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Understanding Imperfect Parents

Great morning to you, I am so thankful that I have this time to write and ask this question. I am a single man with no kids. I was having a talk with my family last night, mostly with my sister. She has two kids and a husband. My sister and I had a mother that was not as present as my sister would have liked. We grew up with divorced parents. My mother did drugs, had crazy boyfriends etc... I was telling my sister that for me, I have spoken with our mother the last few years and told her just how much I love her and understand that she raised us in the best way she knew how AT THE TIME.

I truly believe that all people do the best they can at each moment in time with all they know how to do and be. I listened to my sister and she thinks that our mother could have done things differently and that she did know the difference between right and wrong, yet she picked the-- what my sister perceives as—wrong choice. I think that our mother just picked what she FELT was right for her at the time and consequently, my sister labels it as, "the wrong" choice. I feel that my sister is not understanding that all people are perfect just as they are and that people do choose the best they know at the time, whether we judge it right or wrong. In her thinking our mother could have made different choices, that will keep her in judgment. So what I am saying(asking) is, I feel that all people, every second of their day, do the best at that time and everything is perfect as it is? Thank you for any clarity on this question?


I agree with you that in trying to understand how and why people make decisions that seem foreign to our point of view, it is important to recognize that they are making choices according to their limited understanding at that time. And I don’t believe trying to determine what was “right” or “wrong” in those past actions is very helpful in moving forward with our lives. But one thing that I think your sister is trying to convey in her own way is that your mother’s actions while you were growing up still had their consequences and those consequences have to be faced squarely. If your mother’s drug habit and choice of partners left your sister feeling neglected, unsafe and frightened, then she knows she still has some healing to do to get better, and simply saying it was all perfect doesn’t really help her. I’m sure it doesn’t feel perfect for her. You may have come to a good place in your relationship with your mom now, but try to understand your sister has a different journey and experience and honor that.


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I appreciate all the comments here -- I struggle from forgiving my mother of four girls -- I being the second eldest -- the oldest ran away as soon as she had the opportunity. Out had multiple marriages (5 or 6, i lost track) and boyfriends (uncles) and between them, the booze and the days of disapperance, I had to watch out for and care for the two youngest -- dumpster dive for recylable items just to feed them and lie to CPS. They now are the closest to her and have forgiven her, or just dont remember due to their young age, all the pain she caused me and have no empanthy or gratitude for the `motherly` attention I provided. My childhood was pretty much over at age 13 -- a time of hormonal chaos which I know has caused some emotional scarring in my adult relationships. I speak to my mother every 5 to 10 years when I begin to worry about the guilt I will feel when she passes; the latest was 5 years ago, and I although I attempt to meet with her and tell her AGAIN how I feel and try to gain understanding as to why she did what she did so we can move on, I don`t want to go through all the pain again and the rejection and anger from all her excuses -- `I did the best I can`. I know there are many others that share our same stories and I again, appreciate the chance to voice my feelings here. I hope us all the peace we look for in forgiving those that have hurt us and caused us much emotional scarring. Take care.
zebra500 - December 28, 2012
I just want to add that I am very grateful to have read your blog Deepak on this subject because it helped me to understand that even though my brothers and I shared the same parents our relationships were very different from each other. To this day my brothers can not understand why I can`t accept the fact that they should be honored above me (my parents left me out of their will). I stand my ground and say if they want a relationship with me they have to understand it wasn`t fare to me what transpired.
Mydaisydew - December 8, 2012
Your mother did made choices that affected her children. That is a fact, you made the choice to forgive her and your sister is coming to terms with the reality of neglect and emotional pain, she is owning her past and upbringing. It is her reality. Why are you not acknoledging her pain? Try to be as forgiving and understanding with her as you are with your mother. She may need to hear that yes, that your mom could have done better for her children, that she a little child needed a mother not on drugs but present and caring for her. if your mom won`t acknowledge that can you? Once her pain is validated she may be able to go into a place of forgiveness and compassion toward your mother or not, it is her journey. I wish you and your sister peace.
rosie - December 8, 2012
Thank you... I was meant to see this posted question!\n\nI have been struggling with similar thoughts regarding my 5 older syblings. How can our reality be soo different if we grew up in the same family? My father recently passed away and we are now struggling with the responsibility of caring for our 82 year old mother who is emotionally complicated and has in the past used emotional blackmail on all of us children.\n\nI feel my relationships with my sybs is being put under pressure because I cannot understand why they cannot let go of the past and just forgive mom in her old age...why don`t they ....go and visit with her and just let her be who she is now?......... like alll of us..she is only human and she did just try the best she could under the circumstances....and she is becoming weaker every year!.\n\nIt is hard to not to feel alone in my forgiveness...I feel I don`t fit with the others unless we are bashing mom! ....I even feel that i am being judged by my sybs if i go to visit her too often or if i try to do something nice for her. Yet I realize I need to accept where they are at on their life`s journey ....THANK YOU for bringing a higher level of CONSCIOUSNESS to the need for less judgment on the past and the need for less judgement BY ME on the present state of my sybs personal journey`s.\n\nMy motive to find this forgiveness towards my mother was all based on nuturing my own state of well being to get to this place before either one of us I suppose the best thing to do is extend it to my sybs as well!
HarmonySeeker - December 7, 2012
I completely agree. I have several siblings as well and what I have learned over the years is that it is important to be careful not to discount their feelings and perceptions on issues with our parents. Everyone`s experience is different no matter how closely you grew up because every person is different and people come to their own understanding in their own way and in their own time. Often times, especially as an older sibling (i`m not sure if you are or not) we may want to fix everything or fix our parent`s reputations or keep the peace but this may leave siblings feeling unheard and discounted which is often the way they feel when dealing with the parent(s) in question.
springtime - December 6, 2012