Sunday, November 16, 2008

Parenting Through Childhood Pain: Relevant Challenges

How do you know how to parent? Let's take that up a notch. How do you know how to parent, when you, yourself, were not parented well? Let's take it up another notch. How do you parent when you were abused as a child, mentally, verbally, and/or physically? Parenting in those moments of intense frustration is hard enough, but how do you handle your unresolved anger and sense of betrayal, and stop yourself from perpetuating a painful cycle? How do you live with yourself and your guilt when you fail?

There are few relationships that lay you more bare, raw and vulnerable than parenting. Even those who have worked to "resolve" their issues prior to having children, can find themselves in a precarious place when pushed to the wall in the heat of child rearing. Craig Idlebrook, writing on writes bravely and movingly of the complicated process of confronting and parenting through one's childhood ghosts. Despite his best intentions, he finds himself losing control and victimizing his daughter because he hasn't been able to deal with his childhood pain. He undertakes a controversial move to confront and speak about the past with his parents. Although his family is unwilling to similarly acknowledge the past demons, he finds some peace in boldly naming what happened and holding them accountable, and in the process freeing himself from the anger that he was displacing onto his vulnerable child.

For some the risk is to great to undertake this process. How does one let go of the fundamental need to be loved, accepted and approved of by one's parents? How does one work up the courage to risk final and complete alienation and rejection? For this young father, the answer to these questions was in the eyes of his daughter when he had lost control and she trusted him just a little less.

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