We all have baggage from our childhood, and unfortunately whether you like it or not, it all resurfaces sooner or later– especially when you yourself become a parent. I personally wasn’t prepared for so many memories to come flooding back once my son was born yet somehow, past experiences that I thought were long buried came rushing back into my mind. Rather than just selectively focus on the good, I actually allowed myself to process all of the memories the surfaced, so that with each and every major decision that I faced as a parent I could let my past experiences guide me. Those parenting traits that I liked as a child, I kept while ones that I despised (like being spanked) I discarded.
Honestly, there are a lot of things I did not get to do as a child because we had limited resources back then. Our living quarters in Queens, NY were small: my mom and grandma shared one room, and all three of us shared one bathroom. My mom drove the same Gold Plymouth Duster for 30 years, which she called her “classic” and I found absolutely embarrassing. Every time I had to ride that 7 train from Main Street (which is now known as Little Korea), I envied those that got to live in Manhattan. Needless to say, we did not take extravagant vacations, and the only way I got to go to private school was by winning a scholarship.
As an adult, I have often found that those of us that grew up without money often retain a deep-seeded fear of being poor. Those that then marry someone with a very different family background and experience with money will have to reconcile their views of spending vs. savings with their partners, especially as all the child-related expenses keep coming up. Also, those that enjoyed having a private school education often want the same for their children, but if the other parent disagrees with this choice, the two parents will have to work through this issue, which often involves digging into each other’s past and learning about one another’s core values. The same holds true when it comes to deciding on extra-curricular activities, religious upbringing, how you discipline a child, and even the selection of summer camps. For those couples unwilling to compromise, this is sadly what leads them to the point of no return.
Ultimately, it is undeniable that what we each experienced in our own past, deeply shapes how we choose to parent our own children. Personally, I have found it to be an incredible opportunity to right some past wrongs. In doing so, I have been able to heal some of my own old wounds and while accepting that I cannot change the past, I can certainly shape my child’s future.
We do not have to be perfect as parents, we just need to be aware of our past baggage, work through it and show our kids and partners that we are trying our best.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.