Generations–Progression or Regression? – Emotional Pro

July 30th, 2006

A lot has happened since I wrote the following post two years ago, yet the thoughts contained therein are important to know and consider. Hence, I publish it for you now. Happy New Year!
Patterns of living are passed down from generation to generation. This happens through the vehicles of modeling, genes, interaction, highly-charged experience, illness and the like. In the last month, I have been able to witness what is passing down the generations in the family of which I am a part; and I am most grateful for what I have seen.
Because I had many lessons to learn, my childhood was fraught with challenges and filled with many patterns. Some of the patterns I have very much wanted to pass on: honesty, hard work, independence, allowing oneself to be smart, a high level of personal responsibility, ingenuity, and a “can do” attitude. Yet, a lot of these patterns were such that I have not wanted to pass them on. They include such things as abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, manipulation, jealousy, fear, lots of anger, insecurity, insufficient funds, low self-esteem, being victimized, being non assertive and being “at effect” of ones’ life, rather than fully in charge of it.
I worked hard over the years. I learned to master anger and fear. I went to therapy and released a lot of hurt and learned not to be a victim. I developed an entire theory which explained how people manipulate one another, and learned through it how to both not manipulate, and not to be manipulated by others. I stuck by my children through thick and thin. I learned to communicate better so we could talk over the things that happened in our lives and among us. I developed my spirituality, and along with that, my ability to love and to be loved. I learned to “put myself out there” in the world, despite the heavy criticism that characterized my family of origin, which made me frightened to expose my thoughts and reactions to others. I confronted my abusers. I forgave my abusers. I learned how not to repeat abusive patterns. Despite being very, very jealous, I learned to use jealous feelings to help me grow, rather than continue to be ruled by them. Through my third marriage, especially, I have developed a sense of security I had never previously known. I studied the 7 Building Blocks of Self Esteem, and put them to work in my everyday life. I learned assertiveness by teaching it. I learned to get up in front of groups by becoming a professional speaker, worked diligently to allow abundance (rather than limitation) to surround me. I even lived alone, raising my two children, for nearly 20 years, in order to strengthen myself internally as well as face my dark side and my demons. I supported myself and my two children, receiving $160 and $50 per month, respectively, as child support for my two children. And I took time to love my children, as much as I could. I had the good fortune of working for myself, with my office on my home property, which allowed me to move my schedule around so I could take them to school, attend their plays and recitals and go with them on a majority of their field trips at school. With family both non supportive and not close to me geographically, and with limited funds, I ended up taking my kids with me everywhere. I managed to get both of them to college, took some fabulous trips (like to the dude ranch, Australia, snow skiing and to the Grand Canyon) and went on lots and lots of backpacking trips. It was hard work; but it was worth it.
I didn’t really realize how “worth it” my efforts were until the two children I bore and raised, predominantly alone, started having their own children. It is as my own children parent their children, that I begin to realize how much I was able to accomplish in changing the negative patterns of my own upbringing. I am grateful to see them behaving much more lovingly, consciously and supportively for their children than I was able to do for them, and certainly more than I received. Instead of continuing patterns that continued the “downward spiral” in so many areas, most of the areas are now moving in an “upward spiral.”
In the last month, I had the opportunity to spend time with all four of my grandchildren, three the offspring of my oldest birth child, Liz, and one the offspring of my youngest birth child, Jon. (By now, I also have three step-children, all adults, and a college-age adult adopted daughter, too.) I want to rave about them, not just because they are my grandchildren, but because what they have showed me about the changes I was able to set into motion regarding generational patterns.
Both of my children look for ways to be loving, caring and kind. They have loving spouses with whom I have a great relationship, and whom I admire. All four adults work diligently to give their children the best start in life possible. Their children are secure, curious, loving, considerate, well-behaved, caring, creative, smart, assertive and conscious. Furthermore, they are all open to their world, curious and ready to learn, participate and share.
I won’t be able to state everything, but let me give you an idea. I recently spent 3 days with Liz and her children, who are 10, 9 and 7 years of age (girl, girl, boy). Then this past week, I cared for Jon’s 9 month old daughter for a day while her parents caught up after a spate of family illness. Here’s part of what I learned.
