Protecting Childhood

Who protects the children? Who shelters the sacredness of childhood?

This duty falls upon the parents/caregivers. 

And yet, as the quote above states: It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins. I would say it is also in schools and religious institutions. 

I come out strongly suggesting this because this wreckage is what I care passionately about. My passion was reignited last week as my daughter shared an experience she had. It triggered experiences and emotions still unprocessed from my childhood. 

A family member had compared their daughter to mine, and not in a positive light. This has happened before when another family member did not want their daughter to be around mine because they believed she was a bad influence. I recall the time, as a young teenager, I was forbidden to step foot in my friend’s house because her parents believed I was a bad influence because I dated black boys. I remember how this hurt me, and it wasn’t the first time. It was a reoccurring theme that somehow something in me threatened the adults and they didn’t want me rubbing off on their kids. Absurd! 

I can say that now, but at the time I felt like a defect. I felt ashamed. I felt judged. And, I felt angry. The anger I felt was about the injustice I was experiencing. These parents who judged me did not know me. They never asked me questions. They did not spend time with me. I was instantly forbidden fruit based on a few choices and behaviors. 

My daughter is being judged in the same way. The family members who chose this behavior do not know her. I’ve yet to see any of them sit down with her and ask her questions about who she is or how she is. Or have they sat down with me and asked about what is was like to raise her or how I raised her. And somehow, as parents, they believe they won’t deal with the behaviors they think they know about my daughter and if they do, they rather it be due to the negative influence of my daughter. How ignorant!

What is forgotten, what is not done is to look wider and deeper at the reasons behind so called negative behaviors and influences. Why might someone act out with “negatively”? Why might a child/teenager self-harm? Use drugs? Do we think they are just a defect or do we just blame the bad influences? Or do we consider they are acting out unprocessed traumas that occur within our own homes? Our own toxic environments? Acting out the wreckage of their childhood? Not usually. Instead of adults putting this together, adults project their fears, ignorance and their own unprocessed traumas and emotions at the children and make them the problem. How unjust!

For example, say a young girl lives in a home where a parent abuses alcohol. I know this home. My mom was an alcoholic. It sucks. It damages a child. It creates patterns that can destroy a life. The child might point out to their parent that they drink too much. Instead of the parent listening, the parent feels disrespected. They believe the child has lost their rightful place in the family hierarchy- to be seen and not heard; to respect their elders. All non-sense!

Why should a child not be able to claim their childhood? Why should a child respect a parent who is not protecting their childhood? Why should they not proclaim: I matter. My childhood matters. Why should a child not plead to their parents to protect the sacredness of their childhood? More sad, why should a child have to? 

Kahlil Gibran on children said: 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

We cause the wreckage when we see them as our possessions and believe they are less than. We do them a great disservice when we do not see them as souls, as a spirit within a body that have their own path to follow. When I was judged, yes, I felt hurt, but I also knew there was nothing wrong with me. I sensed both my humanity and my spirituality. I understand we are dual- both material and spiritual. We are made up of our childhood environments and our larger society that create our psychological experience and we are spiritual- of spirit- composed of high vibrations of energy that are constantly evolving. 

I have no doubt the vast majority of us who are parents are going to fuck up our kids. I thought I was a good mom because I didn’t abuse alcohol like my mother did, and provided a mostly stable environment, but I brought them other traumas. This is bound to happen because we have unconscious realms of darkness within us that hold old conditioning and beliefs. But, there is hope. We can protect childhood!

Here is what we can do: We can 1) commit to our own inner, self-reflective work and practices. We can and must commit to our own healing. And 2) repair the harms we have caused with our children. To do this, we must be open and respect their experience enough to openly listen to them. We must give them safe space to air out their grievances. Recently, my kids sat down with my husband and me and told us what it was like to grow up with our marriage. It was brutal to hear. But it was and is my duty to listen, to repair and commit to healing. 

It is time to end fearful, ignorant parenting based on a hierarchical mindset and unconscious psychological patterns. Instead it is time to begin conscious, mindful parenting, which is a combination of reparenting ourselves with honesty and compassion and our children the same. 

