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Parenting Myself

by Thea Iberall

I've had a problem most of my adult life. But I didn’t know it. My partner would decide when we would go to the grocery store and she would decide what we should buy. Then I'd follow her around the store like a little puppy, longingly staring at things I wanted on the shelves. The good news is I was never aware of what I was doing. In the personality typology I’ve been studying, there is a trait related to parenting. These personality traits are neither positive or negative, they are just a reality. Some people want a parent in a relationship, in that they want to be taken care of. Other people want to be a parent in a relationship. They want to be the one taking care of others. And then there are some who are neutral, in that they can go either way and understand the needs of both. After 30 years of following partners around grocery stores, I started seeing my behavior. I was the type of person that needed a parent in a relationship. I wanted to be taken care of. I am an adult and can do lots of adult things, but when it comes to situations like grocery shopping or even clothes shopping, I am disempowered and cannot stand up for myself. It's like I feel like I don’t deserve to select the things I want. It's like I need permission from a parent. This trait is probably the reason that I never wanted to have children. I love children and am great with them but deep down I knew I had a lot of growing up to do myself. I have a friend who is a parent in her relationships. She is a nester. She turns a house into a home. She loves cooking for her partner. She loved having children and needs to stay in contact with them. She gains deep comfort from activities like cooking, baking, organizing, and even sorting laundry. I never will. Through my spiritual journey, I have learned to take care of myself in many, many deep ways. I’ve learned the only way to deal with situations and personality traits is through acceptance. I’ve learned to accept that I want to be taken care of in a relationship. I’ve also learned to focus on my needs. I’ve learned to give myself what I need. I’ve learned that what I receive from others is the icing on the cake, not the cake. And I've learned how to take care of a partner in a healthy equal way. Not out of a need to be loved or included, but in a deeply supportive, non-codependent way.

Once I saw my grocery store behavior, I started working on it. Now, when I follow my partner around the store, I’ve started to make small choices for myself. I need sliced turkey for my lunch and oh, maybe I’ll have sushi. And thanks to Covid, I’ve learned there is a way for me to be the most empowered. And that is going shopping alone. I love it. I get all the things we need. And I can get anything I want within the limits of my budget. And if I have questions, I text.

by Judy Brown, from The Art and Spirit of Leadership

Some time back, the story-line we had in mind disappeared into some brambled place.

And we were left beset by our anxieties about where the path had gone, wondering with our feet, as still we edged along into foreign terrain that has an odd appeal as it turns out:

Unexpected joys, created out of mutual confusions; and grievings shared and hidden, creeping out of what never came to be that we had counted on; strange stories that we used to guide us;

myths that promised trails we never found; and improvised stories that grow out of the gifts and tragedies of a life we never had expected.

Participants’ reflections:

  • Thank you for such a beautiful reflection. I love when we gain self-awareness and then move out of patterns we want to move out of. My late spouse and I were like two kids in a candy store because we both grew up in poor families. One of my patterns is I always became a chameleon in groups to fit in. Here you are defining these boxes, and I realize I fit into both. I’m very maternal but when it comes to buying curtains, I hit a block when I try to figure out a window treatment. I got to peace knowing this is a tendency I have but I don’t have to fit into anyone else’s box. I like that about myself. My challenge becomes, when I am off my proverbial square, up comes my tendency of wanting to fit on some square. Do I have the wisdom and strength to be in-between spaces, and the compassion and patience with myself until? sometimes it’s about creating a new square and redefining myself.

  • In this category, there is a neutral. We can be both. Sounds like you are both.

  • I was caught by the image of the brambled place where the known path disappears. I think we are in a brambled place and have been since Covid, and perhaps we will find ourselves sooner than later, but who knows. The other image I focused on was a snow globe. In places, there is snow, and there is snow even in unexpected places these days. And that is another interruption, another brambled place that reflects a great change, a great shift in how we understand. That is a challenge and what we are working on, and how we understand ourselves living through the snow globe, finding our way—a new way—through the brambled place.

  • Thank you. I really appreciated everyone’s comments so far. I love the image of the brambled place. What came up for me is the real shift in my relationship with my spouse and being more of a caretaker. And not feeling comfortable with that, wondering when is it my time. It is a huge shift, a different path. It is something I have to really absorb in a way I’ve never really had to. That’s what it touched for me.

  • Life changes and it’s good to have the wherewithal to change with it. To live in acceptance.

  • Thank you. That was a wonderful reading. As a nurse, I tend to nurture but I love being nurtured. I feel that I don’t get nurtured enough. My son moved back home recently and my house is now one big storage room. The day after the exhausting physical move of many trips and unloading, my plan was to take care of myself, shut the door, and paint. My son thought I should help him with all his chores and things he needed. I explained to him my vision and we started to laugh as he understood my goals. One of my favorite expressions is ‘let’s triage.’ Let’s look at the big picture and figure out who has the most immediate intense needs. Can we put somethings off? We were able to see each other’s needs and we were willing to honor each other’s needs. I think it depends on the situation, when we nurture and when we get nurtured. It’s what we need when we need it, like you said.

  • Yes. Awareness and then acceptance. I love that word triage to identify the next steps. That’s a good way to look at it.

  • I am inspired that you were able to be clear with your son. With children, it is so easy for a parent to put one’s needs aside. To be so clear about your needs and to model that for your son, I am in awe in your ability to do that. That’s self-care personified. I don’t always have the courage to do that. I get afraid they’ll get angry and I’ll lose them. I am inspired. Thank you.

  • Communication is amazing when both people feel heard. All sorts of things can occur.

  • I loved the reading. It reminded me of the live alone/live with. And that middle spot where one can fluctuate. With my spouse, I feel like the parent most of the time. In the in-between spaces, the safe spaces, sometimes I get resentful. If I am overwhelmed, I stop and ask why do I have to make all the decisions. It feels like a burden sometimes. It’s not until I feel that pressure and I speak up about it, that my spouse will step up. I think he’s comfortable with me being the parent, and I guess I am too. But I do get overwhelmed at times and I need to step down and ask for a break. It’s the same as with the live with/live alone. I am definitely a live alone even though I have a house full. I love my alone time. That reading helped me too, because I feel bad when my time is interrupted. When a family member comes to me during this meditation, as a parent, I don’t want to shoo her away but at the same time, this is my time—leave me alone, come back in 20 minutes. I want my space to think what I want to think. I am always fluctuating back and forth. I’m glad to hear others go through that.

  • In relationships, it’s good to talk about these traits from a very non-judgmental point of view. I’ve had lots of discussion in relationships about the traits and it brings up awareness and communication. It helps in a relationship.

  • Thank you for joining us today in the meditation. I hope you all have an interesting day parenting yourself and others or being parented. Have a wonderful blessed, gentle day for yourselves.

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