Liz’s children: They are all in academically gifted classes in a Magnet school where they live, scoring off the charts in many areas. Liz home-schooled the girls for nearly 3 years (while she was also starting a highly successful business!). Of course, their brother listened in and participated as he could, too. Their father read to them every night from the age of 3 months. To avoid jealousy, as each successive child was added, he started being a strong presence for the children already arrived, so that when Liz was consumed with the care of the next infant, they barely noticed that she wasn’t paying them as much attention. They also emphasized the importance of family, of caring for one another, and of helping each other. Walk into their home, and you would barely know that children live there, because they have been taught to clean up after themselves, put away their own laundry (and help to do it, too), care for the family animals, and to cook. I once visited for 5 days and had the children make breakfast for me four of those days. With no other adult present, the children made waffles, omelets, poached eggs on toast and pancakes–for four. When we left the kitchen, it was impeccably clean, for the children know how to cook without making a huge mess, and all the things that need to be done to keep things clean and orderly. They LOVE to help in the kitchen, and do so regularly. (This, I believe, is a direct offshoot of something I learned to do when Liz was 12 and Jon 5–each child was in charge of making 1-2 meals a week, including planning, shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning. Thank you, Kay Hammel, who suggested it!]
The eldest, age 10, is also on a Select, traveling soccer team in her state. She’s the only girl on her team. This summer, she was identified as a person with a beautiful and strong singing voice, and has been invited to private vocal lessons and to participate in a traveling, select singing group, as well. When we were together, she also conducted a “spa night,” giving thorough and healing massages to 4 other children, all of whom clamored for her ministrations. The second, age 9, is off-the-charts brilliant academically. She also plays clarinet and this summer, with her older sister’s help, taught herself to play piano (BEFORE she went to music camp). The youngest, age 7, devoured Harry Potter books this past year, when he was a first grader. He and a few of his school friends are into 6th grade math. He’s the family Thespian, having gotten a starring role in the school play in his very first play! He loves performing for large audiences, which he has done in their local convention center. Both of the younger children are on soccer teams, as well. They all garden, swim, ride horses, and have overnights and get-togethers with their friends. They can hold their own in conversations with adults. Their parents have always used big words, teaching them the meaning of those words, rather than downgrading their own communication. And they all have that generational pattern of a “can do” attitude!
The nine month old is not so accomplished–not yet. She has been read to since she was 6 weeks old. She is a very self-contained, secure and happy individual, who definitely knows her own mind. She took delight when I let her know that I realized she is talking. Her parents hadn’t quite differentiated the words, but the experience of several babies made it clear to me. By the end of the day, she was saying and waving “bye bye” to people as they left. She also says “hi,” “Ma Ma,” “Da Da,” and “cat” (without the t). She has her own special crawling pattern, sits with her dad when he plays the piano; and I watched her dexterously open a book that was sealed with a snap at the end of a piece of fabric, so she could look at the pictures. She has several “words” in sign language, so she can communicate when she is hungry, when to be picked up, when she wants to get down, etc. And then there is the story of her at day care. In recent weeks, a 6 month old girl has started coming to day care. The two are often placed together. Recently, my granddaughter became fussy. The day care staff came over to check on her. She was okay, so they walked away. She became fussy again. When they returned to check on her, she started patting the other little girl, who had fallen over and was in an uncomfortable position. When the staff straightened the other child’s position, my granddaughter no longer fussed. She has the big, piercing blue eyes of her older cousin, granddaughter #2 in Liz’s family.
Can you see what I am saying, here? The spiral is beginning to go the “other direction” in many of the “problem areas” of my family. By making changes in my generation, it has created the possibility of even more changes in the subsequent generations, “spiraling up” into better and better experiences and lives than where we were heading during my own childhood. It’s an amazing, yet simple, concept. Inspiring. If you’re not already working to change your own patterns and pass those on to the children around you (don’t have to be your own), get started today!

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