Episode 19

How your story shapes
your child’s story

February 21, 2022

[Kyle]: Hello and welcome to episode 19 of The Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And today we're recording in our closet, waiting for a winter storm to come, so the kids are super excited. So, if in the background snow begins to fall and you hear the kids screaming for joy, that's what's happening, it's not that they're hurt and something bad happened.

[Sara]: They're really hoping for a snow day.

[Kyle]: So, we're looking at maybe six to eight inches falling sometime today and tomorrow, so we're really excited about it, but we wanted to get into more episodes for February. We hope you're finding these podcasts helpful to your parenting and to your family and today, we wanted to hit a subject in particular that comes up a lot in sessions you're doing-- That Sara and I are doing with clients and talking to parents and definitely something that comes up just in our own personal life every day and it's about our stories. The stories we believe about ourselves, the narratives that kind of guide our lives and so, in today's episode, we want to kind of dive deep into this. Sara and I’ve kind of thought maybe this is too deep, but we'll do our best in about 20 minutes, to kind of flesh this out and about how this has impacted our parenting.

[Kyle]: Because I believe the stories we believe about ourselves, directly impact the stories our kids believe about themselves and you see it happen all the time, when I 'm talking to kids and since I 've met the parents and I can hear the stories the parents have and then I hear the stories the kids are starting to believe, you can hear how those stories have started to combine and come together and so, I thought this was a great follow-up to our attachment podcast this last week, because really what the attachment science shows is, the more integrated my story is, the more I can accept the good, the bad, the ugly of all of me.

[Kyle]: The more comfortable the kid is, kids are gonna feel connected to me, because if I’m uncomfortable with any of those things, when there's shame about that kind of stuff, parts of me I wish weren't parts of me, I really end up getting into a lot of performance stuff. I end up trying to be somebody I’m not or I end up asking people around me to be something other than they are and so, really, we'll dive in a little more specific, but I want to give that big picture, that the basic idea of this podcast is the stories we believe about ourselves, guide how we parent and the legacies we leave our kids and what you find, is our kids will have to wrestle with those same stories, okay?

[Sara]: Yeah. So, I think-- This one does feel pretty big to me, I think. What do you mean an integrated story? What's a disintegrated story? And it just-- What you were saying about how it goes back to what was my childhood and we can look back at our childhood and there's little pieces that stand out and we hold those pieces, but sometimes we leave other pieces behind about our story. How are we shaped and molded and who were the people in our lives and what events happened in our lives and some of those things we don't want to go and touch anymore, we want to leave those out and when you integrate your story, it's going back and kind of re delving into each one of those things and you might need help doing this, because if you've had a lot of trauma in your background, you're going to need someone to help you do that, because it may be too hard to go back there, but as we're safely able to go back and pull our story together, like you said, all of it and then even today live this life of “I can accept and look at all of me and pull that together into a story, instead of just focusing on certain pieces”.

[Sara]: And children are so sensitive to that disintegrated story, they can kind of meet somebody and go “wait, what?” and even though they can't put words to it, they notice the pieces that something doesn't feel right here in your story and how you-- And it's not just “here's the story of my life”, it's how you present yourself, count that story you believe about yourself, what you look at in yourself, it affects how you interact with other people.

[Sara]: And how you interact with the world. How I feel like I can be successful at something new I 'm trying or I am afraid of this and this, those things all come from our story and the more we can pull those pieces together, children sense that and it feels secure and safe, even if you're not perfect, that you can hold all those pieces and talk about all those pieces, then that gives them the freedom. So, if I have a whole story, I give my kid the freedom to have a whole story too.

[Kyle]: Yeah. You know, I 'm thinking of a story that that I think is maybe simple to understand, so if you have one, I 'd love to hear the one you have, Sara. The one I think of that has a lot of energy around it and seems really weird and the kids wouldn't understand it unless I shared with them the story is, as a kid, growing up, we didn't have a lot of money and so, a lot of times my dad needed to fix things on his own and my dad, he can do that, but he's not necessarily a fix-it guy, that's not like, his strength, but he was always willing to give it a try. But typically, in that trying process, there was a lot of frustration and a lot of things might go wrong and lots of times if I was there, as a child, it seemed like you would get yelled at or you know, my dad would get frustrated because I gave him the wrong tool and I found myself always kind of really nervous in those moments. So, anytime my dad was about to fix something, he called me “hey! Why don't you come help me?”, right? I’m sure my dad was doing that because he wanted some help, but also wanted to teach me something, but the story I got in my head was “fixing things is no fun, it's always going to turn out bad” [Laughter

