Breaking the Cycle

“Why is the bathroom sink full of water and the bathroom SOAKING WET?”

And then my memory glitches. I remember the guilt and the pure fear. I remember how suddenly stupid the idea of letting our Barbie family swim in our bathroom sink full of water felt. I remember throwing away their toilet paper beach towels with tears streaming down my face. I remember drying their not-so-smooth-anymore hair on the towel and knowing that we’d never make this mistake again, but I don’t remember the specifics of the harsh punishment or the hateful words that were yelled. 

And it was normal. 

Until I had a child of my own. 

When my son was born, I was surprised with what that instant love felt like. It was more overwhelming than I realized it would be because I had never felt like I was loved like that. And I made him a promise: YOUR LIFE WILL BE DIFFERENT.

And it is.

It isn’t always easy. Naturally, you parent like you were parented. Her triggers are my triggers because that is how my brain learned to stay safe. But my kids deserve better.

A few days ago, my kids came up to me while I was doing dishes and asked if they could make a car wash for their cars in the bathroom sink. And guess what I got to do? I got to walk in that bathroom with them, help them lay out a towel for a drying station and help them pick the soap that would leave the cars the shiniest. I showed them the overflow drain and told them how it worked. And then I got to stand back and listen to their giggles as they splashed their cars in the sink. They were pretty careful, but not overly-cautious and of course some water splashed on the counter top and onto the fronts of their shirts, but that look of fear never crossed their faces.

And I cried, friends. 

I sat in the hall and I sobbed. 

Because their childhood gets to be magical. They get to make messes, laugh about them, and then clean them up. They get to make mistakes and fearlessly learn from them. They get to wear the shoes that don’t quite match the outfit. They get to hear the things I love about them constantly. They get to eat the snacks they want when their body feels hungry. They get to feel safe.

Are there times when I overreact to something that was one of her triggers? Absolutely. But then I apologize and we talk about it calmly. They hear “I love you” more than any other phrase. And they know that even when I am the very maddest, I would NEVER hurt them. 

I come from a long line of women who hurt their children and I am breaking the cycle.

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