Parenting Advice ColumnSubject: Mom feels guilty about past mistakes
I have been reading a lot of information on "parenting" sites since getting connected to the web, and it is helping me with all of the guilt I have at the way I raised my 2 older children. They are now 11 and 13, and I did not show them much love when they were younger (I didn't know how as I was raised in an unemotional family).
Now that they are older, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make up for my inadequacies and to help them understand that I only acted the way I did because I didn't know any better. I also have a 4-year-old and probably went "over the top" with her trying to compensate - the trouble is Sara and Josh notice and are full of resentment. I am trying, and every day is easier than the one before, but it's an uphill struggle. Through your site, though, I am learning, and I thank you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know how helpful our web site information has been for you.
My heart goes out to you as you struggle to come to terms with your past choices as a parent. It may sound overly simplistic, but every one of us has done the very best we could, given all of our experiences and knowledge up to that point in time. What more could we possibly have done? If we've done our very best, what keeps us from forgiving ourselves? It may be that we were not sufficiently forgiven or understood in our own childhood, which has made it difficult to learn to forgive others, and especially hard to forgive ourselves. The fact that you are trying to do things differently now, and are trying to communicate your sorrow and apologies to your older children, shows just how far you have come.
I would like to recommend the article "The Mistake" by Laura Mixon. This article, written by a fiction author, addresses exactly the issues you've raised. The conclusion of her story is a good example of an apology breaking through a parent-child barrier.
I also highly recommend the extraordinary film "Smoke Signals" which addresses the issue of forgiveness between generations.
JanParenting Advice Column