Katy Perry recently mentioned in an interview that her desire to be a parent is getting stronger and, as such, she has decided that it's time to grow up and step into the woman she's meant to be. As such, she says, it is time to let go of childhood trauma. What is she talking about and why does she relate parenting a child with her childhood?
Unbeknownst to many people, these two instances of a person's life are intricately related. When we carry unresolved trauma, either we tend to repeat the behaviors that traumatized us, or we may try to do everything completely different as a parent. And why is this a problem? Because neither is focused on providing our children with what is in their best interest!
A quick note: childhood trauma can be anything that, for one reason or another, traumatizes a person. It doesn't have to be sexual or physical abuse. Katy Perry mentioned in a few of her interviews that she "never had a childhood." She says that because her parents are evangelical preachers, she was barred from reading secular books and novels. Something that may seem simple and not traumatizing to many, for her was a big deal. And that is ok. Each of us responds differently to the actions of those who raised us. But, the most important thing is that she's aware that she's hurt and that she needs to heal before she can parent another human being.
Many questions may have risen by now. Some may be wondering how people can repeat behaviors that hurt them, even if unconsciously. Well, there are many reasons for that. But the most recurring one is that we're wired to protect our parents since birth. And if we aren't able to "do the work" of removing them from the pedestals we naturally put them on (for our survival sake), we won't be able to look critically at their actions while raising us. As a consequence, we may never be able to make different choices.
And many will go through life never doing that. Why? Because to critically look at what they did we must first be willing to face our own pain. We also need to be able to look at them as fallible human beings, which is hard for any child. Lastly, we must be able to examine their love for us critically. Yes, they did love us, we know that. But we may not be willing to admit that (maybe) they not always had our best interest at heart. They may have been self-serving at times, and they may have knowingly ignored our pain when we asked for help.
Many things will emerge in the process of working through our grief. But it can be so daunting that many would rather leave their parents' actions unchallenged. Then, the next logical step is to endorse said actions. By repeating them with our children, we confirm to ourselves that said actions were reasonable. By joining our parents in the way they raised us we may even be able to secure more approval from them. It is a win-win - only that it is not!
How about those who decide to do everything the exact opposite of what their parents did? Isn't that a smart decision? No! Why? Because we are still not operating with our child's best interest at heart. We're still working from the scars of our own childhood and from those things that we either had too much of or not enough. Plus, labeling everything that our parents did as wrong because of some of their actions may leave out useful moves they made when raising us that made us a better person.
Furthermore, our child-rearing approach should never be based on what we had or didn't have, but on our child's needs. As a parent, we may have to come up with an entirely different set of skills than those that our parents had back then. We may have to be creative and think outside of the box to tackle our kid's issues. Because even though each generation has their own set of characteristics related with their cultural environment, our child will have their personality and we must open room in our minds and hearts to get to know them.
I talk from experience. I made this mistake with my first child. I was very young (18) and full of unresolved issues. I'd look at her as a toddler or a young kid (actually, well into her teenage years) and I'd see myself. I'd think of her in terms of those things that lacked for me, and I made a pact with myself that she'd never want for anything. And that was a horrible mistake.
My luck was that she was very smart and she refused the role of "mini-me" that I'd unconsciously assigned to her. She'd rub that on my face and show me who she truly was, whether I liked it or not. So, I'd tell her "I trust you beyond doubt," and she'd fire back saying "don't put all that trust on me because I will lie to you." Yes, she'd say that not when she was a small child, but when she was in her early teenage years. As a child, I'd only put my trust in her blindly, and she'd go and disappoint me over and over again. I think she was trying to say "stop projecting yourself at me and please see me!". Such a smart baby!
I learned my lesson. And because of that, I congratulate Katy Perry for her smart decision! Lucky child of hers!