Photo Credit: Seneca, Facebook, Natural Life
My maternal grandfather was a drunk. When he wasn’t withdrawn, walking trails in the woods, he could be mean to both his wife and his five children. How he and my grandmother, a pampered and passive woman, came to be married, I didn’t think to ask. Nor did I ask them or my mom about their childhoods.
My mom was an elegant woman. Beautiful, generous, selfless. She took the brunt of her father’s rages – standing between him and her mother or him and her two younger brothers. The two older brothers left home as soon as they could lie about their ages to join the military.
How she and my biological father married was less a mystery. She thought he was her way out of a hard life at home. It turns out maybe he thought the same about her. Whatever their affection before marriage, it cooled as the years and responsibilities folded on top of each other. It would turn out that although there was not so much violence in our childhood home, there was neglect. He wasn’t a drunk but he never cared to work. When Mom finally divorced him, her heart had become so wounded and weary, it was a matter of just having one less mouth to feed.
Mom would later marry my step-dad who was a sweet daddy to me. He was harder on my brothers…and on his own kids from his first marriage. It made me sad and a little frightened, especially for my older brother. He was old enough to have seen our grandfather drunk; he knew the dismissive behavior of our biological father; he felt the anger of our step-father. My younger brothers and I missed a lot of that.
Divorce and its fallout became something I would determine to avoid…even if it meant not marrying at all.
I did marry, and a wonderful man. We are very different from each other. We have different struggles and different childhood situations. However, from the beginning, we shared the personal experience of nurturing love of parents, faithful to God and each other. This has been a strong foundation for us to learn to love well and parent well (hopefully). It is not the whole of it though.
In all of this, there is still the puzzling over what we bring to our marriage from past generations…and what will would transmit to our children?
Looking into our pasts isn’t always inviting. Some prefer to “let sleeping dogs lie”. I’m learning that our past informs our future; in fact, our past can predict or prescribe our future. It seems wisdom then to examine what we can of our past, and that of parents and grandparents.
Not to blame. Not to lay responsibility for some present lack in ourselves. We all make mistakes as parents even when we deeply love our children. The look back is to help us to heal any harm and to guard from bringing past hurts to our children…without thinking… without intending.
When our parents experience trauma in childhood – or endure the consequence of sin from a parent – they carry that into adulthood and potentially will transmit it to their own children. Not all survivors of adverse childhood experiences will follow this cycle, but it’s rare to avoid altogether.
My mom was very intentional in showing us love after experiencing so little in her childhood home. She did bring some of her trauma forward and we experienced it…without her meaning for us to. I remember trying, from an early age, to be as good as I could be for my mom…and failing. She had tried to do the same as well, in her growing up years…but with harsher consequences than I had.
“The child speaks what their parents could not. He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized, if unconsciously, to carry their parent’s injury into the future.” – Molly Castelloe, How Trauma Is Carried Across Generations
Photo Credit: Twitter
Have you discovered areas in your own life that if left unattended will transmit to your children’s lives? Fears, self-worth issues, anger, negativity, anxiety, perfectionism, sadness…or sin/trauma of all kinds that we have harbored (and maybe witnessed in our childhood). We can change the future, with God’s help, by taking a good long look at our past. Asking questions and considering what consequences are playing out in our current lives and our children’s.
We can break the cycle of generational trauma or sin, but it requires relentless intentionality on the parents’ part. Both for our own healing and for our children’s health. I didn’t want my children to be afraid or unsure of how valued they were. I wanted them to always know the experience of being safe, seen, soothed, and secure. Was I successful…? Not always…in fact, I was unaware of how generational sin clung to me. I didn’t have words for it then like I do now.
The Adam Young Counseling podcast has been a tremendous help to me in looking at childhood trauma and generational sin. He gives practical and reasoned helps in how to heal from our own trauma as well as how to curtail the repeat of generational sin in our children’s lives.
What are your thoughts? Please add to Comments. May God help us all to be blessings (and not cursings) to our children and to theirs.