understanding parents

a few semi random musings on parents …

through my parents, a lot of challenges came my way. but through them, i also learned how to build the tools to overcome those challenges. for example, creativity was highly encouraged.

parents irrevocably shape most of the way we view the world. some of that can be changed. we can add to it. we can move the furniture of our world view around. we can accept the limitations of our worldview and strategize around them. but the basic neural pathways that our parents influenced in our first years cannot be completely changed.

parents are people, first and foremost. as adults, we need to acknowledge that. it’s hard to do that, both intellectually and emotionally. it’s much easier to comprehend intellectually. our parents muddle through their lives, they understand only a fraction of what’s going on inside and outside of themselves, most of their mistakes are honest mistakes, they are sexual beings, they want to feel useful, they want to feel loved – just like everyone else. on an emotional, subconscious level, it’s difficult to grasp that they are not particularly powerful, that they can’t read our minds, that looking after us is not their primary task.

if parents don’t look after themselves emotionally, they have a hard time looking after and appreciating the emotional needs of their children, whatever their age may be. yet 99% of all parenting books are about the feeding and caring of the child. a parent who never understood, when you were a child, how to feed and care for themselves as parents, may have a hard time understanding your needs as an adult.

parents make big mistakes. miss-takes. they honestly think that grounding you was a good idea when you kept coming home after midnight. little did they know that being cooped up in your room was one of the major things that contributed to your depression. how were they supposed to know? so much of human development is a mystery; there are just so many forks in the road, all day long. yes, there could have been more communication; perhaps much more communication, and that’s maybe how they could have known. but the truth is that we live in a culture where honest, in-depth, loving, peaceful communication is not supported, and we all get swept up in that culture – some more, some less.

kids drive parents crazy. even the best parent pulls out their hair when little lance or teenage tom or college colleen whine, play blaring headbanger music and leave jam on the counter for the 1,482,487th time. because wanting to pull out your hair is a fabulous memory anchor, most parents find it hard to forget those lovely character traits and still interact with you as if you whined all day long, even when you’re 42 and have become a university professor specializing in rational communication.

forgiving your parents is a tricky thing. you need to figure out for yourself what you mean by forgiving. is it acting as if the thing (the incest, the yelling, the stony silence) never happened? is it behaving civilly, without engaging in behaviours of the past? is it stopping punishing your parents? is it creating your own little truth and reconciliation roundtable? something else completely? whatever it is, i recommend to put off forgiving them until you actually mean it. in the meantime, behave like an adult.

4 thoughts on “understanding parents

  1. Annie

    Isabella,
    I agree with the idea of being clear about the act of forgiving our parents. Many folks see it as judgment. Simply letting go and stepping away from the issues with our parents seems healthier. This allows our parents to deal with their own parenting experience and we can move on.
    Peace, Annie

  2. isabella mori

    @evan it’s interesting that you think of abuse when it comes to forgiveness. i know many adult children who have a lot of resentment against their parents even though it does not stem from what is generally referred to as abuse.

    @annie had a long conversation with a friend about this today. figured that one way to see forgiveness is to simply step away from the need to judge the act(s) that hurt us.
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..buddhist carnival – september 2009 edition =-.

  3. Evan

    Hi Isabella, my partner is an incest survivor and you mention it in your last paragraph – this probably accounts for me thinking of abuse.

    It is also frequently mentioned in the stuff I read about healing from various kinds of abuse.

    I’m sure most children aren’t abused (thankfully) and that there are many people who still have resentment against their parents.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..Recovering from Sexual Abuse =-.

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