Another Parenting With Trust newsletter went out yesterday – didja see it? No?
Then read on…..
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Welcome again to my Parenting With Trust newsletter, and let me start by thanking you for your interest in learning more about trusting your children and trusting yourself. I’m so grateful that there are people in the world who are willing to face their own fears and inner turmoil head-on, in order to heal and make this world a healthier place for children – and for all people.
I want to let you know about a few family-friendly events that are coming up near Philadelphia in the next few months. Follow the links below to learn more about….
A Potluck Lunch at my house on April 19th
My Talk for the Holistic Moms Network in West Jersey on May 3rd
Film and Discussion about the Philly Free School at a local cafe on May 6th
Camping near Jim Thorpe the weekend of June 10-12th
Sorry to those of you who don’t live nearby – but hopefully there are fun things happening where you live too.
So – back to the here and now! Thanks for sending in your parenting questions – I’ll address some of them today and in future newsletters and podcasts, so keep them coming.
Happy April Fools Day, and may your day be filled with some J/K, LOL, ROFL, LMAO or hahaha…. with perhaps a touch of WTF, just to keep you on your toes.
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From a parent:
My 11 year old spent 5 days of spring break with me. She was sick for part of it. She let me hold her and dote on her and it was delightful until I had to go back to work. Then her Dad came. I got to see her today for a short time after work but she wasn’t excited to see me or very interested in me. It reminded me of being the ‘little kids’ mom”. I was SO good at that! I was with them very often, working only 8 days a month and living more meagerly. We had the BEST time! Part of my adjustment has been losing that relationship with them and that specialness to them. My 11 year old, who was a Momma’s girl and who I breast fed til she was 3, acts like she could go months without me and be fine. My role, my place in this world, and my ego don’t know what to do with this and it’s part of the ingredient to my recent breakdown. How do you think about this? Literally, what do you do with your time? I have to be around somewhat but not always. I’d like to go play with others but feel slightly guilty leaving my 14 year old alone. We’re both not extremely social, don’t belong to a church and don’t have a big support group. She likes being alone, she says. Trust your kids? Leave them alone? Really?
>It reminded me of being the ‘little kids’ mom”. I was SO good at that!
It’s definitely hard to be good at some aspects of parenting and challenged by others – but totally normal. And it’s an opportunity for you to grow, to admit your shortcomings, to find places that you need to work and heal. That’s okay! That’s what it means to be human, and to be learning to trust yourself.
> My 11 year old, who was a Momma’s girl and who I breast fed til she was 3, acts like she could go months without me and be fine.
She’s growing up, finding her own place, asserting her independence. This is good. The best way for you to be invited to be a part of her life for the next 50 years is if you prove to her that you TOTALLY support her in whatever she needs, even if what she needs is to be away from you. THAT’s being a real ally, a great parent. Her job is not to make you feel needed, her job is to grow into her own true self.
>My role, my place in this world, and my ego don’t know what to do with this and it’s part of the ingredient to my recent breakdown. How do you think about this?
I agree, I do think this is part of your breakdown. I also think (like Pema Chodron does,) that breakdowns should be considered VERY good news! Yay, YOU are growing too! And ouch! Growing hurts.
Your job is to find ways to be happy within yourself. Then you will be less of a burden on your kids, and they will (probably, eventually) like you more, and trust you more.
> Literally, what do you do with your time?
I work at home. I am almost always in my room, unless I am doing chores, or out having fun. My kids know that they are invited to join me in whatever I’m doing (unless I’m with a client), and that if they ever want something from me they can ask. I do lots of things that make me happy – like reading, writing, meditating, laughing at funny things on YouTube. Occasionally I cook something to eat, and sometimes we eat it together. We tell each other stories and jokes when we’re in the mood to do that, sometimes play games and sometimes sit on the couch quietly together.
I have generally lived this way for the last 5-10 years, with some variations. Sometimes my kids wanted to be with me a lot, sometimes they barely talked to me for several months in a row. It is their process, their life, and not mine to judge or evaluate. I know that it took a long time, after I stopped trying to control them, before they trusted that I was really there for them, that I wasn’t going to impose my own agenda on to their lives. It took a while to earn their trust and respect. It wasn’t always easy, which is why it’s good that I had lots of other things to enjoy about my own life in the meantime.
> Leave them alone? Really?
SO many of the “helpful” things we do “for our children” are actually things that we do to make ourselves feel better. It’s not right for us to use our children to make us feel better. It is good for us to protect and support them, but only when they really need it, which is far less often than we might at first think, especially with our older kids. It’s good to be nearby, paying attention, listening carefully to what they say, tuning in to what they deeply need. And at the same time, it’s important to pay very careful attention to what YOU need, and to do all that you can to have your needs met by other adults and by yourself – NOT by your children. One of the most unhealthy things that a parent can do is use his/her child to meet his/her own needs. That is inappropriate parenting at best, and child abuse at worst.
