The longer I’m a parent, the less I understand mine. I don’t know what it feels like to have parents who would do anything to be around their children, or grandchildren. I do know what it’s like to have set reasonable boundaries as I started to build a marriage. I also know what it’s like to have parents that would rather have no boundaries or no relationship.
I have currently had more heart-to-heart conversations with my nine-year-old daughter and my parents have had with me. She knows that she can talk to me and that I value your thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
The longer I’m a parent, the less I understand mine. There is nothing my kids could do that would make me treat them the way my parents treated me, the way they spoke to me and my fiance, the way they tried to manipulate us through spreading lies. And when they learn that we were going to stick to our reasonable boundaries and will not be manipulated, they disappeared.
Many years after this rift was built, I walked into my parents’ house and saw that they replaced all of their children with cheap knockoffs. They have broken relationships with all of their children, but were calling someone they were mentoring “son”! I walked into my parents’ house and shook hands with my replacement. They no longer needed me… They no longer wanted me. They had abandoned their role as parent to play house with someone else. I can’t tell you what was going through my head, but as I left I was envisioning this scene from Half-baked (NSFW).
The longer I’m a parent, the less I understand mine. Which is a good thing. We are supposed to give of ourselves without expecting anything in return. We are supposed to treat are kids like little humans, and not pawns on a board. They shouldn’t know we love them, not have to assume it. They should feel safe to be themselves, not who they think we want them to be.
With me, my parents did a good job early on, but failed in the follow-through. My own kids will benefit because of this failure. I will be extra vigilant to learn from their mistakes, and I am, so that I will be around to share in their adult lives. I have learned that value in being present more important than being right on “principle”. I have learned that it is my responsibility, as the a parent, to be a part of my kids’ lives.
They don’t owe me anything because I am their parent. It is because I am their parent, that I owe my kids everything.