Grown ups. That’s what kids call adults. Grown. Finished. Done. There are Kids, who know how to have fun. And then there are Grown Ups, who make you clean your room, or eat olives, or do all of that other stuff that makes kid’s eyes roll.
It’s not like parents come home from work like kids come home from Disneyland. So kids generally assume the parents spent the entire day on dull, adult stuff, like making sure everyone is behaving, or that people are ‘doing dumb stuff’ instead of having fun.
To a child, the parent does not have a bully for a boss; or mortgage worries; or marital concerns; or fears about a potential terminal illness. A parent is either relief from suffering, or the cause of it. But their lives are such a mystery that they barely exist at all to kids. When thinking about being grown ups themselves, kids just imagine being taller, with more freedom.
In reality most parents are raising their kids while they are still quite young people—often so young their brains have not even stopped growing yet (which happens around 25-27). Yet most people don’t feel like they truly developed any serious wisdom until after they’re about 45—which is about when people finish raising their kids.
All this means that the parents finally feel like they know how to parent, right when they are done parenting. But there’s no avoiding that, because we learn by doing. Of course, the parents still blame themselves. And the kids blame them too—right up until they have to start doing it themselves.
This means that pretty much every kid is being raised by insecure, rookie parents who are figuring out how to be a human being, and a spouse, and a parent, as they go. Understandably, everyone does a lot of things that they will later recognize, in the cold light of hindsight, were not good ideas. But that’s hindsight.
This means is that we can have a very angry 25 or 30 year old who holds deep resentments towards a parent, for what they perceive was bad parenting. Yet, in reality, the parent might actually agree completely that the approach taken wasn’t helpful. But the parent won’t want to admit that, because letting your kid down is too big of a fail to own.
No human being is perfect. Which means no parents are perfect either. Some err here, some there. Some in this way, some in that. But they all screw up somehow. And, like all egos, they either beat themselves up for that, or they stress themselves by trying to pretend their mistakes don’t matter. But people really do want to get parenting right.
In the end, of course, none of us can ever hope to be raised by perfect people who know exactly what to do in every situation. So, we have to be careful: the tests we hold our parents to, we’ll tend to hold ourselves to as well. Yet our judgments of them are made in hindsight, while our own parenting will be done just as theirs was: in real time, with many complications.
In real life we have limits to our time and energy. In real life we may never have been taught the lesson a child needs, or is asking for. In real life, kids can generate trouble to the point where the parent temporarily doesn’t even want to be a parent. Yet these normal realities are all invisible to the kids.
Modern life is a complex thing that parents are constantly trying to figure out. It’s a good idea that they share that reality with their kids more than previous generations. That way, the kids can appreciate that life isn’t ‘solved’ for their parents. And they can also learn to see their parents as fluctuating resources, and that they should not expect us to be completely consistent.
By letting them see us do it, kids can learn that it is normal and okay to struggle, and that it does not diminish our value as people. It merely exposes the fact that a person’s abilities, and life’s demands, cannot always be expected to be in perfect, balanced, alignment. And that’s a helpful lesson, because the sooner kids learn that, the sooner they will be saved from a lot of unnecessary perfectionist stress.
If you would like to learn more about forgiving your parents and moving on with a more positive mindset, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can make arrangements to talk.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.