I heard one of my teacher’s at the University of Santa Monica, Ron Hulnick Ph.D. say that you cannot damage your kids. This flies in the face of traditional psychology that believes a healthy attachment to the primary caregiver is what results in well-adjusted and happy children. However, from a spiritual perspective, if we all have innate well-being and mental health within us, if our essence is whole and cannot be damaged, then our environment and circumstances would not be able to damage us.
Knowing this does not make me not want to show us as the best parent I can be, but it does take the pressure off of needing to be a perfect parent. I did try to live up to this perfect parenting standard. This did not make me a better parent, instead, this resulted in me being less authentic in my relationship with my two daughters and ultimately less connected, not more.
This was illustrated to me in no uncertain terms when one of my daughters was small. I had been educated by her preschool to validate her feelings when she was upset by naming them for her. I tried this numerous times when she was melting down. Despite my tight stomach and nerves feeling on edge, I would override my internal emotional response in order to do the “right” thing. She would be screaming and crying, and I would get down to her level and say in a soothing voice, “I hear you. I hear you are angry. I hear you really want another cookie (or whatever it was that she was upset about).”
She could sense my inauthenticity in a heartbeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be loving and the perfect mother. I did, but I was internally stressed and feeling emotionally destabilized by her emotional intensity. I loved her, but my calm loving presence was a façade covering up my insecurity and anxiety. She saw right through it. She knew I was using a technique on her, and she didn’t like it. In fact, she railed against it screaming louder and shouting “No, No, No!”
No matter how subtly I was trying to do it, the truth was I was trying to get her to calm down. I was not accepting her exactly as she was at that moment. I wanted her to stop because the intensity of her emotions made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted her emotions to calm so I could feel better. Underneath my painted on smile was a very human stressed, tense mother. I didn’t even see that I was trying to manipulate my daughter. I thought I was doing it “right.” Her intensity scared me, but I put on a brave face and endured because I wanted to be the perfect mom.
I was very critical of my husband and his parenting style. He was much more honest and authentic about how he was feeling. He didn’t hide his frustration or anger from our girls. He was upfront about it. They knew where they stood with him, and they learned from this. They learned not to take his anger personally, and to this day they aren’t really that bothered by it. Me on the other hand, if I lose my cool they are terrified.
I never thought I would lose my temper with my daughters. I thought I would be able to keep up my loving exterior forever without any cracks being perceptible. Then — the teenage years. Parenting teens is amazing, and it has also been very humbling for me. I have lost my temper more than once. I am not proud of this, but I am grateful that the learning curve of parenting teens has included me becoming more real and authentic with my daughters. It is not my intention to be reactive, but I have room for my humanness even in this area now.
The blessing of being brought to my knees as a parent is learning that the world does not end when I make mistakes and my children are resilient even in the face of my imperfections. This ultimately is what I want to model for my girls. I want them to know there is room for them to be all of themselves. There is no requirement of perfection. Their best is good enough even when it includes mistakes and regrets.
I am grateful that my relationship with my daughters has room for us to come together after an argument and work things out. I am proud that they are able to let go of grudges and resentment so we can have honest, authentic conversations that allow us all to be heard. I am heartened by the resiliency of love and the deepening of it in the face of difficulty.
It is so much easier for me to be humble and have humility when I don’t take my insecure thinking seriously. It is a blessing to understand that my reactivity will always pass as my thinking settles. I will eventually reconnect with the loving essence that is my true nature and get my perspective back rather than be the ranting mad woman firmly attached to a position of being right.
I also see that if it had been possible to live up to my ideal of a being a perfect mother, this would not have been as good for my girls. I want them to grow up understanding that they can be themselves. I don’t want them to try to live up to impossible self-imposed expectations. I would like them to experience the confidence of knowing they are enough exactly as they are, and their worthiness has nothing to do with their behavior.
I also want them to know their resilience. I want them to experience their ability to bounce back from upset and hurt into peace and equanimity. And to see that it is possible for goodwill to be restored in relationships even when it looks like it has been completely depleted. This is wisdom that will serve them well in all relationships.
Thank goodness mothering not only has room for imperfections, but also has greater depth and educational value because of them. Who knew that my personal failings would be good for my kids? This is a powerful reminder that our humanness is part of the spiritual design.
May you embrace your humanity and see it as part of the perfection of who you are. Love all of you and see that nothing is greater than, or can get in the way of, the loving essence that is your true nature. Who you are is magnificent in all your colors. Nothing that happens to you, nothing you do or say, gets in the way of you being who you are and having the capacity to come back into loving resonance with your true identity. And, not judging your flaws brings out the best in you, not the worst. Enjoy the wild, messy, juicy ride of being human. You are love and you are loved!
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.