My husband and I are basically gentle discipline parents. We are not perfect at it. My husband is less than thrilled about it. The reason is because he was raised differently than I was. He was an only child, born eight years into marriage. I would not describe his parents as gentle disciplinarians, but something along those lines. They are certainly patient people.
I chose to be a GD parent because it made sense to me. It was something that I could comfortably do. My parents were not GD parents. Far from it. They were typical Southern parents. They weren't abusive. But their style of parenting made me angry and has left our relationship with a permanent wedge. Sad to say, but I dread calling my parents.
My therapist and I talked about this. Part of my anxiety is because I want to have a relationship with my children. And so I worry myself to death and upset myself with fear of doing damage to our relationship. One of my anxiety episodes involved not being able to find the camera charger to take pictures of my 2nd son's first birthday. We talked at length about how the object itself was not the cause for the anxiety. It was the letting my child down if I didn't have a picture snapped.
"Do you think he'll really cares that much?" my therapist asked.
"No, he's one. I care what he'll think when he's old enough to understand." I sobbed. "I don't want him to think I love him less than his brother because there are tons of pictures of his first birthday."
"He won't. He won't care." she tells me. "You're a good parent," she reassured me. "You care about your children. And that's why you are a good parent." She had to repeatedly tell me that. "The only thing that matters is the memories. He'll remember that stuff and it will mean more to him than a picture."
It was horrible. My husband doesn't understand why I need this constant reassurance. He has a good relationship with his family. He does, however, call my parents even when I can't.
It's also for this reason that I dread reading certain Mommy bloggers blogs. "He had a temper tantrum today. It was so embarrassing." "They weren't listening to me even when I spanked them." I'm not saying that these Moms are terrible. It's just a part of me dies a little. Having been on the receiving end of my dad's doubled-over size 42 inch belt many times, I can empathize greatly with the child more than I can with the embarrassed adult.
When my child throws a fit in front of people, I don't do much of anything (it really all depends on what he's upset about). Embarrassment is the furthest from my mind. The only thing I think about is: thank God no one will spank him. Thank God no one will yell at him. Thank God he doesn't have to be afraid.
Do I yell? Certainly. I'm not perfect. I immediately regret it. I hate it actually. But mostly I hate myself for it. I know better. I know what it feels like. And to me, it's wrong.
My therapist asked me if I had any memories of my mother being physically affectionate. I had to think about it. I have pleasant memories of my mother brushing her hair, shampooing the carpet, reassuring my brother after he had to have stitches, folding laundry...but no I have no memories of my mother cuddling with me on the couch or in bed. "She must have." my therapist says. "yes, she must have. But I don't remember." I do remember the spankings. The screaming. The angry looks. My brother got sent to his room as a form of punishment. I once asked my mother why that was and she said it was because spanking never did anything to him and because grounding me didn't do anything to me either. My parents believed in punitive measures. As far as I remember they weren't balanced out with rewards.
I dread posting this. My parents will read it and probably get angry with me for my honesty. Or try to find excuses for their parenting style. It really doesn't matter at this point. We're all adults and we can't change the past. The only thing we can do is forgive and move past it.
I don't expect my parents to suddenly become GD grandparents. They have thus far tried to respect my desires to end the barrage of scolding and pops to the behind. How they decide they want to change is up to them.
As for myself, I have to forgive myself. Being a gentle parent is about forgiving your child for his mistakes. But it also forgiving yourself for your own. And part of my therapy is learning how to calm down my anxiety, relax, and enjoy the moments where my one year old climbs into my lap while I'm on the Kindle. And instead of getting angry or frustrated, I realize he only wants my attention, my kisses, my love. So I put the damn thing down and try to make some damn good memories. Because they are more important than pictures. And strive to keep that in mind.