Did you know that believing our children are who they are as adults —is because of our parenting— is narcissistic in and of itself? I didn’t get this point either until my therapist pointed out that by ruminating over and willingly accepting responsibility for an adult child’s bad behavior toward me, I was actually being narcissistic and codependent. In other words, — I thought that any time anything went wrong with the relationship, it must have been something I did or did not teach him as a child. It took a lot of soul searching and reflection (good thing I write memoir) to actually get her point. I was too hard-headed thinking that because I was a single mother that everything he did, or didn’t do, reflected on me as his mom. It doesn’t. And, if you’re having a difficult time with an adult child, it’s not a reflection for you either.
Sure, we have to give them the best start possible in life by parenting with a balance of love, encouragement, praise — and discipline, consequences and boundaries, — but then much of our influence ends. Sometimes it ends right at eighteen. Sometimes later in their twenties, or even early thirties… but it does end. And what you see in them is the accumulation of their own lived experiences. Much of what was taught and emulated for them in childhood has long been forgotten and only their immediate circumstances prevail.
The next time your adult child hurts your feelings by being disrespectful, or downright cruel, try not to think it’s because you did something wrong as a parent. Hell, maybe you did? But, that has nothing to do with them now. And their behavior is their choice. Think about this and let yourself off the hook for their adult behavior. There are things going on in their lives we know nothing about — just like there were things going on in our lives as we were raising them, they knew nothing about.
*This post is not condoning abuse or saying we need to put up with it. We do not.
My parents didn’t teach or model these behaviors to me, but I was able to go on and teach my own kids self-trust, self-love, and self-acceptance because I learned how to source them for myself.
This meme is written to encourage parents to teach and model these behaviors to their children and that’s great. We need parents to parent the kids they choose have. But, for adults who weren’t taught these things from their own parents, this can sound as if they aren’t able to do these things for themselves. And sadly, if they have kids at home they may just think, “I wasn’t taught this, so I can’t teach it.”
Yes you can. By remembering what you wanted and needed as a child.
Don’t let memes like this keep you in learned helplessness and excuses. Therapy, reading, writing, thinking, and feeling are your friends for life for all things healing when you find yourself under the rubble of a fractured life. Everything we need to surpass our own raising is right there within us. It’s a choice.
I was a young mom and learned to parent myself while parenting my son. I read parenting books as we grew up together to find out what we both needed. And I still made mistakes.
I allowed my son to stay home from school too many days in a row for mental health days because I wanted to cuddle him and missed him while I worked. I also spanked him, yelled like a lunatic, and cried. A lot. I spoiled, gave in, held firm, led by example, failed and fell on the floor in a heap of exhausted flesh. I laughed and played, lectured and raved and showed up completely imperfectly, 150%.
So, decades later, when my relationship with my adult son fell apart, I was confused and devastated. My therapist said that mothering him was where I found my own secure attachment, and I was lost without it.
I’m mothering just myself these days. Unlearning what needs to go, owning what I did I right, admitting my wrongs, and relearning a new way of being in an ever-changing world. It’s a big job again. Most days I’m confused and exhausted, because the world is the biggest narcissist of all. The closer to kicking a goalie you get, the more they move the posts. But, I’m still here: trying my best.
What I’ve learned by writing memoir is that what we do today in the parenting department will be considered wrong two generations later by parenting experts and sometimes even our children. And regardless of the advice we follow, or don’t, sometimes relationships get strained and we need to take a break once children become adults. But, none if this is an out for not doing the job today. Right now. Right in front of you.
So, do your best and be ready to throw yourself under the bus about your own parenting mistakes because I can assure you, you’re making some doozies. You’ll read about mine in my second memoir.
You’re also doing a remarkable job. I commend you for showing up for your kids when no one showed up for you.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Just doing the best we can, showing up, connecting and thinking; “What did I need at this age?” is just about the best anyone can expect.
Growing up is a hard job — and if we’re doing it right, we do it all our lives. Be engaged enough and aware that all of life is for learning about ourselves and caring for others. Don’t give away too much of your power on the healing path. Try not to be too serious, but seriously show up.
We can go on to learn to trust, love and accept ourselves as we are, through parenting our own children— without permission, teaching, and modeling of these behaviors from our own.
When we use our awareness of life as a teaching tool, our feelings to guide us, and our brains to think for more than just this moment, we’ll have given our whole hearts to our roles as parents.
I wrote this little poem today in my morning pages: