Raising My Daughter Has Made Me Think Differently About My Own Childhood

It's helped me reflect on my own life.

Katya Shut/ Shutterstock
Katya Shut/ Shutterstock

I think the biggest challenge for me as a first time parent has been dealing with everything that my beautiful daughter mirrors back to me.  She shows me something every day that I need to work on or release from my past.  Here’s a perfect example:

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my daughter, and she hit her head on the floor.  She’s fine, but the event tapped into something that was deeply rooted in me: a guilt I had been carrying with me my entire life that I didn’t know was there.

It happened so quickly.  My daughter was running — she’s two — and she tripped and hit her head before I could even react.  Like I said, she was fine, but in my mind, she wasn’t fine.  In my mind, I had done something to damage my daughter.

It stuck with me throughout the entire day.  I went to bed and woke up the next morning, and it was still there.  I had done something wrong.  

I called a friend for support and told him what had happened.  He reminded me that when things are hysterical, they are historical.  He said, “Zach, there’s something deeper at play here.”

Tears immediately rolled down my face.  The guilt that I felt for my daughter hitting her head on the floor was so immense.  It was guilt that I had been carrying with me my entire life, and it went much deeper than my daughter.

When I was three and half years old, my mother died of cancer.  My little developing mind made up a story when she left: that it was my fault, and I had done something wrong.  No child should carry around that kind of guilt.

Here’s the beautiful part.  As I lay there on the floor crying, my daughter came up to me, put her head on my chest, and wrapped her arms around me, loving me unconditionally.  She was healing me in that moment.  

We’re not here to drag these invisible thousand pound sacks with us our entire lives, just as I wasn’t supposed to be carrying the guilt that I was carrying.  It wasn’t mine. 

Yet there are things that we carry within us that we don’t necessarily know are there until they get triggered.  And it’s what we do when we get triggered that matters.  

That’s why I picked up the phone.  Calling a friend or mentor is a practice of mine.  I do this so I don’t isolate.        

I healed a little bit that day.  It was freeing to let go of something that didn’t belong to me so I could expand.  

We are all here to live big, beautiful, expansive lives and we also, sometimes daily, have things reflected back to us that we need to work on or let go.  It’s what we do in these moments that matter most.  Do we brush them to the side, or do we choose to expand and grow?

I’m grateful for that day with my daughter. I’m grateful for every day I get to be her dad and show up as the best me I can possibly be. 

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