QUESTION: I have plenty of reasons to resent my parents. They’ve never abused me or anything like that, but they do such stupid things. My dad’s work has been the only thing he cared about. My mom is a perpetual nagger. How can I respect people like that?
DR. DOBSON: Let’s assume that your complaints against your parents are valid — that they didn’t do a very good job of raising you and your siblings. Nevertheless, I urge you to cut them some slack. You’ll learn someday just how hard it is to be a good parent.
There is no formula that works in every case. In fact, I believe it is more difficult to raise children now than ever before. Be assured that you will not do the job perfectly, either. Someday, if you are blessed with children, one or more of them will blame you for your failures, just as you have criticized your parents.
Let me share one more suggestion with you and others who have been angry at their parents. Given the brevity of life and the temporary nature of all human relationships, can you find it within your hearts to forgive them? Maybe my own experience will be relevant to you. My mother closed her eyes for the last time on June 26, 1988. She had been so vibrant — so important to each member of our family. I couldn’t imagine life without her just a few years earlier. But time passed so quickly, and before we knew it, she had grown old and sick and incompetent. This human experience is like that. In just a brief moment, it seems, our fleeting days are gone.
As I sat at her memorial service, I was flooded with memories and a profound sense of loss. But there was not the slightest hint of regret, remorse or guilt. There were no hurtful words I wished I could have taken back. There were no prolonged conflicts that remained unresolved between my parents and me. Why not? Was I a perfect son born to flawless parents? Of course not. But when Shirley and I had been married two years, I remember saying to her, “Our parents will not always be with us. I see now the incredible brevity of life that will someday take them from us. We must keep that in mind as we live out our daily lives. I want to respond to both sets of parents in such a way that we will have no regrets after they are gone.”