Growing up is, and never will be, a linear process. I learned that I was unaware of parts of myself that need healing until I became a mother for the first time. My childhood came flashing back with every interaction I had with my child. To this day, I have deja vu whenever she does some age-appropriate and annoying act like sipping tea in a cup to spit it right back into the cup.
“Why the heck would you do that?” I annoyingly thought to myself.
Then I remember how I did the very same thing as a kid. I subsequently get hit by the memory of the scolding I received for partaking in such a ‘disgusting’ act.
My caregivers felt it necessary to stop behaviour like that. They lived in a world where it was important for children to be well-behaved.
I was, therefore, shouted at for doing that, or even worse, hit for it. I came across as an ill-disciplined child, and the behaviour needed to be nipped in the bud. I recall the shame I felt for playing around with my tea.
When I saw her sipping and spitting, I was immediately aware of how it was making me feel.
Self-awareness as a healing tool
That awareness held my hand and walked me right to a place in my childhood where I experienced the pain associated with shame or physical violence as a disciplinary tool.
My parenting philosophy is founded on the premise that my children don’t need me to purposely inflict emotional or physical pain. Shame causes so much pain in our children and is, therefore, territory I don’t play in.
I use “purposely” very carefully here.
It is impossible to not make your children cry. They cry when you set limits, even with kindness. Kids hardly take a “no” with understanding, and it can cause them serious upset. The key to navigating this is to ensure that the intention is always love and kindness.
They will be upset that you want them to leave the park before they are ready to leave, but you are equally creating space for the feelings that follow the disappointment.
Back to how tea forced me to heal
Human beings are innately selfish. And my selfish nature almost made me shout at my 4-year-old Tshimo for sipping and spitting tea. But stepping back and looking inward helped me choose a different approach. This was informed by how unfair it is to make her feel how I felt when I did the same thing.
Shouting would have felt like revenge parenting. “Do to others as you were done unto as a child” is a philosophy no child deserves. It is an injustice to our healing journeys and a bigger injustice for our kids.
I then followed up my reaction with a few questions?
- Why should she not do what she wants with her tea?
- Do I think she will always do this with her tea, or is it just a once-off exploration?
- Is it bad if she drinks tea mixed up with her saliva?
When I saw her doing this, I was immediately triggered. Reacting from a place of triggering was denying the beauty of healing. I could then forgive the adult that misunderstood my intentions when I was playing with my tea and tell my inner child that she did nothing wrong.
My daughter did nothing wrong and was being a child and doing typical child things. I did nothing wrong. I was being a child and doing typical child things.
God gave me an opportunity of healing through my biggest teacher.
I showed up for class.
Our children are our teachers, and life is our classroom.
Show up each time.