re-Viewing my Childhood

As I slowly pivot into this new Adventure of foster parenting I’m astounded by the little ways the Universe is supporting me.

By definition, as a nomad, I don’t have a home of my own to return to so my parents offered for me to stay with them until I figure it all out.

I am beyond grateful for my parents*. One of the things I’m really proud of is how we have managed to navigate the tricky terrain of shifting out of the parent/child dynamic into acknowledging each other as adults. They’re still my parents, I respect and honor them. And they relate to me both as their baby and an adult who’s choices they respect and support. We enjoy each other, we are friends.

While I’ve had extended visits in my parents home, this is the first time since I was a teenager that I have moved back in with my parents, full time, longterm. I’ll be here for at least 3 months.

A lot has changed in 20 years.

I no longer have a bedtime, get yelled at for not cleaning my room, I don’t have chores or a curfew. 🙂 I’ve treated the arrangement the same as I have all of my barter for lodging arrangements over the past few years. We agreed on how I’d pull my own weight, boundaries, communication. So far it’s all been great and logistically, all is well.

But it’s still weird.

There are remnants of my childhood everywhere.

Like the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning :

This box contains cabbage patch dolls and the diaper bag

Or this spot on the wall of the guest room I’m sleeping in which was once the room my brother and I shared as toddlers.

The growth chart – marks of our height over the years.

My high school senior photo is on the living room wall.

A 16 year old me.

The house has been remodeled, but there are still remnants of the house I grew up in.

Notice the total retro flashback, wallpaper included.
That wood panelling used to be on all the walls.

My old bedroom is now Mom’s office, when I go into the closet for office supplies I see boxes of my childhood toys, the Survival Skills for Kids books I read and claimed qualified me to babysit at age 11 (it worked too!).

The organized memories

Given that I am pivoting my life and preparing for this new Adventure of foster parenting, it feels appropriate to return to my roots, to be surrounded by vestiges of my own childhood. What’s interesting is what has come up emotionally.

I expected to have some feelings about the physical surroundings and throwbacks.

What I didn’t expect was the impact of living under my parent’s roof when they are different people than they were when I was a kid.

Now, I’ve already said, we’ve grown, we’ve shifted, I’m well aware of all of this, proud of it even. And yet, some part of me, my inner child, was somehow expecting the mood and vibe to be similar to when I was a kid. And it’s not. And that’s weird and awesome.

Let me explain.

I inherited my own Bipolar Disorder from Dad’s side of the family. When I was a kid they hadn’t found the right medication balance for him so we had to tiptoe a bit because he had two modes, content or rage. Because of this, some part of me expected to still be tiptoeing around Dad’s mood swings, for Mom to accommodate Dad out of a desire to keep the peace.

However, much has changed.

In the first couple weeks of living with them, my Mom became annoyed at something my Dad did. And she told him about it, bluntly. I physically flinched and mentally judged her for poking the bear. I gathered my computer and retreated to my room in anticipation of Dad’s explosive temper.

Now. I have years of evidence that this is no longer how he operates. Dad has evolved and there are better medications and he’s much, much more balanced. Mom has evolved too and no longer accommodates him when he does swing. I know this.

But being back in their home, surrounded by physical reminders of times past, I somehow reverted to old habits and reactions. I didn’t even realize I did this until later.

This reaction in and of itself was fascinating to notice. To realize that some part of me is still dealing with some childhood traumas.

But wait, there’s more.

After I retreated to my room, what followed was something small and yet transformational for my inner child. I could overhear my parents bicker, work through it, find a solution and move on. No explosions, no tension in the house. Just healthy, adult conversation.

This experience was incredibly moving for me. It brought tears to my eyes. I’m tearing up again as I write this and I’ve been searching, seeking to describe the emotions that inspired my tears.

What I’ve come to realize is that even though I’ve developed a healthy friendship with my parents, part of me still worried about them and the way I handle conflict as an adult is heavily influenced by the patterns of conflict in my parent’s house when I was a child.  There was something incredibly healing about being given that private window into their growth and evolution that somehow freed me up. It inspired me.

