The greatest inheritance you can pass on to your children is the legacy of your own adulthood.
This is most often not the inheritance that parents leave behind. In fact, I would venture to say that most parents have not yet become adults in anything other than age. And, most people will never become adults before they die.
While all of us that live long enough will become elderly, very few will become elders.
Mostly, we die as immature children, afraid of the end of life, afraid of true intimacy with our loved ones and ourselves, afraid that we have not fulfilled on our life purpose. And for the most part, right.
I’ll write much more about what it means to be an adult and to become an elder in future articles, but for today, I’ll be talking about adulthood through the lens of taking personal responsibility for what we feel and how it impacts our children when we don’t.
This may be a difficult article to read, challenging your ideas of what it means to be a parent. And, I hope that if that’s the case, you will take even more time with it, allowing it to sink in and impact you.
It could make a huge difference toward the healing of your inter-generational line, and ultimately your personal relationship with your own parents and your own children.
The way you were most likely impacted by your parents failure to become adults is by their inability to take responsibility for their feelings. And it’s very likely you are impacting your children in the same way. This is the legacy of an epigenetic inheritance based in lack, limitation, fear, scarcity and insecurity. And it’s our opportunity to change it right now.
Instead of taking full responsibility for what we feel, we blame, shame, guilt, project, defend and most of all try to get the people around us to change.
It’s understandable, based on where we’ve come from, but it’s no longer acceptable. Not if we want to fulfill on the legacy we came here to create. We are here now to become the new humanity that can thrive on this planet.
And, frankly, if we don’t make this shift, we will not survive. The wreckage we are creating on the planet is a result of the choices we’ve made from a legacy of not enoughness. Some say we’ve got just about ten years to clean it up, or to go extinct as a result.
With no time to waste then, let’s dive in.
Look up the line at your parents and the way you were parented to identify if you can see how they did and/or still do use blame, shame, guilt, fear, or projection to deal with their own feelings of insecurity and what the impact was (and still is) on you.
Here’s what it may look like:
Your parent invests a lot of energy in trying to get you to be different. They don’t seem to believe in you. You try to talk with your parent about how they impacted you during childhood and they can’t hear it. Your parent judges you. Your parent wants more from you than you give, but instead of asking for it directly, guilts you. Your parent doesn’t seem to support you, even though they could. And when they do, it comes with big, sticky strings attached.
If you see any of those things in your relationship with your parent, it’s very likely that you are doing the exact same things with your kids. Or, that you will, if you don’t have kids yet.
But, you may be hiding that from yourself. Perhaps you tell yourself that you aren’t nearly as bad with your kids as your parents were with you. Maybe they hit you, and you never hit your kids. Maybe they raged, and you rarely yell. Maybe they were emotionally manipulative, and you are sure you are not.
Look deeper. You may not hit or yell, but my guess is that if your parents did, there are much more subtle ways you are doing the exact same things to your children. In the name of “because they need it.”
If that’s the case, you may be subtly undermining your child’s growth into adulthood yourself in the exact way your parents did, and probably still do. And, likely, just like your parents, you are doing it in the name of parenting! You were taught that this is what parenting means. And so, just as your parents did to you, you make your children wrong for who they are.
Now, you might feel justified in your behaviors, especially if your child’s behavior is behavior that you deem to be wrong, poor, off or detrimental, as per society’s standards. But this, THIS is the exact place to heal the wound in your own inter-generational line.
Your job as a parent is not to get your child to conform to the sick world we live in.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
Your job as a parent is not to “parent” your child into a model of what you think they should be. It is to grow yourself up so that when your child is behaving in ways that confront you, you are able to be with that confronting behavior as an adult, and not as a child.
That means, not only no yelling or hitting, but also no guilting, shaming, no punishing, or blaming, and above all, no projecting.
Here’s some examples that may seem extreme, but are, in fact, quite common:
If your child is acting out, biting and hitting other kids as a toddler, being the mean girl or boy as a middle-schooler, doing drugs, cutting him or herself, or otherwise violating boundaries as a high-schooler, the worst thing you can do is try to stop him or her from doing the behaviors using punishment imposed by you.
