Still Learning....

When you grow up being told over and over again by other people who - and what - you are, it never really gives you the chance to discover it for yourself. If you didn't grow up in a home full of verbal and emotional abuse, this idea might seem strange to you. If, on the other hand, you did, you know exactly what I mean. 

I'm nearly 32 years old (yeesh) and there are some things that I'm still discovering about myself. Not only that - but I'm also discovering things about my life (and my family) that I just never knew or saw before. All of it - things about me, my family, even friends I had - was clouded by the perception given to me by the people who raised me. If I dared to have an independent thought or question their ideals or rules, I was demeaned or belittled. They quickly "corrected" me by telling me the "truth" and telling me I was horrible for thinking otherwise. So much of who I was or what I experienced was filtered through them. That's fairly normal for kids -- parents are the measuring stick for what children consider right and/or normal. You trust your parents because they're older (or most kids do, anyway) and you know they love you. At least that's what they tell you, right? Even when they tell you you're a horrible person....?

When you grow up like that, you have to retrain yourself how to think. That is quite a feat in and of itself. I didn't realize any of the things I experienced growing up were wrong or abnormal until I was an adult. Think about that! I thought every parent called their child names, told them they were horrible, and yelled at them for the tiniest of things. I just didn't know... Slowly I began to see things here and there; the older I got the more I saw. 

And then I had children of my own.

That was the real game-changer. I realized that I didn't want my children to grow up the way I did. Yes, some things were good. I was taken to church, I was fed, clothed, schooled, given birthday parties, Christmas gifts... By and large, my childhood looked the same as anyone else's. Except when it didn't. I realized I didn't want them to see me and my husband fight. I realized I could never say certain things to them, even when I was truly angry. I realized that I don't want to scream at them (though I'd be lying if I said it never happened; a fact I really hate and desire to change). I realized that I never wanted them to think I didn't love them. I realized that they deserve an apology when I do something wrong. 

I realized I wanted to be drastically different than the people who raised me. But I have no idea what that even looks like.

So now I'm learning. Gleaning things from Scripture, from other godly mothers and fathers. I'm reading all kinds of books (including the Bible -- which is really the only handbook I need) to learn....everything. 

I've learned that I am not who they said I was. I'm not defined by being "shy." In fact, I can be very outgoing in different situations. I was never given the opportunity to shine as a child....because they didn't want me to. However, I am a bit introverted, which only means I need a lot of alone time.... Not that I don't talk to people. I'm not difficult, horrible, disrespectful, or stupid. Yes, I enjoy reading, but that doesn't mean I don't understand things going on in the world. (I was always told how "book smart" I was....but I didn't have enough sense to care for myself. Yeah.)

Most importantly, I've learned that the god they taught me about....isn't the God of the Bible. They used His words to get me to believe the way they did, or behave the way they wanted me to behave. They used it to demand forgiveness and reconciliation though they never once apologized to me for treating me so badly. 

As I'm learning to be a parent who is kind, gentle, loving, patient, self-controlled, and peaceful, I'm learning that so many things I experienced growing up were so much the opposite. It makes me sad. It makes me all the more determined to be a good example for my girls. It makes me aware of how little I still know about God and myself. Though I suppose that's the silver lining to it all -- being so aware of the bad I experienced has only made me chase what's really good and true. 

I'm still learning.... But maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.