Monday, February 10, 2014

Parenthood: Week 37 - Parental Amnesia

It’s amazing how many things that have occurred with Ollie in the past 8 months have already drifted far back into my memory. The biggest challenge of being a parent is that there are many intense, trying and difficult moments.  One of the things that makes it all possible is parental amnesia.

I spent every day for a whole month trying to teach Ollie how to use a bottle (which I discussed in this post). All of that times really do seem like a blur, along with the plane rides, the challenges of the first couple days of Ollie’s lives and every other bump in the road that Diana and I have overcome.

When you talk to parents of older students many of them don’t seem to remember the sleepless nights, the crying and the sheer panic and chaos that comes with being a parent.

This whole “rose-colored” lens approach does make me hopeful. It’s nice to think that years from now I will not dwell on the challenges of being a father and remember the good moments. The problem with this is that sometimes people who have this kind of parental amnesia are not as sympathetic or understanding of the challenges of having a baby.

Parental amnesia is different for each person. The other extreme I’ve encountered is people who seem to express more of the annoyances of being a parent than the joys. Obviously, this could simply be tied up with the personality type (some people simply love complaining regardless of the subject).

What I find interesting is that the people who complain about their kids don’t talk about the big traumas, but more they focus on the little annoyances.  It’s almost like there is some deep insecurity or unresolved parental issue that doesn’t allow the parental amnesia to do its job.

Parental amnesia is reliant on parents feeling positive about the way they handled a situation. All parents go through difficult situations with their kids. However, if you feel like that you and your partner were not working together and being supportive of each other during a situation, then hours after its past, instead of forgetting about it, that situation will stay with you because it drew out a bigger problem in your relationship. Yes, the traumatic situation with your baby is done, she’s okay, but the fact that you and your partner couldn’t work together through the hard times is left unresolved.

How you feel about your kid is directly related to how you feel about your partner. Yes, they are two different people and two different relationships but they are inextricably connected and interrelated. If you do right by your partner whenever he or she looks at your baby, it will be a reminder of everything that is great in your relationship. If you don’t, no matter how hard you try to not project your anger and bitterness of about parental roles that you don’t agree with, it will seep into your interactions with your child and the way you view her.

Yes, you can build a positive and meaningful relationship with your child even if your partner is delinquent or absent. Single parents prove this all of the time, but it’s hard. In these situations there is a bitterness that only with great energy and care can be shielded from the children.

Take care of your relationship with your partner. This doesn’t mean going on date nights or doing chores around the house. While these things help, they don’t nurture great relationships. Talk about and think how your react and treat each other in tense situations. When the storm comes are you still caring? Do you still listen to each other? Are you validating your partner’s feelings? Are you searching for someone to blame or are you trying to solve a problem?

If you work together parental amnesia will do its job, because the pride you feel in how you and your partner handled a situation will change that moment from being traumatic to one more example of the love and respect you have for each other.

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