My oldest daughter and I have an okay relationship…now. We used to butt heads a lot, but as she nears 30, I think we have learned to be very careful around one another. It’s really good that we don’t hurt each other with our words anymore, but sometimes I think it would be better if “careful” wasn’t our normal way of interacting.
Beth is reading a book called “Walking on Eggshells.” That’s the way it is with some parents and their adult children. The best we can do is not break anything during this phase of a relationship.
When I was a little boy, my father and I spent a lot of time together until he left New York for California and another woman who wasn’t my mom. As you might suspect, this changed the trajectory of our relationship and we never could sustain it without one of us pissing the other off and causing a rift that would take months or years to heal. This occurred over and over again until his death.
Although I did a better job with my kids in many ways, I feel like some of the tension between my children and I is generational in nature. Because I never learned some things from my father (who never learned them from his dad), I probably stepped into the same poopy doo that’s been around for generations. In ACA, we refer to this as “passing the bundle.”
I’m told that this is exceedingly common with firstborn sons and their fathers, though I know many people who are neither firstborns or males who experience these troubles, too. What seems to be common, though, is messed up dads stinking up a whole bunch of families. Thankfully, many men I’ve met are cleaning up their troubled legacies.
In that vein, it’s a huge win for me (and my family) that I did okay, just average thank you very much, instead of flowering into an alcoholic, emotionally-absent, financially-reclusive wreck of a parent given my pedigree. Luckily, my mom taught me right and two daughters have flown from the nest, mostly with memories of dear old dad (me) being sober, present and willing to engage in improving our relationships.
Right now, my second daughter and I have a more easygoing relationship than the one I have with our firstborn. Some of that, for sure, is that many of us improve as parents as we go along. I got better after making some initial mistakes with daughter numero uno. To be blunt, I was sometimes a bully as a young father. Juggling marriage, career, children and other pressures wasn’t easy at times and I did have some moments where I projected those emotions onto those around me.
The Adventures we go on with children, siblings, parents, friends, spouses and others are marked with days or years when the rough seas nearly capsize us. This is how it’s meant to be. Ships weren’t built to stay in the harbor and relationships need to be tested in order that we may learn.
So, my father and I did not have a storybook happy ending. I’m guessing that the same is true for some of you and your kin.
Sometimes, the greatest lessons we learn from our parents are when we observe their mistakes and how they hurt us, themselves and others we love. Though I’m not completely healed, my experience with my dad have made me a better father, husband and son. It has given me gratitude for what I have with Beth, our daughters, my mom, stepfather, brother and stepsisters. All of these relationships are very sea worthy in my estimation and I acknowledge that some of the ways we endure today’s storms together is, in part, thanks to those days when the seas got pretty rough. And, yes, I lost some fellow travelers in the hurricanes of yesteryear.
May our hearts be full of love for them all. As my wise wife likes to say, we are all of us fighting a great battle.