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Legacy of Love – Legacy of Pain

Updated on March 6, 2011

Sometime in my early forties I started seeing a therapist. I was fortunate to find one with whom I felt an immediate comfort and someone who would listen to everything I had to say without a hint of judgment. It is supposed to be this way but we are not always matched with someone so compatible. We used Cognitive Therapy which in a nut shell is this;

Cognitive therapy aims to help the patient recognize and reassess his patterns of negative thinking and replace them with positive thoughts that more closely reflect reality.

I never knew ahead of time what I would talk about and she let our conversations go wherever my mind and mood took us. Had she been more restrictive I doubt I would have made the progress I did because my thoughts were very scattered from Anxiety and from having so much to say. At the time, both of my children were having life difficulties, I was newly married to a man whose ex-wife was hell bent on making our lives as miserable as hers and my Mother’s health was getting worse and although I didn’t care for her physically, she turned to me and to my sister for much of her emotional support. This was particularly difficult as I was working on feelings and life patterns in my life that were caused in a large part by her own, untreated, mental illness and the abuse my sister and I suffered at her hands as children.

My own children have reached this approximate age and for some years now have been very vocal in expressing what I did wrong in parenting them and the grief it has caused. I wrote one letter to my Mother about the pain I experienced and she was immensely hurt, shocked and furious. She disowned me, again, and told me how ungrateful, hurtful and evil I was to speak such lies. She reminded me that she loved her own Mother deeply and never spoke a cross word to her or of her. She reminded me that my sister was grateful, visited her often and brought her beautiful gifts. All in all it was a very uncomfortable, futile attempt to be heard by her and only caused her pain and left me trying to fight her largest legacy – guilt. For years I could be guilted into doing almost anything by anyone. I put up with insane beatings, unfaithfulness, attacks to my mental well being and my tiny stash of self esteem in my marriages.

Unfortunately for my children, I began to pass the same legacy down to them and in addition to guilt, I was a first class controller. If you’ve never studied family dynamics, it is a fascinating subject. My place in our family growing up was to keep my Mother as happy, calm and free from stress as possible. Tough assignment at ten years old and younger but it was what I learned and how I knew I was to function.

I took these two elements into my parenting and while I was not as physically abusive as my mother had been by any means, I was emotionally abusive and my acceptance of being treated like less than human by my son’s father for nearly thirteen years, off and on, spoke volumes to my children about how to behave toward me, toward others and ate away at their own self esteem. I speak now, not with pride of everything I've done, but with honesty, in the hopes it will gain the attention of just one person, whether an adult child or a parent.

In assessing myself as a parent, I believe my largest mistake, other than staying in an abusive marriage, was the insanity of inconsistency. Even being abused by our Mother we knew what to expect if we broke a rule, made her angry or were too visible. My children lived on a roller coaster powered by my mood swings, Depression and Anxiety. I sought help when my daughter was five and my son three, so I did try, but the psychiatrist I saw prescribed Valium for my nerves and sent me on my way. My daughter saw him too for Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyper-Activity. Back then there was one all or nothing approach to ADD and ADHD – Ritilan. It did not work for her, as a matter of fact it increased her activity and inability to concentrate or control inappropriate behaviors. Her pre-school teacher once said to me that she required 25 out of every 24 hours of the day. That pretty well summed it up. Patience was not something I had an abundance of although I would pray every night to be a better Mom, have more patience, be more understanding and have more energy the next day.

The main reason I am writing about this is to give voice to the children who have none and to give heed to parents who may see some thing of themselves in my writing. If you can not parent with love, healthy discipline such as boundary setting and teaching by example, consistently, get help and get it quickly. Don’t give up until you find a parenting class, a therapist or clergy that can help you become the parent you want to be deep inside. Don’t try to track your progress independently, make yourself accountable to someone, some group. We can be too hard on ourselves and we can also be in denial about something as personal as our parenting.

Finally, if your children are grown and you hear from them that they have anger toward you or blame you for situations in their lives, listen to them. Pay close attention and don’t interrupt or try to make excuses. Let them vent, hear what they are saying and even repeat it and ask if you heard what they said. It is hard to sit and be judged and we will often let anger, shame, guilt and denial change what they are trying to convey. If at all possible, suggest going to a family counselor and don’t settle for the first one you come across if everyone is not comfortable with them. You may have a lot of work to do and you can waste precious time, money and even make things worse if one or more of you feels uncomfortable with the style or personality of the therapist.

Sometimes, there may be a single incident that your adult child wants to discuss. It may be something you don’t even remember but if they do, it’s important that you hear them out. Kids don’t come with instructions although now-a-days there is so much more information available and it is readily available.

