth, your truth, and most importantly, their truth.  Does that mean you tell your son or daughter about every personal secret you hold?  Certainly not.  But if you have had an experience that would benefit your relationship and their understanding of you and what you believe, I say share it.  It does not benefit our children to lie, deny or hide our screw ups, bad choices and mishaps.  We all do it.  They're going to do it.  

And. It's. Okay.

Trust your children with the truth.  Your truth.  It will come out...eventually.  And while it doesn't, you can be certain that they'll make it up on their own.

I did.

At the age of 18 I discovered that my younger sister and I had different fathers.  She's the one who told me.  When I called my mother and asked why I had not been told her immediate response was, "Who the hell told you?!"  The conversation, or rather, screaming match, ended with, "Because it's none of your Gah-Damn business!"  {click}

From there I created my own story.

Which was wrong.

A short time later, during another screaming match, this one face-to-face, I heard the words that slammed me into the ground and would change me forever.

Yes, sometimes the truth hurts.  Sometimes it knocks you on your ass and leaves you breathless with shock and anger and resentment.  Particularly if its delivery does not come from a place of loving calm.

Then you sit up and wonder...did I hear that right?

All I could do then was retreat.  I went to my room and slammed the door.  I was seeing a counselor at the time and upon sharing the latest blip in my life with him, he requested my mother's presence.  She declined.  It was never spoken of again.

Six years later I legally changed my name and began speaking my truth to anyone who would listen.  Everyone except my mother.  A friend said she didn't think I should have ever been told.  I assured her that I was glad I had been told. 

Perhaps there is a bit of denial in that statement.  It's hard to come back from the words, "I'm a product of rape" once you say them to yourself.  They become a life sucking affirmation.  

However, the truth shall set you free and it did clear up a few things.  It explained a lot about how I felt growing up.  Finally there was an explanation for why I felt unwanted, unloved and...different from others in my family.  It explained the disconnection between me and my mother; the lack of bonding and nurturing.  It explained why at the age of 8, upon returning from a visit with my aunt's family in Southern California, I did not want to hug, or be hugged, by my mother.  I never understood why that was and it caused me a great deal of confusion.

That one moment 20 years ago led to another realization...I know very little about my mother or her life.  She didn't trust me with her experiences, her pain, her truth, and in turn, I never learned to trust her with mine.  

I think we, as parents, expect our children to trust us without any real trust in them.  My experience with my mother has taught me that if I want my daughter to trust me with her stories, her experiences, her pain, her truth...I have to trust her with mine.  I am as honest as I can be, and I share as much of myself and my story as I can with my teenage daughter so she can know and understand me as well as herself.  I'm not saying that we, as parents, need to be a completely open book.  Not at all.  Some pages weren't written for anybody but us.  But if we're making decisions, rules, or demands on our children based on a particular experience...I think it's wise to share that experience, how it made us feel, how we wished we had done differently and why it is screwing up their life now.  :)

How did you learn to trust?   Did you learn to trust, or do you have trust issues?  Do you trust yourself?  Others? 

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