let’s give kids a childhood that they don’t have to heal from

most parents are selfish parents. they parent their children from a place of self-interest, very conditional love, ownership, and only partial investment. it is normal for us to neglect kids of their autonomy, their feelings, and their self-actualization, which does so much harm.

we lowkey hate kids, as a collective.

we especially hate kids who fall outside of what we deem to be normal or acceptable, like trans kids, kids with disabilities, gender non-conforming kids, fat kids, “academically average” kids, etc. these kids eventually grow up (if they are fortunate enough to make it to to their late teens and 20s) and become adults who now hate themselves with all this baggage that they ain’t ask for. they may end up having kids themselves, only to raise them to hate themselves, too. this is how this cycle persists across generations.

we don’t love them, we don’t respect them, and we don’t allow them to be free.

but, parents often don’t know how to do these things: how to love, respect, and let their kids be free. they were often children of selfish (and/or toxic) parents themselves and aren’t taught anything different. as unfortunate as it is, most of us (and our parents) don’t know unconditional love and how to identify it. what it feels like. couldn’t point it out in a lineup.

•••

real, unconditional love is a unfamiliar construct to most of us in the united states of amerikkka. we flinch and balk and stare and vehemently disapprove at the sight of parents who raise their kids from a place of freedom, love, and respect because it is so damned strange to us.

parents who let their children express their negative feelings towards them, parents who allow their boys to wear dresses and makeup and let their girls get buzzcuts, parents who don’t spank or beat their children, parents who let their kids pursue a trade they’re passionate about instead of going to college, parents who use pronouns that the child picks, parents who don’t pressure their kids to chemically alter their children’s hair texture (or outright do it for them), parents who allow their kids to have privacy while in the same household, parents who practice emotional boundaries….

this is parenting from a place of acknowledging the kid being their own person. too often, parents feel entitled to their kids mind, body, and souls, believing that they own them. as if kids are property.

we think we love kids, but we lowkey don’t even know what love is. making a kid homeless because their gender doesn’t match what they were assigned at birth, restricting a child’s diet for non-health reasons and to solely control the image of the child’s body, yelling at and beating a child because they express their authentic feelings, forcing kids to wear clothes and hair that does not feel good to them, disowning a child because they don’t pursue a certain career path, forcing a kid to worship and practice a religion that does not connect for them, quietly resenting a child for fucking up their perfect body due to childbirth or for altering the parents’ life path…this is all the opposite of love.

kids ain’t dumb and are very intuitive and adept at understanding feelings, even if they don’t have words for those feelings just yet. they learn what ticks mom and dad off, when the parent is in a pissy mood, when it’s best to ask for money or candy or a birthday gift, when the parent has been crying in their room or fighting with their spouse.

kids know.

kids combine this knowledge they gain about their parents with the desire to be approved by them, and learn to perform perfection and perform the standards of being their parents’ children out of fear of losing whatever love it is that they do receive from them.

anything done out of fear is not a result of authentic, unconditional love. however, this is how many of us went through our childhoods and still behave with our parents to this day. we dare not risk overstepping that boundary, expressing that true emotion, letting our parents know that one little secret for fear that they will disapprove, or worse, lash out at us. we attempt to protect that inner child as much as we can, but suppressing ourselves with the purpose of protecting ourselves only hurts us. the longer you suppress, the more painful it is for the truth to come out. and it always comes out, often at the big, but most inopportune times (funerals, weddings, birthdays, celebrations with alcohol, etc.). although is is 10000x more scary, it is infinitely more brave to be authentic.

sadly, there are politics around what is brave, what is safe, and what is necessary for survival, especially when talking about kids. how sad is it that so many kids have to often choose between having relative safety, shelter, and consistent food & being their authentic selves? how abusive and controlling is it to ration out life essentials to KIDS based off of if they meet an arbitrary standard when they otherwise can’t (legally) provide for themselves?

why can’t we be decent enough to give them both?

•••

it has been an unfortunate life lesson for me that if your own authentic self deviates enough from your parents’ vision for you, that is enough to be irredeemable to them.

I’ve come to realize (and accept, as a kid [and now an adult] that was conditionally loved) that NO amount of achievements or chased perfection will convince your parents to fully love you THE WAY YOU DESERVE if they are not personally invested in doing so. their love for you should not be based on if you’re aligned with who THEY have visualized and planned you to be. if this vision is inauthentic for you and who you are, they should love you anyways, because that’s what unconditional love is: lovewithout conditions.

at that point, any little thing that you do “wrong” will be reason enough to dispose of you as too ‘difficult’ to love, or ‘disrespectful’ to who they “raised you to be.” not who you actually are, but who they WANT you to be.

this is selfish parenting. this is not parenting from a place of love.

i hope my generation learns to be less selfish in our parenting practices as we continue to raise our kids. we need to let them teach us as much as we teach them, for they have their own nuggets of wisdom to impart on us. age never, ever dictates maturity or wisdom, so listen to your kids, really listen, and allow yourself the humility to continue to learn.

i also hope we continue to find time to reflect on our own childhoods, heal from them, and discontinue passing down generations of trauma. those of us who didn’t come from “bad” homes (weren’t physically abused or indigent or neglected) more than likely still have trauma to heal from, too. verbal and emotional abuse is real, and a lot of us have normalized that abuse and our means of coping with it “for our own good.” we have to unlearn all of it and learn better ways to understand feelings and communication for the sake of our own children and the children that we will come into contact with for the rest of our adult lives.

all children deserve a childhood that they don’t have to heal from.

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