The biggest epiphany for me as a child was when I saw my teacher in her casuals doing her grocery shopping at a local market. The realisation that they are normal humans leading normal lives and they don’t actually live under their desks.
Some revelations take time. Though we live through the truth every day, it becomes hard to comprehend when we are drowned in prejudice. One such thing I realised only during my early twenties which was frightening and mostly liberating was my parents were imperfect, inconsistent, flawed and are capable of vulnerability, just like every other human. The fact that they are just two people through whom I, biologically, came into this world shouldn’t be the reason they are obliged to be perfect in my eyes.
Master Of All?
Last month, when my 23-year-old friend was travelling from Chennai to Chemnitz, his third flight from Frankfurt to Dresden was cancelled and he was stranded in a new country to figure out how he’d reach this destination by road. While the conversation was steering towards the new adulting challenges, we couldn’t help but think how all of this would have been miraculously taken care if he was travelling with his parents.
In most cases, children with biological/non-biological parents believe that their parents are always right, that they magically know everything and can miraculously protect them from actions they have no control over. They also tend to believe that their parents are immune. Immune to things we often dread—embarrassment, humiliation, even mortality. But no parent, no human, can meet such irrational, inflated expectations. Over time, this perspective often binds a dependent and authority figure between the children and the parents.
They also tend to believe that their parents are immune. Immune to things we often dread—embarrassment, humiliation, even mortality. But no parent, no human, can meet such irrational, inflated expectations. Over time, this perspective often binds a dependent and authority figure between the kids and the parents.
More often the parents are the ones who get stuck in their role and are frantically confused about how to address the seemingly opposing drives of their parental identities. For instance, when they make a mistake, which they will like any human, they are paralyzed between maintaining their ‘position’ and risking a loss of face by admitting and addressing their mistake(s). They think admitting their flaws is synonymous with being less ‘parental’. And this, for no fault of their own, is how they are built in the society we live in as well.
Above All, They Are Individuals With Their Own Journey
In the era of social media public display of appreciation for parents, children who haven’t yet acknowledged placing their parents on a pedestal are forced to do so or embrace FOMO.
Maybe the cards and captions we write don’t need to say “Cheers to the not-so-perfect human who raised me!” But it is important to see our parents, like the rest of us, as flawed beings. Parents are people. People who’ve experienced their own traumas, insecurities, and setbacks in life and choose to do the best they can or not with whatever tools they have at the moment. They can choose not to. They can be inadequate, toxic parents, by choice or not, but it is not the fault of their children even if they say so. Children with toxic parents can see them just as toxic people and treat them however they would treat any toxic person who walks into their life to feel little liberated.
It is important to see our parents’ fallibility and learn how to make peace with it. “I see people from their twenties and thirties all the way up to their sixties who are still angry about what they got or didn’t get from their parents. They carry it around. Often, they are patients struggling with depression, anxiety, or even physical symptoms related to their anger, like unexplained pains, back pain with no obvious cause,” says psychologist Bernie Katz.
Parents who mask their vulnerability and shield the fact that they are human often tend to raise children who can be unforgiving when their parents struggle with depression or anxiety or alcoholism or financial strain and the like because it disappoints the impressions their parents gave them about parents.
Parents who mask their vulnerability and shield the fact that they are human often tend to raise children who can be unforgiving when their parents struggle with depression or anxiety or alcoholism or financial strain and like because it disappoints the impressions their parents gave them about parents.
The answers to a Thought Catalog interview where people were asked the moments they realised their parents were humans too—I resonate with this the most:
“It would have been one night a few months ago. My parents have been married for ages, but they were in a pretty bad place as a couple—fighting all the time, snide remarks here and there, just being generally cold to one another—it sucked. This night they were fighting and it was really bad, they were screaming for such a long time, they were at each other’s throats yelling shit that I wouldn’t say to like, my worst enemy, let alone my partner. Like they’re meant to be in love, but it was as if they hated each other. I had to separate them, physically, step in between them and separate them, but they kept going. My brother was at a friend’s house, luckily, so I just left, drove around for hours. I turned my phone off and drove really fast, bawling my eyes out. I’m not even sure why; I think it was more shock than sadness. I can accept the idea of my parents not being together but, I felt like I witnessed pure hatred between two people who I never thought possible. Anyway I got home in the morning and they apologised, but I didn’t say a word to them for a few days. They’re civil now, and they’re still married, but I can tell it’s more for my brother and I. They’re not happy. When you can see all these emotions on people who always kept things together during your childhood it’s pretty real. It lets you see that they’re regular people, with their own struggles and stuff. It makes me feel guilty knowing that they’re throwing away their happiness to keep my world, and my brother’s world intact. It’s so clear to me and it’s so selfless, but it’s kinda hollow. And I think that’s pretty human.“
Also read: How Abusive Parents Help The Patriarchy
Let Go, forgive
“If money was not a problem, what career would you choose?“
“Who has had the biggest impact on you and your life?“
“What do you love the most about yourself?“
“What were the hardest choices you had to make in life?“
How many of these questions have you asked your good friend, or even better, you already know your friend’s answer? Now, how many of these questions are you willing to ask your parents?
It is not about ‘letting them off the hook’ or ‘climbing down from their parental pedestal’ or justifying their toxic behaviour, but just to empathise with them, as you would ideally do for any normal human.
In Oprah Winfrey’s words, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different; it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.” For children from dysfunctional families, these are not your emotional baggage to carry through your life. Forgive them for your own sake, because as long as you hold on to past grudges, you prevent yourself from becoming a better person.
Get a hold of their parenting even if they may not have shown understanding for you during your childhood. For instance, instead of telling yourself, “My mother is impossible and controlling,” you could say, “My mother is doing the best she can and I don’t have to follow her ideas about what is best for my life.” As Dr. Stern says, “If you reframe [the realization], it can be very liberating—a reminder that none of us are perfect.“
It’s okay to be human.
Featured Image Source: Hindustan Times