[Kyle]: So, I have done my best to stay away from any kind of fix-it project that has come up in our marriage and so, the silliest one I can point out, where to most people listening will go “yeah, that doesn't seem a big deal” is, we had a lamp go out. So, there was a lamp in the living room that stopped working. You look at the problem and you have a dad who's a fix-it guy, that's actually what he did for some of his life and you have a grandpa who's also a guy who can fix a lot of stuff and so, there was part of me of like “oh, I’m never going to be as good as her dad, her dad's such a fix-it guy”. So, when you looked at the lamp and said “hey Kyle, that broke, could you fix it?” it looks like an easy fix, that was like the shame came in like “oh my gosh, if she says it's an easy fix, then that means I’m supposed to think it's an easy fix. It's definitely not going to be an easy fix” [Laughter]

[Kyle]: So, I looked at that lamp and I hated that lamp, every time I-- For like about a month, I’m sure you remember this, Sara, I’d look at this lamp and I’d be like “oh, I hate that lamp” like, I even wanted to just get rid of the lamp. So, I feel like I went through all the stages of grief [Laughter] It was like, there was this just denial “the lamp it's not broken, it's fine, you know?”, to like “it's gonna be too much, let's just throw it away”. There was anger at it, you know? I even would walk in the living room and be like “I don't think we even need that lamp; I think it's great, I love the lighting in this living room” [Laughter]

[Kyle]: And so, it took seriously about a month before I finally was like “Kyle, you have got to face the story like, it doesn't have to turn out bad, it could be good”, you know? And so, when I finally got the courage to face the shame and the fear that was connected with that story, that I could never be good at fixing things, that if I try to it's always going to turn out bad, you know, that's the kind of story I had wired in my brain from a long history of seeing it happen and I went over to the lamp, I took your suggestion, I looked at it. I went to Lowe’s, talked to some guy, it really was just a little black switch [Laughter] It just needed to be-- A new black switch needed to be screwed on. It was not an electrical problem, there wasn't a big deal, it cost me two bucks and it took me about one minute to fix it and I felt so good [Laughter] It seemed so, but I felt so proud. I was happy to show you I had fixed it, I did it, but I felt like in that moment, I remember so clearly like “maybe the story doesn't have to be what I thought it was, maybe I don't have to fail every time when I try to fix something, it doesn't always have to turn out bad” and how has that changed my life going forward?

[Kyle]: Well, first, what it did before I did that moment, I don’t know if you remember this, Sara, anytime there was a fix-it opportunity, I would think to myself “I love doing things with my kids, I do want them with me, I would like to do this with them”, but I found when they were with me, I was upset at them the whole time, I was annoyed with every question they asked and the whole time I was just like, on edge, I was super anxious and annoyed and so, basically, I tell them just to go away. Because as part of me was like “I don't want them to see me like this, I don't want to repeat the story that I felt like happened with me”. But do you see how then I wasn't allowing the story to be anything other than that? You know, now the kids were going to be just as incompetent as I was about fixing things.

[Kyle]: They would have a different anxiety, but also have anxiety, because they would have no clue how to go about it, right? So, I was kind of increasing this, I was passing the story on and so, once I faced it and I thought “wait”, then I tried to keep a couple other ones. I’m very proud of the fact that I fixed our stove.

[Kyle]: I went on YouTube and I watched it.

[Sara]: That was a good fix.

[Kyle]: It was really awesome; I was surprised how easy it was. I was actually [Laughter] I did get advice from a couple guys, watched a YouTube video, which is an awesome way to learn things and I’m not like I’m engaging every fix-it opportunity, but I now am less scared and ashamed to do it.

[Sara]: You could pull your story together, pull back the past and face it differently.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and I can allow the kids to be a part of a new story for their life. Their life doesn't-- They don't have to see the fix-it stuff the way I did, because now I’m choosing to integrate that part of the story and allow the story to be reshaped, you know? And to tell a new one.

[Sara]: Yeah, it's sort of what-- It sort of gives you the freedom, otherwise you stay kind of locked in that place with those stories kind of shattered in your past, then you don't have the freedom to shape it into something else or make a different story or go forward and I love that example. I think we probably all have a lot of examples.

