On Parenting Deeply and Well

Parenting is undoubtedly the most difficult job I’ve ever done. Can I admit it here — it’s not instinctive for me? It’s not intuitive. Though Tom will argue voraciously with me on this, and has, the fact remains that I do not feel like a good mother. Many times I wonder what I was thinking becoming a parent. But that’s me being negative and fearful, not living in abundance.

How does one become a good parent?

We look back at how we were raised. We observe others, although this can quickly turn into bad comparison for me. We work on our own s***. We pray a lot! (I know my father prayed for me every day. I felt that loss when he died.) And we hope that the days will s t r e t c h, time will slow down, much like a sci-fi movie. I mean who doesn’t need more time to improve upon themselves? Now, when life is moving quickly and my children are dashing into their teen years I want to press the slow motion effect. If only.

If the Bible were a parenting manual (which it is not) I think perhaps it would say work on your character and the fruits of your spirit and the LORD will add to these things, but there are no guarantees. The more you try to control the outcome the less likely you’ll get it .

So what’s a person to do?

Today I was thinking and wondering this.  How do we teach our children that they are unconditionally loved – that no matter what they ever do our love is irreversible. This superpower, called “unconditional love,” was modeled for us by Jesus Christ. I lay down my life, regularly.  Or,  is it more like giving up my rights?  My power. My control. Oh, we’re back to that again. Yeah, I was mightily controlled growing up so that’s one of my issues.

And I vacillate with my kids. Oh, how I hated feeling controlled as a child, and yet without boundaries children (and adults) flounder. So I regularly pray for a good measure of strength to apply appropriate boundaries with consequences without being perceived as or wanting to be controlling.

There’s a strange characteristic in kids — they believe in the live and let live, totally. Yes, even mom and dad.

If you loved me you’d just let me … stay up and talk to my friends on the computer. Leave my stuff all over the house. Lose my cell phone with no consequences. Not work that hard in school, I mean lighten up, Mom. It’s only grades. Not live up to my potential, I mean if it were important to me I’d do it.

Yup, true. But I definitely regret that I wasn’t pushed more when I was a child. I was left to flounder. So, I have to admit, I’m a bit befuddled.

What’s the best book on parenting you’ve read?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about parenting?

What did your parents do that was really right?  

Do you have any advice for a young mom like myself?

Slowly, I Gave Up And Forfeited Living For Peace



Finding My Feelings.

I am listening to an NPR interview, on people who have lived with traumatic experiences and it adds to a growing unease I have had all week, a compelling need to write.  But I have had no computer.  I’ve borrowed one now. It is one of those times when I write to unearth what’s inside me.  To recover some bit of story that up until now was lost.

When My Father Died I Was Reborn.  This Is A Fact. 

To be quite honest I didn’t know it, but I was numb and deadened inside for most of my life.  I do remember brief moments as a child when I was conscious; happy and aware of it.  It was a beautiful time in Papua New Guinea running barefoot in the jungle, blithely unaware.  Even being thrown into the ocean at a young age, in order to learn to swim, was scary but for the most part an innocent lesson.  But I remain fearful of the ocean to this day.  I do not take any pleasure in swimming.   

 It Hurts Me Now, To Know How Much Memory Is Simply Gone

 I am a human being who lived more than forty years of life and yet today I cannot recall a good deal of it; I have very little memory of childhood.  And the memories I do have are full of the trauma we experienced.  I don’t want to only remember the dread and fear.  I do not choose to remember the ugliness; the ruthless cruel anger that we experienced.  I don’t want to focus on that, but you see it isn’t a selective focus at all – it is all I have left. 

 I am hopeful though that if I spend the time to remember what little is there, perhaps somehow, some day I will find more of the good memories.  I know those experiences must be there .  I would think that I and my sisters would not be as “normal” as we are able to be.  Would we not have become monsters — like — him? 

