Changing the World, One Happy Family at a Time

Since we started The Happy Family Movement, we’ve talked a lot about WHAT it’s all about. The thing we haven’t ever talked about is the WHY. For a long time, I didn’t really think the WHY was all that important.

Okay, that’s only partly true. I haven’t shared the WHY because it’s not an easy story to tell. But it’s a story that needs to be told, so here goes…

My parents met when they were teenagers. They spent their youth experimenting with drugs (it was the late 60’s/early 70’s, so I guess that’s what teenagers did back then). When they were in their 20’s, they got married, but the drugs continued. They decided to have a baby, but surprise! They ended up with twins instead.

I’m not sure exactly why their marriage fell apart, but I’m certain it was a combination of money problems, the stress of raising two kids, and well, the drugs probably didn’t help either. Either way, they divorced when my brother Rob and I were toddlers. My dad refused to pay child support, so she refused to let us see him.

When I was five-ish, my mom met someone and we moved to Las Vegas. My little brother Kerry was born soon after. Things didn’t work out with my mom and Kerry’s dad and before you know it, we were living in a trashy trailer park. Her next boyfriend was a screamer and a hitter. It wasn’t long before she started screaming and hitting too.

From what I’ve been told, my mom became more addicted, and this time, to worse drugs. To pay for her habit, she sold drugs out of our home.

I have very few memories of our three years in Vegas, but the one that stands out the most is the day she took Rob and I out for ice cream and told us that our dad had died. He had been in a terrible car accident, had 3rd degree burns on 90% of his body, and he only lived two days after that.

I don’t remember crying or even feeling sad. I have exactly zero memories of my dad and at eight years old, I’m not even sure I understood death. I still carry guilt for my reaction that day. As an adult, I just feel sad and angry that he was alive for eight years of my life, yet I didn’t get to have him in my life.

Not too long after my dad died, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) brought all four of us back to Kansas City. We moved into an old house in Grandview. My brothers and I started school and things seemed like they might be okay.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if she continued the drug use or not. I think my mind sheltered me from that. But I can tell you, either way, the years of drug use changed her in such a way that she was not able to be a good mother.

Once we moved back to Kansas City, she never got a job. We lived on every form of government handout there is. You would think that having your mom at home all the time would be great. It could have been… But she didn’t DO anything. She didn’t clean, she barely cooked. When we would get home from school, she would be so engrossed in reading a book, that we wouldn’t even get a ‘how was your day?’.

There was a time when she watched kids at the house to make some extra cash. The truth is, I watched those kids. And some mornings, when the kids would show up at 6 am, she would still be at the pool hall. She would wait until we were asleep and then go out all night. Most nights, she made it back before we woke up, but it didn’t happen every time.

As I got older, I tried desperately to do anything I could to win my mom’s approval. I got straight A’s, was captain of the cheerleading squad, played varsity soccer, student council, senior class treasurer, national honor society… it didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do that was good enough.

When I was a teenager, I became defiant. I was angry. I was such a good kid, but she just couldn’t see that. She called me names no child should ever hear their mother say. She abused me, physically and emotionally. She manipulated me. She stole money from me.

And the thing that hurts the most, to this day, is that she didn’t love me. She didn’t love me the way that a mom should. I didn’t understand that as a child. As an adult, it’s still hard to understand. But I realize that doing hard drugs changes people. It changed her emotionally and she wasn’t able to love. I’m still working on forgiving her for that.

To her credit, I’m certain that she loved me. And I know that she did the best she could, but she was unable to show her love. She said the words, but her actions said something entirely different.

But you see, I wanted that SO badly as a kid. I just wanted to feel loved. And as a mom, I want nothing more than for my own children to know EVERY SINGLE DAY, that I love them. And I tell them… with my words AND with my actions.

I used to think that our goal with HFM was to encourage and inspire family togetherness. But now I know that’s just one part of it. Because the truth is, no matter what issues you carry from your own childhood, I’m here to tell you that you can break the cycle. You can choose to parent in a way that fosters a strong relationship between you and your kids, regardless of whether you have a great relationship with your own parents or not.

Every day, I still fight the feelings of being unworthy of love. I still struggle with feeling like I’m good enough. But I keep fighting, for my kids sake. And for the future generations of the Solar family.

I still struggle every day with the emotional scars of my childhood, but everyday, I wake up and I make the choice to parent with love and joy. And you can too. Together, we’ll rewrite the way our generation views parenting. And together, we will change the world, one happy family at a time.

