I have found myself thinking about the impact my mum’s Bipolar has had on my parenting of my children.
Has it made me overly anxious about their emotional states?
Or insightful regarding the small and daily life experiences they encounter?
Or perhaps no different to how I would have parented them had my mum not lived Bipolar?
Well I can answer one of them instantly; I absolutely think that we all grow up affected by the situations around us (and even more so, by our parents) so I think, without me knowing it or being able to change it, that our family’s experiences of mental health have impacted on me and so on my parenting.
This leads me to answer a second of my questions; I think that due to the impact of my day to day experiences with mental health I have become more aware and insightful than some, of the importance of everyone’s daily life experiences. So when my children tell me of friendship challenges in the playground or feelings of upset at an overheard conversation that they didn’t understand I attempt to acknowledge not just the practicalities of this issue for them but also the emotional, the psychological; I want to stablilise their mental health. I’m not saying, for a minute, that this is a positive aspect of my parenting and certainly not that it is what all parents should do. But it’s my reality.
So if i’m aware that I do indeed attempt to be insightful of my children’s daily life experiences, perhaps I am now also answering my first question. Do I feel the need to do this because, having witnessed Bipolar first hand and all that goes with it, I am anxious about their emotional states. I think I probably do read further than is needed into my children’s tantrums and turmoil because I can’t hep but relate it to the challenging behavior i’ve seen in family members with mental health issues. Any book i’ve read will mention the likelihood of Bipolar being hereditary.
When I was 10 I remember beginning to over-hear conversations about my maternal grandmother. These little snippets of talk amongst adults that over time begin to form a picture. My maternal grandmother had Bipolar. It was diagnosed about this time, I think. I learnt as I grew up that when she’d had my mother she had suffered with post-natal depression badly (the same pattern as my own mum). Granny went on to undergo ECT and then stabilized with the use of Lithium for her last decades. Granny presented, in many ways, very differently to my mum now, but I still re-call, even before an understanding of my mum’s mental health, the changed look in Granny’s eye, like something was lost. I wonder how the knowledge of her mother’s experiences and her own mental health affected my mum’s thoughts while she watched us grow up. Did she worry that one of us would be passed the mantel of Bi-polar, did she in fact see it forming in my brother before we really knew?
And so, yes I believe I can see that I am affected in my parenting by my awareness of Bipolar. I’m quite confident that a certain amount of awareness is a good thing; i’ve always said that if you have awareness then you’re half way there.
BUT, is too much awareness just a sure fire way to messing my children up a little extra? Should I see there tantrums and difficulties with life as part of life’s course and let it be? And should I assume that all my awareness is simply a result of my upbringing or can I be a little kinder to myself and recognize the learning and work i’ve put into areas of child development and emotional literacy through my jobs, has also made me the parent I am today?
Either way, I reckon teaching my daughter deep breathing when she looses it in a tantrum at bedtime can’t be a bad thing if the tantrum lasts a little less time and we all get sleep!