By Shara Lawrence-Weiss
When I was growing up, most fathers were around. This is not the case today. When volunteering with young mothers one of the recurring themes I hear is, “My father wasn’t around.” In fact, I would say that 90% of the moms and dads I volunteer with grew up without a father and 10% without a mother.
As Martina McBride sang, “No one there to show him the way.”
With so few role models to show our children how to be ‘present’ parents, we’re left with a cycle of leaving. One of the only things I can say to my clients is, “Try to recall the positive memories you have, if any. Draw from that and attempt to do right by your own children. You can’t change your past but you can darn well be in charge of your own present and future.”
Many of my clients remember their dads and associate him with words like drinking, drugs, affairs, porn, screaming and name calling. As I talk this through with them I say, “Your dad might not have given you much to want to repeat but he taught you what you don’t want to do, right? You now know the things you don’t want to be or do or repeat. So focus on that.”
It’s not easy to let go of a painful past but it’s critical to break the cycle if you want better for your child(ren). Do what’s needed to break the cycle once and for all: counseling, self talk, reading books, doing homework, attending college or church, moving to a new town – whatever!
One client said to me recently, “I have so much baggage from my childhood. My self esteem is so low. I know this affects my mothering.” I replied, “When you made the choice to become a mother you took on the responsibility of bringing up another human being. He is trusting you to be his mommy and to show him the way. Everything that was done to you has nothing to do with him, does it? He wasn’t even around back then. Do you feel that he deserves to be yelled at for the baggage you carry from your own childhood?”
She replied sadly, “No. I don’t.”
You may not be able to modify what your father (or mother) did to you but you can certainly control what you do with your own childhood baggage. Pack it up and put those bags on a flight. Envision them flying away. Let your bags get lost and don’t go searching for them. Perhaps the bags will sink to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again. Pack a new bag now, full of love, joy and hope. Carry those bags with you and keep them close. Make sure your own children unpack them often, giving them a sense of love, joy and hope. Give those bags to your children so when they leave home, it’s a bag full of love, joy and hope that goes with them.
Your grandkids will thank you some day for that baggage.