A “Revolutionary” Parent

In the past couple of months I didn’t have good attention for my daughter. Our living situation (my partner and I and a six-year-old daughter) was quite isolated. I was distracted and restimulated. I would read RC literature when I couldn’t have a Co-Counselling session, and love what I was reading, but I couldn’t put it in the context of my poor attention, my sounding angry, my acting irritated with my daughter.

Then one day I read Karl Lam’s excellent article on oppression in the January 2015 Present Time.1 He outlined ways we can tell2 that we are being oppressive: getting irritated with someone, adopting a strange tone of voice, being distant or aloof, feeling more important than or superior to someone, and so on.

I realized I was being oppressive with my daughter.

That night, after a hot shower and thinking about how I could change things, I came out, saw her cuddled in bed ready for sleep, and apologised to her. I told her that I was sorry I hadn’t been talking very nicely to her in the past couple of months. I explained that maybe I was distracted by what had happened (she knew about the restimulating issues) but that I shouldn’t let that get in the way of how I am with her. I told her that she was wonderful and that none of it was her fault, that it is always my problem when I get like that. I told her that even when she is complaining and having trouble, it’s still not her fault—that I need to have better attention for her.

Her face lit up. She soaked in the connection and the “real talk” and asked for more. I told her about some wonderful things coming up in the next six months and that I was working on how to have more people in our lives and do more fun things. She loved it and went to sleep quickly.

The next morning things had shifted for me. I was more relaxed. I was able to say, “Why not?” (in my head) when she asked for a playful activity that normally I would have had no attention for.

I want to re-evaluate some more on being oppressive to my daughter. Of course my mother showed all those signs of oppressing me. But I’ve never used the word oppression to describe it before. Usually I think of it as poor parenting. I say that my mother was a “bad” mother or that I’m “failing” as a mother with my daughter. It feels hopeless somehow when I frame it as a parenting issue. But when I reframe it as an oppression issue, something shifts. It makes me think of my daughter as my equal (which she is). I do not want to be oppressive to young people, or to anyone.

I know the RC approach to parenting is pioneering work and goes a long way toward raising a revolutionary. I am a pioneer, a revolutionary myself, for parenting my daughter in this way. But it doesn’t feel like it. It doesn’t feel like important work. It feels like the important work is what I do in my free time—wide-world activism. That’s internalised parents’ oppression, of course. So I need to reframe it and tell myself a different story, which happens to be reality: My interactions with my daughter can be one of my wide-world projects. I can analyse each interaction, figure out where it’s coming from, discharge, and change my ways. And write about it.

Staying in a resentful, irritated state is a way to “prove” how hard things were for me when I was little. Look at me, this is how hurt I was! I am trying to get a session in an interaction in which it’s not rational to look for one. I need to take those feelings to Co-Counselling sessions and not let them get in the way of my being with another human being.

The other day I was in a tight, non-relaxed state with my daughter. She didn’t want to do what I wanted to do and was asking for something else. There was no good reason to do what I wanted right then, but I didn’t want to “give in” to her. I didn’t want to be the “wrong” one. I wanted my daughter to be “in the wrong,”3 to realise that I was right and that what I wanted was more important than what she wanted (reading a book for ten minutes).

My mother has acted this way with my daughter. Maybe my mother also didn’t “give in” to me, and her mother didn’t “give in” to her, and so on. The resentful feelings have nothing to do with the child.4 They have to do with the lack of support and connection we experienced when we were young. The contagion goes on. But it stops with me. I’m figuring out how. Yay!

Heather Luna
Alford, Lincolnshire, England
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents

1 "Working on Oppressor Material" on pages 47 to 49
2"Tell" means notice.
3"In the wrong" means incorrect in what she wanted to do.
4"Having nothing to so with the child" means are not about the child in any way.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00