My sister and niece were in from Seattle last week. They stayed with my parents. Apparently our parents were, let’s just say obsessing about something, so my sister sent me a text:
Was our family always this dysfunctional?
Of course the answer is yes and no. My parents have gotten more set in their ways as time has gone on. But, there was always lots of crazy going on in the house.
Whenever I’ve written about my family I get a variety of responses from readers.
- I shouldn’t talk badly about my parents
- I should get over my past
- I shouldn’t expect my parents to apologize
- What would I say if my daughter said things like that about me
Which leads me to my conclusions:
- those who have had a relatively functional childhood can’t understand those who didn’t
- just because someone turned out relatively OK doesn’t mean they don’t have demons
- Sometimes the person who never speaks ill of their childhood is far worse off than those who complain because they are pushing their feelings aside
- if your child tells you how your actions affected them, you should listen with an open mind
I think that people should learn to move on from the mistakes of their parents. I firmly believe at some point you have to stop blaming your parents for your failures.
It doesn’t mean that parents are blameless.
The actions of parents do affect the person you were, the person you are, and the person you will become. Your background matters.
I know that I have made some mistakes with my life because I was trying to get my parents approval. I tried to do the things they wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do. Bottom line: This made me a very unhappy person.
In order to become a more content, more stable person, I needed to admit to myself that my parents were wrong about a lot of things. They made mistakes.
This does not mean I love them less. I just accepted that they are human and flawed. They thought life should be lived a certain way- they weren’t trying to hurt me. They were doing the best that they could.
But this doesn’t mean I won’t talk about what they did, especially to them. I don’t need an apology when I talk to them. I would like them to listen with an open mind. Listen to my point of view. I don’t expect them to like the criticism. I do expect them to love me enough to hear my out. I hope that they love me enough to listen.
Is there anything worse than someone you love not listening to you?
Lack of communication is one of the largest problems we face as humans.
If your kids are talking to you, you need to listen.
Which leads me to the next point:
What if my daughter said the same things to me.
First off: I know I have made parenting mistakes. I’ve probably made more mistakes than done things right. My daughter will tell me if I’m doing something that hurts her. I admit, it hurts to have your child be truthful with you about your parenting.
It really hurts.
Sometimes I want to cover my ears and not listen.
But I realize that if I am to have an adult child/parent relationship with her, I need to listen. I need to hear her out. I need to acknowledge that I have, at times, been a lousy parent. I need her to get things out so that we can move on to a better relationship. I want to have a good relationship with my daughter as time goes on. We can only have that relationship if we communicate.
We do need to accept our pasts and move on. But we also need to acknowledge the feelings that come along with it.