Re-named: On Surviving Childhood

The concept for this post has been swimming around in my head for a long time. How do I share what I have to say without hurting feelings, how to show the path I took that brought me here without airing other people’s dirty laundry? How do I cover my story in a way that shows compassion, shares my heart, that opens up my story in a way that might help others find healing too? My parent’s are awesome people, whom I love. I feel that they did the best they could, the best they knew how, the best considering the situation. I am thankful for my childhood. I am thankful for my parents, my siblings, my family.  I don’t want this to be a bashing of anyone, more of a look back at where I came from, with love and understanding.

You see, I am raising (with my wonderful husband) four kids. I am watching nieces and nephews, friends, friends’ kids, cousins, etc., grow up, move out, and make their own choices, for better or worse. This has brought me a renewed drive to understand where I came from so I can better navigate parenthood and hopefully set our children on The Better Path. I want them to be successful, happy, and most importantly: faithful to Jesus.

The one place I keep coming back to is my need for approval well in to my twenties. As an adult, I look back and believe more people had this need than I realized as a kid. I felt like an island. A lonely island. From an early age, I wanted love. To be loved. To be the special one. To have a special one. Of course, this had different meanings at different ages. I remember thinking (believing) that my parents didn’t really love me or want me. As a parent, now, I know how false this is, how ridiculously far from the truth this is. It wasn’t until a recent conversation with the other sister that I remembered having gone through this stage. I remember the year (or so) of deep despair, but had forgotten the “unloved” stage.  Even though I moved past this stage, I don’t think that I really moved past the feeling. The feeling of “meh”, I’m just one of the group, not a precious gem, often in trouble for talking too much or being too loud…or loudly talking to much, about things I shouldn’t.

I always figured that “everybody is thinking it” so why not say it? Why not air out the issue and then we can deal with it and move on, but not everyone appreciated my forwardness. Our 6 year old is my spitting image, in so many ways, except her hair, her hair is blonde while I am a brunette, but her personality, her personality is so me. And I fear sometimes that I don’t parent her the way I wanted and needed to be parented. From early on, I wanted to marry a super nice guy because I remember feeling like my own dad was not very approachable and I didn’t want my kids to be afraid of their dad. (My husband is a wonderful and loving, though stern Daddy. Just right.)  I also remember laughing at a cousin when she said that my dad was scary, and I told her: “No, my dad isn’t scary, your dad is scary.”  Neither man is scary. Just ask my kids. My kids just love Grandpa, which is good, since they only have one living Grandpa and one living great Grandpa (plus a bonus Great Grandpa), all on my side.

What am I trying to get to? I’m trying to get to where I realized (Thank you to the author of UnBound) that my need to be needed was rooted in (wrongly) not feeling wanted and cherished by my own father. Wow. A year ago, I would have told you that you were crazy, that those two issues in my life couldn’t be farther from one another.  But they are not. They are very related and very connected. My sister, in her own search found a book called Unbound (http://www.amazon.com/Unbound-A-Practical-Guide-Deliverance/dp/0800794125) and then after finding the road to healing with it’s help, shared it with me. (We all need healing from something.)

My dad has asked me if there is anything that he needs to ask my forgiveness for, and I have told him no. Even after this revelation, I still don’t need a sorry from him as I believe (again) that he did the best he could.  My brother, eldest brother since I’m youngest of 5 kids, once told me, after I tried to blame my (bad) choices on our upbringing, that I had it pretty good, all things considered and considering the childhood of others, and that I really had nothing (or not much) to complain about. (That’s a serious paraphrasing of a long conversation.)  I remember being shocked, and feeling convicted. Even though I didn’t change what I was doing at that point in my life, that part of that conversation never left my memory. It shaped my life. (This is one of what I call “pivotal moments” in my life, another blog post on those later.)

After that conversation with my brother, I started working towards living life based on my own choices, not as a reaction to what I felt I should or shouldn’t have had. Couple the conversation with my oldest brother to a conversation with our other brother, (another pivotal moment) and my life took a new direction. My other brother said: “Dani, good or bad, you are the one who will stand before God to account for your actions. You need to be willing to say, good or bad, I made this choice”.

Up until both of those conversations, I had lived as a victim, but my brothers helped to set me free from a life (played out) as an innocent victim of life, by calling me to account for my actions and sharing words that may not have meant as much to them, but that revolutionized my life. Sadly, my life did not change over night, but over time. My husband reminds me that the experiences that I have (and might wish to forget) are part of what made me who I am (and he loves me as I am).  That’s one of the reasons I know that God brought my husband to me, and told me that I had to be my self with him. (I had a sense that I needed to be my-down-and-dirty-self with the husband from the moment I met him.)

So, even though the younger me wished that our dad was better at outwardly showing affection, the older me knows that it is okay, because I’m resilient.  Because I don’t need people to tell me how much they like me all the time. Because I learned to demand what I really need, learned to fight for what is important to me. I’ve heard people express that they don’t get the reinforcement from others that they need, and I say, ask for it if you need it. For me, in regards to my husband, I figure he wouldn’t have married me if he did not find me attractive, so I don’t need to hear how beautiful I am from him daily. I choose to be confident, to not give home to doubt. I think coming to understand that even though Dad didn’t usually instigate the “I love you’s”, he very much meant it when he said “love-you-too, honey” (which we joked was almost one word, the way he said it) gave me a sense of confidence in who I am, even if I don’t hear reinforcements of how others feel about me.

So, I survived childhood. I’m trying to use this revelation to help me to be a better parent to our four, to make sure they know that they are precious, that I prayed for them. Just the other night, after getting on our oldest for something she had done, I was convicted that I spend more time correcting behaviors in her than telling her how precious she is to me.  So, I crept into the kids’ room, leaned over her as she was curled up in her bed to whisper to her that she is the answer to my life’s dream and prayer. I told her how I had only ever wanted grow up, get married and become a mom. The day she was born, she answered my life’s prayer.

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