[Sara]: I remember-- I learned a long time ago, where I felt like I had to be really perfect at something or measure up and I remember once when I was 12, I was running a projector and for music and all I had to do, was lay the sheet on there, lay the right song on there and I noticed I laid it on there and I went back to my seat and feeling pretty good about I was doing this, I was staying up with the music and I noticed it was a little crooked and I at that moment, wanted just to cry, I felt like a horrible person and so, for a long time, I kind of carried that “you had to be very, very perfect if you did this job and your value was tied up in that” and that's something-- I think some of those stories like that, I know that about myself, I try to pull in those little pieces and integrate my story, but I think those things can hang on too and so, I was thinking as you were talking, that sometimes we-- There may be this moment where “oh, my story comes together and I’m free!”, but it also is a work over time.

[Sara]: Where things will come up and you'll have to face that part of your story again and you'll have to bring it back together again. You know, in my case it's more of a perfectionist or you have to do it right or you know, I was worthless because I messed it up, somebody else should be doing that job if I can't do it perfect and I see that throughout my life, in other places it'll kind of pop back up and I have to pull that in again and integrate that story, so that I don't-- Because I see that I do sometimes pass that on to my children, you know? “How could you mess that up”, you know? “How could you not think? How did you not notice the projector was crooked?” you know? “How did you not notice something?” and so, those moments will present themselves for you and it is sometimes hard work and sometimes it's maybe not so much, but you have to pull that in and take that moment. So, I was just thinking, how do you-- How do you pull your story together? How do you integrate it?

[Kyle]: I want to get there; I do have one more.

[Kyle]: In a positive way, this is a positive one, where I was thinking, as you were talking how just-- I’m wanting people to kind of think about how their stories guide their actions, okay? Like I’m thinking one of the things I love to do with the kids and my dad, is go to the professional soccer teams games here in town, right now they're called FC Tulsa, but they were called The Roughnecks. So, we go to the roughnecks and I found myself at those games, I always looked forward to it, I really enjoyed that and I was always drawn to the gift shop. I’d want to go to the gift shop and I’d be like “why every game do I--?” Lots of times I wouldn't buy anything, but I would go there and I’d be “oh, I want a new hoodie or I want a new hat or I want something else to support the team” and I watched my dad do the same thing at these games, he'd want to buy his grandkids something and I started realizing like “wait, as a kid, even though there was a lot of conflict with my dad, when we went to the roughnecks games as a kid, my dad in my mind was always so happy. He always seemed to enjoy being there and wanted to go to the gift shop” and I remember at my house as a kid, I had like a Roughnecks banner and a Roughnecks flag and I had all these different Roughnecks things and so, in a way like, I didn't even realize it, but that's why I was drawn to the gift shop.

[Kyle]: Because as a little kid, it was there at the soccer game, at the gift shop, that I could experience real joy with my dad and I felt like his story was whole at that place. He wasn't disintegrated, he was integrated, he felt like he was a good dad there and somehow, I was feeling like a good dad there too and so, it was no-- It would be no surprise if you watched my story, that I’m calling my dad and saying “hey, you want to go to the soccer game with me and the kids?” [Laughter] And we're doing this and having great times at it and so, I just before I get to your question, about how to integrate that like you're saying is, I first want people to be thinking about “how do I notice these stories and how they are disintegrating me?”, right? So, I want to be able to think about that, okay? So, before we get to how we bring it together is, I notice it and I love your feedback, I notice it when I’m feeling a lot of shame first, so shame comes first. You're like in that “I’m not a good fix-it guy, I never will be”, you know? “I’m not as good as her dad, my father-in-law fixing it”, you know, those kind of shaming thoughts, you know? Or in your case “I didn't do it right”, you know?

[Kyle]: So, the shaming thoughts come first and then, typically for me the feeling is either anger or anxiety, those two. If I’m getting really mad about something like, before we even do this podcast, I got kind of upset with you and just because there's this thing where I try to say something and you did what most people do and you just asked me to repeat what I said, but there's a story in my head as a little kid, that would happen a lot. I would say something and no one seemed to listen to what I was saying [Laughter] And so, I would feel a little hurt when somebody doesn't immediately listen or give me that focus, because it reminds me of a story that nobody's listening to me, nobody is paying attention to what I have to say or people are too distracted by other things, they think are more important than me, right?

[Kyle]: So, that's a sign, the fact that I got so upset and that I felt this anger or frustration about it, shows that there's a lack of integration with my story, you know? And so, I want to hear from what kind of feelings for you pop up, whenever the story is getting disintegrated.

