To Be The Parent You Wish You Had
It’s not uncommon for children to blame their parents for their problems. This blame usually carries on to adulthood. In Zimbabwe, it is counter-cultural to voice out our qualms, so we silently (and sometimes verbally - to friends and other family members) make a personal promise that we will be nothing like the people who brought us into this world.
This has been my perspective for a long time now. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are great. My mother gave me the biggest gift anyone can ever give me - faith. And my dad, well, he taught me that the world owed me nada so I’d better toughen up. Still, I’ve lived my whole life telling myself that I want to be a better parent than they were. “When I have kids,” I sometimes tell myself, “I’ll be an awesome parent.” That’s all well and good, but recently, I’ve started asking myself if I had to wait to have kids to be an awesome parent.
2019 was the first time I ever lived on my own. I not only moved out of home, but I moved to a whole new country. I must admit, I totally underestimated the mental strength I would need to survive. No seriously, 2019 almost took me out y’all…
In one of my episodes with depression (caused by existential issues), I went on a YouTube bender, watching everything from Tasty videos (because I was hungry) to makeup tutorials (because I had the sickening feeling that I was actually getting uglier by the day). I stumbled across a Mel Robbins video titled The Hard Truth About Making Your Dreams Come True. In the video, she talks about this concept of parenting yourself and I thought, “Well ain’t that the truth!”
See, when I was a kid, my mom had to wake me up so I could go to church, yell at me so I’d do the dishes, threaten me with a belt (and sometimes use the belt) to get me to clean my room. I hated every (clap) single (clap) minute (clap) of (clap) it! I sulked and growled and hissed, but at the end of the day, I had to do what she wanted me to do. Now, I’m on my own and I still don’t feel like going to church or doing the dishes or cleaning my room. And guess what, mom isn’t here to force me to do it! Yay, right?
When all the boring stuff isn’t done, it ends up prohibiting me from doing the fun stuff. Like eating - I can’t eat from a dirty bowl, or napping - I’m the kind of person who can’t sleep in or on an unmade bed. So the longer I procrastinate getting these chores done, the longer I delay my gratification. And this doesn’t just go with the small stuff.
I love a good story but I don’t particularly enjoy typing on my dying laptop. I enjoy school but getting ready and going out the door is an actual chore for me. And because I procrastinate the time away, I end up not writing that good story in my head and getting to class several minutes late. Both experiences aren’t enjoyable.
A friend of mine posted a tweet by Billy Chapata on his WhatsApp status. It said in part, “...your inner child is still waiting to be seen, by you.” Once again I thought, “Ain’t that the truth”, but this time I did a double-take. If I had an inner child, where were her parents? Finally, Mel Robbins’ video made all the sense in the world (it just made sense at first - you get the logic).
You see, all this time I’ve been waiting to be an awesome parent “when I have kids” when really, I had a kid to take care of this whole time. The kid who stuck her nose in books because people were too mean and unpredictable. The kid who never voiced out her real concerns because she thought they weren’t as important as someone else’s. The kid who hated being compared to other kids (siblings and otherwise) because she knew she could never be them, no matter how hard she tried. That kid. Her parents had done their bit for better or worse. I had to be her parent now.
So what kind of parent had I been to her? The more I looked at it, the more I realised I’d been a horrible parent. I’d neglected her, put my own needs before hers, failed to discipline her, and most importantly, failed to let her play. She was just stuck there, ignored, unseen, invisible. Non-existent.
It sucks to find out that you’ve become the very thing you swore you’d never be. And yet that’s how life goes, isn’t it? So now, the only parent I can blame is myself. My mom taught my inner child to pray, my dad taught my inner child to be tough. But I haven’t taught her anything.
It’s my turn now. I have to take care of my inner child, be kind to her when the rest of the world is mean and unpredictable. I have to listen to her attentively and show her that her opinions and concerns are as valid as anyone else’s, no matter how trivial she thinks they are. I have to celebrate her uniqueness. And while I do all that, I still have to discipline her, because she is, after all, just a child and because the world doesn’t take too kindly to uncouth children.
Blaming our parents for our problems might be a way to deal - or not to deal - with the issues at hand, but it certainly does us no good. I don’t know what your situation with your parents is. I don’t even know if you’ve ever felt like you’d want to top the job they did with you. What I do know is this, you don’t have to wait to become the parent you wish you had (or the parent you’ve been shown you could be). You have an inner child depending on you.
Get to it.
10 January 2020