Remember that time you really needed your dad and he wasn’t there? Because he had his own emotional issues. Because he worked too much. Because he was a drunk. Remember how your mother’s overweening affection made you feel smothered or small? Remember how her strictness kept you from enjoying the things that children should get to enjoy? Remember her jealousy or her pettiness or her mood swings? Remember how neither of them could get it together and provide for you? Or how their violent fights kept you up at night? Or maybe just how their self-absorption seemed to make everything—including the things you really needed help with—about them?
Whatever it is, of course you remember. How could you not? These were defining experiences. They hurt. They hurt so much. You’re angry. As you should be. They had a job they were supposed to do. And they didn’t do it—not enough anyway. You, the innocent child, suffered for this. You carry the wounds of their failure.
But here’s the thing: You have to move on. As justified as your anger is—as ongoing as these behaviors may still be with your parents—you have to move on. You have to. Because now you have children of your own. And they deserve a dad who is all there. Not one who is clinging to the past. Not one who is putting his baggage on their shoulders, just as his own parents did to him.
It will not be easy moving on. No one said it will be. You’ll have to process it. You’ll have to go to therapy. Or read books. Or find a support group. You’ll have to sit alone with your thoughts. You’ll have to forgive—or cut people out of your life. But you have to move on. Your kids need you to. You need to.