Wounded People Wound Their Children
The more I read about mother-daughter relationships and the more I write about my own, the more convinced I am that the real shame is that we can’t do what sea turtles do. They swim to shore, lumber up onto the beach, climb into the dunes and dig a hole. There they deposit a hundred or so leathery, golf-ball-sized eggs and cover them back up by slinging sand on them. Then, without ceremony, they waddle back to the sea without so much as a glance over their shoulder. “Good luck, kids!”
Now, before you start screaming, I am not saying that I wish I had never become a parent. I have loved being a parent. As a bonus, parenting has been the thing that has broken me and made me grow more than any other experience of my life. It has given me my highest highs and my lowest lows. It has also given me the privilege of raising three people that, in spite of my failings, have become the most amazing human beings I know.
But I am saying that the sea turtle way eliminates for the baby sea turtles the risk of being stuck with the wrong mother and ending up being scarred for life by one that is wounded and wretched and altogether unfit for motherhood. The sea turtle way seems safer for the kids.
Our system, by contrast, uses very flawed, broken people to attempt to love, nurture and guide our progeny to wholeness. How can broken people help anyone else find wholeness? From the things I am reading online and the responses I have received to my own stories, I think we need to come up with a better way. Humans seem mostly ill-equipped to handle the job and we are creating more broken humans everyday with our bumbling efforts to parent properly.
But, until we can create AI that can raise our children for us — and hopefully do it the right way since we can’t seem to manage that — we are going to have to figure out how to fix what’s wrong. Even people who are good parents can harm their children in unintended ways. And the people who are horrible parents (and there are a lot of them out there) can wreak havoc on their children’s lives that take a lifetime to heal. This just adds to the body count of broken and wounded people in our world.
I have no scientific proof of this, but here’s my theory. Our world has suffered a lot of trauma. Wars, genocides, poverty, injustice, prejudice, hatred, greed and on and on — we are pretty screwed up. Humans hold their trauma and pain in their bodies. We are faced with unimaginable horrors, and we are not well equipped to handle that pain. So we shove it down and turn it into self-hatred or anxiety or personality disorders. Or we turn it outward and it becomes rage and drug addiction and harming others. Either way, the trauma is embedded in our bodies.
Then we have kids. And whether we are now genetically wired to pass that trauma on in our genes, or we just pass it on by acting it out in unskillful ways that harm our children, we are passing that on. And our world is not well equipped to handle a lot of traumatized, wounded, broken people. There is not a lot of guidance or help for those who are wounded. So, they just have to figure out how to handle it themselves, and this leads to addictions and personality disorders and rage and fear and acting out in all kinds of harmful ways.
And the beat goes on.
So where is the stick we can poke into the spokes of this bicycle? How do we stop the cycle, heal ourselves and figure out how to parent our children in ways that make them feel safe, loved and accepted? We have to find a way to heal people before they start having children of their own. Maybe we need to offer mental health counseling from the time children get into school. And not just occasionally, but every week, so we can give them the tools to heal and become whole.
I don’t have any answers for this. If I did, I could heal the world. But even though I don’t know how to heal the world, I do know how to heal myself and I can make sure there is one less broken, wounded soul on the planet. I regret that I could not have done this before I was raising my children, but it doesn’t seem to be the way that works, unfortunately. And while I can’t go back and undo the harm my wounded self caused my children, I can tend to my wounds now, and model for my kids the way they can find healing and wholeness, since I am beginning to understand how to do that myself.
I am more aware than I have ever been that there is so much pain in this world. So many humans are suffering unbelievable emotional and spiritual pain. While I work to bind up my own wounds, I recognize the need to offer compassion to others who are also hurting. Knowing that I, too, have been guilty of behaving unskillfully from my own deep wounds, I feel a renewed tenderness for the shared plight of all humanity. I know it isn’t much, but it’s a start.
We are wounded. We need to be healed.