It’s been this way for a long time. Parents who ignored their kids. Parents who were too busy working, surviving, to be there emotionally. Parents who drank. Parents who pushed too hard, who asked too much. It’s been generations of this, it is the human story, written in the private lives of families, written in the history books, explaining so much of why we are the way we are.
It may well have been generations of this in your family. Your great grandparents did it, your grandparents who did it to your parents, who did it to you. Maybe they didn’t know they were doing it, maybe they were trying their best to do the opposite. The reason doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that it happened. Because it was painful. But the past does not have to be a prologue. Or rather, the ending of the book can take the story in a very different direction.
Arnold Schwarzenegger recently gave an interview about his attempts to rise above the trauma of his own childhood, to get away from the example of his abusive father and his failings. “Generations can be different,” he said. “I don’t need to do the same things my dad did. I don’t need to be prejudiced. I don’t need to be an alcoholic. I don’t need to beat my kids. I can make a break.”
Each of us has the power to make a break. It may not need to be as severe as breaking from a father who was a Nazi like Arnold’s, but we can do better than our own parents did, we can make a mark as a new and independent generation. Arnold’s kids will have the opportunity to do better than their father did, breaking from the behaviors that cost him his marriage for instance. You have the opportunity to break from the habits or the mindsets that pained you about your own childhood or your parents childhood.
We can be different. We can be better. We have to be.