No matter what happened to you during your formative years, your parents’ parenting styles are not your destiny. Have you grown up thinking you were afraid you would repeat all the mistakes your parents made? Or on the flip side, did you have great parents and you are concerned you couldn’t live up to what they did? If you are a parent now or might soon be one, take a minute to think about this.
Here’s the big liberating secret about parenting – you are your own person. Yep, that’s it. No matter how awesome, horrible, or average your parents were, you are still a completely new individual with entirely new mistakes to make. Can you still repeat history and drag your kids through problems similar to your own childhood? Yes, that is certainly possible. It is even more likely if you don’t take a very close look at those problems and how they came about.
If you were brought up in a home with alcoholism, what have you done to prevent you or your spouse or partner from becoming an alcoholic? If you have been diagnosed with anxiety like your mom was, do you have a good treatment plan in place so it will have a minimal impact on your family? If you grew up in a home where the adults had chaotic and unhealthy relationships, how have you or will you go about choosing a partner wisely? You see, it’s what you learn from these past problems that is so much more important than the actual problems themselves. Blindness to your own vulnerability is what puts you at risk.
This is even true about people afraid they can’t live up to their parents’ great efforts. The lack of confidence is the problem, not some level of perceived perfection that can’t be attained. You aren’t supposed to be your parents anyway. They were their own people (I know, weird to think of them that way) as parents and they raised you in a different era than you would be raising children. Even though you may feel like you couldn’t possibly do the great job they did, it’s possible they felt the same thing as new parents or before they even had kids.
And truthfully, even really great parents have made mistakes and do things that they regret. I have great parents – they did a wonderful job raising me and my sister and they continue to be a wonderful presence in my life. But even if I couldn’t always see or recall their mistakes, I have to appreciate that they made them and we still turned out OK. That means that I can, too – make mistakes and recover from them. I know I already have and I can’t wait to find out all the mistakes I have yet to make! But if I get lazy or too caught up on things in my own head, I could become a lousy parent in a hurry. It’s all a matter of awareness and choice.
So to wrap up these thoughts, we as parents can all do poorly or do well. Some of us may need to learn more because we didn’t get much from our own parents. Others of us had good upbringings and need to stay confident in our own abilities. Above all, we need to be aware of how we are living our lives as parents each and every day. Thankfully, no matter how bad of a parenting day we’ve had, we always get a fresh chance in the morning.
What are some of the things you’ve learned from your parents, good or bad? How have you avoided repeating their mistakes? How have you handled making your own parenting mistakes?