Were Your Father and Mother There For You?

This topic is so obvious yet I have yet to write about it. It may be partly because it is so close to home, for my boys.  I was blessed to have my mother and father in my life completely and lovingly, until they died in recent years (at 89 and 90).  They loved me, supported me, and told me the truth when I needed to hear it, whether I wanted it or not.

As is so often the case, I found their wisdom to be true once I survived my teens and particularly when I became a parent myself.  They also modeled a love affair and marriage that was the envy of all their friends, since they knew each other for 73 years and were married for 66.  It was a wonderful match. They survived two of their three children, but always stood by each other and I am so grateful for all that they did for me.

I was lucky.  Too many people that I know didn’t have such a positive parenting influence.  Too many didn’t have both parents in their lives, causing incalculable emotional damage.

Before I was married, I became a Big Brother to a little girl, who was being raised by her single mom (see my column, “Lessons of a Big Brother and Mentor” – http://bit.ly/BigMentor).  Her mother had had artificial insemination so there was no father in my “little sister’s” life–not a bad father, not a deadbeat one, nor even a dead one.  That hole could never be filled and it was a source of insecurity in her life.

I know other people that held on to whatever hurt feelings they had towards an absent or lousy parent well into their adulthood. Holding these angry emotions ultimately only hurts them. Was your father or mother there for you?  The impact that both parents have on our lives is incalculable.  And, how we react and what we do may define much of the rest of our lives.

Did you take the path of “letting it go” or, as many believe, did you forgive him or her?  Or, have you held onto your anger, allowing this anger to hurt your life every day and also hurt your own immediate family, because it does whether you think so or not?

I know my conclusion is obvious, but I will state it anyway and with conviction.  Get over it.  Let go.  Move on.  If this parent is no longer alive or you can’t contact him or her, write a letter and put it away.  Read it when you’re feeling that familiar anger.  Do not talk about this parent in disparaging ways to your family.  Get over it.  Let it go.  You will feel better and you will bring more joy to yourself and family.

My boys’ situation was one in which their mother abandoned them without much explanation whatsoever. It’s a long story, but they have not heard from nor seen her in over three years.

It’s been my job to help them through this journey.  I am grateful that I could provide the boys with the support they needed during these confusing years.  But, If you don’t have a strong, loving parent in your life, then you need to find that support elsewhere.  It may be a good same-gender friend, a clergy-person, or another relative.  But we all need support when dealing with such a large issue.

When I needed support, I found it through a men’s group. I urge you to read an older column of mine, “Do Men Have Strong Emotional Connections in Their Lives” (http://bit.ly/mensupport).  Men need men in their lives.  Trust me on this.  I can honestly say that the men in my groups, over an eight-year period, almost literally saved my life three times.

First, they were there for me during the early dark days of my divorce, when my soon-to-be ex-wife occasionally took the boys and I’d be alone in what seemed a very empty and large house.  The men helped me to stay grounded and helped me to make good choices when my instincts and decision-making ability was nil.

The second time they made a huge difference was during my courtship of my second wife and, frankly, ever since, as our marriage has had numerous challenges.  With the help of the men, I was encouraged to keep my “little boy” in check and attempt to actually behave like a grown-up, mature man, and loving husband. It hasn’t always been easy.

Finally, at a time in my life when I was very depressed and lost, in that I was drifting with little direction in my life and career, they helped me focus. They helped me “get over myself,” and indirectly put me in the direction of the writing that I’ve so heartily embraced and loved in recent years–my second career.

I’ve sort of rambled with this topic–it’s a tough one for me and one that hits home. My conclusion is simple. If you are still carrying a pile full of hurt from a parent, whatever the circumstances, get some help, move on with your life, and let go. It may not be easy, but it will make your life better.

Image credit: Toby Alter

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