[Sara]: I think some-- I think for me, sometimes I notice if I just want to actually shut down, avoid or shut down or just sort of escape the moment. Avoid the moment, I don't want to engage it, that's usually my sign. “Wait, what's going on? What am I--?” because I think some people are super aware of their feelings, other people almost shut down the feeling and so, if I notice that I shut down, I actually need to pull that back up and say “wait, what am I really feeling in this moment? What is going on?” and face it, versus just try to let it, you know, brush it aside and continue on.

[Kyle]: So, what you're saying is you kind of withdraw, I kind of attack [Laughter]

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: So, that's the two ways--

[Sara]: That sounds about right.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, if I’m attacking, it's probably because there's something in the story that I don't like and that I don't-- And what we know-- I’m wanting to talk about this, Sara, with our listeners because I think, it's such an integral part of what I see every day with kids when I’m helping them is, these kids are trying to rewrite stories that they don't even know exist. So, I purposely wrote this one because I thought, there's so many times I’m asking clients to just be open about your story, you know? To just say it like, if I could say to the kids what I just said to you, that I have the story that people don't really care what I have to say and don't want to listen to it, you know? And so, that's why I got upset when you did-- If I can reveal that, then it helps the kid go “oh, it wasn't me, it was you, it was your story and you were trying to--”.

[Kyle]: I gave the example back in the earlier episodes when we talked about shame, about us homeschooling and how Abby asked me a question I didn't know the answer and I felt stupid. So, me, that shame came and I attacked with shame back, to try to say “don't ask me those questions because I don't want to-- I don't want to listen to that story”, you know? I even find a lot of times what kids are doing, is trying to redeem or heal or fix stories that they don't even know they're trying to redeem or heal. They're really broken things in their parents that they don't even know that the parent has passed that on to the kid. So, I just-- First of all, I just think it's great for me to be aware of the stories I’m believing, so that's the starting point for me is, when I’m getting really angry about something or really anxious about something, there's probably a story in there that I feel shame about and if I can just-- You went to “how do I heal this?”, first, if I can be honest with myself that that story exists, hold that story with open hands. Most of the time we see that story, we want to throw it away or we go “I wish that story wasn't here”, so I just act like it's not there, but I actually want to be open. So, if I can be open with somebody, thank goodness I have a fantastic person in you or I could share that story with you and be open with you, right?

[Kyle]: But you could do with a friend, you could do with a counselor, whoever you feel comfortable sharing that story with and then, the next part of that, is to integrate that story by being open to other stories that could happen. So, in the short term, the kind of little pictures, maybe I don't feel competent to fix everything, but I can fix something, you know? And it goes back, this goes back to the growth mindset stuff, right?

[Kyle]: So, I can fix something, I have fixed things, you know? [Laughter] It's not like I can't fix anything, but those narratives that are based in shame and fear that we're-- They will say I can't fix anything. No, of course I can fix some things. So, if I can fix some things, that means I can probably fix other things, you know? So, for me that's kind of how I do it, I don't-- How would you say you integrate?

[Sara]: Well, I think it's honestly just amazing when you just look at the story like, you know, when you go “oh, I think this is my story, this is what I’m believing”, that alone is so healing sometimes and then, I think for me, giving yourself the compassion and not coming in with judgment in that moment, but just saying “oh, this is what I’m feeling, this is what happened” and just giving yourself the grace you would give someone else if they told you that story, you know? When someone tells you some story about their childhood or some belief system they believe now and just being that listening ear and you can do that for yourself, you can give yourself compassion and just holding yourself in that moment and not even needing to repair it or anything, but just holding yourself in that moment with compassion, with self-compassion is, I think a really great step in in that story, being able to be something different in the future.

[Kyle]: So, I like to just visually think of it like a circle, Sara, that I want to be a fully integrated person, a circle is a cool picture of full integration and when we're talking about being disintegrated, it's like a piece of that circle is moving out and then typically for me, like I said, anxiety and anger are the key signs that that's happening. So, when you're-- I love that the word grace, I didn't even throw that out there, I like that that grace and compassion for myself, allows me to re bring that back in, reintegrate it, you know? To where that little piece of the pie isn't all that I am.

[Kyle]: It's just part of me, right? And that I can love that part and that once again, this is why I think I’m so passionate about this, Sara [Laughter] And I want to talk about it, is because I think that's so important that the way this happens-- Last time is -- That story comes out in our interactions with our children.

[Kyle]: And if I can show them grace and compassion in that moment, it actually helps me integrate that story within me.

