Are Our Parents Forgivable?
By Mallika Bhatia
Do you remember thinking ‘That’s really old!’ when you were you were still young and you found out that your parents or another adult were 37 years old? The age did not matter, old was old, 35, 37, 48, those were just numbers. Did you wonder if you would live to be ‘that’ old, and do you remember how far and distant it seemed?
Well, you are relatively close to that age now (or have passed it!) if you are reading this, right? And I bet now you don’t feel that 37 is so old, do you? But back then when you were seven or nine years old, you believed that your parents, by the virtue of being so old, knew it all. They had it all figured out. They earned money, bought what they liked and didn’t need to seek permission to have an ice-cream or visit a friend; they always knew what was right for you and what wasn’t. It was almost like they had studied a rulebook on life and had learnt it by heart. It was so cool that you wanted to grow up sooner than was possible.
In time you reached adulthood and now you are in the same age bracket as they were back then. I know you now realise how false that childhood perception truly was because you don’t have it all figured out, do you? No one does! Naturally, our parents didn’t either. They were clueless about many things, just like we are; they had no rulebook and were learning on the job as parents, much like you are doing right now.
They made parenting mistakes. Some were not so significant, while some were blunders. They may have realised what they did wrong and changed their ways sometimes, and yet there are mistakes they have never realised, not even after you have hinted at them a million times. These things they didn’t change, in the same way we now don’t stop doing something just because our parents believe it isn’t right for us.
I am pretty sure that each one of us had resolved as a child not to do some particular thing when we become parents. Our list of promises to ourselves may vary, but the list always exists deep within: I will always take my child’s viewpoint into account; I will never let my child feel lonely; I will make sure my child gets everything I did not have; I will make sure my child feels heard; I will never scream at them; I will never hit my children.
And why did we make this list in the first place? Because of the way our parents parented us, how they left a dent in our souls. It affected us in a way that impacted our entire lives. It defined the way we interact with the world and the way the world interacts with us. It hurt us deeply and we decided to hold onto that grudge forever!
It is true that our parents started the process of hurting us, knowingly or unknowingly, but it is also true that we are the ones who are making a choice every day to continue feeling that pain. We refuse to grow up when it comes to grudges against our parents. If we can forgive friends for not knowing any better, then why not our parents? Do we ever stop to think that they are as human as we are? Maybe they don’t deserve to be put on the pedestal that we put them on just for giving birth to us.
The moment you decide to bring them down from that high place to the level that you are at today, you will see that they were doing their best, just like you are. They were trying, in their own way. I am not asking you to forgive them if you are not ready for that yet. All I am asking for you to do is to realise that they were in the same boat that you are in now. It doesn’t make their role in your pain any lesser, but blaming them all your life doesn’t increase their role and responsibility, either.
They are as human as you are, and as entitled to make mistakes as you are. They did what they did and you blame them for it, fair enough, but who would you blame for the additional burden you have forced yourself to carry for all these years? Who would you hold responsible for the pain you cause yourself by keeping the blame-game fresh? If you expect your parents to be adults and take the responsibility for what they did, where does your sense of ownership go? Doesn’t being an adult mean taking the onus of your life and your actions on yourself? They started doing what they did when you were young, but now that you are older you have the choice to change and undo all of that damage. The simplest step for that is to stop blaming others.
Growing up isn’t only about earning and deciding to buy an ice cream when you want to, is it? It brings with it so much more: so many choices, so many options, so many decisions. We need to choose what career path to take, where to live, whether to live with someone, whether to have children. We need to decide every aspect of our lives and when our parents share their views on it, we get mad. We tell them that we are adults and can make our own decisions. Our lives are our responsibility. Ironically, we are willing to take responsibility for everything in our lives except our emotions. For those, we keep looking for people to blame.
Free yourself of the burden
Imagine freeing yourself and your parents of all the blame and all the burden, even if just for a second
You would literally feel a weight being lifted off your shoulders. It would be easier for you to realise that they are humans who are learning and not the devil, nor god. Your entire relationship with them may change forever.
Accept that they are who they are and that they will not change
Just because you think they need to change, they won’t. Your demands may be justified for you, but they may not be for them. Maybe it isn’t a part of their lesson plan, or it isn’t the time for them to learn just yet. They deserve the gift of acceptance as much as you do. If you feel they are selfish, then accept the fact that they are and drop the expectation that they behave in a non-selfish manner.
Stop expecting them to react differently to you now
They have behaved in a particular way all their lives; they will not change the way they react now. Not until it comes from within them. If they never gave you approval, they never will. If they haven’t made you feel loved the way you expected them to, they will never be able to. Save yourself some pain by abandoning these expectations. Love yourself instead. Accept that you are brilliant, no matter what anyone else thinks.
We have limited time and limited capacity to achieve our desires. If we choose to use that precious time to blame others, then we can blame no one else for our failures but ourselves. The first step to not make the same mistakes our parents did; it is to accept that we will make our own unique mistakes. There is no denying it. We, too, shall fail in certain aspects as parents.
Make your own unique mistakes and own them. Tell your children that you are learning with them, tell them that you are human. Do not let them put you on a pedestal. Apologise, accept, and love, no matter what!
Mallika Bhatia is Life Coach with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Diploma in Hypnotherapy, with more than 13 years of experience in this field. Yet her three year old seems to believe that Mamma is a snack maker who is also good at telling bedtime stories. She is a writer, a blogger and a published author who had a regular dedicated column in two National Dailies in India, though her daughter still strongly believes that Mamma’s work is sitting in cafes and staring into empty space. She practices in Munich at her office in NeuHarlaching or over Skype.