In Celebration of My Mum and Dad

By Marion Badenoch Rose, PhD

I always thought I was breaking new ground with my parenting.  But recently, I’ve been realising how much the ground was prepared by my own parents. Tears came to my eyes as I read a quote at the beginning of Naomi Aldort’s book, “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.”  I knew, deep in my bones, that this is what my parents have given me,  “Nothing you become will disappoint me; I have no preconception that I’d like to see you be or do.  I have no desire to foresee you, only to discover you.  You cannot disappoint me. – Mary Haskell.”

In my twenties I had eight years of weekly psychotherapy as part of a six-year psychotherapy training.  As you can imagine, I uncovered many childhood-hurt feelings during that time.  Years of study, courses, and workshops were also devoted to understanding more about babies and children, and my life as a baby and child.  Many times I’d visit my parents and ask them about my childhood, or try out some newfound learning like active listening, and search for more understanding and intimacy with them.  

When I chose, at 30, to live on the other side of the world from them, our relationship turned upside down, literally on it’s head.  I missed them.  I miss them.  And their unconditional love keeps pouring.  My dad pays for me to visit them every year (even though using fossil fuels for aeroplane travel direct opposes his most cherished values).  They have never once made any judgement about my choices of life direction, although by many conventional standards I have done some unusual things!  Never once told me I should do something different.

Specialising in supporting parents, I’ve read lots about parenting.  Many of us as parents want to learn from our own experiences as children; to put into practice new models of parenting; to contribute to our children as much as we can.  

Trust in parenting is something I love.  Unassisted birth – trusting my body, my babies, and my husband.  Aware Parenting – supporting my babies to become self-regulated in what and when they eat, when they sleep, and what they play, and trusting that they know how they can heal.  Life learning – trusting that my children know what and how to learn, and helping them to do that.  I thought all those were something that started with my link in the parenting chain.  But things have come full circle.  I learnt how to trust from my mum and dad.  I learnt to value thinking outside the dominant paradigm.  I’ve taken a long time to really understand that.  

Now I know I’m still learning from them.  This coincides with my husband and I reading a book called, “Hold on to your kids,” about the importance of children and teenagers having attachment orientations primarily to their parents before their peers.  The book describes our culture as a peer-oriented culture.  It has helped me see that I am jumping back into the line of my ancestors.  I am the daughter of my parents.  Every time I talk to my mum and dad on the phone, I learn more about unconditional love.  Warmth fills me; I tell them I love them.  I’m grateful for each moment of connection.  Thanks, mum and dad.

Post Script.

Last year, in May 2008, I returned to England as my dad had suddenly become ill.  I took my computer with me, and read this piece above to my mum and dad.  For the next six weeks, me and my children spent time with my dad in the last phase of his life, as my mum sat with him 24 hours a day.  We reminisced about holidays and camping trips, and I gave him complementary medicine and rubbed his legs with magnesium oil. 

As time went on, he began to move into the world between the worlds - he talked of a being sitting in the chair next to him, and told us that he was going on a journey.  As I sat with him, sometimes a bright light would appear and I would see his face change into many different faces, one by one. 

As I had asked him, he stayed around for my 40th birthday, and that day he stopped eating.  Two weeks later was his last day in this life.  No longer speaking, at one point he held my hand and kissed it.  I sat with him in his bedroom and kept reminding him of all his deja vu experiences, and how he knew that he existed beyond his body and his mind.  I told him the meditations that I had learnt during the psychotherapy training that he had mostly paid for, "You have a body, but you are not your body; you have feelings, but you are not your feelings; you have a mind, but you are not your mind.  You are a centre of pure awareness and will."  As his breathing changed, I encouraged him to go to the light and towards all the people who were there and who loved him.  My daughter, Lana, then 6, came in for his last few moments. 

And then he stopped breathing, and instead of the fear I was expecting, I felt a sense of lightness and freedom.  A huge howling started up in the gardens outside - a fox perhaps, and some dogs, all began their call.  I had been terrified of his death for so long, and yet again, he had given me such gifts.  I knew that the body that lay there was not him.  I sensed his presence around me, and still do. 

At his funeral, which was a held in a field which will one day become a forest, I celebrated all the things about him that I loved; it was a rite of passage for me, as there were many people there who had very different values and ideals to him. 

Since then, I sense his presence around me; white feathers arrive in the sky or on the floor, especially if I ask for help.  His death gave me the biggest gifts - a deep knowing that death is not the end, and complete trust that love is eternal.  Thank you, dad.  I love you.

Aldort, N.  (2005)  Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.  Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy.  For parents of babies to teens.  Book Publishers’ Network, Bothell, WA.

Neufeld, G. and Mator, G.  (2006)  Hold On to Your Kids.  Why parents need to matter more than peers.  Ballantine Books, New York.