Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Parents and the damage done.

"All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair."
- Mitch Albom - the five people you meet in Heaven


How sad that quote is true I thought when I read it. What damage was done to me and how has that legacy made me damage my own children? But it also made me think about the whole story. I realised that whilst all parents do damage their children, many are also there to pick them up when they fall, to kiss away the hurts and sooth the aches and pains.

Sometimes as kids we don't realise that.

We don't necessarily give our parents the credit they deserve for the repairs they do to the damage done. I am sure that there are bad parents but I am equally sure that most of us do our best. That we do sometimes struggle with doing the right thing by our kids but that the last thing we want them to do is grow up hurt or damaged. We want them to know that if their pristine glass is smudged that we will do our utmost to wipe those flaws away.

And you know, the smudges can be removed, they don't have to be forever. The relationships we have with our parents and our children will ebb and flow with circumstance. There will be times when we are angry, other times when we hurt, still more when we concentrate on the flaws in the glass rather than the depth of its beauty. Sometimes the reflections cast from those flaws are not those of the people we are looking at but our own images staring back at us. All of these things, the blemishes and imperfections as well as the sheer beauty we can find in others are all parts of the complexities of the love that binds us.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

This made me cry. You don't know how appropriate it was for me to read this today, Laurie. Thankyou.
Jen x

Loz said...

Hi Jen
I was in a bad place when I first read that quote and if I'd posted at the time it would have been dark and gloomy. It was only on reflection that I realised the underlying truth of what was being said. I hope it helped.

Pen and the Sword said...

Isn't that the truth. I know that much of my childhood was dark, but there were some highlights to it as well; and all those things shaped me into who I am today and how I approach being a parent. I worry so much about my parenting skills. I worry that I might or might not be doing what is necessary to bring up good young men. But I suppose that is what being a parent is all about. Thanks for making me think about that today.

Loz said...

Pen - I worry about it all the time, about whether I do the right or wrong thing, about the examples I set, about the truth and about lies, about the harm both can do, and how long the harm will last. All we can ever do is our best and as one of the four agreements says, some days that best is better than others.

Finn said...

As long as parents are imperfect, we will impart damage to our children. But the best we can do is recognize it and try to repair what we've done.

I think it's unavoidable. Even the best of intentions can do harm. If we do the best we can, one day our kids will understand what we meant instead of dwelling on what we did.

Loz said...

Finn - that is a wonderful way to put it.

Gypsy said...

Oh Loz, this post was beautiful, insightful and very poetic. It made me tear up a little too. I particularly loved every word of that last paragraph. My biggest fear is that something I say or do will somehow damage my children and that I will not be aware of it in order to reverse the damage. The best we can do is all any of us can expect from ourselves and others. We just have to hope it's enough.

M said...

It's important to remember that the wounds we suffer only make us stronger. If we've all done our job well -- both the parent and the child -- we realize that one of the greatest lessons we can learn is that none of us is perfect, that it's OK to make mistakes and that our imperfections and acceptance of them only make us ready to love and be loved.

Josie Two Shoes said...

This post hit home with me too, Loz. I often struggle with the childhood my daughter had and wonder what I could and should have done differently. I know it wasn't what it should have been. But beneath it all she knew that she was wanted and loved. I know many children that isn't true for. If we all look back at our parents to lay the blame for our lives, where does it end? While I acknowledge that my parents made some mistakes with me, and I made some with my children, I think it is fair to realize that everyone we interact with in life leaves some imprint upon us - good or bad, that IS life, it is how we are shaped into the people that we are. What we do with what we are given is what matters. We can make excuses for our lives, or we can overcome.

Loz said...

Gypsy - its this midlife stuff that has made me critically examine much of what happened to me as a child, and also question my capacity to be a good father. I have come to the conclusion that I still have a lot to learn.

Loz said...

M - you're right too. I think it is inevitable that as children we put our parents on pedestals. When they fall off it can hurt. But I think it's only when we get older that we can acknowledge that maybe the fall is just part of being human.

Loz said...

Josie - I think that it is easy to look for excuses. The hard part is to acknowledge the frailties. As kids we don't want to believe that our parents make mistakes, we certainly have no real idea about how they deal with those mistakes. Like many have said we can only do our best and hope that it is not our fingerprints that leave the darkest smudges most difficult to remove.

HollyGL said...

I agree that we are all damaged, each generation carrying their respective wounds or scars to be handed down in one variation or another. But I also agree that the flaws we most readily see - and that irk us most - in others are likely those that we'd rather not notice in ourselves, yet are there all the same. As is the beauty, talent, etc... that we so admire in those around us. I love this post, Loz. Really hits close to home.

paisley said...

loz,, my dear friend.. i hope you know that even tho we are all "damaged" by our parents,, the majority of us,, and i include yourself and your children in this majority,, will leave behind a legacy of love... for over the course of life,, children become adults and realize,, none of us are perfect... not those that plant the seed nor those who nurture it...

Anonymous said...

How wise you and your readers are Laurie.

This post and all the replies mean so much to me. Thankyou friends.

Jen