We look back at ourselves as teens you controlled.
Or perhaps distracted with your own big issues,
You didn't even realise I was handing you tissues.
As parents you were doing the best you knew how,
But what if you knew then, what we observe now.
(The following letter contains the words of many different people over the age of 30)
Dear Mum and Dad,
I'm a parent now. I take many of the elements of your parenting on board in my own parenting journey, but there are some key points I aim to hike a different path, so that at the age of 19, my children will, I hope, be a little different to me then.
The parents who were there
At nineteen, I was much of what you raised me to be: hardworking, caring and smart enough. But I lacked confidence. I was someone with all the tools for success but without the confidence to use them.
Why do you so rarely build me up? Tell me I'm doing well; tell me I make you happy; tell me I'm full of worth, not just in God's eyes but in your eyes and in the eyes of others. How come you act out of fear and jump on the bad, instead of just encouraging the good that you see? I feel bad enough, knowing my own weaknesses so well. When you focus on it, it just becomes more comfortable.
I need some space. Let me make up my own mind and support me in doing that. Don't condemn my religious choices, but rather rejoice that my heart is in the right place or that God has me on some kind of journey. Show me by word and example that you believe God holds my life in His hands, and be open to the possibility that you might be wrong about what is best for me. Encourage me to move out of home and explore the world, stand on my own two feet. Don't suffocate me with your expectations, your emotional needs, and your hissy fits.
The parents who weren't there
You are not really there for me emotionally. Dad, I know you suffer from depression & Mum I know you find solace in drinking a lot, so not to pass the blame but you are not the most supportive role models at this time. Which is probably part of the reason I am looking for my own family unit elsewhere.. I can't comprehend at this age that there is a big world out there and that my family issues do not have to dictate my future outcomes and self worth.
However, what I see and judge as a child and teen adds to who I am now. That feeling of self-worth would go a long way in equipping me for friendships and relationships and may save me the heartache of selling myself too short.
Communication and trust
I don't mean unnecessarily inflating my teenage ego; simply tell me occasionally I am beautiful, you are proud of me, or I'm doing well: acknowledge, encourage and build up. Continually cutting words can only damage me. And talk to me, like you really want to know and understand what is going on for me. Even if you don't approve! Trust that you may have raised me to be an amazing adult and know that it is ok for me to make mistakes. It's what makes us stronger and more independent, more rounded adults.
I really need to feel you trust me to make decisions. Whether the decisions were good or bad in your eyes, once advice has been given, space also needs to be given. I know trust goes both ways. More open and honest communication can only be nourishing to our relationship.
But being a parent now, and with all the knowledge I can muster of how you, too, were influenced by your own set of circumstances as children, I am trying to quietly build a bridge and focus on some of the many positives. You wouldn't guess that from this letter, I know: somehow only the bitterness is on easy recall.
Looking back now, I do see the many sacrifices you made for us, the dozens of family traditions that sustained us and built love. But I just wish that the good wasn't overshadowed by words or actions that so often tore down the love that was there.
Forgiveness is a slow journey. It seems easier to remain bitter if there appears to be no way of working it through with you. But bitterness is like a curved blade, hurting the bitter one - that would be me- while you may well be quite unaware I feel this way. If only the communication channels had been a little more open along the way. However, you may feel a sense of guilt in some areas you felt you let me down. Why don't we chat about it? Forgiveness can go both ways and release both our hearts and minds from here, onwards. If not, know that I am working through a path of forgiveness for my own life.
Your Daughter or son.
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and she has a son BJ, 11 years. She has a heart and passion for God, writing, creativity, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html