When people meet me for the first time and I tell them that I am a therapist they usually react in one of two ways. Either they 1) ask me if I am a massage therapist. (Seriously, this happens all the time! It isn’t a slight to any massage therapists out there…I love when I can go to one, it just strikes me as funny that this is the first thing they think of.) Or, they respond by 2) making a self-deprecating remark about how I must be watching them parent and then in the same breath tell me that they could never listen to “all those problems” day in and day out. Let me shout it virtually for all the world to hear: Just because I am a therapist I do not judge you on your parenting strategies at the park, in the grocery store line or anywhere else for that matter! Remember, I am a parent too. For goodness sake that would make me a really bad therapist if I were in the practice of offering professional advice without sitting down and really listening to your story. But I digress…what I am getting at here is that beyond the knowledge others think I may have, what I really love about my job is the privilege of listening to the stories we all have. They may present as problems in my office, but really they are the tip of the iceberg to a larger story that is being written.
Stories are interesting in that they share a common pattern: beginning, middle and end, but the similarities really end there. It could be action- adventure, fairytale, comedy, tragedy, or a little of all of these genre’s rolled into one. All of our stories are so vastly different and yet they have brought us to the place we are today- Mothers reading a blog about being a Mom and longing for connection either in the magnificent or the mundane. We really are all in this together. Do you understand what I am talking about when I talk about your story? Do you know it right away or does it take you a minute to recall the years that made you who you are today?
Whether or not your story is one of heartache or happiness, your story will affect the way you parent. That’s the thing about a story, the first couple of chapters influence the next chapters but they certainly don’t have to determine the ending. Some of you may have that story of heartache: a broken home, violence, maybe even abuse in your past. Perhaps you didn’t want to be a parent or stumbled upon it in ways you never thought possible. On the other hand there are some of you who were blessed with a story that we all hope for our own children to have. Years filled with laughter, unconditional love, full bellies, and the opportunity to do anything their little hearts dream of. Whatever the chapters of your life might be, take heart for the rest of the story is still being written.
Often times as Mama’s we fret over the instances when we raise our voice or get angry with our children and we think that this will ruin them for the rest of their lives. We worry that we are writing a story for their lives that we most certainly don’t want them to have. Mama’s worry about this a lot and let me tell you, you really don’t need to. In order to significantly hurt your child emotionally, you have to have a repeated habitual consistent pattern of acting this way to make a big difference in your child’s life. Think of it this way: when you are reading a book do you remember what your favorite character was wearing in a particular chapter? Of course not. Even if it was mentioned in the story telling it more than likely didn’t have to do with overall character development or the final ending. Our mess up’s as Mama’s are like that too, a small Oops in the many chapters of our child’s life. It is more than likely going to be all right.
As your stories evolve over the countless dishes to be washed, noses to be wiped, and goldfish to be picked up I would really encourage you to dive in and discover what your story has been up to this point. Go on a date with your husband or have coffee with a friend and tell them your story. You might be surprised that it has shaped you more than you realize or maybe even wanted to? I want to encourage you if your story is less than desirable, please don’t be ashamed. Remember it shaped you but it doesn’t have to define you. Good or bad that has made you who you are today and chances are you are better, different, and more aware then if some of those hard things hadn’t happened to you.
Finally, story building can be one of the most glorious things to get to be a part of. As Mother’s, we get to do this every single minute of every single day. Let’s make the most of it and enjoy these chapters in our children’s lives because although it seems as if you may never get out of this phase or that, the chapters may be long but the book will be written and over before you know it. That is when you will find yourself desperate for more to read.