[Sara]: Yeah, that's the magic of it, right? [Laughter]

[Kyle]: And yeah, and when I’m filled with the shame and the anger, when I’m almost every time I’m doing that to my kids, it's because there's a piece of the story. I mean, I’ve heard so many clients say this, Sara and I’m sure you've experienced this too, where I will go through a whole session with a client, with a parent and they will tell me about all the things they're afraid of with their kid and really when it gets down to the end, the thing they're most afraid of, is their kid is going to become them.

[Kyle]: And that tells me the story isn't integrated, yeah?

[Kyle]: And typically, what I say back is, what would be so bad if they became you?

[Sara]: Yeah, and then the tears fall [Laughter]

[Kyle]: [Laughter] That’s right, he’s like “you don't know me though”, yes and--Yes, of course. I know, yeah.

[Sara]: And one hand, you want your child to become you and on the other hand you're like “no, no, no, not that, not that” and you're really afraid, you're afraid that you're going to pass it on and you want the best because you love your child, but that is that disintegrated story happening.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I love that having the grace and compassion to know our kids are going to become us, you know? But they're also going to become them and that's-- So, you know, you and I started the counseling practice called Parenting Legacy and this whole podcast that we're doing today is at the core of that, is it wasn't that I was afraid they were going to become me, I just wanted them to be free to become them and so, I know that they're going to take parts of me that I don't want them to take [Laughter] And there's going to be parts that I hope they do take, you know, that I really hope they get from me and you know, I don't actually get to pick and choose those things, you know? [Laughter] So, my goal is to just leave a better legacy for them, that frees them to guide their own story.

[Sara]: Yeah, who are they, what’s their story.

[Kyle]: Yes, and they can-- They can loosely hold that I am mom, I am dad, I am my brother, I am my sister, there's pieces of all these different people that have impacted me and literally shaped my brain neurologically to see the world in a certain way, you know? I mean, I actually think there was just-- Sometimes in sports when the kids weren't as good at soccer as I would like them to be, that would pop up, I’d get angry about that. Why was I getting angry? Because there was a story that I wasn't as good as soccer as I wanted to be and so, somehow if I just got mad enough at them, they were gonna be better at soccer, which every time I did that, the kids said “that doesn't work”.

[Sara]: I think that's a real common one, that vicariously living through your child, you know? “I want to be a dancer, so my daughter's gonna be a dancer or a sports player or you know, really good at school and I wasn't good at school”, you know, those things where-- What you see you can-- That's a real easy one to pull up when you see “oh, I really want this for my kid because of my story”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah. So, I hope listeners what you're getting from this today, I hope it wasn't too deep, I hope it was-- We tried to break it down, but just the power of the stories we believe about ourselves and it's important, not just for our own health, but also for the legacy we're leaving for the kids, because I don't want my story to dictate their story, I want them to be able to feel free to write their own story with me, you know? A lot of times I use the word I want them to be able to co-create a story with me and I think that when I’m not congruent with my story, there's no co-creating, it's like I just create the story for them, you know? And I want to create the story with them.

[Kyle]: So, I would ask the listeners just to-- If this touches you, we'd love to hear your comments and hear how this impact you, but I just asked you today, think about your story. Think about the times when you're getting-- Feeling shame or getting mad or-- What is that about your story? What's difficult about integrating that? And could you do what Sara said, show yourself some compassion and grace in that moment and then, I would encourage you-- I love to take that next step and just reveal it to my kids and to say “hey, this is how come I got so upset, was really the story I was telling myself” and I’m stealing that from Brene Brown, but I like that the story I’m telling myself is this and that allows the kid go “oh, so your story isn't my story, that's just yours, because I saw it completely differently”, you know? And it's really cool to see the story they were telling themselves and almost every time, it's very different than the story I was telling myself.

[Sara]: And what a great way to model. They see you as they grow up and they see you modeling that then, how much it gives them the tools to be able to do that as they continue on in their story and they're going to-- This is a process you spend your whole life doing.

[Sara]: It never ends.

[Kyle]: So, we'd love to hear your comments back. Please go on there and share this podcast with other people you think that, you know, they're kind of reflecting on their story or feeling the shame and anxiety about their story and I hope you find this helpful today and hey, if it's snowing where you're at, where it's probably gonna snow almost everywhere today and tomorrow, hope you and your kids have had a fantastic time playing in the snow this past week or so.

[Sara]: Yeah, make some memories.

[Kyle]: That's right. So, have a great day and enjoy changing your story.

[Kyle]: The Art of Raising Humans podcast should not be considered or used as counseling, but for educational purposes only.