“Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change direction–only enough to make you useless.” – Daniel Nayeri, Another Faust
What parent hasn’t made mistakes? None of us are perfect, that’s for sure. I don’t know about you, but when I had my children, I swore I wouldn’t make the same mistakes my mother did. I cringed when I heard the same words coming out of my mouth or saw myself taking the very actions I hated as her child.
I had my children very young – too young. I was not equipped to be a mother and I was in a bad marriage. I didn’t know myself and I didn’t like myself – not a good foundation for good parenting. I didn’t have good role models to base my parenting skills on. I divorced when my sons were two and four years old. That time was very stressful and I took out my stress on my kids, not something I’m proud of. I yelled at them a lot and I hit them – sometimes just out of frustration and because I didn’t know any other way to discipline them.
Thankfully I was able to turn that behavior around but not until I was able to let go of guilt. For me, feeling guilty kept me trapped in the cycle and I kept repeating the same behaviors over and over again. First, I had to stop blaming my mother and realize she had done the best she could with the tools she had. I also had to realize that she loved me in the only way she knew how. Then I had to take responsibility for my actions – responsibility is quite different than guilt. Guilt kept me paralyzed and responsibility allowed me to move into action and create the change I desired in my family.
When you’re the parent of an LGBTQ child and did not react to their coming out in the way you wished, you can feel a lot of guilt about what you said or how you reacted. We’ve been there! Reliving that and feeling guilty neither serves you or your child. You already took responsibility for that. You did research, you sought support, you changed. Instead of reliving the past, where are you now? Are you embracing your child for who they are? Are you their strongest advocate and supporter? That is what count. If you’re not there yet, how much progress have you made? It’s easier to let go of the guilt when you look at where you are now, not where you were then.
How can you take responsibility and move away from guilt and into action? How will that positively change the dynamics in your family?