It happens. As you get older, you realize your parents are not perfect. You stop idealizing them and often stop wishing they would be the perfect parent. You see them for whom they really are. It can be really challenging to work through disappointments, to see how they have influenced your life but have not solely determined who you are, and to accept them as having a variety of qualities, some you like, and some you could live without.
Sometimes the past becomes too powerful and the desire to have the love you always wanted from a parent persists and influences your view of yourself, others, and the world. Almost always, parents fall short of their children’s expectations. When you reconcile your expectations with whom your parents really are, your relationship can evolve. Relationships with parents can change over time. You may find ways to have a more honest and authentic relationship with your parents or you may need to accept what they have to give which varies greatly from family to family.
Most parents unconditionally love their children and really try their best to be a good, loving parent. They make mistakes, just as we have made mistakes. They had often acted out of good intentions (although not always-in some cases severe trauma may have been inflicted). It can be so difficult to come to terms with parents loving you, disappointing you, and having the intention to love you to the best of their abilities. Some parents, particularly those who have a mental health issue or who are addicted, may not have much to give. Loss may be a central theme in looking at your past and current relationship with your parents. Healing from past traumas and losses is essential in finding new ways to have adult relationships with your parents.
What’s more is that each generation wants something better than they had. Your parents may have vowed to be better parents than their parents were. However, depending on your family’s circumstance, they may not have had the skills or resources to love you the way that you wanted to be loved. I have often heard about parents who were too critical, too overbearing, too absent, too anxious, and too angry to really be present the way their now adult children wished they would have been. The healing is in recognizing what you wanted and needed, working through feelings associated with this loss, and internalizing a more authentic view of your parents and their love.
It seems that recognizing your parents’ intention can be the key to feeling loved by them and to feeling that they did best that they could. Their intention was to love you for you, unconditionally.