Early this morning I took a stroll around the beautiful lake at Virginia Waters with my friend who runs a successful Nanny Agency. This is fast becoming a Tuesday ritual because we love the fresh air and stunning views. We also like to laugh a lot together and talk about food. You’d have to agree that a friendship built on cake and cheese is a good one!
Walking and talking, we mulled over the tragic news of Peaches Geldof. An unexpected and sudden death they said. A wild child party girl, who turned her life around since finding herself through motherhood. Daily, she would lovingly capture every moment of her home life with her little boys and dogs on Instagram for the world to see. So proud and content that she recently said: “Becoming a mother was like becoming me, finally.” 🙁
“After years of struggling to know myself, feeling lost at sea, rudderless and troubled, having babies through which to correct the multiple mistakes of my own traumatic childhood was beyond healing. I felt finally anchored in place, with lives that literally depend on me, and I am not about to let them down, not for anyone or anything.” Peaches Geldof
Growing up without a mother: history repeats itself
Peaches’ two young sons (Astala, 20 months, and Phaedra, 10 months) are now without their beloved mother just like she was at the tender age of 11 when she lost her mother, Paula Yates to a heroin overdose. Horrible history repeats itself and leaves devastation (‘beyond pain’ were her Father’s words) in its path. For Sir Bob or any father losing his young daughter, the pain is undoubtedly all consuming. For him, this was on top of the loss of his ex-wife and indeed his own mother at an early age. History repeats itself.
So like walking round the lake this morning, it would seem that life is cyclical. Does that apply to parenting too? Our only experience of parenting is what we had growing up. Although now-a-days we are armed with information overload from the internet; our smart phones giving us on the spot answers via our trusted friend Google (is is just me that does that?!) I hope when I’m a Mummy, my work as a Nanny and a Coach will help me have greater awareness of what children ‘spark off’ in me. I’m sure I will make mistakes and that’s OK (says the perfectionist through gritted teeth) because that is how we learn.
Look for the clues: your reaction to your child
If you know what your history looks like, can you stop it from happening with your own children? Why yes of course SmileyCoach I hear you cry, that’s obvious. That’s obvious and yet still some cycles appear to be harder to break than others. Look at Peaches. Although it does help by understanding what your child does that irritates you most and how you react to that is very telling. Most of the children who come to me for coaching, are acting out their parents stuff right in front of their very eyes and it’s driving their parents nuts. The more you are irritated by your child, the more there is something for you to learn. If you join your child and support them on their quest to overcome this stuff, there is a chance history won’t repeat itself.
“You may wrestle with your own feelings toward your child. You know you love him and there may be some days, especially when your child appears to be out of control or when his anger is directed at you, when you don’t like your child very much. There may be days when you question your love for your child, and this can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Again, think in terms of balance. You can, indeed, have mixed feelings for your child. You can also have different emotions on different days. Not liking your child at times does not negate your love for your child; you can hold two different truths at the same time. You can love your child and be angry at your child. You can love your child and want your child to disappear at times. You can want to be with your child and not like being with him. Accepting that you can have different emotions at different times—or even at the same time—will make it easier for you to parent and to love your child.” Authors of Parenting a Child that Has Intense Emotions
Understanding your past is the first step to controlling your future
It was no coincidence then that on this very morning that my good friend lent me the famous book ‘They F***You Up’ by Oliver James which the Sunday Express claims ‘is more amusing than therapy (mmm not always amusing but an interesting choice of adjective) and one psychology book that everyone should read.’ She had been meaning to lend it to me for a while but today was the day.
This revolutionary book shows how the first 6 years of your life has a crucial affect on who you are and how you behave. James explores how birth order, environment, emotional intelligence in parents and other factors play a part in how a child’s sense of self is formed. The experiments in the book reveal that not much of it is genetic. Interesting case studies are Jeffrey Archer and Prince Charles (raised by nannies in a stuffy, strict unemotional bubble which was a far cry from what you and I deem to be normal). What is normal anyway? It makes you wonder if this is why Diana was so intent on keeping the boys life as normal as possible? Her bond with William and Harry was very different to her experience growing up. It can be done then. Her legacy lives on in her sons which is why William recently married for love; again a very different experience to her marriage to Charles. Yes it can be done. History can be changed with a little awareness, an open mind and commitment to change.
