SYPM 017: Reparenting ourselves to create empathy in the world with Amy

In this episode we hear from parent Amy, who is a White parent married to a Black man raising four biracial children in Colorado.  Amy has been on quite a journey to explore her role as a descendant of Puritans who came to the United States looking for religious freedom on her father’s side, and of Irish Catholics on her mother’s side.  She sees how her parents were able to get advanced education and a loan to buy a house and start a business, and that from the outside they looked like a pretty happy family.

 

But behind closed doors, things were not so pretty – they were actually chaotic and volatile.  Amy was an intense, spirited child and her parents didn’t have the tools they needed to meet her needs.  She learned to use her intellect to protect herself, and projected an image of having her stuff together – a habit that she then continued as a parent, as she projected a Supermom-type image.  Our culture rewards us for looking like we’re keeping it together, even when everything’s falling apart inside.

 

So Amy is a deep believer in dismantling patriarchy (she actually wanted to do this on Wall Street!) and in treating people with respect, but in a sleep-deprived moment after her fourth baby was born she broke up a squabble between two of her older children by pulling them roughly apart and yelled at the older one: “Why did you do that?” (a question for which of course there’s no answer).  

 

She saw the terrified look on her daughter’s face which brought back the visceral fear she felt at her own parents’ explosive feelings and felt so much pain that she, Amy – the believer in breaking down traditional power structures and treating people with respect – had caused this kind of fear in her own child.

 

And of course it seemed like the things that really needed to change were her partner, who should stop doing obnoxious things, and her children, who were pushing each other’s buttons and fighting and leaving disgusting blobs of oatmeal on the floor for her to step in with bare feet when she came downstairs in the morning with a baby in her arms that would make her lose her shit before the day even got started.

 

Over the last few months Amy and her children have been learning new tools to be in right relationship with each other.  It started with learning that Amy did herself, but she shared each idea with her children so they could practice them together.  

 

Amy is now reparenting herself, in a way, so she can be a different sort of parent to her own children – who now empathize with each other’s struggles, and actively try to support each other in difficult moments rather than throwing more fuel on the fire.  Of course all of this is intimately linked to the reconciliation and healing that Amy wants to see in her relationships with Black and Indigenous people in her life and on the land where she lives.

 

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About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

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