Relationship

What You Can Do When You Criticize Yourself for Earlier Parenting

By Suzanne E. Harrill

I laugh sometimes at the healing process that continues in my life. As a weekly assignment in a self-discovery class I am enrolled in, I learned I am to journal write about my inner experiences each week. I sat there with deep feelings of satisfaction for my life and thinking, "My life is great right now. I am so grateful for all the wonderful inner work I have done over the years." I was wondering what I would write about as I was not feeling any motivation. I have spent many hours over the years journaling, which helped me heal and process my beliefs and feelings. I normally write when something is troubling me. At this stage in my life, I am enjoying that I can usually get to the bottom of things quickly now without writing. So when I sent the thought out, "I wonder what I will write about this week?" I had to smile when I answered my phone the next day.

I laughed to myself when my oldest daughter started into a conversation about her therapy session that day. She had had a major insight involving me, one where I negatively influenced her at age nine. While she started talking, I knew I would have something to write about for my class assignment. I got the cosmic humor even though it was painful to hear. Next week I think Iíll send out the message, "I am willing to write about something more philosophical or my reaction to watching the news."

I value my grown children being able to approach me and bring up unresolved issues, probably for two reasons. First, I am trained and have been a counselor and marriage and family therapist for much of my adult life, and second, I would have liked a relationship with my own mother where I could have talked about our issues. I know now it takes a lot of ego strength and letting go of the ego to handle a grown child expressing these things.

If there is one area of my consciousness where I still beat myself up for not being perfect, it is in my parenting. I can do a pretty good job looking at my younger self and critiquing her for her unawareness and her mistakes. But this conversation with my daughter was a big one for me and an opportunity for my healing, as well as hers.

Watching myself be uncomfortable during the start of our conversation, I immediately felt guilty and ashamed at the incident my daughter reminded me of that took place 25 years ago. As I reacted, I wanted to defend myself and justify my behavior, find a good excuse in order to get me "off the hook." Luckily, I watched my internal dialogue and mainly listened and validated my daughterís experience. I am proud of myself for not immediately trying to "fix" things, which is not what the situation required and was not in my power. The conversation ended well, with my daughter acknowledging that she appreciated that I made it feel safe for her to say the things she needed to express. We definitely are going to a new level with our relationship.

Today, as I write, I am very pensive about this humbling experience where I have to look at my not so perfect side. I do forgive myself intellectually, knowing I did the best I could do at the time with my level of awareness. Yet, I am working on shifting my feeling forgiveness to the emotional level. It helps to face the fact that I had some negative affects on my daughter ─ the worst thing in my mind that I could do ─ and that it is okay that I was not a perfect parent and that I am still a good person.

What does a mother do when she finds herself in this predicament? It is important to honestly look at the thoughts, actions, behaviors, and beliefs of the past. Admit that, yes, there were negative affects, yet, emphasize the positive intention behind the whole parenting experience. As a young parent, I loved and wanted the best for each of my children. I would never have set out on purpose to hurt any of them. I know this in my heart of hearts. Knowing this helps me get in touch with my younger self and love her. I have compassion and understanding that she did not have the awareness I have today or the wisdom available at that time to do anything other than what she did.

Next, I remind myself of higher truths, such as each soul is on a journey of creativity, experience, and expansion, evolving to greater heights of awareness and enlightenment, including my daughterís. Each of us, myself included, is responsible for healing our past, becoming self consciously aware, getting in touch with our reason for being here and expressing our gifts and developing our talents. The process of self-discovery, self-inquiry, and inner work bring healing and integration for our consciousness. Wholeness is remembered and experienced as we go on this inner healing journey, whether from the perspective of the wounded parent who passed on unintentional negativity or as the child who experienced the effect of the limited awareness level of the parent. Sometimes experiencing both perspectives serves our greater awareness. Another truth is that no one can give another awareness or enlightenment; we each are on the journey of returning and remembering who we really are, reawakening individually. Each of us who is aware we are on this journey have to accept we cannot heal our grown children, as each must do that for his/herself in the right time and under the right circumstances.

Now, I come to the most powerful part of the healing process of what to do if I judge and criticize my parenting of the past. To further the healing, I update negative thoughts and beliefs about myself. I talk to myself with the light of higher understanding, love, and power with the truth. It is helpful to remember that to change our consciousness, we must feel deeply and affirm as if each updated belief is already true and operating in our lives. This expands our consciousness to receive and experience the new reality. I conclude this article with the following affirmations I wrote for myself after my conversation with my daughter.

  • I love and accept myself right now and send healing, supportive energy to my overwhelmed, younger self.

  • I stop judging the inadequacies of my younger self.

  • I release the habit of being judgmental towards myself today and forever more.

  • I realize I am human and know I make mistakes and that they are the result of unawareness, not bad intentions.

  • I learn from all my mistakes and unwise choices.

  • I have always had good intentions for my daughters and like that in myself.

  • I celebrate my close relationship with all three of my daughters.

  • I am joyful each is on her path and taking responsibility to heal herself.

  • I accept each daughterís love, forgiveness, humor, and support.I release all judgments, shame, blame, and criticism towards myself for shortcomings, now or in the past.

  • I am blessed to be a mother and to have each of my daughters in my life.

  • I gain clarity daily on how to be in a positive relationship with each individual daughter and to support each oneís highest good.I correct, apologize, and make amends when appropriate with each daughter.

  • I listen to my grown children more intently so I can be with each as they grow and unfold.

  • I smile inside as I see each of my relationships with my grown children blossom and grow.

  • I know I am a good mother.

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