From the time I was about four years old, I was homeschooled by my mother. She had always hated school and when she put my older brother into kindergarten at a private Catholic school, her childhood experience was brought to life again when he refused to attend, even locking himself in the car when she tried to drop him off. She didn’t want him to suffer the way she had suffered.
Up until that point, we had both attended Montessori and my brother found what a lot of Montessori kids find, that traditional school is BORING. He was miserable, not challenged, and unwilling to adhere to their strict rules or limitations. On top of that, it was a religious school, full of their own harsh belief systems which sought to disconnect kids from their Source by claiming there was a mediator in-between them and divinity.
Understandably, she looked for an alternative, and settled on homeschooling, which was not nearly as popular then as it is today. She set up a school room and bought all of our text books, carefully guided by a specific program that included regular testing of us at the public school. We were always “advanced”, and told how “smart” we were often.
We loved it. In this environment, we were allowed to complete our work in only the time it took us to, we were able to run and play outside after school/lunch when classes were over, and we traveled quite often, much to my father’s chagrin. This kind of immersive schooling wasn’t always cheap and my mom spent a great deal of money on giving us all of the educational opportunities she could find.
This came with another cost, however. Today, it’s hard for me to feel comfortable in social situations at times, to respect authority, and even to just get up out of bed and to work within a routine and on a schedule. I do it, of course, but it’s hard. While I would love to be a self-made woman and not HAVE to live in a corporate world, for now I’m still stuck here.
The other cost was to the emotional environment I grew up in. While other kids I’m sure have endured far worse, I felt my mother had a hard time separating from her teacher role. Honestly, not long after our school day was over, she was at work as a RN, covering the second shift in a busy Emergency Room. So, it makes sense that I mostly remember her in “teacher mode”, ready to judge, to grade, to evaluate.
In all of the work I’ve done with Dr. Shefali, my Happiness Life Coach certification, and the Jai Institute, one of the very first steps is reflecting on our own childhood so we can identify patterns that are affecting us now.
These patterns repeat over and over in our lives until we either awaken and evolve or die.
Just yesterday I finally discovered a pattern that had been swimming just below the surface but I hadn’t clearly identified it. Growing up, the only time my parents truly lit up and I felt loved and accepted and appreciated and validated was when I did an extraordinary job on something.
When I was perfect.
When I was smart.
When I got all of the answers right.
Outside of that, positive emotions just were not expressed or expressed often in our house. I remember being told I was loved but I rarely remember feeling like I was loved, because a lot of what makes me who I am was squashed – I was told that behavior was unacceptable. There was no container or space for our emotions – they were not okay and made them far too uncomfortable. We were sent to our room when we were having a hard time, or spanked, or hit with a belt.
So growing up, the vast majority of the time I felt I wasn’t loved unless I was doing something amazing and PERFECT. The ENERGY IN OUR HOME was not that of high frequency love most of the time.
While I was aware of this and have cautioned others on homeschooling, projecting my own fear that their children will also long for a Mom to nurture them, I thought I had full awareness and would never repeat this same pattern with my children.
I discovered The Conscious Parent when my first child was brand new so I’ve been working very hard at holding the space for her emotions, labeling them, validating her, etc. I’m getting even better at that now as I’ve learned tools for ActiveListening, non-violent communication, and mindfulness.
Yet it was only recently that I learned how to PROPERLY praise her. While we frequently adorned her with cheers and “good job!”s and big smiles and hugs, we generally only did it when she brought us her work or finished a complicated task (no matter how well it was done).
I’ve just recently learned that the proper way to praise is to DESCRIBE. Describe the effort, the progress, the effect on others, but don’t judge it.
“You put the red block on the green block and made a tower.”
“You brought your brother his binky and that made him smile.”
So, to put an end to this pattern, as far as not passing it on to my children, I have to be fully present with them, and offer praise and validation while the work is in progress, when the work isn’t complete, and when the work isn’t completed perfectly.
Dr. Shefali often talks about how grades don’t matter and have the same reaction for the F as you do the A. I get the importance of this now… I so get it. Light up for your children just at their very existence.
How I need to end the pattern in my own life, and how it’s held me back, is a blog for another day. To read more about perfectionism and vulnerability, check out “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.