2 thoughts on “Forgiveness, Apologizing, and Taking Responsibility: Real vs. Fake

  • September 23, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    I raised my only son as a single parent under almost unbearably difficult circumstances. At age 25 I was living in poverty after fleeing from the only place that had ever been home to me, with few friends and no family support. I had suffered from extreme domestic abuse, by an ex-partner and father of my son, and fled to protect myself and my then infant son. My son was only two years old when he had been briefly separated from me as I was transitioning during the relocation process. The separation was traumatic for me, and must have been traumatic for him too.
    During his formative years I regularly battled with the grief of losing my mother to cancer, abandonment by the rest of my family, the loss of my identity, the loneliness, the poverty, the uncertainty, and though I did everything humanly possible to give my child as normal and happy a life as possible, it was not possible for me to do everything and be everything that a child needs. There were times when I was exhausted, depressed and scared and wasn’t always as patient and available as I would have like to be. It’s too cliche to say that “I wasn’t the perfect parent”, because who is? But, I wasn’t the perfect parent, though I wanted to be, and tried to be.
    Despite the challenges during his growing up years (without a father) my son became a successful businessman. We had, if not a close and loving relationship, at least a decent relationship, and my son even bought me a house. But he was having difficulties with making and maintaining relationships. One day, he shoved a book and CD into my hand and said, read and watch. It was from a Pastor whose beliefs were that if a man was having problems attracting and keeping a mate it was because of his relationship with his mother which was especially tainted if she was a single mother.
    That was 8 years ago. Since then my son has scapegoated me as the person responsible for most of his shortcomings. He claims I shamed him, neglected him and abused him. I have admitted to having “lost it” on occasions when I lost patience with him, meaning I had lost my temper and reacted harshly, though not to the point of what I think would be deemed child abuse. I think we tend to raise our children the way we were raised, and I was raised with angry reprimands and spankings. I tried learning better ways of parenting, such as time outs for bad behaviors and rewards for good behaviors, but sometimes I went into auto pilot. Comparing my parenting style to how I was raised, I would consider it normal. I wish I could say I was exceptional, but I wasn’t and my circumstances didn’t help any.
    My son claims that he suffered from shaming. Though there must be some truth in that, as I was highly shamed as a child and adolescent, I have reflected on accusations my son has made about me, and while I have agreed that there may have been some, I honestly have trouble admitting that I was an abusive, shaming, neglectful mother, as he would like me to say I was. If that was indeed true, then without a doubt the tables are turned now and he uses it to full advantage.
    I am now living on social security and in his house. As long as I act like an obedient child, not questioning anything he does or says, he can show some kindness, though most times he is distant and does not tolerate any questions of disagreements from me and he controls all subject matter. When he’s in a particularly bad mood, he may remind me of how bad a mother I had been (then, not now) and wants me to apologize and “take responsibility” for his low self esteem.
    I have apologized many times, even for things that I don’t believe were outside the ordinary. I don’t want to apologize anymore, especially for things that I don’t remember in the same way as he does, if at all, or because I know that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances. I am serving a life-long sentence for not being the perfect parent even though my son knows, and has stated, that however I was then is not how I am now. Of course I’m not because the circumstances are way different. Must I constantly yield to his views and his requirements to keep the peace? Or is there another way to rectify a past which my son sees one way, and I see another way?

    • June 17, 2020 at 12:41 am

      That’s the question, the million-dollar question. So so sorry to hear you’re going through this. From my limited understanding, it sounds like he has doubts about what really drove his father away and suspects it was your fault somehow, whether consciously or unconsciously. He might wonder if you wouldn’t have rejected him too if it’d been possible. Be true to your integrity, but temper that with as much mercy, compassion as you can bear to give him. His understanding is faulty. Focused on himself, his own experience. If he has a degree of empathy, one day he will understand the options and the emotions available to you in the time. Have faith. Be kind. Stay true to yourself though, above all else.


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