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Did our parents really do the best they could...?

You must have heard it said time and time again that, "Our parents did the best they could with what they knew". It's hard to disagree and I'm not going to, but then I often wonder if this statement actually isn't as helpful as we make it out to be.

Here's my thinking...

Believing that our parents did the best they could with what they knew could help ease the pain that some of us felt in our childhood and continue to feel in adulthood. It helps us look at the past with a different lens and could really help towards the ultimate goal of being free from the pain and able to forgive wholeheartedly and live fully in the now!


I've found that for some, this statement when made by others in response to a person's pain can seem very dismissive. People who have experienced trauma (Big T or little t trauma) in childhood already feel unseen and unheard so to respond to their expression of childhood hurt with the remark 'well our parents did the best they could...' can really exacerbate the feeling of not being listened to. Quite similar to 'toxic positivity', we have to be mindful of who, when, how, what we say when someone just needs to be heard.

Another thing I find is, this statement is usually made without the consideration that learning was and is indeed possible. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew... Yes, but could they have learnt better? Could they have continued learning and in some cases, can they be learning now? Were there numerous opportunities for learning, for change that were ignored? Could they have done better with the information available?

The real reason I ask this is because we too can fall into the same trap of not learning to do better. Of being satisfied with what we know or oblivious to what we don't know. Of parenting as we have, without consciously seeking a better way.

It is important to note that the aim of this post is not to decide whether our parents did the best they could. Not only do we have no way of knowing the answer, there would be no benefit to any of us arguing about it. Crucially, this post aims to get us thinking about whether we are doing the best we can with what is available to us!

And this brings me to my final thought... What do you desire for your children to say about you when they are older? Is your desire for them to say

"My parents did the best they could with what they knew"

Not me, I'd much prefer for them to say about me, My mum wasn't perfect but she always made the conscious effort to learn from her mistakes and keep growing. Or something else magnificent 😜


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