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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

We Are a Product of our Environment

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I often wonder if my husband was the type of father he was due to his upbringing. I’m sure this is true, since all children are truly a product of their environment. I didn’t come from the most loving childhood home myself but my husband’s was even more broken.

His father left at the age of five and his mother was married shortly after. My husband's real father gambled and drank a lot of their money away. After being evicted from their apartment, they ended up living with his aunt for a short time. My husband’s stepfather was a good man. He was the only father-in-law I ever knew. A war veteran, he was a little rough around the edges but he taught my husband a lot about life, work ethic, and dedication. He is part of why my husband is the man he is today.

We were both raised in the 50’s when women stayed at home to raise children and the men worked. My husband worked two jobs to make sure my kids and I were taken care of. We didn’t live above our means, nor did we have a lot of glamorous things. But we were happy. Content. We never wanted for anything and were always fed, warm, and clean.

My husband never drank. Not a drop of alcohol in his life. I think this had a lot to do with his biological father’s inability to quit drinking. He viewed it as a dangerous and ugly thing that changed people. It made them angry, careless, and cold. He’s likely right about that. He’s also always been very careful with his money. He budgets like you wouldn’t believe. He balances his checkbook to the penny, always plans for our monthly expenses, plus “fun money” and “emergency money”. This can sometimes get a bit out of hand. I feel like he wants control over all of our finances out of fear that I may too gamble it away. Though my husband’s upbringing may have caused some of his irrational fears and obsessive behaviors, it’s also crafted the positive person he is as well.

I do wish my husband was more “hands on” with our kids.When it came to behavioral issues, education, or any type of social outings, the children were deemed my responsibility. He provided the roof over our head and the food in our bellies, but I was responsible for cleaning the house and preparing the food. My husband was never ill-tempered toward me or condescending in his expectations. To him, it was just the way things were.

But I know my children missed having their father around. Missed seeing him at their activities, games, recitals, and concerts. His work ethic came from his stepfather, who was trying to fix the mess that my husband’s real father had left behind. The only things my husband knew prior to his mother’s second marriage was yelling, inconsistency, upheaval, and pain. My father in law placed a lot of importance on working hard for your family and doing the right things with your money. This lesson stuck with my husband, clearly, and left him with the belief that working for his family was his primary responsibility. I think some of my father-in-law’s “cold” demeanor and temperament also rubbed off on my husband. He was never the most affectionate person toward me or our children. I understood it (to an extent) but it’s difficult for kids to understand why daddy doesn’t want to give hugs or never says “I love you”.

It’s nearly impossible to separate yourself from your childhood. The lessons, values and beliefs that you learn as a child are what shape you as an adult and also create the type of parent you will be to your own kids. And a lot of those same beliefs and values will be passed onto the next generation. And so on and so forth. It can be a great thing but it can also be a vicious cycle, depending on what those lessons are. So, as parents, it’s important to be aware of which life lessons and family legacies you want to carry on, and which ones you think could use a little improvement. It’s okay to stray from the path your parents set forth for you. Especially if it will benefit your children and those children to come.

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