My heart has been heavy this last week as I rebuke toxic messaging from the older generation in our family.
Maybe rebuke isn’t the best word, I have compassion for sure. What is happening, what is being said, it all comes from the wound of their own life. I know that. AND We do not need to pass this pain on. Heal the wound, heal the world.
It started early on in the week. Little bubby was helping me carry our recycles out to the bin when he decided he wanted to keep an empty granola box to wear as a shoe, of course I obliged.
We went back inside and straight into my bedroom so he could see his new foot wear in the big mirror. As he was playing with his reflection he noticed my Easter dress from childhood sitting on top off a box, he made it clear he wanted to wear it. I unzipped and helped him into. He turned and admired the pink flowers and blue bows in the mirror. Daddy came home and he ran down the hall, all smiles, screaming “Da!”, excited to show off his dress-up ensemble (Easter dress and granola box shoe). Daddy told him how pretty he was and they went back to bedroom to play in the mirror some more.
In the process of all of this I was taking a few pictures which I shared with both of little bubby’s grandma’s. One doted on how cute he looked, the other had a different reaction;
(Paraphrasing with some direct quotations) I hope he doesn’t like to “dress-up” like that. You know gayness runs in the family. I need to get him some boy stuff.
It took me hours until I was calm enough to reply. I had to be sure I was holding ALL parts f myself that reacted to this message before responding in order to ensure I was not falling into this spiral with her by projecting my stuff back onto her.
I made it clear I was not comfortable with what she said and set boundaries with her when it comes to our child.
This still hurts. It brought up a lot of work that is still unhealed in me. My childhood was steeped in toxic gender messaging, I will not be passing that on to the next generation and I will not allow anyone’s fears to be projected onto my child.
Moving on, although admittedly moving on has been hard, last night I was on a Skype call with my 10-year-old niece. She and I were having an art night together and I was talking to her about school. She and her family are moving again (this will be the 6th move) and I was asking if she will be starting a new school in the fall, this time they were staying in the same community so I thought school may not be impacted. She informed that she would. I asked her how she felt about that and was met a swift and sharp “I don’t care”.
It was a punch to the gut how quickly that little girl self-abandoned and shut down her feelings.
To make matters worse, as she is sitting there in her self-denial my mother immediately chimed in with “it will be fine, she will make new friends”.
Holy shit, please do not endorse the self-abandonment happening in this child.
I had to pause to hold myself, so much came up for me. I wish my Mom had taken a moment to do the same, all she did was deepen the disconnection that was already taking place.
Then I asked, “Moo, Are you nervous?”
“You know, it is okay to feel nervous. It is okay to feel whatever you are feeling”.
And then my Mother..
“It’s fine. You will be fine honey, you will make new friends!”
Again, so much of my own work is tangled up in this exchange. My mother, the woman who taught me how to self-abandon, is now passing those messages on to her granddaughter.
And again, I have compassion. This is my Mom fending off the memories of her own wounding. I get that, AND
PLEASE MAKE SPACE FOR CHILDREN TO FEEL THEIR FEELINGS.
Self-abandoning girls become self-abandoning women who lose touch with their voice, their purpose, and their peace.
Is that really what you want for her? Is that really what you wanted for me?
What is so scary about allowing a little space for grief? for frustration? for fear?
I imagining that my niece’s truth probably sounds something like;
I am sad I am losing more friends. I am afraid to start over and have to once again penetrate already established friend groups. I am afraid to make new friends because in my experience none of these relationships last long. What is the point? I want to stay in one place. I want a say. I do not feel seen and heard.
What the adults are afraid of is being forced to face the pain they are causing. Being held responsible for the impact their choices are having on this little girl’s life.
It is why I was not allowed to feel growing up. It is why she is not allowed to feel now.
Fear. Fear is in the driver’s seat across the board when it comes to toxic messaging. Fear and unhealed emotional wounds. My MIL is afraid my son won’t belong and won’t feel accepted so she projects bigotry and comes up with plans to make him conform. My mother is afraid of my niece feeling pain and disconnection so she tries to save her from it by spewing false hope.
Here is my truth; we cannot save our babies from rejection, pain, fear, hurt. Life is full of it. Our job is not to save them from it, it is to create safety for them to fully FEEL it and process it through. We are their safe space, we show them how to create safety and resilience within themselves so they feel better equipped to met life’s challenges.
Here are the needs of these children that are going unmet by the older generation in my family:
Freedom to play and explore
Freedom of expression
Freedom to feel seen and heard
Freedom to feel
Freedom of self
They are going unmet because they were unmet for the grandparents when they were children and they never looked inward to heal as adults.
Children need Freedom and these toxic messages are chains. They are the chains that keep us tangled up in generational trauma reliving the pain of our family’s past.
I have broken free, and still am breaking free of the chains that tried to bind me. I will place no chains on my child. Thankfully my husband and I are my child’s parents so it is our job to meet these needs for him, not his grandparents.
In the case of my niece though, I see the chains wrapped around her and it is hard to watch. I will not turn away from her pain though. I cannot save her from it, that is not my role in her life. I am here as the constant. The loving supportive adult who is safe. I am here and will remain here until the day comes when she is ready to break her chains. And if that day never comes, than I will still be here to bear witness to this child’s life because everyone deserves to feel seen, if not heard.
The pain in the world exists because we allow it. We choose willful ignorance and not to feel over true compassion of self and others. I am not innocent in this. I struggle to keep my face forward at times when I am called to bear witness to the suffering of others, as well as my own. I am aware though and I am trying.
So I say this in closing, your pain is my pain, let us not pass it on.