The Imperfection of your Parent, a Hard Lesson in Maturity

As a child you grow up with an innocent view of your parent: Your father is the strongest most fearless and hardworking man you know, your mother is the most angelic, loving, nurturing woman you will ever meet. Your image of your parents is flawless. That’s why they are your guardians, they teach you the rules to play by in life and the values that will get you a head, most of which are from their own personal experience. They shield you from their own imperfections and try their best to be role models you can live up to. This is mostly because as a child there are a lot of complexities your naïve mind can’t comprehend. You view reality in black and white, bad and good, without knowing that there is a lot of grey area and it’s not as simple as you may think.

However, as you grow up and gain a broader perspective of life, you begin to realize that your parents aren’t as perfect as your child mind thought: you begin to see how either your mum is emotionally aggressive towards your dad, or your dad emotionally withdrawn from your mum, you start to realize that perhaps the bonds between your parents wasn’t as strong as they often portrayed it to be. You begin to see that your father isn’t as tough and hardcore as you thought; you see him being worn down by life’s stresses like an ordinary human; the endless bills, the draining 9-5 job, the nagging boss. You begin to see your mother also being worn down by life’s stresses; trying to hold a crumbling marriage or caring for a sick child. You soon come to a shocking realization, that your parents are also human.

Coming to terms with the imperfection of one’s parents is a prerequisite to healthy maturity because it’s a step ahead in figuring out one’s own unique path and identity. That’s when you begin to question the values your parents raised you by and what they considered when drawing for you a path to follow. You soon realize that perhaps your parents compelled you towards a specific career path because they valued safety over adventure, safety in terms of a monthly paycheck, with a pension and a guaranteed health insurance. You begin to understand what motivated their ‘best wishes’ for you. Doing this is one of the steps you take when you begin to draw out your own path and redefine what is indeed the ‘best for you’. You begin to grow your own wings.         

Personal responsibility: There’s a sense of personal responsibility you get when you realize your parent’s imperfections, especially where they fell short when imparting some values in you, values that turned out to be limiting to your growth. For instance: the parent who taught you to always be kind and self-less but never prepared you for the real world where there are takers and manipulators, you realize that sometimes you have to be tough and stand up for yourself. Or the conformist parent who raised you to follow the conveyor belt of society; go to school, get a job and work till you retire, never looking at other alternatives, never thinking outside the box. You stop blaming your parents for your own limitations and begin taking back the power to redefine yourself. It also helps you come to terms with a parent who was abusive to you during childhood and whose poor parenting spilled into your latter relationships as an adult. For instance, the father who was abusive towards your mother and made you grow up hating men.You soon realize that they themselves had imperfect parents that imparted imperfect values down to them.

By redefining yourself, it also helps break bad vices that run through generations: imagine your father was a heavy drinker and an abusive husband, who was influenced by his father, then his father’s father. If you always hold your father as the perfect ideal, you never question his character, you take it that it’s an acceptable behavior for a man to mistreat his wife. You need to realize that your father is not as perfect as you think and that’s how you start making better life choices.

This doesn’t in anyway imply that parents don’t have decades of experience from which we young people can draw wisdom, quite the contrary; the values and principles they’ve gathered overtime anchor us and guide us throughout life. It’s just that even they can’t provide us with the perfect manual on how to navigate life. Why?

Parents don’t always have all the answers mostly because they didn’t grow up in a world like ours. There have been some massive cultural shifts over the years that brought with them their own share of social problems. A simple example would be the wake of the social media age and the depression and anxiety it brought with it, or maybe amplified. Someone who grew up in the 60’s will probably know a thing or two about anxiety and social comparison but won’t know how much more intense it is on Instagram. It’s for that reason that even the well-intentioned wisdom from parents has limitations.

The acceptance of the imperfection of your parent is as tough and painful as it is enlightening. The tough part is that it introduces you to a world of uncertainty: you begin to realize that they can’t always have the right answers to life’s biggest questions: what is life? how should you live it? what’s your purpose? They may be a couple of steps ahead, but ultimately no one really has such answers and everyone is working towards their best guess, and that is the uncertainty in the game of life.

As a young adult, you start to come to terms with your own imperfections and realize that you will soon be a parent yourself, that’s if you’re not yet one. You realize that you don’t have to be perfect in order to make a good parent; imperfection is one of the primary traits engraved in our DNA as humans. You realize that your parents did the very best to their knowledge and ability to raise you and bring out the best in you, and it’s your responsibility to do the same when the time comes.

So then what do we young people do about the new social problems of our times, that can’t easily be addressed by our parents? We sit down and exchange ideas, draw out lessons and map out ways forward; we have in-depth discussions about the deep seated issues affecting our generations and come up with some solutions while borrowing from the wisdom from the people before us.

Young Adult Talk is an initiative I started to help us young people talk about such issues, it’s an online platform that brings up topics affecting young adults in all spheres of life. It’s active on Facebook, twitter(@YAT_Ug), LinkedIn and Instagram(@YAT_Ug). If you’re a young adult, please reach out.