My Parents in the 70’s

My parents have been married for 45 years. They were married for nearly a decade before I was born, prior to me they fostered boys. The parents those boys experienced were different from the parents I experienced because my parents were different people. My Platonic Wife has siblings 20 years younger than her, her baby sister is being raised by a different set of parents than she was because her parents have changed and evolved as people which impacts how they parent.

Living with my parents again, even with our healthy adult oriented relationship, has given me the experience of being parented by a whole new set of parents. Twenty years, empty nest, new medications, retirement – so many factors have changed.

My parents present day

As a child, my mom was around. All. The. Time. She homeschooled us and we spent a ton of time with her. Dad worked long hours to support the family so Mom could stay home which left Mom without much of a life outside of the family. Now, twenty years later, she has a very full life – she’s gone most of the time. Dad is retired and while he volunteers a lot, he’s home most of the time. This is a complete 180 from my childhood. I have spent more time alone with my dad in the past 6 weeks than in my entire life previous. No exaggeration.

As a kid, I used to wish that Dad would come home and play with us, ask us about school, be involved. But he was exhausted and only had the energy to eat and go to sleep. My adult self completely understands this, but my kid self, she felt a huge missing from my Dad. Now, every day, Dad asks me what I’m up to, tells me about his day, reminds me to take an umbrella or avoid rush hour. It’s such a 180 that, on the occasions when he interrupts a client call or my train of though, I have to remind myself not to be annoyed by how involved he wants to be, it’s literally all I wanted as a kid and here I am, receiving it as an adult.

Me with my Parents in Denver in 2017.

I’ve gotten to see them through a different lens, to be reminded of how much they’ve grown. As humans, as parents, as partners who have been married and done life together for 45 years of ups and downs. It’s been healing for me to revisit some of my childhood ghosts and re-view them through adult my adult perspective. I’ve found that even though I’m adult, I’m still their child and experiencing the parents they are today was exactly what I needed.

Like I said, the Universe has my back and conspires to put me where I need to be. I’ve found another layer of healing from my childhood traumas, an inspiration of how I want to parent and a renewed closeness to my parents as my Parents.

*I feel it important to say here, the trauma that was triggered from my childhood – it’s nothing special or unique and no reflection on my parents. Every child has experienced something that registered as traumatic to them. No parent can prevent this. Its part of childhood, its part of the human experience. In no way do I mean to imply that my parents weren’t good parents, I am so glad I chose them and would do it again.

The Newest Adventure

Adventure can describe a lot of different scenarios.

For a long time, the Adventures of Sunni involved me honing my intellect and leapfrogging my way up the corporate ladder.

For the past three years, Adventure has involved me living a nomadic lifestyle, living out of my suitcase traveling around the world.

For the past 6 months, Adventure has involved me wandering around the US on an endless road trip.

Now, it’s time to embark on a new type of Adventure – creating a family.

I have returned to my childhood home, while I will always be a traveler my nomading days are behind me. My new Adventure is focused on becoming a foster parent to teenagers. This is no small task. The system looks for stability in foster parents and a nomadic lifestyle is not that. So I will spend the next 18 months returning to a more traditional lifestyle, mentoring foster kids, completing classes and generally proving my ability to be stable and become responsible for kids.

I have wanted to foster for as long as I can remember. Specifically teens as they are an often neglected demographic and I really enjoy them. I’ve been mentoring teens as they age out of foster care for about 5 years and I’m ready to go deeper, get closer and work with them younger.

Lately, much of my time has been invested in creating online group programs and working with folks 1:1 as an Intuitive Strategist. I guide my clients in designing a life they love through the practical application of spiritual principles. It has been so fulfilling and rewarding to see adults discover their own power and really define their own path through life. I am  eager to take this to the next level in working with teens.

An element of this new Adventure that is really exciting for me is that I’m not alone. Kirk is very much onboard and we are in this together, we are ready to start a family together, in our own way. I’m grateful for his partnership as patience is going to be needed and that is something he excels at far more than I. Not only in working with the kids but in the steps required to get us to that point, groundwork must be laid and of course, I want it now! 🙂

I’ll share more about the experience of shifting modes and entering the system to foster as things unfold.