It doesn’t matter what your parent did, said, or didn’t do.
It doesn’t matter whether they had the capacity to be better or lacked the ability to love you more.
It doesn’t even matter that they “tried.”
When a parent repeatedly (I’m talking over a period of DECADES) screws a child up, guess what? The impact is LONG lasting…
So what do you do when you’re now the adult, your mom or dad is still the incompetent parent, and you’ve done your share of confronting, discussing or debating the accuracy of YOUR memory of the past and you still haven’t gotten so much as even an “I guess I could’ve done things differently” from the parent who did you wrong?
You forgive your parent for not being who you wanted them to be.
You forgive them and you set them free.
But how in the world do you do that when that person isn’t even sorry?
As far as mom or dad is concerned, YOU were the problem…
YOU are the only one still holding onto a grudge…
YOU are the one who lacks the compassion and empathy to live and let live…
How do you forgive someone who’d much rather be right than see you happy?
In 3 simple steps (NOTE: Simple does not equal easy. I said simple, not easy…):
Step 1: See your parent for the limited, incapable, wounded child he or she is.
That doesn’t mean you make what happened in the past okay. It simply means that you place the root cause of their lack of parenting in the exact spot where it belongs: on them. As a child, the tendency is to blame yourself for not being “good enough” or “loving enough” or “smart enough” as the reason messed up parents don’t parent effectively.
You are now an adult. You don’t have to tell yourself the lies that protect the perpetrator. You can now say to yourself, “They were incapable of caring for me the way I needed to be cared for. That doesn’t make it right and I know it wasn’t my fault. I could not fix what was broke in them. Hurting people hurt people…” This won’t bring you your childhood back but it will give you peace if you let it.
Step 2: Give your parent back his or her emotional garbage.
You are not an emotional garbage can. It’s time you gave them back every piece of emotional garbage they ever offered you.
Every harsh word or deed.
Every time they compared you to a sibling or a friend or someone else’s kid.
Every time they treated you as if you didn’t exist.
Every time they withheld love or affection because you weren’t “perfect.”
You can take all of that, close your eyes, imagine yourself collecting all that stuff in a big, white, glowing ball, and, in your mind’s eye, send all that negative energy right back to them.
You didn’t create it.
You don’t have to accept it.
Send the package back to the receiver and indicate “Wrong address.”
Step 3: Use their example to transform your parenting approach.
Our parenting style is largely created based upon what we liked in our parents or as the antithesis of how they parented us. You can be like them or you can be the exact opposite of them but very few of us grow up in dysfunctional households and take a neutral stance.
As a parent, you either grow up and say “Well, if I got through that kind of childhood, my kids will be able to handle something like that or less harsh” OR you take a stand and say, “I know what I went through and I will NEVER allow my children to live that experience. As long as I have breath in my body, I’m going to do the opposite of what my parents did to me.”
You decide which parent you become…
Be grateful for a dysfunctional, incapable parent who never apologized for anything. It is by their example that you have or will carve your own parenting path, a path that will give your children the childhood and love that you so desperately wished they’d given you.
Now that is what I call legacy…
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Kassandra Vaughn is an author, writer’s coach and podcaster originally from Danbury, Connecticut. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Vassar College, an MBA in Human Resource Management from Auburn University, and an M.Ed in Instructional Design from Western Governors University. She lives in the beautiful state of Utah.