There was an occasion where one of my children, in their late 20’s at the time, began a sentence with, ‘if only you had let me….’. The inference being that if I had been a better parent they would be having a better life. My response was to stop them in the mid sentence and say, ‘don’t even finish that sentence’. I then stated that whatever regrets they may have about my parenting, I had given them my best and the rest is up to them.
Years later, with their own growing children, they have realised that parenting is a flawed process, as we mostly bring to the table only what we know and have learned from our own parents.
I think of my own parents who went through the great depression of the 1930’s and a war, and illness outcoming from the war. They gave us their best and could not do better. The disciplines, and lack of material things experienced during my childhood, were a reflection of the parenting they had received years before, and that pattern, while somewhat modified, was the upbringing they gave me.
There comes a time when the children have to take responsibility for their own lives and decisions, and one gets tired of the excuse that bad behaviour or criminal acts are due to a deprived or unhappy childhood. As parents, we should not be on a guilt trip because we couldn’t give our children every advantage. It is enough that we give love and security and food and shelter, and the rest is up to the child.
And that is the great adventure of life, being able to make our own decisions when we are young, experiencing the world in various ways, and making mistakes and learning from them. As a parent, I was always in the background during the teen years, with a safety net to prevent disasters, but kept largely hands off. Today, our children have all achieved and learned the basic lesson that they are responsible for their own decisions, and the past is the past and the future is theirs to decide.
So parents do your best, and as your children begin to take on the world in their teens and later, let it be clear the choices are theirs to make. In later years, often to their surprise and sometimes shock, they realise they have become their parents.