A couple of people have approached me recently with issues about their relationship with either children or mothers (this also applies, I suppose, to fathers, although no one has asked me about that yet).
The conversations usually starts with something like this ...
"I love my son/daughter/ mother/father, but we just don't get on. We used to talk all the time, but now ...". And what follows is a genuinely heart felt conversation about the breakdown of a close relationship and how sad the person is.
"What do I do" they ask. "They just won't listen" they say.
This is a hugely difficult area, but I will tell you something of what I said in these haphazard, unplanned moments (this is in fact a better thought out version of what I said, to be honest) ...
- We feel most hurt (and most hurt them back) by the people we love the most. That is because they are the people we care about the most, so we feel more deeply. We don't want them to get hurt. We don't want them to make mistakes. We rant and argue with them because we care. This is incredibly important to remember. If we didn't care about them, we wouldn't even bother to argue with them.
- In the same way, they argue with us because, yes they are as stubborn as we are, but also because they care about us. They don't want us to make mistakes, to get hurt, etc. Think about it ... the ones we hurt the most and the ones who hurt us the most are the ones who really care about each other, dare I say it, really love each other. You are loved.
- Therefore I invite you to do something really difficult ... put aside how you really feel for a short time and ask yourself:
'what have they been through?'.
'What do they feel?'
'Is it because they don't care, or because they do?'
Now I will share something intensely personal with you, to illustrate (so please don't stamp all over it):
I was badly abused and in some ways neglected as a child. I was not loved, and I was hurt in more ways than just not being loved.
For many many years I carried the scars of that on the inside. I withdrew. I was different to other kids. I wanted other kids mums and dads instead of my own. I carried a huge amount of anger and resentment against my parents (which in the end harmed only me).
But as I look back on their stories I understand more.
My mum went from one abusive relationship to another, from a domineering abusive father to an abusive marriage, to my abusive father. She left two young children in a previous relationship whom she dearly loved. By the time I and my brother came along she was burnt out. She didn't have much more love to give and was so afraid, afraid of being hurt again, afraid of committing to us (me and my brother) and losing us. I feel sorry for her (although she is long dead).
And my father was a rubbish dad, neglectful, abusive and lots of other things; but he was also incredibly lonely, although I never realised it at the time. I think he struggled with his family, and when he came to England they hardly kept in touch. I think he felt rejected and alone and powerless, and that's why he did alot of the crap things that he did.
The point is this. The more we understand the other person, the more compassion we have for them, the more we can forgive. In the end their faults may be different to our own, but we all have our faults and maybe we are not so different as we like to believe.
Understanding, forgiveness and compassion doesn't mean we have to ignore or accept the rubbish things that our loved ones do, but it can help to build the bridges again.
Now it's time for bed.
Have a good night.