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Parents just don’t understand

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I hurt for the parents whose child said, “I am a boy whose very existence offended my parents very much.” What those parents must feel to be confronted by such an indictment is unimaginable. But that child’s well-being concerns me even more.  What in the child’s life could rouse such anxiety, and further, what is to be made of that child’s psychological development if he’s been made to feel unwanted or spurned? Such declarations speak of chasms of perceived betrayal and disappointment in the growing-up experiences of children and this can occur regardless of the mental capacity of parents. When a child is responding to hurts and abuses in his own life, such statements, to my mind, are retaliations used to create the greatest wound. They come from deep injury, lack of forgiveness for the wrongs perceived and, or experienced, and even clouded judgement based on a difficult parental relationship.


To assert oneself to the place where such a bruising statement can be made is an indication either of growth or deepening angst that one can only hope would stimulate maturity if the child were resilient in his/her self and determined to not repeat the error in his own life. It could also suggest continuous reliving of the ill effects of the parental relationship. Though this level of resentment is dreadful, it pales in comparison to some I’ve seen recently as I continue to explore accounts of children raised by a parent or parents with a mental illness.  I am the mother of an adult who has grown up with a mentally ill parent—me. As I write today, August 12, he marks his 29th birthday. I live knowing that my best efforts at parenting can and at times have been reduced by the impact of my irrational conduct in his life.  When he was sufficiently confident to express his feelings I learned that children feel justified in their position regardless of the mental incapability that confronts parents. Raising children is not an exercise for the fainthearted. It’s a challenge of unimaginable proportions for those families with a mentally ill parent and even an iffy undertaking for the normal among us. Among the people I know who are ostensibly normal, the familial relationships are rife with offences. I know of many who harbour angst against parents for what they say is parental overstepping or simply for real or perceived parental biases.


The dynamics of human communication in which we have will and minds of our own beg for careful balancing of parental relations in order to afford children the love, safety, and security they need. But how many of us complete that equation and, even if we think we have, what guarantee is there that we’ve brought up a balanced individual? It cannot be congenial whatsoever growing up with a parent who is diagnosed mentally ill. Yet, it’s also quite possible to lead a normal life even if you were born and raised in those circumstances. This is especially so where there’s a high degree of awareness on the parents’ part as well as the level of understanding and acceptance on the part of the entire family.  If the appropriate amount of insight on the illness and its treatment is available—and accepted—then the impact can be more tolerable. Other than that, injury can run deep and it would take a resilient personality to not live in the shadow of the parents’ infractions. “Resilient children tend to have a sense of humour, creativity and the ability to remember that ‘it’s the illness talking.’


They don’t do this to excuse the parent’s behaviour. They just don’t ‘take it personally.’ They also develop outlets, like strong friendships, or school activities, to take their minds off things at home. ( One contributor to the hubpage Crazy in the family; children of the mentally ill, writes, “Mental illness is hard to make sense of and adult children are (left) trying to make sense of their childhood for many years.” ( A parent who lives in an alternate reality has no grasp of the child’s dilemma before intervention, if intervention is at all possible. In the UK, as some other countries, there is heightened advocacy for intercession at the slightest signal of abuse or of parental mental incapacity in the raising of children. Frankly, if I understood the magnitude of the responsibility of parenting as a mentally ill individual without the proper care and intervention, I may not have chosen to be a parent. But I’ve been careful to never hide behind my illness nor use it as a crutch, and so with this life does not ever providing a make-over, I take full responsibility for the role I adopted as parent, with its joys and its failures.




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