In my mind’s eye, scenes from my childhood play like a movie projected onto a white sheet draped across the backyard fence. The memories like the colour of vintage photographs; filtered, faded, yellowed.
My children, at 7 and almost 6, are currently living their childhood while I can only remember bits and pieces of mine. I liken the memories of my childhood to Polaroids; my individual moments captioned with an all encompassing statement of events. The in-betweens and details now lost to the dark and dusty recesses of a time long ago.
While I watch my daughters play, I find myself wondering about what they will remember from their childhood, how their individual experiences might shape their minds and their futures. I worry about how my faults might influence them and how my insecurities might be interpreted and internalized. I wonder how my childhood shaped me, how it informed my adolescent and adult years. How it has informed the relationships that I have built and how it has informed me about myself.
How has my childhood shaped and moulded the person, the woman and the mother that I have become?
I think about how childhood frames one’s life, how the first five years of life are critical to our development and growth and at the core of forming our relationship and our behavioural patterns. The childhood that we individually experience shapes us, it is the information we carry with us into adulthood. Childhood teaches us what we need to know about our immediate world; what to expect and from whom. No matter what one may experience, it is that experience that ultimately navigates our experience within our own unique world.
Last year, many of my therapy sessions focused on analyzing my childhood. It truly was a pivotal point along my healing path. It helped to redirect the conversations I was repeatedly having with myself, ones that were going nowhere while instructing my decent further down the spiral. When I began unpacking my childhood I began to shift my perspective, I began to look at the situations and the people involved in those situations differently. I began to empathize and do my best to relate to their situation and attempt to understand what they were bringing to the table. I was practicing forgiveness and acceptance. For me and those involved. I was attempting to see our commonalities; their struggle as it compared to my struggle. I was actively attempting to see them as human beings experiencing this thing called life, exactly like I was experiencing my own so-called life. I was beginning to forgive myself which was the start of loving myself. This acceptance helped me extend my compassion and empathy further, passing it to those who had hurt me, those who I held some amount of resent for. Once this shift was engaged I could feel negative emotions transpose into peacefully aligned emotions. I saw a willingness to accept without feeling the need to change. I saw the human that I was in the humans that they are/were and it allowed me to shift for the positive, for the betterment for myself and my family.
Into the wilds of youth…
My youngest is five, almost six. She is bright and funny and so full of life. She has a magnetic charm that instantly captures your attention and your heart. Her hair golden under the sun, her smile wide and mouth open. She laughs as she runs in giant circles around the trampoline in the backyard. She is completely content in her own little world; the image of purity and innocence. She is happy and that happiness is simple for her to achieve. She lives in the moment, effortlessly. It’s moments like that I am reminded of my memories of being a young girl. I recognize my five year old self reflect in my daughter’s eyes, through her movements and her exuberant spirit. I instantly went back to a time when I was carefree and innocent, tossing my blonde hair over my shoulder and speeding down the sidewalk on my Big Wheels Powder Puff. (Anyone else remember those from the 80’s?). It was surreal; the sight of my daughter running circles super imposed over my memory of racing a Powder Puff; each of us five years old. I never want her to lose her spirit or in-the-moment way of being. I want her to be and to feel comfortable and safe enough to be.
There was a time when my innocence and contentment prevailed. The time before my self esteem and confidence tanked, before the self loathing, before I realized how all of this was affecting the progression of my life. In therapy, the work I tackled with my inner child broke my heart as I acknowledge the sadness my younger self endured. Part of my work includes talking with my younger self and writing her letters. I’ve introduced myself as the woman she became, 30 some odd years later. I’ve listened and attempted to understand her needs. I’ve pondered how I can best meet those needs and how I will honour those within my 40-something self. I’ve apologized for abandoning her. She forgave me. Yet, still, I need to heal her to heal me. I have been working on my anxiety for a few years now. What I have learned is that the experiences I remember from childhood have directly influenced the way in which I operate, most notably (to me) how I operate within relationships, be those romantic or platonic. This is the information I must move forward with.
Transitioning from child to mother…
Becoming a mother enriched my capacity for love and understanding. It was a flood of emotion, a rush of instant and unconditional love. It became clear that my role here was to protect, nourish and love these tiny beings; these perfect and pure pieces of the universe. Holding my babies, then and now, is to be encircled by love accentuated by a release of endorphins, my cup simply runneth over. Motherhood lead me to discover two things; that I wanted everyone to experience being held by this kind of love and that I was the one needing to be held by this kind of love. I needed to learn how to turn that love onto myself and actually trust and believe it.
Becoming a mother let me know that I had arrived! It became clear that my purpose in life was to raise my girls with a sense of security, stability and never-ending love and to learn how to mother myself, all the while sending vibes of unconditional love out into the universe. A mother provides a soft and safe place to fall while encouraging and lifting up her children to realize their potential and their unique brilliance. I need to be that, for all of us.
A mother’s love…
When the emotional flood gates of motherly love opened they created an overwhelming push to provide love for those who didn’t feel loved, for those who felt unworthy of love and for those who felt alone and unsafe. I wanted the orphans, the misfits, the weirdos and those who felt that they didn’t belong. I wanted to wrap my arms around them and share my capacity for love with them. I wanted them to feel safe and to let them know that; “everything is okay, I’ve got you.” The first step is to attain this for myself so that I may extend it to those who need it.
All of the work and the healing thus far, has helped me to understand the art of relationships and it informs me to build better ones; especially with my daughters. The mother I need and the mother I choose to be is one who leads by example and loves with a complete and open heart.
What I have learned, and continue to learn, is that being good to myself – mind, body and spirit – is good for my girls. I need to lead by example, to transpose the lessons I’ve learned into healthy behaviours and expectations. It is my every intention to meet them with compassion, love and safety, to encourage and nurture positive, constructive and safe communication and to be gentle with our human tendencies, always adjusting with a mindful awareness of the greater good. I need this and they need this. That is our greater good.
My girls truly are my greatest gift. It is through their eyes that I learn how to become my best self; after all, they are what I am here for. For them I must heal my past grievances, forgive to silence the resentment, learn to accept people as intrinsically flawed and to do my very best to spread love and acceptance.
To this day I am still working to love and accept my authentic self. I am still exploring and learning who I am and what I am to contribute to this world. But what I know is this; I get to be mumma to two magical pieces of this universe. I get to love them and laugh with them and raise them to be authentically themselves. In turn, I benefit from their innocence, their purity and their unique interpretation of life. I get to revisit my childhood through experiencing theirs. I am encouraged to be myself and to love that person, because they give me their love so freely. And, to them I am their beautiful mumma, I am their anchor, their safe place, their biggest cheerleader. I am right where I need to be. Motherhood truly is the best job and I am grateful for the journey and the lessons within.
Thank you for reading. Really, it means so much. I would love to hear what motherhood/parenthood is for you. Please feel free to drop a comment below and share, share, share.
With great appreciation,