If you’re anything like me, your parents were not perfect. Far from it, in fact. I have always been lucky enough to have a great relationship with my parents, and still, I have spent years in therapy trying to work through unhelpful and even unhealthy thought patterns, world views, and behaviors that I developed as a result of the way I was raised.
There have been times when it would have been easy to feel angry or resentful at my imperfect parents for the personal difficulty and even turmoil that my upbringing has sometimes led to. And I absolutely have experienced those feelings and more as I have looked back on my childhood. But something that I have realized, especially as I have become a parent myself, is that my parents were honestly doing the best they could with what they had been given. For my own benefit as well as theirs, I have chosen to see my parents’ imperfections through a lens of gratitude rather than one of bitterness.
Here are a few reasons why I am grateful that my parents weren’t perfect when they raised me:
1. It taught me that I can be imperfect in my own parenting and still be a good parent
The point of parenting isn’t to do it without ever making a mistake. Parenting is all about teaching our children how to do their best and how to respond when they fall short. When we aren’t perfect, we give our children permission to learn and grow from their own mistakes, and we teach them how to be good people in an imperfect world.
2. It made me a stronger individual and a better parent
Working through and processing the mistakes my parents made while raising me (both on my own and with the help of a professional therapist) has helped me develop resilience, learn skills that have been essential to my wellbeing, and make different (and hopefully healthier) choices in my parenting.
3. It has strengthened my relationship with my parents as an adult
As I have worked to heal from the hurt caused by an imperfect upbringing, I have had the opportunity to have a lot of conversations with my parents about our relationship. Sharing with them the things I have learned as well as my gratitude for their love and sacrifices over the years has brought us closer than ever before.
4. It gave me permission to apologize to my children for my own mistakes
Acknowledging that parents are imperfect has helped me strengthen my relationship with my own children as I have worked to notice the mistakes that I am making in real time, and to openly apologize to my children when I mess up. For me, this has looked something like saying, “Hey bud, I’m sorry for being so short-tempered with you earlier. I am really tired and feeling a little down today, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. Can you forgive me?” or “Hey, it wasn’t okay for me to talk to you like that. Can I try again?”
It’s okay to acknowledge that your parents made mistakes, and it’s okay to make mistakes as a parent yourself. Choosing to look at those mistakes through the lenses of growth, patience, forgiveness, and gratitude will provide multi-generational healing for you, your parents, and your children.
Healthy Relationships California (HRC) is a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals and families improve their relationships. Visit www.r3academy.org to learn more about how our programs (FREE for qualifying individuals living in California) can help you strengthen your parenting.