I was talking to a woman today about, actually I’m not sure where the conversation started but the part I remember, that has nagged at me, and stayed with me, and prompted me to open my laptop, six hours later, and search for both of the pieces of writing we discussed, was the memory of my mother’s conscious focus on parenting my sister and I in a different way to the way her mother had parented her. She made the decision, and maybe I’m not giving my Dad enough credit here but I think I’m right in saying that my Mum was so determined that we would not have the childhood she had that she put a poster on the wall, in the centre of our home with Dorothy Law Nolte’s words of wisdom “Children Learn What They Live”.
Later on, when we were no longer children, another poster appeared of Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, which would guide us all on the next part of our collective journey.
I have no idea where she found these posters in 1970’s and 80’s Scotland, certainly not in our home town, but she found them and they were placed in the centre of our home where we would read them over and over, soaking them into our psyches.
I am more grateful than I can say, to my mother, for making and sticking to the decision not to repeat her own mother’s ways. Not to take the belt her grandfather took to his children in anger, frustration and bitterness, that her mother in turn took and used on my mother and her brothers, so as not to acknowledge the wrong that was done to her and her siblings but to compound it with yet more violence, pain and separation. She took that decision to break the cycle, to do things differently and I am the result of that decision. I grew up knowing that my parents were totally on my side, that I was loved beyond measure, that my voice and my opinions mattered and were heard. That I was safe.
You cannot put a value on that decision, but I know it changed my life and the lives of my family. I am grateful beyond words that I was not harmed in the way’s my mother was and do not have to live with the legacy of that harm. She was wise and tender hearted enough not to pass her wounds on to anyone else. She realised that to cause pain to others is to cause pain to ourselves, for we are all one.