Thursday, July 5, 2018

parental suffering

Growing up, a common Russian refrain was: wait till you have kids and they will behave towards you like you behave towards me and then you will experience what it is like to be in my shoes. The idea was that parenting required suffering by the parents through the hands of their offspring, but hope was on the horizon, in the guise of those mythical future children who will repay and maybe even make future parental suffering worse.

Image result for parent scolding a child
I thought about this a whole lot. In some ways, there is no way to shield future parents from the basic forms of children's behavior, including tantrums, crying, screaming, disappointment. But that is not the essence of this parental "curse". It is the idea that suffering will be a measure for measure: just as you made me worry about your rudeness, recklessness, disappointment, so may your kids trouble you. Now, does that necessarily have to come true? I do not wish upon my children to experience some of the extreme emotions they have put me through. I hope that they grow up to be balanced enough adults that they will be able to separate their own reaction from the actions of their children. I do not want to take revenge on my children because no matter what amount of heartache they put me through, who gains from this multi-generational suffering? It is not that the behavior of these grandchildren will change, but the parental response. This change has to start with me. I have already been parenting quite differently at year 14 than I was at year 1 or 3. Some of the shenanigans are the same, but my choice how to react to them is different.

May my dear children not experience dread and shame in their parenting. May they grow up to be resourceful, resilient adults who know how to regulate their emotions and teach this to their own offspring. And may I get to see this.

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