I want to say thank you to my amazing husband Josh and my BFF Blair… you guys were with me all along the way and I wouldn’t have made it here without your love and support. To my friends Angie and Natalie M., thanks for always lending an ear. To my friends Amy P. & Natalie N., you have both pushed me to embrace who I am and you remind me that I can change the world. I love you all! And to our awesome readers, thanks for sticking with us and for taking the time to help spread the message of The Happy Family Movement. It means a lot to our family.

change the world one happy family at a time

Jenny (290 Posts)

Jenny Solar is the co-founder of The Happy Family Movement and Phone Monsters, Inc. She's a wife to Josh and mama to three kiddos: Max, Ava, and Lia. She's passionate about creating memorable experiences for her family and inspiring others to do the same.


25 comments
JenniferHurlburt
JenniferHurlburt

Jenny. I am all teary here at work. I always wanted to know more of your story as you have alluded to it but knew that everyone has their own way of healing and dealing. When I listened to the first video in the Intentional Parenting course I came and searched this out asap. I also experienced a traumatic childhood (http://www.hushednomore.com/2012/08/29/meet-little-one/) and I, too, know that pain of feeling unworthy in the eyes of a parent. It's still hard, sometimes, to realize that I don't get to have that amazing extended family. However, like you said, Brandon and I get to create it for our own family and their kids, and their kids....It's a pretty amazing thing we're doing actually - we're creating a new cycle of love, acceptance and happiness. I don't "know" you but I feel proud of you for the family you are creating! I LOVED what you said about together we will rewrite our generations view of parenting :) I didn't talk much about my parenting in that blog I wrote because it really was my "coming out" story but I feel like we have a lot in common on that front. Seeing what I saw, living what I lived through...it just makes me so inspired to give my children a completely different concept of what family really is. Thank you so much for sharing, it makes me feel a bit less alone in the battle of overcoming childhood ghosts (sturggles with self-worth) while at the same time raising a joy-filled, happy family :) ...much love!

Rosemary
Rosemary

Wow, Jenny! Thank you for sharing that. I had no idea. I think you have done such a tremendous job overcoming that I wouldn't have guessed this about you in a million years. I know your kids will have absolutely no doubts how much you and Josh love and cherish them completely!

Monica
Monica

I understand, I've been in a similar "there", and 15 years ago, I made the same choice to break the cycle. Everyday or moment I may not have acted perfectly, but I can truly say the commitment I made all those years ago has contributed to raising the most amazing sons a mother could dream of! My Oldest will be 15 in a matter of days and the wonderment I still find in being his mom and the light he brings to my life is so very special. Thank you for your words. Thank you for the reminder to try to forget my scars as well...

Kristen
Kristen

Jenny...this is lovely and brave. Kudos to you for breaking the cycle and for being such a remarkable soul. I love you!

Ashley
Ashley

After following your blog for a few years, you have slowly been breaking down the walls I have around the notion of children. For a long time I have not considered them to be in my future. But each entry and photo of your family interacting has really began to shape my heart over time. Thanks for sharing. I've always though you guys were the best parents I've ever seen and wondered how you never seem to be too exhausted!

Ashley
Ashley

Thanks so much for sharing. Simultaneously so heart-breaking and inspiring. Cannot wait to meet your amazing and beautiful family!

erin
erin

thank you for sharing your story! very moving and inspiring :)

erin
erin

What an inspiration you are! First with my clean, clutter free kitchen ;)... now this! I read this earlier, at work.. and I was totally crying. You are so brave for sharing all of this and you will really inspire so many people to break the cycle of family crap and really work to heal and make things better for our children! It came at a great time for me. I get really anxious a lot of the time and, I am about to fly to Las Vegas for my sisters wedding and, I get all wrapped up in my "stuff" and your post inspired me to break free from focusing on my issues (a lot of them are old habits that come from my parents issues being passed down) and be there for my sister... to show my kids that you can feel afraid but, still do the things that you love. When I look at your photos.. you seem to just be beaming with LOVE! It's evident in the pic of you w/ your kids and husband. Most of all.. I wanted to say. When you wrote me a recent e-mail.. you signed it "much love" and i just loved that you wrote that to a stranger. It felt so brave and vulnerable (2 things I wish I had more of) of you to put that love out there to someone you didn't know. Like I said, you are an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing this :)

Millie
Millie

Jenny, you are amazing.

Rachel Boatright DeVault
Rachel Boatright DeVault

I love your honesty and openness. I'm so impressed--inspired--by your cause. I think you are so incredible!

Lindsay Bowen
Lindsay Bowen

That was amazing. I have felt those same feelings from my dad growing up and have spent much of my adult life validating that I am worthy of love and that he is the one who missed out on my life and my love, not vice versa. Thanks so much for sharing! Realy, it was amazing. YOU are amazing.

