My mother has passed on to me an antique sapphire ring, pudgy knees, and a hair-trigger temper. The ring is lovely, the knees make me long for liposuction, and the temper is the thing I most dislike about myself. Since E was born, I've been particularly conscious of this unfortunate inheritance, and I've tried to be mindful of controlling my reactions. Lately, however, I've felt as if I'm fighting a losing battle, and worse, I am starting to see signs of that same temper developing in E.
J has been gone on business the past four days, and I sit now counting down the few remaining hours of his absence with a glass of wine in hand. The past few days have felt more like the emotional equivalent of hand to hand combat than parenting. There are a bunch of outside factors I could blame, but the truth is, E and I descend into this pattern because of me. Because of my temper. Because of the volatile reactions he is learning, courtesy of me.
We're working hard to teach E to give voice to his emotions, to help him identify feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and talk about how he feels. We encourage him to take time outs if he needs them to calm down, and to take deep breaths when he's feeling upset. We've been surprisingly successful with this approach, with just one factor undermining our progress: me.
I haven't been able to get on board with these techniques for myself, and I'm beginning to see that until I do, E will never be able to use these techniques to their full advantage. He's learned the temper from example; he won't learn to control it without an example. I have to be that example, and if I am not, I will have to live with the knowledge that 30 years from now, E might think that his temper is the thing about himself he most dislikes. We all have failings, but those failings should be things of our own making, not patterns imposed on us from the generations that have gone before.
The ring is a family heirloom, and I hope someday to pass it on to a daughter or a granddaughter. The temper is an unfortunate inheritance, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't make it to the next generation.
Do you have any "unfortunate inheritances"? What family patterns do you see being repeated in your children, and what strategies are you using to break those patterns?