Legacy burdens and legacy gifts. Transcending generational familial patterns.
Being a parent and grandparent is the best part of my life. Though parenting does not come with instructions, I have discovered and continue to discover perfection is finding peace in the imperfections. As families continue to generate life and legacies, our family stories and histories evolve. I am grateful for the many ways my family continues to grow, develop, and evolve. This article is intended to acknowledge both the gifts and challenges of parenting in hopes of encouraging a better future for current and future familial generations.
May and June are the months we celebrate our mothers and fathers. Whether you are one or not, you are a product of your parents. Whether you knew your parents well or not at all, they played a significant role in your development as a human. Parents are the most influential people in our lives. It is from our parents we inherit our legacy burdens and gifts.
Of course, we develop a good bit our own gifts and talents as nature plays a significant role in our development alongside nurture. There is no escaping the way our parents nurture our life experiences and shape the perceptions of our experiences. Parenting, like life, is a course of yin and yang experiences of good and bad. Parents are the most influential people in the lives of their children.
As a practicing mental health counselor in Tennessee (TLPC-MHSP), I spend a lot of time with clients seeking to understand their present challenges and life experiences. Most feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, depression, communication challenges, insecurity, fear, and uncertainty (to name a few) are directly related to childhood experiences. While the degree of childhood adversity is broad, it plays a noteworthy part in the child that is an adult.
One of the greatest contributions we make to ourselves as adults, is to recognize and find acceptance for the burdens and gifts we acquired from our parents. It’s easy to pay tribute to the gifts received, but often we are met with internal guilt when we consider the burdens obtained. Often the guilt and the avoidance of reliving childhood wounds prevents us from exploring greater possibilities and holds us hostage to passing on legacies that might otherwise free us and our children for generations to come.
I wonder, if we give ourselves permission to recognize our legacies and stories in a judge free and guiltless manner how much healing and self-connection might occur to make room for greater communal association in all aspects of our lives. With the help of therapy, I have been freed and have helped others find freedom to heal from childhood wounds in a way that allows them to achieve stronger relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, and social/work community peers.
Considering we are adults with our parents and children longer in life than we are children with parents or parents with our children, it’s worth the time and effort to understand our childhood wounds and free ourselves through acceptance and forgiveness. In as much, it is also essential that we express gratitude and joy for the talents and gifts of love we have received from our parents. Without evaluation of our own history, we are certain to continue some level of a cycle we intend(ed) to break. Often, we continue the cycle in a different manner and convince ourselves we are or did things differently. In reality, we did or do the very same things we promised ourselves we would change.
As children (adults, adolescent, or child), we are caught up in our experiences and often fail to recognize our parents, are products of their life experiences; thus, we navigate our parents and learn to live with them on the terms they create. We are established by our knowledge gained through our life experiences them that we fail to recognize the ways our children are experiencing and navigating life with us, due to our parenting methods. Often, we are convinced our children are much better off than we were because of our improved way of parenting.
There is hope and opportunity regardless of our stage of parenting. In fact, my 72 year old father and I have conversations around the challenges and joys of my childhood on occasion. I have been relieved of hurt and celebrated success with him through the words “I am sorry” and “I love you.” Additionally, I have had the same sort of conversations with my children in the hopes of healing their childhood wounds and rejoicing in the positive achievements that has resulted in their prosperous adulting.
As you consider the joys of parenting this Mother and Father’s Day season, perhaps you celebrate with reflection and honor for your legacy gifts and if need be, make space for relieving legacy burdens. Allow healing for yourself as a parent by exploring your history including your beliefs and values. Make peace with your parents (living or deceased). Make space for your children to openly share their challenges and successes with you.
**If your family has a trauma history, please seek the help of professional counselor to guide you through the journey of healing and connection.
Additional reading resources:
Walking the Tiger by Peter Levine
Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS by Jay Earley