Tasha
Tasha

Jenny, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. It brought tears to my eyes. You have given me a desire to be the very best wife and momma I can be. I am proud to know you.

Jessie Emeric
Jessie Emeric

You are an amazing woman and honestly, you inspire me to be a better mom. Thanks for sharing your story, I'm sure that wasn't easy! xoxo

Aunt Julie
Aunt Julie

Jenny, I never knew we had so much in common. I had similiar issues with my father, and when I had kids, I was determined to break the pattern. You are correct. Our parenting doesn't effect just our own kids but our kids kids and so on down the line. I still struggle with the same issues you do and I'm a lot older than you. But how lucky of us to find the perfect partner to share our journey. You and Josh are not only great parents, but you are perfect role models for Lili and Adam. They've even said so. We love you dearly.

Nikki
Nikki

Jenny Solar! You are a beautiful bright light in this world. You have to believe it -- your husband and children do. Your friends do. You are passionate, giving and you should be so very proud of who you are as a mother. Your children will grow up and know what love is. They will show other's and when the time has come to be blessed with a husband and wife, oh won't that be the ultimate pay off where you will see their other half and their children grow and light this world up with that love that you so graciously shared.

Carolyn
Carolyn

You are succeeding! How about THAT? But really, this needs to be a book, because so many want to do what you are doing, but can't seem to figure out how. Thank you for your courage.

Bri
Bri

Jenny...I know how hard it is to share these kinds of stories from your past (I have some similar ones). But I have to say that seeing these kinds of stories shared means so much to me! I think there can be such pressure in our "Pinterest-perfect" society that we can feel like such outcasts b/c our past isn't pretty and shiny and something we want to recreate. I also hate that there is such shame to share the difficult parts of our lives and pasts...but so many people have gone through similar issues! "She said the words, but her actions said something entirely different." This really resonated with me and I'm actually still struggling with issues with my mom b/c they continue to resurface. I constantly worry about whether I am like my parents and it scares the bejezus out of me! Just wanted to let you know that you are NOT alone! And the legacy you are living and leaving for your kids is a testament to how much you love them and how hard you are clearly working to overcome your past. You're giving me hope :)

Nichole Burnett
Nichole Burnett

Thank you for sharing your story! You are such an inspiration for me as a parent. My childhood was different than yours, but it has always been my goal to make my children's childhood the happiest it can be. A childhood better than I could have imagined. It's nice to hear your encouraging words. xo

Dana
Dana

you are both so amazing. Love to you from our family to yours.

Dennis
Dennis

I am happy for you! It is amazing the things that happen to people yet they can make great life choices. My childhoold was similiar to yours and like you, my wife and I have choseen to stop the cycle! Thanks for leading by example!

Sara
Sara

Jenny, you are awesome, thanks for sharing your story. Your children are so lucky that you have made the CHOICE and decision to break the cycle. But not only break it ... break it in such a powerful loving way. Amazing! Thanks for keeping it real. xo

Natalie
Natalie

Oh Jenny!!!!!! You are amazing <3 I am so proud of you <3 You are an amazing wife, mother, and friend! xoxoxo! You are tucked in my heart pocket forever!!! You are brave for sharing and truly inspirational to others. You have changed my world forever. And I am better for it. Love you always!

Angi
Angi

Jenny... I know it took a lot to share that. And I have to tell you that I would have never guessed that you had this in your past. In the brief time we met (Breathe Las Vegas) I could tell that you were very passionate about your family especially your children! You are an AMAZING mother and I think it's totally awesome what the Happy Family Movement is doing! So keep on keeping on sister! You are changing the world, one happy family at a time!!! Hugs!

Kathryn
Kathryn

Thank you for sharing that! I'm in tears as I read this post. You are an awesome mom! Don't ever doubt you are enough because you are AMAZING!! You have definitely broken the cycle. I can tell how much you and Josh genuinely love your sweet kiddis. It is very evident in your photography and how you speak of them. They are blessed to have you as parents!!. You guys always make me happy! Thanks for sharing your life & HFM! Big hugs sent your way!!

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  1. […] I’m sure you’ll find yourself nodding furiously as you read. ¬†Jenny recently shared a beautiful, honest and vulnerable post about overcoming a really difficult childhood and choosing to parent with love and joy. ¬†She truly […]

  2. […] own life experience and future. For an inspirational account of someone who is making this work, go here. I LOVE what the Solars are doing with The Happy Family Movement. Every post is about making […]

  3. […] Changing the World, One Happy Family at a Time. […]