Disclaimer: I am still extremely new at parenting. I also will likely rework my thoughts about parenting a zillion times before the end of my life, so consider this an observational snapshot. With those declarations made, please offer me grace in speaking about something I have mostly spectator’s experience with. I’m aware you likely know more than me. I’m just sharing where I am. Right now.
I’m not going to lie, I honestly thought that once your kids were “grown” in age or self-sufficiency, you pretty much got to coast as a parent. You received part of your own life back, you got your kids off the payroll, etc. No more running to games or having to feed or pouring out as much of yourself for your children. While part of that may be true, as many of my friends transition into becoming a peer of sorts with their parents, I’m learning there are new thresholds that both parties encounter.
As we (the children) start to navigate building a life, naturally we begin to compare the lives our parents built for themselves (and us) with our own experience. For me, it hit at about 24 years old. I’m rounding the corner for the home stretch of pharmacy school (and done with school forever after 19 years of my life), and I realize that my parents were in the same position at one time but with a lot more obstacles to overcome (read: more school debt). Fast forward to my childhood memories of trips, Christmases and birthdays, and multiple opportunities that were not free (contrary to my understanding at the time). How the heck did they do that?! You guys are honkin’ heroes. I’m not exaggerating. I’m truly amazed. I’m not the only one. I’ve had this conversation with multiple friends and siblings who experienced the same epiphany.
With that comparison also comes some realizations. As adults we have to start taking responsibility for our junk. We’ve been shaped by a lot of external influences, much of it outside of even our parents’ control. No parents are perfect. Mine weren’t, and I won’t be as a parent. As we work through why we are the way we are, we may choose to do things differently. Just like you did, looking at your parents. This has the potential to bring up guilt and insecurities for the parents that they’ve held onto for years. I wish I could look into the face of each of you parents and say “There’s grace for that.”
There is. Remember those years where we were ungrateful and self-absorbed and assumed money grew on trees? You know, the preteen to past college years? Remember when you loved us anyway? THAT’S some grace. Seriously, y’all are amazing for not disowning us at times. Or maybe it was just me?
But seriously, we love you. And we know you love us. I don’t know about everyone around this phase of life, but most of us want your friendship now. We want to learn from you as a mentor. We want the truth about your highs and lows and victories and failures so we can glean from it all. We know it wasn’t all perfect, and we won’t be either.
So now can you model forgiving yourself so we can learn how to forgive ourselves when we aren’t perfect parents?
I think I turned out pretty good. I have my parents to thank for that. They did great, I think. Your children probably do or will think that as well. And if they don’t, well, eventually it’s just their problem. Lay it down. Let it go.
It’s awkward as we move through these phases of life. It’s this long dance of dependence where it eventually switches hands all together. Let’s celebrate this season of friendship. Let’s release the past and look forward to the future. I have. Many of my friends have. We’re HERE. Now. I think my parents are phenomenal people. Most of my friends think their parents are too. Heck, anyone who will love you exactly as you are, knowing all your junk, you have to hold on to! So let’s be that for each other.
All of this to say: I’m sorry I underestimated the potential trials of this phase for parents. I’m sure it’s awkward. Just don’t punish yourself. Most of us definitely remember exponentially more good than bad. We can learn from it all. We have. God used some pretty jacked up folks in the Bible to further His Kingdom. Trust that He has used you. He has. He will. Keep that “yes” on your heart. Receive His love and grace for all of it.
Now please be ready to recite this back to us in the coming years.
If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves otherwise its like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.
– C.S. Lewis