Forgiveness and letting go of the outcome have been concepts I have built deep relationships with throughout my life. As a teen, Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” song drew me closer to that feeling of confusion I felt deep inside each time I disagreed with my Mother or my Father. It was my Father who seemed too far away in his understanding of the world and what seemed to me the distance between us. He was right and I was wrong, or so it seemed. What did I know anyway? My feelings and viewpoint were mere shadows of his. Sure, I know, I was not his son: he had four of those anyway. I was his only daughter. To me, this sealed the deal that he and I would never understand each other. He would talk and I would listen. My voice, soft, shaky and unsure.
Generations continue to struggle with parents letting go of their children as they grow to adulthood and adult children letting go of who they thought their parents were. If either takes the time to consider these positions through their judgments and protective stances understanding comes natural. Life itself will reveal how forgiveness of the lack of understanding and letting go of an idea of who someone is, parent, child, sibling, lover or whoever, will bring new possibilities for closeness.
As Cat Stevens’ lyrics play over and over in my mind while I write this, it is clearer to me how I felt both Father and Son when I was a teen. His lyrics and song helped me feel, as music often does, the emotions I was unable to share with my own Father or Mother at that time. It was not until years later, with many years of education and even more credentials earned through raising four children of my own through adulthood, that I would be brave enough to share the heartfelt sincerity of understanding how a parent must let go as the adult child must move on alone.
It is not that we are all alone as adults. It is that the adult child must know deep within themselves that they can make it on their own. As a Mother, instinctively I felt it was my duty to continue to learn to let go with each passing year so that by the time my children were adults, they could make it without me. I have been and still will be here for them as a person, a real person, not some idea or authoritative presence they struggle to get out of their heads. Someone who cheers for their own visions and developing their own perceptions and beliefs. I honor their right to be free from my holding on.
Only now am I able to understand that my Mother and Father taught me to let go. I put them in boxes which I created so that I could understand why they were so different from me. By forgiving myself for this unfair yet necessary masking of who they really were, I am free to embrace all the gifts they gave me. As a teen, I could not feel my parents’ hopes and dreams for me, let alone their fears about what may happen to me. Now, with four grown competent adult children, I have hopes, dreams and fears related to all of them and I must let go.
If you are struggling with your relationship with your parents or children, please feel welcome to call me if you like. I will do my best to assist you with forgiveness, understanding and letting go.
LeAnn O'Neal Berger, M.A., LMFT