Parents: Have You Forgiven Yourself?
From the time my first child was born, I wanted to be a wonderful parent. I read book after book on parenting and tried to learn all I could about being a great parent. And I did a good job, considering how I was raised. But I certainly did not do a perfect job by any means, if there even is such a thing.
My children are adults now and I am a grandparent. I get to see the fruits of my parenting, and I am mostly happy with the results. But not totally happy.
For one thing, I didn’t know how important it was to be a role model of taking care of myself – of taking responsibility for my own happiness and pain. I thought that if I took care of everyone else, I would feel happy and fulfilled. So I was at everyone’s beck and call until it made me physically ill. Then I had to re-evaluate what I was doing. But I had already taught them that, since I wasn’t caring about me, they didn’t have to care about me. It took many years to heal that.
As I look back, there are many things that I would have done differently had I known differently. But I didn’t know. I did the best I could, given my then current level of knowledge and then current level of inner healing.
This is what is true for must of us as parents – we did the best we could, given our level of knowledge and healing at that time. It is, therefore, inappropriate to judge ourselves or be available to being judged by our children. It is certainly appropriate to acknowledge our shortcomings, but it is not appropriate to allow our children to blame us for their current problems.
In one of my phone counseling sessions with Sarah, she told me that her son constantly blamed her for his current problems in his life. Since she knew that she had not been a model parent, she continued to feel guilty and responsible for her son’s problems.
“Sarah, were you a better, more conscious parent than your parents were with you?”
“Oh yes, no doubt about that!”
“Did you blame your parents for your problems?”
“No, but they didn’t know any better. I should have known better. I had therapy, read books and took parenting classes. I should have done a better job.”
“Did you do the best you could?”
“Yes, I guess so. I really tried. But it wasn’t good enough.”
“Sarah, none of us knows how to do a perfect job as a parent. We do the best we can. The problem now is that, in feeling guilty and responsible for your son, you are enabling him in blaming you rather than taking responsibility for himself. He is 40 years old and certainly needs to be taking care of himself rather than blaming you for his problems. It is time for you to forgive yourself for not knowing enough. It is time for you to release yourself for responsibility for your son and take responsibility for yourself by getting yourself off the hook. Can you forgive yourself?”
“If forgiving myself means accepting that I did the best I could and that I am not currently responsible for my son’s problems, then yes, I think I can forgive myself.”
“Sarah, this means that you no longer engage in conversations with your son when he is complaining to you and blaming you. It means that you tell him that you did the best you could and that you are no longer available to being blamed by him. Are you willing to do that?”
“Yes! What a relief!
Sarah did follow through and reported to me that, after an initial period of distance with her son, she now has a much better relationship with him.
About the Author: Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone sessions available.