This site is devoted to parents. It has seemed appropriate that, a couple of times in the past, I’ve turned over my monthly blogging spot to my mother, a clinical psychologist. I am doing it again today…………..
As a clinical psychologist, I listen to many people talk about their own parents and I hear an equal number of people talk about themselves as parents. When clients talk about their own parents, they often reflect on the impact – positive and negative – that their mothers and fathers had on their development. In these discussions, clients realize that they have survived, most quite well, and everyone has gone beyond their parents’ teachings and learned for themselves. On the other hand, when clients talk about being parents to their own children, they are clearly struck by the awesome responsibility of raising little people and guiding them into adulthood. Many aspects of parental responsibility frighten people, some confuse them, others delight them and a few enrage them. Let’s talk about the last experience.
One reason (and there are many others) that a mother or father becomes terribly angry at a child is when that child is too different from the ways that the parent was at that same age. Here are a couple of examples: Greg is furious at his son Adam and doesn’t yet know why. Greg worked hard in school, he was competitive, ambitious and outgoing. Adam is somewhere on the spectrum of autism. He is not now and never will be the hard driving man that his father became. Fran is enraged with her daughter Alyssa. Fran cared for an emotionally frail mother; she silenced all of her needs in the service of keeping her mother happy and stable. Now, years later Fran must be the caretaker again and, for the rest of her life, she will have to think about Alyssa’s wellbeing. Alyssa will never cater to her but she will offer a love that is unlike Fran’s imaginings.
The common theme – our children are not us. They are their own people. Our fantasies about parenting are just that – fantasy. Parenting happens in reality. It doesn’t pay to get angry or disappointed. You can coax, feed, or scold a rose and it will never become a lily. You can nurture a beautiful rose or neglect it, but you have a rose. Try to separate out your wishes from your child’s personality, character and ability. Both of you will feel lighter and free.