As parents, we all make mistakes. No one gave us a user manual before we had our children. We learn from what we see and experience. At least that was true for me.
I didn’t like what I saw in how I was parented, and I swore I would never do what my mother or father did. But I didn’t know any other way. And I found myself saying and doing that which I hated when I was a child. I was not the parent I wanted to be.
I suffered from a lot of guilt and found that guilt kept me trapped in the behavior I so much wanted to change. That and blame. I blamed my mother for how I was and so I blamed myself (guilt) for the kind of parent I was.
Eventually and before my children were grown, I learned there is a big difference between feeling guilty and taking responsibility. Guilt kept me immobilized and repeating the same behavior. Responsibility allowed me to look more objectively at what I was doing and start to change. Some of the changes happened abruptly. I no longer wanted to practice certain behaviors and stopped them – period. Other changes were gradual. but they happened too.
When my son came out to me as gay, I said things I regret. I know it could have been worse but nevertheless, I said things I was not proud of. I could let myself go to that old guilt very easily. Instead I focus on progress. I don’t even know if my son remembers what I said to him that I regret. What I focus on is how I changed and how I am today. I can’t take back what I said. But I can do better and have done better.
I look at the relationship we have today and know that it is all okay. He knows how much I love him and his husband and that I continue to work on myself. If I say something inappropriate today (and I hope I don’t!) he will tell me because he knows he can and that I’ll listen. If I ever worry that I’m being like my mother, all I have to do is ask and he reassures me that I’m not her and not like her.
I’m grateful for the relationship I have with both my sons, for the mutual love and respect we have for one another. I’m not the parent I was in the beginning. What counts is who I am and how I act today.