How You Think About the Past
Every once in a while it’s important to stop for a moment, take a look in your parenting rearview mirror, and acknowledge how far you’ve come. It’s so easy to get weighed down with everything that seems to be going wrong right now, but if that is your sole focus you’re going to miss seeing the growth and progress ~ and I guarantee it’s always there because life is 50/50.
But “looking back” can be a dangerous endeavor if you spend most of your time arguing with the past, resisting the past, or even trying to change the past. If you find yourself saying things like, “I shouldn’t have…” or “He should have…” or even “I wish __________ would’ve never happened” then you’re arguing with what has already taken place ~ and that will never serve you. Ever. And how you choose to think about your past is either going to serve you or not.
Since the past is over and it’s unchangeable, what might happen for you if you played with the idea that everything happened just how it was supposed to? What might be different for you if you resisted all of those “should” thoughts? How might your experience right now be different if you could make peace with what has already happened?
For many years I spent a lot of my time worrying about and being frustrated with what had already happened. Why did my 2-year-old push that little girl? Because I didn’t teach him better not to do that. Why did our teenager lie to us about his girlfriend? Because we didn’t make it clear that he could talk to us about anything. Why did our son skip team practices after school? Because we didn’t teach him well enough to be responsible and accountable.
Arguing with the past or resisting it (because it “shouldn’t have happened that way”) usually leads to blame (of yourself or others) ~ but it never changes it. Making peace with the past actually releases about half of the tension, half the anxiety, half the worry, and half the frustration ~ and that is freeing.
After decades of thinking about the past in ways that didn’t serve me, I heard the idea that “things happen how they were supposed to.” I fought this idea initially, but as parenting got harder and trying to figure out how I could have and should have done things differently got heavier, I decided to be curious about this different way of thinking. I began looking at my experience with my run-away son differently ~ and the weight of anxiety and worry started to lighten, the constant frustration lifted, and peace started being an option, even amidst the chaos of the unknown.
Then one evening, just as I was getting ready to say good-bye to another son after a long Facetime conversation, he shared with me a big life decision he had made ~ to officially remove his name from the records of our Church. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was/is for me. We spent another two hours talking about this; I had questions and he really wanted to share his reasons.
After we hung up the phone I felt an overwhelming sense of love for my son and gratitude that he was open and honest with me. I was also a bit surprised that I hadn’t automatically gone to that place of blaming myself (and others) because of “the past” and how if I would’ve been more on top of things this wouldn’t be happening, or if that person wouldn’t have been his Sunday School teacher this wouldn’t be happening, or if we had just _________ more this wouldn’t be happening. All of those things had already happened and they couldn’t be changed, and perhaps it all happened just like it was supposed to. And because of the work I do I also wondered how this whole experience would serve us in the long-term. The tension I felt was minimal. I spent almost no time beating myself up with all of the normal “should’s.” And this left a lot more room for the love and connectedness I now get to experience with my son ~ even though I wished he wouldn’t have left the Church ~ because I am not arguing with the past.
Every belief we have is a choice. Therefore, you can look for a way of viewing your past that feels true to you but that also sets you free.
If you’re ready to start thinking about your past in a way that serves you, schedule your private mini-session now and I’ll show you how Find Peace in Parenting coaching can help.