Both of my girls have always loved doing their own thing, which I think is one of the most important things a human being can learn – to enjoy being with themselves. All of my kids have gone through extended periods during which they did a lot of what might have looked like “nothing.” When they emerged from that phase they were deeply connected with themselves, had pondered the universe as thoroughly as I ever have (and that’s saying a lot, since I make it my business (literally) to ponder the universe…) and were ready to try something new with enthusiasm. I think it’s criminal how most parents and schools steal this holy self-discovery journey away from children. No wonder we have a planet full of insanity perpetuating insanity.
In just a few words: take care of yourself, and allow your children to take care of themselves. The bad news is that this new way of life can be very confronting. The good news is, in the long run it’s a lot more fun.
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From a parent:
I have been dealing with my adult son (the Green Beret), me feeling very much like he doesn’t like me (who I am ), which has been a recurring theme but never felt so much like maybe there is nothing he likes about me…or maybe doesn’t even love me. A lot of it shows up in the way he is conservative Republican…very black and white….right and wrong…..very mental…very non emotionally connected…. does not think much of my spiritual non/religious leanings etc. I feel like most of the time he has any communication it is to to make a point about how I am wrong about something and he is right. He rarely gets in touch with me at all. Doesn’t sign is emails”love” even.
I feel very sad about this. It hurts…..I keep suggesting that we don’t get into these things with each other but it is feeling lately like whatever I say it is wrong…maybe we just don’t have anything to share with each other??? But I have love to share and don’t feel like I do it right with him….I just want to love him and feel like he loves me even if he doesn’t like me.
Recently, I received one of these slap down fb messages. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to as kindly as possible tell him how I am feeling. That was about a week ago and I have not heard from him. I must say a big part of me is relieved to hear nothing because I am sure he will have things to say in response that won’t feel good if he does.
Any words of wisdom for me???
The first thing I want to say is OUCH. Owie, owie owie. I can really, really imagine how awful this whole thing must feel for you. I really get that and am really sorry.
And, what I think is your only job in relation to your adult children is to heal and to be happy inside yourself. You’re probably right that he probably doesn’t love you, or even like you. (I’m not sure I believe that it’s possible to love someone you don’t like, but that’s a conversation for another time.) I can really imagine how devastating that must be for you.
But now that you are both adults, you don’t have to be friends, or ever talk to each other again. That’s the stark truth of the matter. The societal “should” that “nuclear families should love each other and get along” just doesn’t make sense for one thing, and the belief adds a lot of unhealthy (and unnecessary) obligation, shame, enmeshment, guilt and resentment to the picture, for another.
Your son probably has plenty of reasons to dislike you, some reasons that you probably know and some that you don’t, some reasons that are probably valid and some that aren’t. But his reasons are his OWN. It is not your business to find out how he feels, to get him to communicate with you, to heal his wounds, to patch things up between you. Your job now (as I see it) is to leave him alone and let him find his own way. If or when he wants something from you, I’m sure he’ll let you know.
My homework for you (should you choose to accept it) would be that you communicate to him (probably in a letter) something along the lines of the following:
“Dear Child of mine, I release you to the universe. I am sorry for the countless ways I have let you down, and wish I could have done a thousand things better than I’ve done. It seems like you don’t really like me all that much and I just want you to know that I’m finally getting that, and going to leave you alone from now on. I am not saying this to make you feel guilty or so you’ll do anything different. I just finally realized I’ve been putting an enormous strain on myself (and probably on you) by always trying to connect with you in ways that are obviously unwanted and unwelcome. I’ve also finally realized that we don’t have to agree about things, we don’t have to get along, and we don’t even have to be friends. So I’m going to go about my own happy life, and I hope you will go about having your own happy life too. If you ever want anything from me, I hope you’ll feel free to ask. Love, Mom.”
It does not mean you are a bad person if your child wants or needs to be away from you for a long time – or forever. People are just different – we have different ways of thinking, being, feeling – and we don’t have to be friends with people who see things differently from the way we do. Parenting with trust means trusting – REALLY trusting – that your child is doing exactly the right thing for himself, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, whether it suits your preferences or not, whether it feels good to you – or not.
If you have painful feelings about this (and I would be surprised if you didn’t) then you can find a therapist, a friend, a happiness consultant to talk with and cry with and whatever else you need to do in order to heal and move on. It is time for you to explore your own inner world and let your children explore theirs.
And, I’m sorry for how much it hurts.
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If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on children who need distance from their parents, you might like to listen to the episode of my podcast called When Kids Divorce Their Parents.
Finally, I want to thank the above writers – and all of you who are willing to be so vulnerable and authentic about your journey. So often our own fear, shame and embarrassment prohibit us from saying the truth, and thereby keep us from healing and connecting honestly with ourselves and others. Yet when we share our struggles – and triumphs – with courage and honesty, it can help us learn and grow, and can help those around us learn and grow too.
And this, I think, is what makes a better world for everyone.
Amy Childs | Happiness Consultant