My Dear Parents– You’ve taught me so much. I want to continue my letter to you as a show of gratitude for all that you’ve taught me. I’ve cherished it in my heart all these years and hope to pass on to others what you have passed on to me.
4) Be the first to apologize when you know you lost it.
Sometimes, it’s the negative example that teaches us something. My parents were not kind in how they dealt with my sister and me. Once I became a parent, I tumbled into my own mistakes as the grown-up caring for a child. But this is where I broke the cycle of, “Children should be (hardly) seen and not heard”: when I knew I was out of line in how I handled a situation with my kid, I swallowed my pride, dropped down on my knee so that I could look them straight in the eye…and I apologized. I have found myself saying many times over the years, “I’m sorry for the way I behaved– you did not deserve that. I took my anger out on you over a situation you had nothing to do with and I was wrong. Please forgive me.” And because as children we love our parents so much, they always forgave me and continue to do so. Humiliating myself for my children strengthens my relationship with them rather than weakening it.
5) Let your kids know you love them and need them in your life.
Parents, I know it’s hard sometimes. My heart breaks when I see you red in the face and stressed out, trying to multi-task with three little ones at your heels. I also feel the pain of the parent dealing with the volatile feelings of a teenager. Many years ago, while sitting in the tax office, I saw one of you and heard your pain. The dialogue you exchanged with your child of, “I hate you, too…go live with your Dad! I don’t care!” really broke my heart. I always hoped that you mended things with your son. Through your pain I learned what line I didn’t want to cross…to tell my child I hated her.
6) Embrace your child’s future.
I learned a few more things from you Parental Kindred Spirits: that it’s okay to let your adult child be excited about leaving home and forging their own path through life. Instead of fearing my eldest leaving home, I learned from other parents that it’s more wise to encourage them to go. It’s kind of like aging–it’s going to happen whether we want it to or not so we can either try to fight it kicking and screaming, or we can challenge ourselves to embrace what’s happening and look for the positive changes and growth that come out of it.