If you were raised by dysfunctional parents, you have a few choices when it comes to raising a family. Many children from dysfunctional families decide not to have children of their own because they feel they could not be good parents because they had no good role models. Some adult children from dysfunctional families decide to have children of their own because they figure they learned early how not to parent and know they will work hard to do better for their kids. Some people from dysfunctional families are so broken themselves that they don’t realize they are broken. These are the dangerous ones. These are the ones who have children and treat them the way they were treated because they are incapable of doing better. They are the ones who keep the cycle of abuse rolling.
The most difficult part about being a child of the third type is that those parents rarely change. They don’t often wake up. They aren’t capable of seeing their offspring as anything other than an extension of themselves, even after they are grown. They talk to their grown children as if they are still children, and if those adult children push back and assert their right to live their own chosen path, their parents chide, blame, belittle, boss, and gaslight to try to remain in control. An adult child of parents like this may acquiesce and continue to remain under their parent’s control or they may break contact to become free. Neither option is optimal because staying in an abusive relationship hinders personal growth and cutting ties can alienate the adult child from other family members, leaving them feeling orphaned and alone. An adult who has healed from childhood abuse may be able to find a middle ground, to find a way to stay in contact with their parent while maintaining their independence and sanity, but only if they are sufficiently healed. If they have not, they continue to leave themselves open to derision and abuse.
I have spent years trying to get right enough with myself to make my own choice about how to interact with my parents. I have for years now felt in my heart the only way I will be able to heal and become the best version of myself is to leave these relationships and negative patterns in the past. It’s difficult to do because if you walk away from aging parents, society will chastise you. Even the best intentioned of friends will try to convince you to stay because children owe it to their parents to take care of them. I just don’t think I can walk that road. There are worse childhoods than the one I had. This is true. But just because your childhood didn’t find you locked in a room, starving, and completely neglected doesn’t mean you weren’t left permanently scarred.
The question is will you allow yourself the space to heal those scars or will you remain tethered to your past, unable to move forward? I think we’re getting close to an answer.