Dear Sue Ellen,
I was thinking about my Dad this past weekend. He died a few months ago of Cancer and this was my first Father’s Day without him. I grew up in a military family. My Dad was a good provider, but he was never affectionate and usually harsh with me and my brother. I have a child of my own now and when he was born, I vowed to be a loving parent and never speak to my son in a harsh tone of voice, but sometimes I do and I hate myself for it. I think I need help.
Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t a perfect parent; none of us are. Parenting is a generational dynamic. We tend to raise our kids like we were raised. Why? Because that is normal to us. It seems to me that you are still grieving the loss of your Dad.
I received a call from a young mom a few days ago. As a child, her Dad had been an angry person, and now she has a child of her own. She also has anger issues, and recently lashed out at her son. It terrified her, so she got help and came up with a plan to avoid any ugly outbursts.
I recently chatted with a guy that grew up with an abusive Dad. He didn’t want to be abusive with his kids, but his family life was a total mess. It took some time for him, but the young man finally learned that he can re-define what good parenting looks like and mend the brokenness between him and his kids. He did this through parenting education, and support groups.
I know of another young woman that grew up in a toxic home where there was sexual abuse. She now has a family of her own and is extremely vigilant about keeping her kids safe. I agree with her motivation to keep her kids safe from harm. Teaching them to be independent and able to make their own good decisions is very important also.
An older lady I know always spoke fondly of her Dad. According to her, he doted on her and was her knight in shining armor. Sadly, she married an abusive man and was nearly destroyed by that relationship. She was at a total loss on how to protect herself and her children from abuse. In truth, her parents failed to teach her to become an independent adult.
Everybody has a memory of their parents not being perfect…and if they deny it, they are lying to themselves. But as adults we have to let those things go and find ways to learn from the mistakes of others….namely our own parents. How do we do that? We learn new ways of parenting, we go to parent support groups, we read about good parenting, we talk to our spouses and plan how we are going to parent together. We take parenting classes. Harriet, in our office, frequently reminds me that we have to become licensed to do everything. Everything but be a parent, and she’s right.
As your grief from the loss of your Dad subsides, hang on to the good memories you had with him. Let the bad stuff go and make wonderful memories with your own child. These memories will last him a lifetime, and even into the next generations of your family, as he shares stories with his grandkids. Let that become the new normal for your family…..happy memories.
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