I am not suggesting that inappropriate behaviors are to be tolerated by your adult children because of mistakes you made in their upbringing. There is an age and stage of personal responsibility that we all reach at which you must take your life into your own hands, make the decisions and make whatever changes you need to become a responsible, and at least better adjusted, adult or young person. It is vitally important to separate action from person. I don’t like some of what my children do or the choices they make but I love them and they have learned to know the difference. They do not like some of my behaviors but they do love me and they are learning to respect me as I learn to respect myself.

I have three grandchildren. My grandson lives over a thousand miles away and has just recently started to come to his father’s for month long or longer visits. I love him and have from afar since the moment I saw the first picture of him and heard his cries over the phone. He and I though, have not been blessed with the opportunity to establish a close relationship, yet. By contrast, my two granddaughters and I have shared and continue to share a closeness that has enriched all of our lives, I believe, to the credit of their parents allowing this frequent contact and closeness. My sixteen year old granddaughter and I talk about four or more nights a week for well over an hour at a time. Her parents ask her what we could possibly have to talk about so often and for so long and she tells them, ‘Grandma listens and she gets it.” I do my homework, unbeknownst to her, to be able to relate when she speaks of different new groups, stars and fashions. It takes so little time with the internet to keep up. We certainly don’t always agree. I teased her the other night about Justin Bieber sounding like a very young Michael Jackson and she nearly blew the speaker on my cell phone when she yelled, “GRANNY!!!” , but the rewards are so many. She tells me things she won’t tell her parents and in doing so I have been able to give her advice that she actually put into practice when a young man was treating her with upmost disrespect. She would have been too afraid to tell her parents and because I don’t judge, she trusts what I say most of the time. She has my love of writing and she is a natural actor. She is impulsive and often rude, quick to anger and easily hurt. However, she is not rude to or around me, controls her anger and tells me if I hurt her. We have boundaries, she and I and we have respect and much, much love.

My other granddaughter and I spent a great deal of time with each other as she and her Dad lived with us for about a year and I cared for her for several of her just turned six, years. She and I play. We don’t mess around with long conversations. If she has something to say that is troubling her it is usually communicated through the mouth of a dinosaur or a stuffed animal. I started this early on when her biological mother and my son were in court over her custody and it has served us well. When she is comfortable enough speaking through the animals she speaks to me directly. We are blessed that many of the troubles in her life have righted themselves, with God’s help, and we have been able to get down to the mud pie making, rock collecting, bug discovering side of play. She told me recently, “Ga, you do know you’re kinda silly? But you are sure a lot of fun!” She gives my sloppy, sticky kisses and hugs so hard they hurt and I tuck away each and every one of them in my memory.

What kind of a legacy will I have left for my children and grandchildren? A mixture, I’m so very sorry to say, of love and of pain. We can’t undo what has been done but we can stop it from running haphazardly through generation after generation. We can allow any hurt we have caused to be spoken and truly apologized for and we can try very hard to do our very best to make the reminder of our years as a parent the best it can possibly be. It takes hard work, it often stings and it is so very worth it. What kind of legacy will you leave?


Submit a Comment

  • baygirl33 profile image


    6 years ago from Hamilton On.

    Again,Many aspects of your thoughts seem plucked from my life story.I suppose when we think we suck and everyone else is doing fine,we are so wrong. Everyone has his/her own battle.Some worse than others and some just plain awful.

    I wish I could be as brave as this you wrote.

  • profile image 

    7 years ago

    Parents go through so much but reading this I thought how grateful I am to be living in a time when parents are so much more enlightened and respectful to their children. Sometimes I think we just dont' know how to deal with our tiredness - I try my hardest to treat my children with respect and if I don't succeed on an occassion I try to make it up and tell them what I was going through. Not judging was another great reminder I got out of this - thanks Pooh!

  • profile image

    september girl 

    7 years ago

    It takes courage to talk from ones own heart as you have done. I admire that! You have written a beautiful hub, about subjects some may not be comfortable within themselves to share. You are right about what you find a therapist who really meets your needs and doesn't just prescribe pills in hopes you will go away. If they don't listen or care, who do you have to turn to? Great advice from a lady who obvioulsy knows what she is talking about, by what you have shared about yourself. Sharing can become a great healer as you reach out to others to try and help them too. : ) Voted up and awesome!

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Sun-Girl, thank you for taking the time to read and for your lovely comment!

  • Sun-Girl profile image


    7 years ago from Nigeria

    Interesting article which i so much enjoyed reading, thanks dear for sharing this hub it really brightened my day.Remain bless.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    It always pleases me to see you have come to read, Micky Dee. It is a high honor to me that you take the time to share encouragement with other writers. Thanks much!

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    7 years ago

    I love your heart Poohgranma. This is very special. I love you dear Pooh. God bless you!

