The Box Office is featuring a couple of movies that speak of parent’s relationships with their adult children. I saw two over the Christmas Holiday. ‘Guilt Trip’ about a mother and her son on a road trip and ‘Parental Guidance’ about a daughter and her parents and their relationship with her children. Both movies were a lot of fun – the films were entertaining and also gave the audience something to think about and hopefully to work on and grow through.
And so of course I began to reflect on my relationship with my folks. Both of my parents are now at home with the Lord.
Let me begin with Mom. I loved my Mom very much. But sometimes she would drive me crazy with her mothering. It didn’t matter that I matured and reached the age of 30, 40 or even 49 years old, with two Master and a Doctorate degree, Mom always felt a need to tell me to dress warm in the winter or to take an umbrella if it was raining. Sometimes she would make suggestions on how I should wear my hair or how much sleep I should be getting. So when Mom passed (May 11, 2004) – I felt bad that I sometimes gave her a hard time about smothering me with her mothering. I admit that there are some cold winter mornings that I long for her telephone call to tell me to dress warm.
Then there was Dad. I loved my Dad too. But I really did not know my Dad. My parents were divorced when I was 13 and Dad moved out of the area and sometimes it was difficult to connect with him. He was remarried had two stepsons and with the new wife he had a new life. As a teen I did not really want to (most teens seeks distance from parents – and that is normal) or even know how to connect with him. And as an adult it was very difficult. He was into his stuff and I was busy working and parenting my own family. We truly had a ‘Cats in the Cradle ‘ relationship. And so when Dad passed (January 6, 2005) I felt bad that we were never able to really connect and to heal the wounds that separated us.
So how does one go about working through the guilt trip or the resentment, sadness, or anger for what was or for what was not? How do we make peace with the dysfunction in our families of origin? How does one honor mother and father? How do we move on and heal our relationships with the next generation without visiting the sins of the past onto the 2nd and third generation?
- I recommend that you begin this journey with prayer – asking God to heal your memories and to help you to do your part in restoring and honoring the relationship. Asking God to guide this process with His grace, His mercy and His loving kindness.
- Become reflective about the life stories that play over and over again in your heart and mind. Write the stories down in a journal especially the painful ones – and then as you recount the story tell it again from the parent’s perspective. In the movie, “Guilt Trip” the Mom was able to explain her choices to her son and the son was able to explain his life choices and they were able to understand and suddenly the pain of the relationship was lifted from them. There was still friction – but it was no longer emotionally charged. Ideally conversation with the parent is the best. But if a parent is deceased then the journaling is second best in trying to heal old wounds. Sometimes working with a therapist or with your pastor can be helpful in healing these childhood wounds.
- Stop blaming your parents for your own unhappiness or the problems you encounter as an adult. Move on. Be responsible for your own choices and be thankful for your life and embrace all that was and is good. Incorporate the new understanding of the past from your journaling or reflective work and allow yourself to heal. As you embrace a new understanding and release the childhood feelings, the more room you create for the new that God wants to work in your life.
Above recognize that we are all human – that all of us are only able to do the best we can with what we have. No matter how hard we try we will not get it perfect. Give yourself some grace and learn from your mistake and your parent’s mistakes and embrace the present. Live today. By living in the ‘now’ you will begin to love yourself more and you will become a better Mother, Father, Son or Daughter, brother of sister in your familiar relationships.
Blessings to you in all of your relationships in 2013.