01: When Parents Aren’t Perfect

by | Podcast

Many things are way different now as compared to when we were kids and one of those that changed massively is parenting. And a lot of parents, especially new ones, fear that they are going to wreck their kids with the way they raise them. One universal truth should give you comfort – parents aren’t perfect!

It’s normal to feel scared because you think you don’t have the background to learn from and so, it’s quite like you’re navigating an uncharted territory. But don’t worry too much about every little thing that you do because no matter how mindful you are, how gentle you are or even how attached you are, we’re still humans.

Kids taking on marks of their handlers.

Being parents doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have flaws. We’re still humans and we make mistakes. Mitch Albom once said that young people being pristine clean glass takes on the markings of its handlers. 

At home, I have a glass coffee table top but it was separate from the base and so we’d have to pick it up and move it. And once every couple of weeks when it gets cleaned, it’s beautiful. As life went on, and we put cups on it, and the dogs went by it and everything else, there were scratches and smudges that we sometimes couldn’t get out. 

It never shattered but it definitely had markings from the fingerprint smudge or scratches from other things that were on it. So there were variations of those marks on the glass. Metaphorically, if you think about childhood the same way, kids are going to take on marks from us, from their teachers, and whomever they interact with as they grow.

Some people they’ll meet are going to be great and some will be inconsequential enough that they can be wiped out with a cloth though some may be permanent.

I think this is what parents are afraid of. They don’t want to shatter or break their kids beyond repair. But what parents should understand is that you’re not not going to damage them. You might leave smudges or scratches but they’re going to grow up and work it out on their own.

The fact that you’re already concerned about shattering them is a sign of your mindfulness. You already have that level of intention that keeps people from shattering the glass of their youth.

How we see our parents differently now.

I think it’s normal to see our parents in a different light when we get to a certain age, either in our adulthood or in our parenting journey, as compared to when we were younger.

Personally, back then, I put my mom on such a high pedestal. She became a widow at age 43 when I was still at a very young age. She was also a career woman who went back to work when my dad died. It was a new thing since none of my friends’ moms worked unless they were divorced and somehow, I realized that I had these rose-colored glasses viewing her as the toughest or strongest woman in the world.

Growing up and maturing, I learned that some of my perceptions were direct results of her treatment towards me. For me, that is the end of the spectrum where many of us probably fall under because it’s where the humans or in this case, parents do the best they can with what they have and what they know.

However, sometimes, that isn’t always the best for us. Parenting nowadays involves emotional management and co-regulation which were not entirely essentials when I was young. No one ever taught me how to manage my emotions. And now that I myself am a parent, I tried my best to learn how to emotionally regulate my own self in order to pass that on to my kids.

I’m not putting the blame on my mom though. She did her part as a mother who was unaware of these things. In fact, I remember seeing books on her bedside table once about grief, and adult children of alcoholics. 

That’s already some sort of acknowledgment that something’s going on because both my parents were in an alcoholic substance abusive relationship. Although, the good thing now is that we’re more aware of those smudges, scratches and fingerprints that we get from our parents during childhood.

Learning to make peace with your parents.

As we grow older and we become parents, we get to understand our parents better and how or why they acted the way they do when we were younger. 

The end of the spectrum is where you realize that your parents are still humans and you have to make peace with that. Sometimes, you just have to go through the stages of life. You get to experience grief or joy. And sometimes, you get to confront your parents about your relationship with them. However, sometimes, you don’t really get the satisfaction of reconciling with them or even just talking things through.

The spectrum of toxic relationships.

The other end of the spectrum is where toxic relationships lie. It is where we learn that as a child, you had no proper attachment relationships because of many possible factors.

Maybe your parents had substance abuse issues or they were dealing with their own trauma. Maybe they were struggling with their mental health. As an adult, that’s when we realize that some events in our life contributed to the difficulties we’re experiencing, especially in our relationships with other people. 

But it can still be managed. There’s still hope for us. We don’t have to let resentment eat us up. Our parents did what they did because that’s all they knew at the time. We’ll work on ourselves as adults and we’ll be better so our kids will be better as well. 

There is something that can be done.

My goal is to leave you with the idea that there is something that can be done. The first thing to do in achieving this is to determine what you want out of a situation.

Your childhood plays a detrimental role in your parenting skills towards your children. So it’s necessary to determine what it is that you want. Think about whether or not you want you or your kids to have a relationship with your parents and how you want that relationship to look.

Tuning into your own needs, wants and feelings.

The marks, smudges, and scratches that we carry are what make us human and they’re what will make us know how to really care for ourselves. That’s why it’s important for us to tune into our own needs, wants and feelings.

Ask yourselves what you want to do now or what you want from a relationship. How should you set the boundaries? How will you react and behave if you get into a relationship? Be realistic when answering the questions you ask yourselves. Focus on what is available to you now instead of thinking about what you didn’t have back then.

The power of relationships is in the repair.

There is surely a lot of internal work that must be done and it starts with acknowledging the fact that everybody’s human. As humans, we’re not perfect; we have flaws and we’ll mess up from time to time. 

To be a better parent, one must keep in mind that the power of relationships is in the repair. Rather than trying to prevent yourself from messing up or trying to be perfect, put your energy towards apologizing and taking responsibility for your actions.

It also helps to work your issues out either with a professional or if it’s easier for you, with your partner. Surely, your partner has their own story to share and bring to the table.

You can learn more about how attachment and triggers affect you on another episode I’ve done. They’re going to be helpful especially if you’re still in the initial parts of such a journey.

Remember that we’re all human and we’re all just doing the best we can with the information and the resources we have at the time. What parenting is is who we are and how we show up in the world. 

Links and Resources:

Work with Dr. Cristie