I have a friend who has two parents. So many times, I thoughtlessly told my friend that her parents were whack (not in those words exactly, but, you get what I mean) because they set rules – rules that I didn’t believe were necessary. I thought I was doing my friend a favour by heartlessly pointing out the flaws in her mum and dad’s parenting style.
But then I got a taste of my own medicine.
Someone close to me told me that one of my parents had practiced “bad parenting”. I was crushed. Sure, said parent probably made a mistake in how they dealt with an issue, but the way that this person went about rebuking them was in no way acceptable. It angered me. It disappointed me. It upset me to the point of tears.
So, to the friend whose parents I judged and frowned upon so carelessly: I’m sorry. I thought I was doing a helpful thing. I felt so smart, so right. But I now know how much hurt I may have caused.
I’m not saying that I will never again confront this friend about her parents. I probably will, because I want her to become a more independent individual. But I’ll do it differently next time. Instead of just focusing on what her parents are doing wrong, I’ll remind my friend of the things they do right and encourage her to consider the wisdom behind the decisions they make for their beloved grown-up baby.
And that’s what I wish the person close to me had done. Yes, my parent let their stubborn and opinionated personality direct the way that they parented in that particular situation. But no parent is perfect, and all humans are capable of forgetting to pause, breathe and think before reacting to something – especially the ones who are naturally loud and talkative. I just wish some emphasis was also placed on what my parent does well – my generous, funny and loving parent who is trying their best.
Because at the end of the day, our parents are our first loves. Our first carers. Our first role-models. Our first friends. No matter how many weak rules and decisions they make, or how harshly they assert their authority, they will always hold a special place in our hearts. So if you want to criticize someone’s parents in front of them, first ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary. And if it is, because sometimes it is, please do it gently.