I was raised by my grandmother. My relationship with my dad was sporadic. And, my relationship with my mom was both good and disappointing. I wanted my relationship with both my mom and dad to be good, but I couldn’t let go of all the ways they had failed me. I felt bi-polar in that we could laugh and joke together and no one would be the wiser, but apart from them (when I was alone, at a friend’s house, or watching TV) and all the images of what a “normal” family looked like were flooding my mind, I felt like a parentless child.
I don’t feel that way anymore. And, I’ll tell you why.
1) They are people.
When you’re younger, mommy and daddy are everything. Now, I know they’re just ordinary people. They’re flawed, sometimes weak, defensive, stubborn, scared people just like you and me.
When I look at my mom and dad as just people, I think they’re great! And, they are. They’re both kind and absolutely hilarious. They’re fun to be around. They’re not “Dad who never picked me up from school” or ‘Mom who never threw me a birthday party”. They’re just two amazing people that I love dearly.
2) They did the best they knew to do at the time.
I don’t think my parents had me and said, “We’re going to do everything we can to jack her life up.” Yours didn’t either. If they could do it differently, I’m sure they would. They did their best. Did their best leave me a lil’ wounded and hurt? Yes, it did. But, now it’s time for me to do what I need to do to heal. Dragging them through the mud about it doesn’t help either of us. Working on ourselves helps all of us.
3) I don’t need them anymore in the same way I needed them growing up.
On Daddyless Daughters, Iyanla Vanzant asked a grown woman,
“Are you trying to build a relationship with your father or are you trying to recapture a relationship with your daddy?”
This was huge! When I was growing up, I wanted my dad at the daddy-daughter breakfast at school. I wanted my mom to go to PTA’s. And, I wanted someone to be at my cheerleading games with posters that said, “Go Brandi! #1 Cheerleader!” I’m not the 14 year old cheerleader anymore. Our relationship doesn’t require me reverting back to a 10 year old. Sure, if I were to have a big accomplishment, I’d love for them to be there (still), but I’m okay if they don’t come because…
4) I accept them for who they are.
This was hard for me. I was always wondering why????? Why can’t my dad be like Cliff Huxtable? Why can’t my mom be like Claire Huxtable? Why can’t we get together for a family dinner? Why can’t we sit at the table and have a conversation? Why can’t she write me notes and leave them in my bookbag? If I was a mom I’d do this. If I was a dad I’d to that. This way of thinking exhausted me! It takes maturity to accept that people are different than you, especially when you long for them to be another way. They are who they are. Accept the good things. Accept (and pray for) the not-so-good things. But, mostly enjoy the good things. What fun is there in focusing on someone’s differences and/or shortcomings? Find the things you love about them and live there.
5) Don’t take things so personally.
Our parents hurt, too. Talking about your feelings and inner-healing is a new thing. A lot of older adults are still deeply wounded from things in their past. Shame. Guilt. Unresolved issues with their own parents. And, sometimes we take all of it on ourselves like we’re the cause. We’re not! If your dad never hugged you, it’s probably because his dad never hugged him. If your mom doesn’t say I love you, that’s her issue. Not yours. Pray for them to heal in those areas. Pray for their eyes to be opened. And, stop thinking everything they’ve ever done wrong was because they didn’t love you.
6) Let it begin with YOU.
That hug you so badly want from Dad….give it. That encouraging word you want from Mom….give it. You wish they’d celebrate your birthday….celebrate theirs. Remember, they are people. They have issues. They have hurts. And, a lot of times people can’t give what they don’t have. Maybe Grandma and Grandpa never celebrated them. We don’t know their journey.
7) Let it END with YOU.
Whatever you do, let the pattern end with you. Don’t continue the cycle because “that’s just the way I was raised.” Hug your children. Talk to them. Support them. Exercise forgiveness. Exercise grace. Remember, children look to us like we look to God. They need us for everything. We are heroes and saviors to them. Don’t abuse that privilege.
I’d love to know if this was helpful. Please leave your thoughts in the comments!