First I want to apologize for the long period of time since the last post. Our intention was always to post once a week but over a month ago I realized that what I was writing was hurting my parents feelings. As much as I wanted to keep writing and posting there was something in me that would not let me keep going. I needed to process my parents feelings, my feelings and make sense of it all before it felt right to post again. I have been working on this letter for weeks and now it feels right with my soul again.
Dear Mom and Dad:
When I first had the idea to do this blog, the idea felt like magic. For a while now I had been wondering how I could help to make the parenting information I have been acquiring during the past 5 years mainstream. Before we released the first blog I shared my idea with you and read you my first blog post. Paulo and I tried to prepare you for the fact that I was about to speak openly and honestly about how Paulo and I are raising Paulito and Vicky and that meant also talking about how you raised me. We asked you never to take anything personally about what we share here because we know that you did the best that you could as parents.
But I think that nothing could really prepare you for how you were going to feel. I saw you crying mom because you heard about how I am trying to stop yelling and I literally said that I yell because my brain was conditioned to yell from hearing you. I cannot even begin to imagine what that felt like for you.
I don’t know for sure but I am thinking that it hurt for you to hear those words because up until then you had no idea that I had anything to say about how I was raised by you. Maybe you think that somehow by me parenting differently than you it means that I think that you were bad parents. If that is what you are thinking I want those thoughts to end right now because they could not be further from the truth. Let me tell you why.
Let me start with telling you both how incredibly proud I am of you. What you two accomplished would seriously not even happen today. If you told a 16-year-old person in 2016 with a second grade education to get up and go to another country where they will not know the language and they will work with their hands in the fields doing manual labor all of their life, who would sign up? Who would do that? Who would agree to get up every morning before the sun rises, work picking grapes in the scorching summer heat and picking oranges in the freezing winter months to get home in the evening, sometimes late evening, only to wash off the dirt from work, prepare some dinner, eat and sleep before it starts all over again? Who would do it? But that is what you two did and I know that you did it out of pure love for us.
I do not remember being a toddler and going through all of this with you. I remember this vividly as an older child when I could already feed, bathe and put myself to sleep. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for you to come home after a long day of hard labor to feed your young kids, bathe them, put them to sleep, get up in the middle of the night when they cried and then get up after a sleep-deprived night to go to work to earn enough money to keep feeding your babies and maintain a roof over their heads.
Now as an adult and a parent myself do you think that I believe that somehow you should have known to take time to play with me daily? To connect with me? To read to me every night? To get down at my eye-level and take the time to speak to me softly, gently and connect with me using empathy before redirecting me? Do you think that I believe that you should have used your non-existent free time to read parenting books which are not even readily available in Spanish today? Do you think I believe that somehow you had the wherewithal and the time to reflect on your parenting in order to parent me in a way that was different from your parents? Or that somehow I believe that you were just supposed to be born knowing how to be nurturing when you were not nurtured? To meet all of my emotional needs when yours were not met?
I know why you screamed and why spanking was your way of disciplining us. If I had been raised as you had and then had walked in your shoes I would have been screaming and spanking too. I would have been in a perpetual state of exhaustion with little to no patience. The last thing on my mind at the end of my long day would have been questioning myself over whether or not I was up to date on the latest research regarding parenting. If I were you I would have measured my success by my ability to offer my children a better life than the life I had had. And guess what, you did.
Now because of you I enjoy a really privileged life. You worked hard so that I could have opportunities and make something of myself. Now I work in a job where I spend my days in an air-conditioned office. When I get home after using my mind instead of my body for 8 hours dinner is almost ready. We have dinner and then its time for homework, followed by some family time, baths, reading and then bedtime. After that I still have a few free hours for myself before I get to bed again. I have the luxury of spending my free time reading books and contemplating my thoughts.
This is my family life that is very different than ours was when you were raising us and I am making different choices about discipline than you, but that is a luxury only afforded to me because of you. I can only live this life because you lived yours the way that you did. There is no doubt in my mind that you did the absolute best that you could. The question that I have to ask myself now is, what is the best that I can do as a parent? For me to parent in a way that is less than my absolute best effort would be a waste of your sacrifices. It would be mediocre and that is not what you taught me. You taught me to practice, to find teachers, to work hard and to never give up!
I believe that whether we are conscious of it or not, every generation is born with the responsibility to move humanity forward. That is why in many ways you parented “better” than your parents. I will parent “better” than you. And my children will parent “better” than me. That is the way that it should be. Not because any of us are bad parents but because “better” is a moving target that evolves with time as more research and information becomes available to us. For instance at one point spanking was the recommended way to parent, then came time-outs. Now research is demonstrating that time-outs and spanking have the same detrimental effect on the brain. Today all the research points towards connection.
One of my favorite parenting authors, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, says that our children are our greatest teachers. If I could teach you anything at this point it would be that you are great parents. I don’t look back and wish that you had parented me differently. I only look back and hope that my children will be as proud of my life and what I did with it as I am of you two. No more tears mom. Only joy and pride!
With Eternal Gratitude and Love,