For a long while, each time I comforted my children, or humbled myself and apologised for something I had done wrong, or challenged my preconceptions to show them patience and understanding – I was confronted with the stark reality of what I hadn’t been given myself. I used to see, as though there was a film playing, how I myself had been treated in similar situations. It was painful.
There was a lot of my childhood that I had repressed. As a teenager, I had imagined up that my upbringing was perfect, and that I would recreate it when I had my own children. Even as I convinced myself that this was true, I knew it wasn’t. How I had been treated was hurtful and not okay. I would never want to inflict that onto my own children.
I slowly came to understand that the respect they deserved was unconditional. They didn’t have to earn it, and parenting being difficult did not mean that my children were any less deserving of this respect.
And so, as these flashbacks were happening, my imagined story of a perfect childhood was unravelling. I felt vulnerable and raw. At times I felt broken.
As more and more triggering moments came up for me, I was presented with more and more chances to realise that my children ultimately deserved the respect and love I was showing them. They deserved this, no matter how their day (or mine) was going, and no matter what they did (or didn’t do). I slowly came to understand that the respect they deserved was unconditional. They didn’t have to earn it, and parenting being difficult did not mean that my children were any less deserving of this respect.
This journey of parenting my children, has been life changing for me. It has been so healing. When I love my kids, I am loving myself as well because I am acknowledging that human beings deserve to be loved. And when I recognise that my kids deserve compassion, I am learning that I deserved it too.
Ally is an unschooling mum in Western Australia. Her life with her five children involves messy faces, bouquets offered in grubby fists, beautiful drawings, and a family bed. Ally cares a lot about respecting all kids, including the disabled ones.