Parent guilt. It hurts. We have all felt it. I have always tried to do the best for my children. Always. When I discovered a different approach to parenting, one that I felt so much more aligned to and gave me much more joy with my children, it felt amazing and also painful. I felt grief for all the moments I could have done differently. I felt panic for the potential "damage" I may have done in moments I chose something I now know isn't ideal for a developing brain, or indeed for not treating my child as an equal and valid human being. I felt angry that no one told me the right things at the start, and I felt shame for not having looked harder myself. I could go on and on about the difficult feelings that have risen over the years and I could comfort you by saying that it is all ok and no damage is done. I would be lying.
My parents have damaged me
I am not going into all the hows, whats and whys here. Suffice to say that they didn't know that the way they were brought up wasn't so ideal actually. They didn't know about ADHD or neurodiversity. They didn't know I was suffering as much as I was. They didn't see it because the information wasn't there and they had their own stuff happening - big stuff. And with the best of intentions to encourage me to do better, to be the best they thought I could be, they became the critical voice inside my head. This voice became debilitating. Do I say this to hurt them? Not at all. I know they are both in pain with the knowledge they have now, for not knowing before. I know they feel the sense of responsibility and I write this partly for them as well as you.
I have damaged my children
I am a loving and compassionate parent who has always done what I thought was best - but I had my own stuff, my husband too, and his parents too.... and on and on. However, I did not have the knowledge at the start that I have now. Knowledge about normal infant behaviour and needs, knowledge about how breastfeeding works and where to get the right support, about how cooperation, learning and discipline really works - and most recently, about neurodiversity. I am sure in a few years I will know a lot more again and wish I had known that too.
My eldest two of four particularly have borne the brunt of my lack of knowledge and understanding and I feel it.
Everyone fucks up their kids right? So it's ok...
Listen and learn
Our children have a right to their feelings, which you may not see now but may do later. If our words and our actions have hurt them, they have a right to feel heard and be angry that we didn't do better. We, as parents, must take responsibility for our actions in the past, regardless of the intentions we had behind them.
Think of how your parents hurt you (whether in big or small ways) and imagine how healing it would feel to have your feelings about it validated, heard and cared for.
Go through the process, do the work and truly let it go with the knowledge you have owned it. These were your actions that you are responsible for but YOU DIDN'T KNOW BETTER. Not knowing is not your fault. I am not trying to let you off the hook for things you have done that may (probably will) have an impact on your child. I am trying to tell you that the only way you can both heal is to own it and then forgive it. We must be as kind, caring and gentle with ourselves as we want to be with our children.
You cannot parent a child calmly, and as well as you want to, whilst you hold onto this stuff. Children learn through what they see. Watching you take responsibility and watching you forgive yourself will teach them to do that too and what more could we ever want for our children than to be that awesome. Humans who don't just say sorry when they have wronged someone but actually listen, take ownership, make real amends and then are able to let it go, these are the humans we need in the future.
Forgive yourself. You deserve that. Your child deserves that.
One final thought
We are in the process of re-launching and I hope that you enjoy the next phase of our development.