Until I started watching shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Signing Time, Sesame Street, and others, I struggled with being a parent. I grew up in a household where yelling and spanking were the norm. It was a punishment-as-discipline mindset. Add that to my general invisibility as a middle child and weirdo and suffering other traumas and health issues, eventually I got to the point where I doubted people were inherently good. I had mostly only bore witness to dysfunctional ways of relating. I always searched for better. I only knew what I didn’t want to be and do yet that is not the same thing as knowing what to replace it with. For this and a few other reasons I never wanted to have children. I didn’t believe I could make a decent or good parent. There’s also the fact that my introversion doesn’t mix well with loud, energetic children. With my health issues, I thought I’d never even have the chance, anyway.
Then, several years ago, shortly after one of my surgeries, the treatment I was given reset my body and I fell pregnant. It was my miracle, my little child, and the only one I’ll likely be able to ever have. I was already a pro with babies; I’d watched and helped my older sibling care for her children. That was the easy part. The part I worried about was after the child started walking and talking. I already knew some things I wanted to teach. I had no idea how to keep the lessons positive, how to discipline without punishing, or even just how to interact in a physically affectionate way as the child aged. I started realizing all these pieces missing out of me that should have been built up in my own childhood.
Fortunately, I started watching kids’ shows again with my child. Not the crazy ones, the educational ones. As I watched them, I felt myself tear up. Here were parents interacting positively, lovingly, and respectfully with their children. Here were creative games that could be played to foster learning. Here was the freedom to let the child grow as they would. All of the things I lacked. I began to consciously monitor my interactions with my own child. I ruminated about the giant hole in myself and ways to fill that with something loving. I began to become a better person on my own, despite the fact that few others had ever helped. I would not become a statistic; I’d already beaten the odds in so many other ways and I would not sink into the generational curses of faulty parenting practices. I’m not perfect, and I never will be, but I owed it to my self and my child to be my best.
My partner grew up in a home that was happy (for him at least). I know many people who’ve grown up in broken homes but I also know others that came from happy homes. My partner tells me all the time how much of his privilege he’d taken for granted until he knew me. We’re both better able to appreciate where we came from and better able to forge new paths forward. I found healthier ways to deal my anger, pain, loss, and loneliness. I was able to open up more about myself and my needs. And most of it was thanks to some imaginary characters. I think that’s pretty powerful.