Wouldn’t it be great if relationships with our parents were like a Hallmark card? Speaking as a daughter and a mom of 3 daughters, I know for a fact that the family journey can be a rocky ride. We start our life with unquestioning adoration. By our teenage years, our parents often become stupid—not to mention frustrating when we feel they are out to make our lives miserable by not allowing us to do things we want to do.
But luckily, our parents get their smarts back as we become older. While we can’t appreciate their wisdom and experience when we’re younger, we eventually “get it” as we begin to experience similar challenges in our lives and hear their voice in our heads and realize just how wise they were.
Despite everyone’s good intentions and love, we all end up with baggage. There are inevitable memories that haunt us—something that was said or done–that hit us in a vulnerable spot and carries in us for many years.
Sometimes there are negative attributes or habits that we “catch” from our parents like a cold that doesn’t go away. Often we are unaware how this occurred because it happens so gradually or seems so natural—and it is—because that’s the way we have learned in it our household.
I probably shared this example before, but the one I always remember was going to the Jersey shore with a bunch of my college friends. As we started cooking, someone was looking all around for the Crisco (remember this was years ago) and couldn’t find it. After I walked in the room, I went right to the refrigerator where I had put it. I was the target of the joke—because I was the only one in the group who put Crisco in the refrigerator.
You can imagine that when I got home I asked, “Why do we put Crisco in the refrigerator, Mom?” My mom answered that she had a problem years ago with ants in the cupboard and decided to keep the Crisco there from then on–so the ants wouldn’t get at it.
Although this is a silly example, many times that’s exactly how we create accommodations. We react to something in our life and develop a “cure” or a coping mechanism. The problem is that after the event or events are long forgotten (or buried), we continue to use our coping tools. The event can be serious, chronic, life-changing, or a simple event that no one even remembers–except you.
Forgiveness. Consider a gift of forgiveness. Writing a letter baring your soul is one way to get to that point. Put as much down on the paper. Then burn the letter or rip it in pieces. The act of writing it down is key in being able to release any pain you still have. You may have to do it more than once, as forgiveness is a process.
Acceptance. If there is a trait, habit, or value you “got” or didn’t get from your parents, get to a point where you are a peace with your past. Instead of blaming someone else or a situation, put all that energy towards making a change for the better. You are not a victim. If you’ve been reading my newsletters, you know I’m all about taking control of you. Now’s a good time to do that!
Love. It is true that some parents (and this goes for kids too) are really a mess. Their baggage is alive, well, and thriving. This I know for sure that you can’t change anyone but yourself and perhaps the only gift you can give them is simply love.
I can distinctly remember thinking during one of my own family twisty curves, “But I did the best I could.” It was at that time that I realized that if I did the best I could, surely my parents did as well.”