I wake up nearly every morning and I’m confronted with a situation that can be so volatile that my nerves are frayed usually before the sun has fully risen. It’s difficult to speak about this subject because I see myself as a conscious, empowered and deeply loving parent that would do anything for my child and his happiness. Its difficult to speak of my circumstances because it’s a mixture of vulnerability, guilt, shame and humility that comes with having a child that has “anxious attachment” issues. The guilt rises because I know that things could always be worse. Worse than watching my child rage at me desperately for over an hour at a time, worse than not being able to soothe my 4 year old boy when he’s in emotional pain both pushing and pulling me away at the same time, worse than seeing my child fall into a million pieces when he approaches me and I don’t meet his expectations, worse than experiencing deep disappointment no matter what I try or how I love, in the hope of bridging the gap that lies between us.
The reason I hesitate to share all of this with you is of course…. the fear of being judged and criticised whilst trying to figure out the best way to navigate the murky waters of parenting. I can only imagine that this is what is holding many of us back from sharing the challenges and getting the support we need as we face our intensely spirited children, family dynamic and our own emotions. It feels like a deeply personal and private matter that we must face alone or behind the closed doors of any new age therapist that we can find in the hope of finding some solution to ease the pain and confusion.
I expect there will be opinions, advice and judgements as to how we got to be here, what he should or shouldn’t be eating, what we should or shouldn’t be doing and everything in between. Most of this advice will come from well meaning, kind-hearted people, but truly that is not the purpose of this piece of truth-telling. These are personal experiences and reflections that are yearning to be shared, mostly to connect with anyone out there who is remotely experiencing what I am, I want you to know you are not alone. You really haven’t done anything “wrong” to deserve this and you are not being punished, even though it can sometimes feel as though you are. I have to keep reminding myself of these things each day as I hit the reset button and take a deep breath into what the day will unfold.
When Asher and I discovered we were going to be having a baby we genuinely felt we were made for this gig! It seemed like the most natural and life affirming thing we could be doing. It was as though our deep love for each other was going to naturally manifest a new being filled with our expectation of what we thought our baby would bring. In many ways we were naïve which is probably a good thing because if somebody had told me what it was going to be like, then I’m not so sure I would have chosen this path that has squeezed me in every unimaginable way towards a deeper appreciation, understanding and compassion towards myself and others who struggle quietly, shamefully and painfully behind closed doors.
I’m still not entirely sure I will ever have a definitive answer as to how things came to be the way that they are, but my sense is that our insecure attachment issue is multi faceted as most things are, including those things that are on a soul level best left for another piece of writing. One of the many factors that has contributed to our situation has to do with being inconsistent with him over time and having very loose boundaries depending on the reactions and responses of our child. Being our first born and our only child he is our universe and he knows it. We’ve given him a lot of power and probably too much. We’re probably stuck in an emotional pattern with him that is not serving us well. It’s likely that the way we were parented has seeped into our own parenting style which we tried so hard to steer away from. There’s also a good chance that we haven’t been getting the balance right when it comes to being “bigger-stronger, wiser-kinder” parents that he can count on to meet his needs at all times. Combine that with giving birth to a soul who came in with his own “spirited” personality and in his case, huge lung capacity for having his feelings FULLY expressed. Sometimes I think he has got it right by not holding back a thing, but mostly, it’s quite disturbing and we have come to quickly rejecting his erupting volcano of emotions that feel endless and relentless over the smallest of things. And there it is – a big clue!
As I sit here to write this Soul Story, half of my attention is bracing itself for when my son wakes up in just a few more minutes. I wonder whether my own anxious anticipation for what is to come plays a part in all of this? Most mornings appear to be fraught with danger. Will he or won’t he wake up in a good mood? If he wakes up pissed off, or his needs and expectations are not being met in that moment we could be in for a good dose of bitter medicine. How did we end up here? The more I dive into a parenting support school, called Circle of Security the more I begin to understand the condition of anxious attachment and things begin to make sense.
As a child of emotional abuse and trauma survival, I came into this parenting journey with what I thought was resolved trauma, but as they say, parenting will bring up everything unresolved in you for healing, thus, your children are your greatest daily teachers! Bless! Over the 4 years of Kiva’s life there have been countless times where I have been confronted by HIS big feelings. Sadly, my reactions to his intense outbursts have most likely unintentionally scared my son. My own fear of those HUGE waves of emotion and lack of reference for holding space for their FULL SELF EXPRESSION has led to my own flesh and blood being afraid of fully trusting in me and my loving, well intentioned arms. This realisation has devastated me. All those times I rejected his anger and rage, felt threatened by him and even repelled into a state of disassociation, not uncommon in trauma survival, has led to this moment. A result of my history, mixed in with devotion to my personal growth I’ve been able to stop myself in my tracks in order to heal the family lineage of abuse and dysfunction…but only just. It is a powerful force that requires more than just good intentions.
I have so much compassion for mothers today, parents who struggle with their own issues of disorganised attachment, who’s feelings were never held and turned towards. Where it was not OK to have an emotional inner world. What about us? Were our difficult feelings held tenderly? Were we taught that we were worthy of love unconditionally? Are we supposed to just skip over the lessons missed, classrooms we never attended, and just know what to do and how to show up without being modelled to, ever? Truth be told, YES! We must! We have been chosen to do two things simultaneously as parents. We must hold our children authentically with unwavering windows to our souls, fully embodied in our deepest widest centre. This means that no matter what emotions are rupturing from our children as we hold our ground, we have a deeper, wider place within us that can emotionally follow our children rather than be swallowed by our children. As we take on this extreme sport, heart-first, we need to lean into what ever support and endless healing necessary to nurture our own screaming, defiant, terrified, abandoned and hurting inner child. Yes, the one you thought was conquered and pacified. You are the one you’ve been waiting for!
You have to wonder what kind of soul has chosen to incarnate into being mothered by one like myself…. or yourself for that matter! This is the brilliance of the divine. Us awakening mothers, we will NOT be let off the hook into a life dominated by insidious fears, dissociative patterns and old stories that hold us back from fully self actualising into the woman and mother we always knew we could be, but were too afraid to strive for in case we would discover that we truly are nothing but a miserable failure or a second class carer. So we’ve been chosen to do the work that is necessary for a healing on the deepest level and what better classroom than being a parent where the rewards far exceed the challenges we face daily. It gives me comfort to know that I am not alone. There are other mothers out there struggling just like me to find the woman inside who can strike that sweet spot of “bigger-stronger, wiser-kinder” each time the wheels come off. Great news to know that we are not going to get it right all the time and we are STILL more than enough and perfectly imperfect for our children to become all that we hope for them and all that they’ve come here to be.
How good it is to know we can pop the cork on the pressure for perfection and allow our authentic hearts to shine. We actually don’t need to get it right all of the time, and you won’t, especially if you are a survivor of any version of abuse and neglect. With all your best intentions, you will still screw up sometimes and it’s OK! If we believe that life happens FOR us, not TO us, then we must believe that on some level that applies to our children as well. We are their perfect grist for their mill for spiritual awakening. More and more I am awakening to new levels of gratitude and acceptance for the perfect storm that is brewing in my home. An everyday opportunity to connect to the rich array of emotions and competencies laying dormant inside of me that can only be ignited by the unique soul chemistry that is my “flawsome” family life!