I am gratified that today I recognize goodness when I see it and so I must have experienced this at some time.  I see the tenderness and sweetness of casual, physical affection between a mother and her teenage children and I think “that is normal.  That is good.”  But I never experienced it.  By the time I was a teen, I loathed my father’s controlling touch, a hug or kiss at the beginning or end of the day was a salutation to him.  For me, it was a reminder of cage we lived in.  And my mother never had a physical connection or bond with anyone — at least not with her children.

Often Today, Unless I Force Myself To Allow It, I Cannot Feel. 

My dear mother, aged 73, called yesterday asking if she could pay for my children to attend the Messiah show that I will be in this December since we were choosing to “not afford it.”  After years of missing concerts and other things that were important to me due to their travel, she was remembering that this had hurt me as a teenager.  I was actively involved in orchestra and chorus.  She offered to pay the $30 per child so that my children can attend the concert.  She felt this was important to me.  I promised her I would think about whether I felt that way. I have learned that if I am not careful, I just feel what she tells me I’m feeling.   She wants to help.  She’s aware of old pain.  She attempts to remake life now, for the adult child.  It’s complicated.  I have no idea what I feel about this situation. 

Feeling things — for me, it takes peeling back the layers of the moment to find – my – feelings.  Crushing them was how I survived.  Now it takes such hard work to feel.  And to trust the feelings. 

Remembering what it was like growing up is hard for me.  Whether I was conscious or not, it was important to hide or be invisible.  I spent lots of time in my room escaping into a book; the fantasy of a romance or historical novel or a Ludlum mystery.   I hid in the music, playing the piano or the bass clarinet.  In the concerts that my parents received free tickets to over the years.  Music has always been an escape.

And I found myself when I was welcomed at church by my youth pastor and in his grizzly hugs.  There I found an acceptance of “ME” that I had never experienced in my life.  I had a budding faith.  I recall lying in my bed late at night, after church, praying out loud the prayer that I could not make myself utter out loud at church; too afraid of not getting it just right.  The need to be perfect was true for all of my sisters and for me if I couldn’t be perfect then I would not try. 

 I do not recall much conversation with my parents as a child and teen.  I remember no talks with parents, except being forced to speak about certain things by my father.  What does Easter mean to you, tell me!  What are you thankful for?  Everyone must participate. I recall being yelled at for grades that were below my “potential.”  I was dragged, not physically but emotionally, down to the counselor at school so that the person could tell me what a high IQ I had and why I could (i.e. should) do better at school.

 I recall gazing at my bitten & bleeding fingernails in the microscope in Biology, wondering if I would ever feel good about myself.  Somehow, my hands came to symbolize my brokenness, pain and the ugliness I saw in myself.  They represented the self-loathing and to this day, they remain so; if there is anguish inside it always manifests itself on my fingernails and indicates nervousness I can’t control.

I recalled recently, being spaced out started young, a pattern of feeling just slightly crazy or numb.  Constantly tuned out started as a way to cope with the unpredictable nature of my father’s anger which could be triggered by anything;   A slip of the tongue, a comment coming out a too sarcastically or being considered disrespectful, not remembering an instruction and doing something else, and of course having ideas other than his.  That made him the most furious.  Enraged.  He was never physically punishing to us, but verbally hounding, over and over again; “At you” continuously until you admitted your offense – whatever it was — random things that bothered him. 

I began to shut down.  Concede not fight.  Give in. Confess. Not rebel.  Slowly, I gave up and forfeited living for peace. 

Even some of my last memories of my father, when they came to visit in October before he got sick, were of making concessions to his disapproval.  I had been suffering from five months of deep depression that had slowly been eroding my confidence and energy.  When they came to visit “to help, to support” I was very sick.  I didn’t have it in me to cook for them, so we took my parents out to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant.  It was admittedly expensive.  It was delicious.  It was challenging with young kids.  He disapproved of the extravagance and made it known.  He went on about it as I slowly shut down.  There’s no productive discussion when he is convinced of something.  No reminder of the symptoms of depression being an inability to make decisions shopping for groceries or to focus for a long time on cooking or overcoming the fear of messing it all up.  I would rather have climbed back into bed, but because they were there I was up, dressed and attempting to function.

