I was asked if I could intervene in a family issue that has been going on for the past year. So in a departure from my normal “fun” posts, I decided to pass along what I wrote. Maybe someone out there needs to hear this, as well.
I don’t usually intervene in other’s affairs, but I feel I might be able to impart some of the wisdom I’ve learned in my 73 years. You may not feel interested in reading on, but I hope you will.
This email is not about what’s right or wrong with what is happening between you and your parents.It’s about being able to forgive; not to benefit them so much as you. By not forgiving others for how they’ve disappointed us or hurt, we ultimately end up disappointing and hurting ourselves the most. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to forgive others for being human.
We grow up feeling our parents should do everything right by us. Their dreams and needs should be secondary to ours. We aren’t aware that as children, we don’t always fulfill our end of the bargain. What bargain would that be? The one where we accept that once we become responsible adults, they can then pursue life as they’ve dreamed. Enjoy their remaining years living a life they’ve planned, dreamed and saved for.
Some things we can control, some not. As children we have to learn and understand that our parents are human. Which means they make mistakes. Some of those mistakes can be corrected, but unfortunately, some can not. Some of these mistakes make us angry, some hurt. But they are mistakes, nonetheless. This is where the forgiveness needs to come in.
When I was your age, I could make a list of things my parents did that hurt me to my core. Things that made me lose sleep night after night. My way of dealing with the hurt was to withdraw from them. I didn’t cut off all communication like you, but I lessened it. It helped that I lived in another state. I would speak on the phone with them … well my mom, mostly … about twice a year. We, none of us, get lessons on parenting. It’s a play by the ear kind of thing. And so much of what we do as parents is reflective of what our parents did. When my mom died, I wished with all my heart I could go back and undo all those years. There were so many conversations I still wanted to have with her. And still do.
The most we can hope for as parents is that we don’t screw our kids up too badly. We want them to grow up to be caring, loving, responsible adults. I can see my successes and failures in my children. If I could go back and do somethings differently, I would in a heartbeat. I’m lucky and grateful they are good loving people. I’m sure your parents feel the same way about you. And you will feel the same way when your children are adults.
I don’t know all the details of what occurred between you. Your dad is a very private person. One of the things he’s learned from his parents. But I do know they’ve always loved you, your husband and your children. And have only ever wanted what was best for all of you. It’s time to make peace with them. For you. Heal your heart. Life is too short to let this continue. They deserve to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives. And your children need them to be around too.
I’ve had so many friends who have passed away in their 50s and 60s. To make it into the 70s is a gift. We have no guarantees of a tomorrow. Once they are gone, we can never say “I’m sorry”. We can never decide to make it right. It will be too late.
You may feel right now that your feelings are correct. You may feel they deserve this punishment. But, I’m convinced that one day you will regret this time lost. And your children will too. Then it will be too late. You will live with regrets and guilt. Don’t do that to yourself. Give yourself the freedom of forgiveness.
Don’t know how to begin to make your peace? Just send them a note and say, “Let’s start over.”