There’s no such thing as a school for parenting. All of us (albeit in differing degrees) hold some grudge against our parents. “My dad was overcritical.” “My mom was too strict.” And while the hurt happened years ago, we continue to propagate it by bringing the shadows of the past into current relationships. We see parents in our spouses, our co-workers, and repeat the mistakes with our children. What can we do?
One of the first steps in healing our relationship with our parents is to see it for what it is: a decision to remain a victim. In a way, we’re still little kids clinging to them, demanding the security and the love or attention we never felt we got. A part of us has never grown up, and that is the part that won’t let go.
But there’s one thing that adults can do, that our old “child selves” could not, and that is to see that our parents were not superhuman. When we were four years old they seemed larger than life, and one by one our unrealistic expectations were dashed. All these years we hoped they would say sorry and tell us we were “okay” and take back all they did. But they won’t, and some can’t—because they honestly don’t know any better. No parent is perfect, and many of them have deep-rooted emotional issues too. It is extremely liberating to tell yourself, “They loved me the best way they knew how.”
Then, we must sever the emotional strings that drag us down. We have to stop looking for the Magic Moment or Word from them to make us feel whole. We are adults who can now find our own sense of fulfillment, set our own belief systems, and no longer need their permission to do what we love. You may even want to write an entry in your journal on all the things you wanted your parents to say. If they won’t say it to you, say it to yourself.
And when we honor that voice in us, and actually listen to ourselves (“What do I want?” “What makes me feel whole?”) we actually become happier—and it’s easier to forgive our parents from this point of view. The pain is no longer blinding. We can may even feel compassion towards them, or at least a sense of peace. We may not have felt loved as a child, but we have found love as an adult—and when you love your life this much, there is no room for resentment anymore.
Photo from hollymandel.wordpress.com