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Daddies: your daughters are watching you. You are their first hero. The first man they ever loved. All other men they will compare to you, and they will look for your characteristics in everyone they date and avoid those who don’t meet the requirements.
If they watch their Daddy listen to their mom, open doors for her, bring her presents, speak respectfully and compliment her openly, and treat her with reverence and love - when Brock the Jock shows up fifteen minutes late for the first date with no explanation or apology - she’s going to tell him to fuck right off. After all, she’s never seen a man treat a woman that way - in her mind any abuse is abnormal. The only relationship she has seen are
But, if she watches you ignore her mother’s needs, show up late with no explanation, solicit and demand respect because you work so hard, not to mention verbally and physically abuse her mother - when Brock the Jock arrives fifteen minutes late with no explanation - she’s going to get in the car. If he cheats on her, she won’t leave him. If he hits her, she’ll stay. She’ll allow herself to be yelled at in grocery lines and stay up at night wondering when he’ll come home. She’ll learn to keep secrets and hide what’s going on behind closed doors. When you ask her if she’s doing alright, she’ll tell you she’s fine. After all, she’s only seen a man treat a woman this way. In her mind, all abuse is normal.
Should a man with positive intentions and a strong moral compass try to take her out, she’ll probably reject him, unless he’s persistent enough to try until she learns how to receive love. More likely is that she’ll run in the opposite direction, towards someone who reminds her more of the first man she ever loved.
Remember: your daughter understands her mother’s emotional language better than you do unless you’re constantly learning new ways to speak it. She can see her mother’s needs more clearly than you can, and can pick up on the cues that you miss. She won’t know it’s possible to get her needs met, and we call women who haven’t had their needs met ice queens because they exhibit the symptoms of emotional unavailability.
Mommies: your sons are watching you. You are the first woman they ever loved. The woman that teaches them about all other women, and whose characteristics they will consciously or unconsciously seek out in all other women.
If he sees his mother adoring their father, allowing him to be the literal and figurative driver and protector (survivor moms: you have to learn how to let men help you. We all know you’re a badass bitch and you can do it by yourself, but they can’t be a hero if you don’t let them help) respecting his privacy, supporting him as parent 100% instead of forcing him to be the one who always says “no”, allowing and encouraging him to have and express his feelings (this involves learning the very different way in which masculine archetypes communicate feelings) and treating him with presence, reverence and love - he learns this. So when he takes Becky on their first date and she only talks about herself, is taking selfies the whole time, pretends to be mad about something she’s not mad about, and then spreads rumors to half the school the next day - he’s going to tell her to fuck right off! After all, he’s never seen a woman treat a man that way, in his mind - all abuse is abnormal.
But, if he watches you talk shit about your husband to your girlfriends, dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it , maneuvering your man’s emotional moment into an argument about who’s allowed to feel more (not even going to talk about consciously opting to cry when you realize you’re losing said argument - ladies, you know what I’m talking about.) , being unavailable or inaccessible - when Becky disrespects him, he’s going to stay. Probably for years. If she publicly humiliates him, he’ll apologize for making her mad. If she looks through his phone (ahem) and punishes him for what she finds, he’ll apologize and ask to make it better for the sake of the relationship. If she consistently ignores his needs and requests, he’ll learn to stop asking. If she refuses help and then lashes out about having to do everything alone, he’ll accept it. After all, you’re all he knows about women. In his mind, all abuse is normal.
Remember: your son understands his father’s emotional language better than you do unless you’re constantly learning new ways to speak it. He may see his father’s needs more clearly than you can, understand what he’s trying to say clearer than you can. He won’t know it’s possible to get his needs met, and we call men who haven’t had their needs met assholes because they exhibit the symptoms of emotional unavailability.
Parenting is the greatest responsibility there is, and the hours and hours of childhood trauma repair that I’ve done with my clients and on myself has taught me that the stories your child creates from the incidents you thought they didn’t see or wouldn’t remember about fester in the fertile mystery of a child’s mind. They are seeing things for the first time and whatever you don’t explain to them, they must explain to themselves. They don’t have enough words to explain your motives and they also can’t read your mind. While the reality of the story may be that relationships are work (on yourself first) and sometimes we “vent” or need space - a child cannot articulate it and will archive it under “I can’t have feelings” or “Everyone I love will leave me.” . These crude explanations are the exact definition of trauma. These “facts of life” based on small information is what causes us to repeat painful cycles over and over again until we (hopefully) go back and explain it to the inner child. If you’re not a parent, please be conscious of how you are around children. We all shape the future together, and we’re all just big hurt, misunderstood kids on the inside who are crying and begging for love.