It’s summer and I’m getting married next month. My posts over the next few months may be lighter, shorter or even non-existent. There are a lot of new dynamics at play in our now household of seven. My time and energy are devoted to making these go smoothly.
Since we have been meshing my fiance Mark’s and my families over the last month, the subjects of how we were each raised and how we raised our children have come up a lot. It’s surprising how much of our upbringing stays with us and passes through to the next generation. I’ll go over a few of the main areas we have encountered using my childhood experiences as examples.
Growing up, my mom kept my sister and me on a regular sleep schedule. I don’t remember it being overbearing, but my sister recently said she had a little shock when she went to college and stayed up past nine. Our house was quiet. We lived out in the country. Sleep was guarded.
At my dad’s house, it was less rigidly scheduled and protected. I remember many late night drives home from racetracks. My dad and stepmom enjoy(ed) car racing. Sometimes we got home late on school nights. I never liked those exhausting nights but we survived. Mom would not have let that happen.
I currently like my sleep time protected and honored. It is my recovery time. My bedtimes and wake times can vary but not more than an hour or two (rarely) each day. If my sleep is disrupted, I am a grumpy bear.
Take a moment to think about how much structure you had in your childhood home. How much do you have in your current home? Did you eat meals at certain times? Regular bedtimes? Chores?
Again, I had a mix. My mom’s house was more orderly and predictable. We almost always ate dinner together at six. Mom did 98% of the cooking. I mentioned our bedtimes. Mom did laundry regularly. We often ordered pizza on Friday nights from Pizza Sam’s because she was “too tired to cook” after the work week.
We were expected to go to school every day, get good grades. We had a bathroom schedule because we only had one bathroom. I was always the first one up and in the shower each day.
My dad’s was a tad more chaotic because we had six people in the house. We still often ate together for dinner. We were expected to help out more around the house at my dad’s. I learned to dust, vacuum and wash dishes from my dad and stepmom.
Most children benefit from predictability and reliability. It allows them to relax. Relationships feel safer when there is predictability and presence.
Talk about things, express feelings
We talked about things like food, family members and work at my house. We did not get into our feelings or finances. Money talk was taboo and stressful since we didn’t have much of it. We did not talk a lot about world issues like politics. Occasionally, when my grandparents came to visit, we would talk about traveling or history.
I don’t remember my dad or mom crying when I was a child. I do remember my stepmom and grandma showing emotions. It was safe to share my feelings with my grandma. When my stepmom showed too much emotion, my sister and I did not like it. Looking back, I think it was because we did not know how to handle it and we felt like she was out of control. We needed her to be steady and in control, so we felt safe.
My dad and mom expressed laughter. I remember my mom having a quirky sense of humor until I was in high school. Then she got lonelier.
I remember managing (by stuffing them) my emotions alone in my room at night. I did not really feel like I had a confidante at home. Later in my 20s, I talked more openly with my mom. She also let down her guard then. Openness with my dad and stepmom occurred more into my 40s when I went through my divorce.
It took a while to be able to share feelings with my family, but now it is a regular thing.
What I have come to as the bottom line message behind parenting/nurturing is: I am there for you or I am not.
Did your parents see you? Did you feel seen? What messages you received growing up determines a lot about how you create your household.
We may say we will never be like our parents but the truth is their traits and habits slip in subconsciously. Thinking about them consciously gives us a chance to improve upon or reject the less desirable behaviors and emulate the positive ones.
Was there structure in your childhood home? Were your daily needs like sleep and nutrition taken into account? How openly did you express feelings with your family of origin? How is your current family like your childhood one? How is it different?
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