Love is the answer
I think that is going to be the title of my book as I write often about love and unconditional love – where our needs are lovingly and consistently met. This is healthy attachment or secure attachment. It is our first attachment with our primary carers (our Mother and Father) that forms a blueprint for the way we communicate with and relate to others throughout our whole life. If we are secure in our parents’ love for us, our chance of becoming emotionally intelligent well-rounded adults is high. We will be resilient to life’s set backs and break ups. We will be more comfortable in our own skin as we know that we are loved without question.
Attachment parenting is not just for hippies
Attachment parenting is not as some may believe a hippy wives’ tale where visions of babies strapped to their mothers whilst listening to whale music and living off the light. You may have heard me forever banging the drum about connection. You can read more blog posts about connection here and here. Connection is at the heart at my coaching. According to new scientific evidence, children with responsive caregivers during the first year of life develop a stronger ability to manage stress, form healthier relationships, perform better in school, and enjoy higher self-worth. Overall, they have a greater shot at a well-balanced and fulfilling life
Wikipedia describes Attachment Parenting, as a parenting philosophy based on the principles of attachment theory. Dr Laura Markham, my all time parenting Guru talks about the pros and cons of attachment parenting and how having secure attachment as securely attached babies get older, they form better relationships with others, have higher self esteem, are more flexible and resilient under stress, and perform better in every aspect of life, from school work to peer interactions.. Peaches Geldof was also a huge avocate as she famously fought the corner for attachment parenting in her well-publicised debate on This Morning with Katie Hopkins.
Early attachment shapes behaviour
Anxiously attached children live life on red alert and there is usually something in the family’s history which makes it so. It comes from what went before us: The mother or father suffer with anxiety. There maybe a history of mental illness or addiction in the family. There was a significant death or huge grief at the time the child was born. Or if in fact there was any kind of trauma which meant that “the needs of the child were not met in a loving, nurturing and consistent way.” [Arthur Becker-Weidman]
Roughly 40% of individuals are insecurely attached. In addition, the plot thickens that attachment insecurities can be transmitted across generations. Insecurely attached people also run a higher risk for developing psychological and psychiatric disorders.
I work with and write about anxiety a lot as it’s something I’ve experienced first hand. My workshop ‘Get Your Worries Out’ allows children to have fun whilst finding tools and techniques for dealing with anxiety. With anxious children, my job is to coach them to change the way they view the world (from unsafe and scary to a fun place where they feel in control). I also encourage them to develop more positive and open minded thinking patterns which lead to positive emotions and therefore more positive behaviours. You can read more about it in this post.
Peaches had tweeted a picture of her in her mother’s arms as a baby. I wonder if she walked around most of her life feeling unplugged? I would say given her wild child years not only was she immersed in such a huge amount of grief and insurmountable loss that she learnt to block out the pain with alcohol and drugs. Her Mother was reported to have self- medicated after the death of Michael Hutchence. Unplugged is an accurate adjective for somebody who is not attached to anything; somebody who is without the security and unconditional love of one’s parents.
“Attachment is the base upon which emotional health, social relationships, and one’s worldview are built. The ability to trust, and form reciprocal relationships, will affect the emotional health, security, and safety of the child, as well as the child’s development and future inter-personal relationships. ~ Arthur Becker-Weidman”
The legacy of your attachment lives on in your children
I want to write this blog for anybody who lost their Mum, who didn’t have the Mum they wanted or who didn’t have the secure loving attachment from their mother that they so deserve. Don’t let history repeat itself. If you have children, don’t let the legacy of your attachment live on in them.
This is why I find the news of Peaches’ death so desperately sad. Not just because a beautiful young girl was taken at the young age of 25, but more because she is leaving behind two beautiful boys who will be too young to remember who she was. Will that make a difference to how they turn out? Will the love of their father be enough? I doubt it very much. Their Grandfather was unable to protect Peaches and her Mother from their demons and that is because, lovely reader, the secure unconditional love of a mother is like no other. What a lesson to learn.
Image credits: © west7megan – Fotolia.com and © elisabetta figus – Fotolia.com