“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” – Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
In the last month, I have had a number of conversations with people close to me about family. In each case I am reminded of how complicated it is to parent over a lifetime, just as it is difficult to grow up without any resentments or pain stemming from the relationship a child has with her parent.
I have a small group of friends that I turn to when I am in need. Smaller now in my 30s than I’ve ever had. But my family connections keep growing and deepening, and I am so grateful for that. My family grounds me and sends me into orbit like no one else can, and for that, it is an ongoing exercise in patience and love. Some themes come up again and again, so I repeat the following to keep it all in perspective.
Allow my parents to be who they are. Now that I am making my own adult choices, I buck against some of the choices that I see them make for themselves. I want my mother to adopt a healthier diet. I’d like my Dad to visit more often. I am much more content when I release my expectations and remember that there is no doubt that they love me. They aren’t likely going to change at this stage of their lives, and if something doesn’t cause a serious rift in my relationship then maybe I can let it go.
Invest in my family. I am still working on this one. I have no trouble investing attention and love in my relations, but I could do a better job of planning reunions and get-togethers with my family. There’s something magical about being together in the same room.
Love my children unconditionally and resist relating their childhood experience to mine or my parents’. We grew up in different times than my children. Politics, pressures, societal attitudes, and so much more changes over a generation. I am trying to be the best parent I can with the information and experience I have at this point in my life. It was the same for my parents.
Have you forgiven your parents? Would this release a burden in your life?