It’s tough being a parent – I’m sure it’s a lot harder to be a really good parent. Some of us just get by and through some freak accident of nature and perhaps even a mountain of good luck and the right circumstances our kids turn out to be decent human beings. We try and just the effort of trying is enough to push some of us as parents over the edge. Trust me; if you think you are alone in the ‘Frustrated Parent’ department, you’re not.
Our children rebel against us. It doesn’t matter if they are two, twenty-two or fifty-two, some children will disagree in some way with their parents because in some relationships, that just seems to be the natural order of things. Some kids have perfected the art of manipulation, others the subtleties of obstinacy and insubordination. As parents, we blame ourselves when our children express their animosity towards us, or when they build walls of defense more impenetrable than Fort Knox and it hurts – it really hurts. If it doesn’t, than you should probably reevaluate the whole parenting thing in your life.
Sometimes the hurt is intentional; most times, it is the only way that their developing minds can process what they are feeling at that very moment and the message that it delivers is one that is common, even for adults – hurt ‘them’ before they hurt ‘us’. It is a universal, human response to attack, retaliate, humiliate and cause harm that is sometimes physical but most often emotional when we feel slighted, snubbed or hurt.
I have witnessed these heartrending, regrettable interactions between parents and their children and I can’t help but feel for both parties. On one hand there is a child who has something that is eating away at them – it could be fear, melancholy, anger, resentment, frustration or just plain depression. On the other side you have a parent who is longing, begging for answers and parents have their own unique set of frustrations in these situations because all they truly want is for their child to experience and enjoy happiness. There are so many raw emotions bubbling beneath the surface on both ends but how do you find peace and contentment for both parties?
How do I know all these things? Because I was (and technically I still am at heart) a child. I experienced much of this adolescent angst, fear and antipathy in my youth. If my parents were here today I’m sure that they would willingly agree that I was a woeful child with little remorse for my bizarre, often malicious behavior towards them. And in an effort to give everyone in my life a fair amount of my rare brand of anger I made sure that everyone felt my wrath when I was ‘in a mood’.
Time is the yeast for regret and I have had many opportunities to remember the person I was while dealing with whom I have become. I have hurt many people in my misanthropical and misguided youth. In my adult life I continue to cause emotional harm with the things I say and do but I have, through countless hours of contemplation, meditation, prayer and yes even a bit of counseling and therapy (things that I considered wasteful, foolish and insincere) I feel like I’m getting better which is not a statement of finality because I am always seeking to improve.
But the most important ingredient in this confusing, disorienting and utterly frustrating world of parenting is what I feel to be the telling factor and the glue that holds us together as parents – love. Yes my friends there is no grand solve-all, fix-all cure to the perplexing dynamic of parent-child relationships. The only thing we can do is love, support and enable our children to be good people. The rest is simply up to them. If I can find some sense of balance in life by pushing out the parts of me that were (and are) harmful and destructive than you can rest assured that there is hope. And if it never changes (I hope it does), than you should find comfort in the realization that you did all that you possibly could and in the end that is really all that you can do.