How to Give Your Kids a Childhood They Don’t Have to Heal From

Do you have to be a perfect mother to raise a well-adjusted child? Will your child benefit more if you are a working mother with a busy schedule or a mother who is home every day after school with freshly baked cookies? Is there such a thing as the perfect childhood?

These are questions that bounce through my brain as I sit in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. Despite having a great upbringing with parents whom I adore, I still ended up in therapy with deep-rooted issues that stem from my own childhood. My parents are amazing. They worked hard to give my brother and me a childhood free from the pains of their own, yet along the way, they made their mistakes.

It’s inevitable, isn’t it? That someway, somehow, either consciously or not, a parent will find a way to afflict their offspring.

And now, decades later, I sit with my therapist to unravel what has been so tightly coiled up inside of me since I was a little girl. My parents don’t know that I go to therapy, and if they did, I’m sure they would wonder what they did wrong. The answer is not always so black and white.

 

It’s inevitable, isn’t it? That someway, somehow, either consciously or not, a parent will find a way to afflict their offspring.

 

I often wonder, despite my voracious reading of parenting books and attempts to be attuned to my children, if my children will eventually end up in therapy too. Can I do everything right and still miss the mark?

I know my grandparents wanted my parents to be happy, and my parents wanted my brother and me to be happy. I want the same for my children, but is my definition of happiness the same as my grandparents and parents? Were my grandparents, who were migrant workers picking our country’s fruits and vegetables in the blistering sun, thinking about personal fulfillment and pursuing their passions? Or were they happy knowing that they could put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads?

With each generation, the definition of happiness evolves, but it will always be incomplete. There will always be something missing. Life will always feel a bit fragmented and childhood will most likely be where those missing pieces lie.

 

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the perfect mother, father, or childhood. That’s the ironic beauty of life, isn’t it? I’ve already logged in a lifetime of mistakes and my children are only 7 and 5 years old. By the time they move away, who knows how many unintentional missteps I will have taken.

There are going to be pieces missing that I can’t help my children recover. There are going to be parts of them that I don’t understand. But what I can do is be the best parent I know how to be and give them a childhood that they don’t have to significantly recover from. Will there be mistakes? Yes. Will they grow up needing therapy? Perhaps.

But at least, for now, I can make their future therapy session less neurotic by doing the following things:

 

1. Saying I’m sorry

The ability to acknowledge my mistakes and accept responsibility is extremely helpful in teaching my children to do the same. When I yell when I absolutely shouldn’t have or don’t do something I say I’m going to do, I own up to it. I hope to teach my children that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s OK, but it’s how you learn from them and take accountability for them that’s important. They are imperfect; we all are because that’s how we’re programmed to be. Taking accountability for your mistakes is key for the emotional development I wish to see in them that I didn’t possess at a young age.

 

2. Letting them fail

I don’t want to see my children unhappy—ever. I don’t want my children to feel disappointment, regret, or failure. And though I can help them navigate around life’s messiness, I have to let them experience the journey on their own. I didn’t fail enough as a child, and it hits harder when you’re an adult. I wish I had learned the beauty of failure from a younger age. Although it’s something that goes entirely against my motherly instincts, I know I will have to let my children experience failure at various points in their lives and discover the beauty of bouncing back all on their own.

 

 

3. Being attuned to their needs

I don’t want my children to think that the world revolves around them, but at the same time, I want them to know that they are important. I want them to know that I love them unconditionally, that I will always try to understand their points of view, and that I sincerely care about who they are as individuals.

 

With these three things, I hope to give my children a childhood that I can look back on with no regrets.

 

Read More: Why Parenting Doesn’t Make Us Happy—And What to Do About It

 

Show Comments +