“Rupture and repair.” Bloody, messy, takes-you-by-surprise trauma. A burst blood vessel, a tire blowout on a super highway or a fractured relationship – they all need to be fixed with an urgent plan of action or risk irreparable harm.
I’ve been told that experiencing “rupture and repair” is a sure-fire way to grow a relationship and form a stronger, closer bond. But to be honest, it terrifies me. What do you do if you haven’t had the good fortune of growing up in a home skilled in productive disagreements? If you haven’t spent your formative years living and breathing it? How do you master resolving conflict with your own children?
Some relationships seem to feed on its rupture; constant head-butting, arguing, and pointing fingers. Tensions are high; resolution, unsatisfactory or nonexistent. Other relationships don’t make waves; have no disagreements, no dissonance. No repair is necessary because on the surface, everything seems to be ok. Could these relationships lack the courage to go deeper, to be more honest and vulnerable?
Parents (and dare I say, humans), will always make mistakes. This, we know. But thinking about a possible unraveling makes me dizzy with distress. Childhood memories of cousins not showing up to a grandfather’s funeral, a life-changing Mother’s Day argument, a choke hold that extinguished trust. Added to that mix is the natural separation we face with our emerging adult children. Ripe with possibilities; tempered with nervousness. Learning how to “reset” each time we hit a snag can feel like a monumental challenge.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that “rupture” is just one letter away from its enviable cousin, “rapture.” Both share intensity, power, and force but their aftermath couldn’t be more different. Do we have the power to effect change and go from disruption to delight? To go from rupture to rapture?
I don’t know that there’s a perfect formula (because, well, that would be too easy). But I do know that it takes commitment and a strategy. Listen with an interested ear. Apologize with authenticity. Inquire instead of demand. Express feelings instead of judgements. Accept our children for who they are and what they believe. And most importantly, try to imagine what it’s like to be them, given the kind of parents we are to them. (Being brave here helps). That is a very uncomfortable place. It shines the light on the not-so-flattering parts of us. It’s tough to tolerate but a powerful source for change.
I’ve come to believe that we are never the same person twice. Even with the same people. Well, theoretically. Every day, each conversation and every experience we have, has the potential to change us and influence how we think and what we choose to do next.
It’s no wonder that children from the same family experience their parents differently. As parents (and still, humans), we evolve. We have personal setbacks and growth, financial instability, health concerns, professional successes and failures. If we’re lucky, we learn from our mistakes but often we repeat them for years. And years. Then, of course, there are always new ones to make.
I am a daughter to ailing parents in their nineties, a mother to three soon-to-be adults in various stages of leaving home, a wife, a sister, a friend. Lately, it seems, we’ve all been given lots of opportunities for rupture and repair. But my kids are getting an earlier start than I ever did on this life lesson. So maybe it’s time to consider “my mess ups” as “our possibilities.”
On the other hand… maybe I ditch the humans and get a dog. I’d get no argument there.
Bonni Berger is a postpartum doula, lactation counselor and freelance writer. Her written word has been published in Kveller.com and Bethesda Magazine. Her spoken word is heard daily by her tolerant family and by the other voices in her head. She can be found in the ‘burbs of Washington D.C. and at www.bethesdadoula.com where she is loving the fourth trimester alongside her new-mom clients.