None of us will be perfect parents. Our children will not agree with and understand with every choice we make–now or later. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to do things we regret. We are going to find out later just how the decisions we made affected them.
This will not be easy to hear. You may have experience trying to communicate precisely this with your own parents. Maybe it was your mother’s drinking or your father’s sternness, maybe their slowness to accept something about you, maybe the consequences of how much your family moved. Maybe you’ve tried to tell them and they reacted like Susan Sarandon did, as we talked about recently. Susan, an incredibly talented actress and a powerful activist, discovered that her daughter carried a certain amount of resentment and pain from her unique Hollywood-upbringing, and the ‘circus’-like movie sets that her mother raised her on, growing up. Instead of taking her daughter’s comments as they were–as an insight into her daughter’s life–instead of acknowledging her daughter’s truth and the work it took to understand it, the courage to articulate it, Susan was defensive. She tried to justify her choices, as many parents naturally do. “No apologies here,” she said in an interview, “I’ll talk to her therapist, but I don’t apologize.”
We have to be able to empathize and understand that our children’s experiences with the choices we make for ourselves and for them will be precisely that, their experiences. We have to recognize and respect this experience. We have to be big enough to understand and empathize with that.
We can’t undo it. We can’t change it. We can, at the very least, even if we have always acted with perfect intentions and flawless behavior (which no one is able to honestly claim), apologize. It’s the least we can do. It’s the first step towards building a better relationship with them, and helping them be better for their own children.