Pssst. I have a secret for you. Your parents are not perfect.
They’re also not the worst parents in the world.
As we grow into adults, the relationship we have with our parents will change. Although many of us continue to want our parents to be proud of us, that can’t be our primary motive if we are going to live a healthy life.
As adults, we need to release our parents from being perfect by taking off those little glasses we wore as children which showed them as flawless. Those illusions become barriers to having healthy respectful relationships.
It’s also time to let go of the expectations that our parents will fulfill a need we need to fulfill ourselves, make the perfect comment when we’re feeling blue or lend us money if we’re in a pinch. Our parents have their own lives to lead. The responsibility of making sure their children are safe and fed is done. Now a new and much more fulfilling phase can start. A parent’s adult children will be their younger friends who offer a different perspective and adult children will now have their parents as older friends who offer the wisdom that comes from experiences over time.
But it’s not all that simple.
TO THE ADULT CHILDREN - Are you an adult who is still living your life in order to please your parents? Do you feel like you owe them something? Do you feel guilty for not spending more time with them?
Truly loving parents want their children to live fulfilling lives being all that they were created to be.
Healthy people don't want to spend time with people who are only there because they feel indebted to the other.
Healthy people don't want others to feel guilty because their own needs aren't being met.
TO THE PARENTS - Are you a parent who is still expecting your adult children to live their lives just like yours? Are you expecting that they will want to spend the majority of their free time with you instead of having friends of their own? Are you taking care of your grandchildren because you want to or because you don’t know how to say no?
Healthy parents understand that their children have their own unique talents and abilities.
Healthy people understand that a mix of relationships makes a productive and happy person.
Healthy people know when to say yes and when to say no.
I’m not suggesting that once a person turns 22, they hightail it out of town and only spend time with their friends, embracing all the latest and greatest trends. I’m also not suggesting that there isn’t a very special bond between family members. What I am suggesting is that we each blossom into a full and complete version of ourselves. That may or may not resemble our parents. That’s OK because . . . we’re not our parents.
There’s a funny story about a woman who always cut the end off of the ham before she cooked it. When questioned why she did it that way, she answered, ‘well my mom always cut the end off of the ham’. Wondering why, the woman went to her mom and asked the same question. ‘Mom, why did you always cut the end off of the ham before you cooked it?’ Her mom answered, ‘I didn’t have pan big enough pan to fit a full ham’.
Are you cutting the end off of the ham and you don’t even know why?
I still fold my towels in thirds because that was how they fit in my mom’s linen closet. But that doesn’t affect anyone’s life. There are habits, however, we've inherited that do affect other people's lives. How about judging other races, handling our money poorly or screaming at our spouse?
We often say 'this is how I was raised’ as a catch-all phase, implying that since I was raised that way, it’s OK to continue to behave the same way the rest of my life. Is that the best choice? Or is it an excuse to not change bad behavior, a way to lazily continue the dysfunction or does it come out of the fear of becoming your own separate self?
It’s OK to look at your upbringing, take the good things from it and let go of the bad. Some of the habits you had as a child simply may not fit who you are. It doesn’t have to mean that they were bad habits, just not your habits.
Release your parents. Forgive them for the mistakes they made and see them as simply human. You may continue to admire and love them but don’t idolize or place expectations on them. These are tricky waters but the benefits of developing honest and healthy relationships with those who love you the most can be extremely rewarding.
I'm both a parent and a child and I understand that this goes both ways. As children grow and mature, we as parents let them go to spread their wings and make their own choices. Our children will undoubtedly make some choices better than we did and others not as well.
Just like we did.
It’s never too late to create a new relationship with your parents. The past is just that . . . past. It’s time to look ahead and create a new normal.