Instead, it is your job to be with the impact of having raised a child who would behave in this way. Feel the pain of that inside yourself. And to allow your child to be with the natural consequences that will arise from his or her behavior.
If your child is violating the boundaries of others, you do not have to punish your child, society will. Let the authorities (teachers, police, etc.) handle your child’s transgressions, while you provide the love and care s/he will need as s/he is called to account for his or her mistakes.
It is your job to have compassion and empathy for your child who would be in so much pain that he or she would choose to make the choices he or she is making.
Who else but someone in pain would behave in the way they are?
And, if your child is so hurt as to be making radically bad choices, whose responsibility is that?
This may be hard to hear, but it is yours.
Let me pause here for a minute while you take this in. And break it down a bit more so you can understand it and know what to do with it.
This does not mean your child’s pain is your fault. But it is your responsibility.
Your child’s pain (and yours) is the result of the unhealed wounds of your genetic line. So you can both recognize that you have full responsibility for it (because it now lives within you and to the extent you don’t heal it, your children take it on), and that you didn’t create it (it was passed on to you by generations of ancestors who didn’t have the tools or resources to do anything more than they did, which was a lot and got you here).
If you take this in and recognize that your child is in pain, does that mean it is your responsibility to stop your child from making the choices that are the result of that pain?
No, it’s not. This is the hardest part for us to get as parents. But, if we are adults about it, it’s far easier to see. But most of us are not adults about it. We are still children, reacting to our child’s pain with our own insecurity and fear about who we are.
As an adult, you come to see it is not your responsibility to stop your child from acting out the effects of his or her pain. That is actually the right action for a child. It is up to him or her to stop doing it, not because of shame, guilt or fear, but because the need being expressed has been met.
Rather, it’s your responsibility to love your child, right there. Be the adult. Expand your capacity to love and hold and not react. Model what it looks like to be compassionate.
And, of course it’s hard. Maybe even near impossible. It’d be so much easier to just write him or her off as a bad kid, as fucked up, as the fault of your ex-spouse, or society perhaps.
And, it’s a lie.
Your child’s behavior is a reflection of your own unhealed parts.
Be willing to look within.
Be willing to look up the chain of your own ancestral line.
Be willing to look at the deepest, most secret and hidden parts of our soul, to find the rot there and then forgive yourself and begin the path of healing.
Most of us have rot at the core of our being. It is nothing to be ashamed of because allowing the shame to keep the rot hidden is causing it to grow and fester out of control. It is keeping you isolated, separated, and alone.
Maybe you’ve heard in the context of 12-steps work or read it in a book, the saying “we’re only as sick as our secrets.”
This is what it means.
Your family secrets are causing your child to break down, act out and behave in what appear to be terrible ways. You can label it as NPD or borderline or ADD or ADHD or too far gone addiction, or you can take responsibility for it, here and now, and heal it once and for all.
This is not to say that your kid has no responsibility. He does. She does. S/he chose to be born through you, indeed. So it’s part of his/her soul path too. And, when you learn to take responsibility for yourself, so will s/he.
So what does it mean to take responsibility and face these secrets? Does it mean you need to go air all of your dirty laundry on Facebook? No. Though you can if you want to. Personally, I found it fruitful. But I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone by any means.
It does mean that you begin to excavate those secrets and find where they have been pushed deep down inside of you because you were too sensitive (probably) to deal with them yourself as a child.
And bring them back, up through yourself as an adult, and learn to sit with them. And cry.
It may be that you need to forgive your own parents for where they got stuck, or didn’t have the tools, or made you hide in shame, fear or guilt. It certainly won’t help to hold on to any blame toward them. That’s simply more child-ish behavior.
Instead, it’s time to remember that you are the lynchpin. The child who can grow into the adult, even if your parents didn’t, who can parent your children in an entirely different way, that is what’s necessary to heal the entire ancestral line you were born into, backwards and forwards.
Yes, it’s all your opportunity. Full personal responsibility to grow up and be the parent you always wanted, through your kids, but really for yourself.
This is how we heal the inter-generational divide, within ourselves, and then with the people we love, so we can truly increase our Family Wealth.