That is one of my last memories of my father before his tumors began to grow and his personality and ability to speak became impaired.  He came to help, to be of assistance, but he spent his visit on the phone and laptop and but he only criticized when he engaged me.  That’s a fact.  That’s what happened.

As I remember, sometimes I wish I could sugar coat the memories or even just deny them.  But what would that accomplish? 

Today, I choose feelings. 

And, I move toward memory. 

And living, well that comes slowly.  But it comes.

a crooked road to home (a poem)

a crooked road

by Melody Harrison Hanson
December 31, 2009

Mama, I never thought being an adult child would be so hard.

being an adult child, of an adult who – is – a – child.

Reader. If you’re confused,
welcome.  It is a crooked road, full of twists I cannot define.  I cannot see to the other side.
I cannot look back, because I would slip on the path of unshed tears.

Mama, I get nothing from you.  Nothing for weeks. Before that, nothing

for as long as I can remember.

And I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. I’m trying to figure out what you want?  Do you want anything

[ from me?]

You never reach out.  You never check in.

Should I just assume you’re fine. You don’t want or need anything from me?

Reader. If you’re confused,
welcome.  It is a crooked road, full of twists I cannot define.  I cannot see to the other side.
I cannot look back, because I would slip on the path of unshed tears.

Mama, you can act like I’m not here.


Someone else’s child.

And [I think] I could live with that

if you didn’t act like you DON’T act

like that.  If you didn’t pretend

you are you.

If you didn’t pretent

You are the Mother.

Reader. If you’re confused,
welcome.  It is a crooked road, full of twists I cannot define.  I cannot see to the other side.
I cannot look back, because I would slip on the path of unshed tears.

And why, I think ,can I not be the adult?

Why can’t I make the calls, do the diligent thing? Why,

because I am somehow a little girl

waiting and hoping, for mama to Come Home.

I have a lot of poems about my feelings about parents… You can read them by going here:  https://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/tag/my-poetry/


I needed [Too Late]

my parents did as well as they could

my parents did as well as they could


I needed a father who would love me for who I am, not who I might be or who I might become.
I needed to be able to speak my mind, express myself, have opinions, and not feel I was your captive, imprisoned by you being right every time.
I needed a father who would not yell at me, at my sisters, at my mom.  All I can remember is constant bellowing, uproar, fear and pain.
I needed you and what you gave was distance, scowls, the expansive cloud of disappointment hung about us all the time.
Will I ever know why you were so angry?

I needed a mother who didn’t push people away; who wasn’t always afraid of him, of me, of living her life.
I had a mother who was dangerously sad. We all knew it. Because of it, I was always afraid, always tired, and scared of life.  If she couldn’t manage, how could I?  She’s still afraid, but at least, I know why.

I needed parents who knew how to laugh at themselves. I am slowly unlearning that legacy.  I need to be able to poke fun at myself.
It is so simple. So satisfyingly good to gaze at my imperfections and know it’s perfectly okay.

I needed a father who came home and wanted to be there; who gave hugs that didn’t feel off because they didn’t jive with constant anger, constant fear. Hot cold. Hot cold. The sting of our speculation.  If only you wouldn’t feel ‘rejected’  all the time.  If only you  understood that your deeds didn’t match your words.

I needed someone to watch me grow, with joy.
I needed you to remember me daily. If not every day, often enough to not let me get lost in books and fantasy, in forgetting, in weary striving for what’s unattainable, even impossible.
I needed you to help me on this journey of life.   I was falling down, over and over, stumbling, until I thought I couldn’t do anything right. Plunging into failure and living up to your disappointment with your life.

I needed a mother who would remember my birthday.
I needed a father who didn’t make me cry.
I needed.  I needed so much and when I allow myself to imagine how much I needed you, my heart feels full of gravel; my insides closing in. My heart is bursting with confusion, anguish; My heart is full of your unthinkable, backbreaking life.
It is something that I can’t put my full mind to, yet. Perhaps because I don’t want to discover that I needed so much from you and it is too late.  Too late for what I needed. Too late.


10/06/08 MHH