To say that my childhood was difficult is putting it mildly. I’ve already shared that I lost my father and sister at early ages but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Making it out of my childhood in tact is somewhat remarkable if I do say so myself. I’ll spare you from the gory details, in large part because there are people living who are part of the story that most likely would not want it told, I hope you can respect that.
I recently spent some time with a person I would consider a casual friend (we don’t see each other often but have known each other for years) but also someone who I think of highly. In our time together I learned that we share a very similar difficult and painful history. Instantly I understood why I felt such a connection between us; we’ve lived the same life and have largely come out ahead. We are both successful in our careers, have rich full family lives with incredibly supportive spouses, and we are both relatively well adjusted if not for a few insecurities here and there.
Learning of this similar history caused me to share my feelings about how to let go of the past and move on. Ironically I had been thinking about this topic before this revelation. I have always explained my traumatic childhood by saying that I am who I am because of my life experiences and I like who I am. Granted, I would’ve preferred a much smoother path to getting here, but you can’t change the past.
Instead, I’m choosing to change the future. Honey and I have spent a lot of time talking about how we want to raise our children. Essentially, we are striving to correct the mistakes that were made with us. Honey has a metaphor about parenting that I think is beautiful and has been our guiding principle as we raise our girls. I’ll try to do it justice by paraphrasing here:
Parenting is like etching glass. You need to scratch the surface deep enough to leave an image but not so deep that you crack the glass.
We often say to each other “don’t crack the glass” as a reminder. Unfortunately, my childhood was full of cracked glass. This time will be different. I didn’t know my worth as a person in my youth. I felt loved, but I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel respected, heard, or understood. I need my daughters to feel those things as children so that they don’t have to work so hard to figure them out as adults.
I will not be the one who breaks my daughters’ spirits. I will be the one to teach them about their strength and beauty directly rather than having them learn on their own (or in therapy). Every night before bed I tell both my girls that they are beautiful, smart, and strong. I want them to know that beauty comes from the inside out, that there is no shame but rather pride in being intelligent, and that strength comes in all forms: physical and emotional. Lately, when I do my bedtime ritual Lovey has responded with “Mommy, I know, you don’t have to tell me everyday”. I usually tell her that I want to make sure she doesn’t ever forget.
This time will be different. I will not crack the glass. I will be able to show off my beautiful etchings with pride and honor. I will break the cycle.
Thank you to my friend for reminding me that even though we have cracked glass doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to shine on our own.