"I'm sorry mom."
My son tucked his head and turned to walk out of my room, after breaking the chain on a necklace. The look on his face assured me I would soon find him in his room, with tears down his face. He has such a huge heart, and gets pretty broken when mistakes or accidents happen.
Traditional parenting would tell me to let him wander to his room and feel the shame of his mistake. After all, it was one of my favorite necklaces, and he knew better than to try to squeeze it over his head without undoing the clasp.
Traditional parenting says that our children learn their lessons by suffering the consequences of their choices. Although there is some truth to cause and affect parenting, I often disagree with the harshness it requires. The brokenness it can cause, seems to have a long lasting impact on a child's sweet spirit.
I choose to ignore the opinions and unwarranted advice that's offered from those who are clueless about children from hard places. And you know what awakening I've had lately? A lot of us come from hard places. But we're told it's all part of life, and most are unaware of how it's still impacting us as adults.
What is a hard place? Any time from conception to now, that's had a struggle and affected the way our brain processes emotions. We're all aware of the noticeable trauma situations: neglect, malnutrition, abuse, sexual assault, or other big events.
But too often, we aren't aware that there are many other factors that play a role in how our brains process.
High stress pregnancy
Long or hard labor
Hospitalization during childhood
Loss of a family member
...just to name a few.
Most all of us have lived through a hard place. How are you dealing with your memories of the hard places you've endured? How do you think our children are able to handle all the pain of their hard places?
During a recent HALO Project class, our facilitator read a list of traumas/hard places. We were asked to use a dauber to place a mark for each of the items on the list that had been a piece of our journey. Here I am, 35 years old, and fighting tears with every dot I had to place. Just recognizing those past moments, brought back waves of emotions that I thought were long gone.
Refacing those emotions has taken several weeks to recover from. There have been numerous things that have triggered flashbacks to the painful moments. Sometimes a comment worded just right, can send me back to that pain. A scent, a sound, or driving down certain streets can flare up the memories. But I'm grateful for the new knowledge that came from this little experiment. The awareness of my own triggers, has helped me to better relate to others who've been in similar shoes.
My son has been through more in his 7 years, than I have in my 35. And if I fail to recognize that we are all, naturally, a product of our past pain; then I'll fail to do my part in breaking that cycle and creating a better now, for a promising tomorrow.
My past doesn't define me. Nor does yours define you. But if ignored and unhealed, it will infect current life and continue to bleed into every new day.
A broken necklace was the perfect opportunity to mend a broken place in my son. I've learned to recognize the pain in his eyes, and it's almost as if I can see him revisiting a memory from his past. I wasn't about to let something as petty as a necklace cause tears and flashbacks.
"Ah man, the necklace broke?"
"I bet we can fix it, if we try." He looked around to see where the missing links flew. Now he was determined to fix it, since I had halted the retreat to sneak away and cry.
"Just lay it here and I'll mess with it later. We've got better things to do with our time together this evening."
I'm not denoting discipline. Nor am I attempting to sway anyone from their parenting ways. But I choose to take the nontraditional approach. Because for me, being too harsh not only reawakens the past in my son, but it shakes my own painful memories to the surface as well. And I just don't think that stirring pain will ever take us to the outcome of happiness and wholeness.
One moment at a time. One mistake or accident at a time. One memory at a time. And before long, love will heal the wounds from what's already gone. Love will wipe out fear. Love will create new memories. Love will guide us into all that God holds for the future.