Whenever Oronzo and I spend time with our extended families, especially with our parents, we end up having some interesting conversations about our childhood and how we hope to raise our children.
Without getting into the gory details, both Oronzo and I grew up in dysfunctional households. We were subjected to physical and emotional abuse as children. This has affected our view of our roles as parents. We are working hard to shift the family dynamics in our own home for the better.
For example, both Oronzo and I have agreed that we will not spank our children. We will strive not say mean, hurtful things in anger. We will not be demeaning towards our children or towards each other. We will make sure that if we, as a couple, have verbal disagreements our children also see the resolution to those disagreements. We will shower our children with affection and do our best to make sure they know each and every day how much we love them. We will treat our children with the same respect that we ask of them.
If you wonder how that's working for us so far, I must say that, so far, it's working quite well. Don't get me wrong, we set boundaries for Snuggle Bug and we are working at teaching him to be a respectful, well-mannered child. He's only 18 months and we haven't experienced any major disobedience issues yet, can you at that age? It might prove more challenging as he gets older, but we're determined not to raise our children the way we were raised.
The other night, as we lay in bed at Oronzo's parent's house, we talked about the changes in our own parents over the years and our ability to forgive. Oronzo made the comment, "They did the best they could at the time," and I disagreed. My parents didn't do the best that they could. They chose to drink, they chose to hit us and each other, they chose to hurt us with their hands, their fists, and their words. They didn't do the best that they could. I don't buy that at all. In fact, now that I'm a parent myself, at times I'm even more angry and disgusted with the thought of how they could have caused such pain to innocent, powerless children.
Having said that, I do want to give both our parents credit for the changes we've seen as we've become adults. They've mellowed in their old age, in some instances they've expressed regret and sorrow for some of the things they've done. They work hard at being good grandparents.
I was napping at Oronzo's parent's this past Saturday afternoon and I awoke to the sound of Aleiza and Peyton playing with Snuggle Bug in the guest room. I sat and soaked in the sounds of their laughter and Snuggle Bug's happy baby chatter. Then I got up, tiptoed over to the guest room and peered in the doorway. Aleiza was sitting on the floor, patiently letting Snuggle Bug hand her books and toys. Peyton was sitting in the rocking chair, leaning close to encourage Snuggle Bug with his task. It warmed my heart to see this scene.
I've seen similar, positive interactions between Snuggle Bug and my parents and I'm amazed at the changes in them as well.
It's hard sometimes to reconcile the differences in our parents. The parents that were abusive in the past, can now be loving and affectionate, especially towards their grandchildren.
I still haven't reached a place of total trust with either sets of parents, and there are still resurgences of dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes from time to time, but their efforts to change for the better have gone a long way towards earning my forgiveness and have helped my personal healing process.
** Edited to add: **
After reading a few of the comments left (thanks, by the way), I'd like to clarify a couple of points.
First, the apologies that we have received from our parents were not willingly given. Both Oronzo and I have had to have painful conversations with our parents in the past. I can't speak for Oronzo on how his conversations played out, but often times my conversations with my parents were results of them making stupid statements like, "I can't believe the neighbors do [insert judgmental observations here]," and me responding with, "I can't believe you're criticizing when you did the same thing to us when we were kids!"
My siblings and I have slowly gained the courage over time to speak up and speak out against our parents. We've confronted them about their past treatment and we are less willing to tolerate their bad behavior in the present. As a result of these forced conversations, we sometimes get apologies. I do appreciate the apologies when they come across as heartfelt, as they sometimes do, but it'd be so much nicer if they offered them up on their own.
Second, the lack of total trust that I mentioned means that Oronzo and I both agree that our children will not spend time alone with our parents for a long, long time (no matter how much they plead with us and try to make us feel guilty). They've hurt us too much in the past and we're not willing to risk them hurting our children so we will be present when our children visit their grandparents or spend time with them.
Oronzo and I have talked about possibly letting our children go stay with grandparents for short visits alone when they're older and can verbally tell us if they are mistreated, but we don't have a clear idea in our minds as to when that magical age will be. A lot depends on how our relationship with our parents continues, going forward.
Still, I do acknowledge and appreciate the positive changes I've seen thus far.