Parenting keeps us busy. Very busy. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget that we too are children of parents. Once in a while we need a reminder.
A distressed mom recently consulted with me.
Her problem in a nutshell: Her home and family was nothing she dreamed it would be like.
When I asked her what that meant, she said: “More than anything, I wanted my home to be different from the house I was raised in. I promised myself that I would do better than my parents, that I wouldn’t make the mistakes that they had made…”
Here she is now… Not only was her home not what she strived for; ironically, it even reminded her of the home that she grew up in…
She felt worthless, she felt trapped.
As a child she had felt that she was a victim of her parents’ ‘mistakes’. Add to that, now she was a victim of the ‘standards’ that she had set, which were based on judging/criticizing her parents.
A few words about parents and ‘mistakes’:
Take a few children growing up in the same environment, with the same parents. Odds are
(I have seen this time and again) that each child will perceive their parent’s behavior and reactions in a completely different light. It’s completely subjective to the ‘viewer’. What one child will consider a ‘mistake’ or unappropriate, another won’t even notice.
Perhaps this is why the Torah gives us clear-cut instructions regarding the desired attitude towards our parents: Honor them, with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. It’s simply not our ‘place’ to judge them.
Judging and criticizing our parents is self-destructive in the long run. You may get a temporary high of being ‘right’, but it’s an illusion. Essentially, it places you in the victim mode, and there’s nothing to be gained from that!
Victims are powerless. Blaming and criticizing others only gives the semblance of power, but actually it’s quite diminishing.
Back to our mom. Perceiving herself as a victim made her feel powerless as a child, which continued into adulthood. Now she was powerless as a parent. Her kids were “stepping all over her…” to quote her description of the situation at home.
Seeing one’s self as the result/victim of ‘mistakes’ is actually demeaning …which is the polar opposite of empowering.
Thinking that she can do better than her parents was trapping
her. She was stuck in that notion and the more she tried to prove that she was right, the more ‘stuck’ she became. She was like a person sinking in quicksand that keeps thrashing around. The more he thrashes, the more he loses control, the deeper he sinks, …
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be setting high standards for ourselves as parents. Human nature is to improve and develop. We strive for that from the moment of birth.
The crux of it is our intentions. Are we setting a high standard for its own sake, or to prove that we’re superior?
Our intentions will undoubtedly be exposed in the results. Simply put, the aim to prove superiority is ultimately doomed to result in inferiority.
So how can she feel empowered?
The first step would be by accepting that it’s not her place to judge her parents’ ‘mistakes’; that her parents did their best (most parents do), and it’s not up to her to decide what ‘best’ is.
Then I suggested she take it up a notch, by actually thanking them, even for the little things in her life. Not judging and criticizing makes that all the more doable. Possibly even enjoyable.
Here’s a practical suggestion in light of the above:
Take a minute to think about what you are thankful to your parents for. Do it without ‘it’s or ‘but’s.
First and foremost, tell yourself. Internalize it.
If you’re lucky enough for it to be possible, find the opportunity to tell them.
Either way it’s win-win.
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