She also stated that I should be ashamed for not taking responsibility for my children’s problems because they were most likely my fault just like her problems are her mother’s fault. She said that her mother’s traumatic childhood, abusive marriage, and ensuing emotional problems were not her kid’s problem and that she should have just sucked it up and done what was “right by us kids.” I admit, I don't know the whole story, but I'm betting it's long and involved one.
My first thought was to delete the email, dismissing it as the rantings of a woman who desperately needs to grow up and quit blaming the world for her own refusal to take responsibility for her life and her future. Then the thought crossed my mind that if she was brave (brazen?) enough to actually put it in writing, how many others are there who are thinking it but are too polite to speak the “truth” as they see it?
So, this post is a public service to all the other imperfect parents of kids who are using them as an excuse to screw up their lives.
First, I never said Hubby and I were to be idolized as perfect parents. I said that we did the best we could at the time with the tools we had. Before Cheryl, unfortunately, my tool belt was woefully empty. I’d done fine until they became pre-teens – little ones are pretty easy to manage with love and diligence alone. But once their pre-pubescent attitudes started working overtime, without knowing it, I was seriously in over my head. I didn’t understand how to discipline without anger. I didn’t understand how to set limits without smothering. I didn’t understand the importance of listening more than, or at least as much as, you talk. And worst of all, my emotional problems probably contributed to my son’s drug addiction. All of this I REGRET. However, I never intentionally set out to mess him up, so I don’t feel GUILTY.
I know it’s hard to understand the subtle difference. Let me try to help some:
The Free Dictionary defines them as follows:
1. To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about.
2. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.
1. A sense of loss and longing for someone or something gone.
2. A feeling of disappointment or distress about something that one wishes could be different.
1. The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense.
2. Law Culpability for a crime or lesser breach of regulations that carries a legal penalty.
3. a. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
b. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.
4. Guilty conduct; sin.
Some examples of regret vs. guilt are:
- Doctors who, today, can save countless lives that would have been routinely lost 10 years ago. They regret that the cures weren’t found sooner, but they do not feel guilt over not having had the tools back then.
- Firemen who respond to homes with burglar bars blocking quick access, preventing them from saving the residents trapped inside, feel regret that they could not save the people, but they are not guilty of having killed anyone.
- Parents who were not parented themselves, or have mental/emotional problems, or physical disabilities, or financial troubles, or, or, or… but who still love their children and try, to the very best of their ability, to keep them safe and provide for their physical needs; to teach them right from wrong; to instill in them a sense of self-worth and self-pride; to hold them accountable for their actions. Parents who expect their children to go to school and get reasonably good grades, and to abide by the laws of civility and the courts. Parents who stay involved and continue to try, and care, and be there when their children falter in any of these – even when the child is pushing them away with every ounce of their being. Parents who recognize their shortcomings and acknowledge them and apologize for them and try to improve them. These parents have every right to regret some of the things they did not do because they were either unable to do them or didn’t know they should have done it differently. These parents are not, however, guilty of any sin or deliberate omission or malicious misconduct toward their children. They were just doing the best they could with what they had to work with at the time!
Understand, I am not defending myself here. I have done nothing to be defended for. What I am doing is telling all the whiney babies out there who want to keep blaming your parents, teachers, preachers, doctors, friends, neighbors, siblings, etc., etc., etc., for your problems, to GROW THE HECK UP, FIND A COUNSELOR, LEARN SOME NEW SKILLS, AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FUTURE.
And I am telling all the parents out there who are paralyzed by guilt and fear to CUT IT OUT, GET A GRIP, FIND A COUNSELOR AND GET HELP! You only have something to feel guilty about if you don’t continually try to find new tools to use in the building of your child’s future. As long as you keep trying, loving, teaching, and supporting the little miscreants, it’s THEIR fault if they choose not to take the gifts you offer.
OK – stepping off my soap box now. Thanks for listening and I will miss those of you who now refuse to ever visit here again…. But I’ll sleep really well tonight.
Peace, Blessings, and Sweet Dreams to you, too!