~The Soul Reporter

A Repost: Let’s Detox from Shame

Shame is the most toxic ingredient to give children.

Shame is defined as “a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.”

A couple of weeks ago I was in the hospital with my daughter. She’s 11, and suffered injuries from an auto accident we were in six months ago. We stayed a couple of days, and as usual, when in a hospital, shared a room with another child.

She was probably my daughter’s age, and I believe suffered some sort of injury to her leg, although I don’t know how. She had been in the hospital a week, and I knew how that felt.

The first time we were in the hospital, after the car accident, we too were there a week. I could tell from the father’s behavior he was ready to get out of there. He was running in and out, trying to get prescriptions, test results, and those infamous discharge papers we often wait hours and hours for.

While gone, his daughter was in the bed, and I heard crying. I caught a glimpse into her room, and saw she was putting a bandage on her wounded leg. I wanted to ask her if she was okay, but I didn’t.

Her father came back in the room, and scolded her for crying. “What is the matter with you?” he asked. She explained how she tried to get the bandage on by herself, and how he wasn’t there to help. He told her she did it wrong. She had no response.

Yes, I am sure he was stressed. I understand. But I also understand shame. Her non-response showed me what we, as children, do with shame.

I witnessed another incident in the hospital—a sick little boy, being pulled and yelled at to hurry up by his mother. He did the same as the young girl: no response.

I suppose there are some children who might rise up in the face of shame and say, “no—this is not okay.” But mostly, as children, we don’t know what to do with this subtle, consistent, insidious culprit that is shame, but to ingest it.

It seeps into us, and like a cancer grows. It permeates our being. Over time we might shut down. Or we might lash out. We will get involved in addictive and destructive behaviors, all because we, underneath that shame, ask the question, whose answer we fear: “what if something is wrong with me? What if I am not okay?”

The answer we fear is that there is something wrong with us, and we are not okay. And so the shame and the behaviors of this shame persist. If we are not conscious of our own shame, and do the inner work to heal it, we will pass it down to our children.

The reason shame is so insidious is because it is within all of our institutions. School. Church. Home. The culture is seeped in shame. And of course, it would be because the inhabitants of this culture are.

The reason shame is so subtle is because we believe this is what we deserve. It doesn’t seem foreign anymore. Instead shame has become as common as the skin on our bones and the blood in our veins.

So, now what?

It’s time to detox from shame.

The beauty in witnessing these interactions at the hospital is, although I recognized the shame, it felt foreign to watch it being thrown at these children. I believe this is because in my own family I am a conscious participant in breaking the cycle, which says it is possible.

And it begins with self-awareness. To break shame down and shake shame off within our families and communities as parents, educators and just everyday people in the world—we need to understand the shame inside ourselves.

We need to watch how we project, and if nothing else observe the children after we have thrown shame their way. They don’t need it. We don’t need it anymore, yet it is still here among us.

As adults, we are susceptible to it wherever it is we are ashamed. For instance, I was having a conversation with a lawyer. Sure, he might have just needed certain bits of information about me and my work, but I started to feel ashamed.

I told him I was striving to be a writer. “Starting your own business as a writer?” he asks. “What is your education? Do you get paid for this?” I felt shame and wanted to defend myself.

Kids don’t have the luxury to be at peace with themselves while living in a culture of shame. They have to try to detox after they leave their houses full of shame, and many don’t. But, we as adults can detox, and therefore be better hosts to our children, ours or not.

How can we begin to detox from shame?

Begin to notice the shame around you, in our culture: on television, radio, and other forms of media. Then, take your attention to our institutions: church, school, places of work. Then, see your own family, your upbringing.

In what ways were you shamed? Now, go deeper and see your current family: how might you be oozing your shame toward them? How does shame sit and speak to you? What does it make you do? What does it make you project?

We are often sold magic pills and remedies to heal our wounds, but all we really need to do is see something for it to change. Bring the light of awareness to our patterns. Connect to our upbringing and current influences, and the heart will begin to heal, and transform.

It’s a process.

Let’s start with seeing shame in all its forms. This isn’t to encourage it. Our silence and ignorant acceptance of it is.