Breaking Generational Strongholds

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Break free!!

When I think of my mother, I think of a strong woman whom worked hard all of her life until she retired on disability. This is the same woman who had two children early in life and then was surprised by another (myself) in her late thirties. Needless to say there was a lot of adjusting that needed to take place. With an 18 year gap between myself and my sister and a 20 year gap between myself and my brother, my mother and I have always struggled to bond as she wasn’t used to children any longer.

Now don’t get me wrong, she was the best mother she could be but, she, herself had grown up with a mother whom did not show love in the emotional sense, but through her ability to provide for and take care of her kids. The emotional piece had been missing for generations. I’m sure the fact that my grandmother growing up in the south and experiencing racism to an extent that I never had probably contributed to the hard demeanor that she presented. I am also sure that that was passed on to my own mother.

Now, as a parent myself I find it easy to show affection to my children while they are young but not so much as they get older; please do not beat me up for saying this. I currently have a 13 year old whom is going through her own hormonal changes and in need of emotional support of which I am not familiar except by the examples set forth in the family sitcoms I watched growing up.

I am thankful that I noticed my waning emotional support immediately (thanks to being a teacher and experiencing it firsthand with my students and their parents) because I was able to dig deep and surface the source and then research ways to remedy it.

I am happy to say that it is possible to break generational strongholds. I believe in purposeful parenting because you can never get back the years lost with your children but you can make a significant change for the better at any stage that will positively impact their lives. I am constantly searching for opportunities and creating opportunities to provide that emotional support to my daughter. I can’t say that I am an expert or that I am doing it correctly, but I am trying.

I have:

  • Purchased Groupons to brunch in the city for just her and I
  • We read a good book together or talk about whatever she wants to freely
  • We have created traditions that are unique to us and will be different for myself and her brother once he gets older
  • I purchased a devotional geared towards mothers and daughters to read with her every night
  • I do not allow electronics at the breakfast/dinner table to allow for conversation between her and myself
  • I have recently looked up more volunteer opportunities that we can do together

I am constantly looking for ways to create the emotional support that she needs as it is vital to her self-esteem and self-awareness. Recently, I read a book called How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and my goal is to fill her bucket daily with positivity. I recommend reading this book and also StrengthsFinder 2.0. Just because something has been a certain way in your family for generations doesn’t mean that it can’t stop with you (and I am referring to something negative). You must proclaim that it will be different for you and yours. Purposefully parent!

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The Village

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I would like to think that I can do all things and that I can be everything to my children as a single parent, but I am a realist.  I realize that there may be certain needs that must be met that I may not be able to meet.  As a single parent or a just a parent for that matter, it is important to not short change ourselves or our kids trying to be supermom and superdad.  Sometimes we must employ the help of others.  We must create the village*.

I realized this earlier this week as I waited for my daughter to finish volleyball camp.  As I was standing there, I observed other girls from all different backgrounds receiving instruction, lessons, skills, and support.  The coach was building a team in front of me.  If there was a girl there who wanted to belong to something, she was definitely going to belong to this team.  I watched my daughter’s face shift from focused (on what the coach was saying) to joyous when she was able to high-five a team member or score a point.  This moment I could not provide her with on my own.

There is a huge gap between my children, my daughter is 12 and my son is 21 months.  She has pretty much been an only child until he was born.  I have constantly been busy working and going to school to provide for her and I have to admit, I missed out on a lot.  But, when I was off from work and not in class, I took her to museums, plays at the library, outdoor festivals, etc.  I tried my hardest on a mediocre salary.  But, there are things that I could not provide.  I am not ashamed to say that I utilize my village*.  I put her in cotillion because I want her to be refined and conduct herself as a young lady should.  I let her participate in any sport that she wanted to, to include gymnastics, tae kwon do, cheerleading, soccer, and volleyball.  She needed the team and the discipline and friendships that are included.  I let her participate in the play for which she was so awesome, I had to step back and soak it all in.  She received applause after applause and it seemed as though everyone in the audience stopped her afterward and told her how wonderful she was.  She needed that, they all need that.  Of course they receive the accolades from us because we are always there but, it is special when it comes from complete strangers who do not owe you anything.

I encourage you to take advantage of any opportunity to build your village because our kids need that.  Don’t go it alone.  If you look hard enough, there is always someone there willing to help.

*It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb