By Jasjit Sangha
I recently found out that my children have a fork in the house that they refuse to eat with – they call it the “cursed fork”. I was oblivious to how this fork attained this notoriety and would just quickly exchange the fork for another one if I handed it to them in error, so we could get started with our meal. Since mealtimes were often squeezed in between rehearsals, sport team practices or other commitments, I was just grateful to have the whole family in the same place. Getting to the bottom of my children’s idiosyncrasies was not always on my mind.
When my curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided to take a moment and find out the backstory on the “cursed fork, I was very humbled by their answer. I was embarrassed to find out that the “cursed fork” referred to to a fork I had grabbed in a moment of anger and thrown against the wall, but it had missed the wall and instead slammed into an antique wall cabinet and cracked the glass door.
When they reminded my of that unconscious moment I felt a wave of remorse – especially because it was firmly etched into their memory but I had forgotten all about it as it had happened years ago. Luckily for me, they were able to laugh about it with lightheartedness instead of disdain. They forgave me very easily but it took me a lot longer to forgive myself.
The “cursed fork” led to me to reflect on many other moments in which I had acted unconsciously as a mother and stepmother.
As a stepmother, this feeling of remorse was further exacerbated by the fact that I knew my early years as a stepmother were very stressful. I had many, many unconscious moments when I resisted changing myself while taking on my new role as a stepmother in a mixed race family.
Instead I used to try to impose my values, informed by the Punjabi culture I grew up with on to my stepdaugthers – which they resisted. The resulting battle of the wills was a source of stress for everyone and at times my anger led me to say something or take an action that I later regretted.
Over the years I have developed a deeper awareness of my feelings and my thoughts and live much more consciously. I am less likely to have a knee-jerk response in a moment of a tension and instead just take a moment, and respond in a more thoughtful way. This has made a world of difference in all my relationships with my family. But sometimes I still feel a sense of remorse over moments when my desire to win an argument or have the family acquiesce to my will, leads to moments which result in a “cursed fork” in the household.
As mothers and stepmothers I know it can be so easy to have regrets about the past when there are so many chaotic moments in family life. However, I also feel like we need to have compassion and forgive ourselves for times in which we were not at our best.
Forgiving ourselves can be hard because as South Asian women we may feel a strong sense of obligation and duty to our families and blame ourselves for any issues in the family, or have others tell us that it was all our fault.
Although learning to forgive myself can be a challenge at times, I find that when I genuinely let go of a past regret I feel lighter, happier and more of a sense of connection with my family. As mothers and stepmothers we are going to make mistakes and never going to be perfect. Accepting the past and learning from it can be the greatest gift we take away from our past experiences.
Have you ever had trouble letting go of the past? Does it effect how you relate to your family? Can you find a way to forgive yourself?
Would love to hear your stories in the comments below!
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