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Minnetonka Twin - I'm too old and this is too important for pretense. If I am to write my memoirs and make myself the hero, I may as well write fiction. I took my share and I gave it, maybe not in as horrid of ways as you might imagine but damaging none the less. Thank you for reading and for your non-judgmental reply.

  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 

    7 years ago from Minnesota

    Thanks so much for your honesty in your parenting and past and present struggles. We all have struggles and that why this is such a powerful hub. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    @JL - if you are aware of your parenting and concerned, you probably are doing a fine job. No one human can perfectly parent, it's even tough with two very aware and caring people. I'm glad you read this and that it touched you in some way, and I thank you for that.

    @crystolite - I am curious what you love about it and hope you'll reply. I'm also honored that one who writes from his gut and his heart would appreciate something I've written, thank you so much!

  • crystolite profile image


    7 years ago from Houston TX

    Good article,i love it so much.

  • JLClose profile image


    7 years ago from OreGONE

    I enjoyed reading this, even though some of it hurt my heart a little. I'm a mom of three little ones, and I struggle with feeling like I'll never be good enough, or that my faults will damage my children. Thanks for sharing your story. At least I know I'm not abnormal.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Thanks swb78, nice to see you and I appreciate your comments. I always enjoy you stopping by.

  • swb78 profile image

    Scott Biddulph 

    7 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

    I enjoyed this Hub and your courage to share such deeply personal issues. I hope, like you, this hub will touch someones life. Scott

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Thank you Healing Touch, for reading and for your comments. I hope that change and learning can be a byproduct of all that I share of my life. I appreciate your kind remarks.

  • Healing Touch profile image

    Laura Arne 

    7 years ago from Minnetonka, MN


    I am touched by this hub. I am proud of your courage to say it like it is. Life is not perfect. You have taught in this hub how very important boundary setting is for our children. I know you understand well, my past with my abusive ex. I think those of us who learned tough life lessons need to share with others like you did here for hope. As a therapist by trade, I am happy to see you share your story. You have helped many. Blessings to you.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    SOH, I hope so, that some one can benefit from my honesty besides me and my kids. I don't think I was the worst parent they could have had but I wasn't stable or patient enough, especially with my daughter. I used to look back at my parenting and think I did a pretty good job all things considered but for the sake of this hub I'm not giving myself the "she did the best she could with what she had", benefit of the doubt. The best I had wasn't enough.

    The more my daughter challenged me, as most teens will do, the worse our relationship got and my son got caught in the fall out of having to hear the screaming and always being the one who really didn't get the degree of attention he deserved. He was the good kid, the one I got along so well with but he was also the one that learned through example how to relate to people, how to manipulate, to survive, to get what he needed. And if you allow yourself to be disrespected by your spouse, please don't think your kids don't know what's going on. I don't care how quietly you cry or how careful you are to hide the bruises, they KNOW and that is what they learn. So if you can't get out for yourself, for God's sake ... get out for them!

  • SomewayOuttaHere profile image


    7 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky know've probably just written words expressing experiences of many acknowledge, accept, respect and yor moving forward..and hopefully some will read and understand what you've said and learn....what else can you do but move forward...i love the way yor grand daughter confides in you...yor there for her and she knows it.. yor there for all of them with eyes wide open....excellent hub!

    ...beautiful grandchild! must be so proud....

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Thanks stars - I love this picture of her so much, it's one of my very favorites.

  • stars439 profile image


    7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

    You have made so many very good points, and the photograph is awesome. Beautiful grandbaby. God Bless You Precious Heart.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    Laurie and Genna, a big thanks to both of you. You are both so supportive of my efforts and that means a lot. It is friends like you that allow me to be open, telling it like it is and was without fear of rejection. I can not pretend I was mom of the year, though sometimes I feel I get measured by yardsticks that haven't had to make some of the decisions I did and pray God, they never do.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from On the edge

    We all make too many mistakes I think, Charlie, but if you didn't treat them like shyt then they are a step ahead of a lot of kids. It's tough to look back on anything you do let alone something as important as parenting and it's hard to be judged but if there's any truth in it, mending what you can is the only way through it.

    There are times I'd like to explain my side of it or ask what about the father's part, but that's not the point here. It's giving full recognition to the way they perceive and making retribution if you can.

    An acknowledgment was all I was looking for from my Mother and she denied me that. I think it hurt worse than the beatings ever did. A simple, I'm sorry, I did the best I could at the time (which she did) would have made a world of difference to me back then.

    And I'm still trying to comment on "Hash" - you've blown me away with that one!!!!

    Peace and love to you too, my friend!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Ah, growing up can be hard. I ain't there yet. Forgiving is even harder. Parenting is hardest of all. Gee, I made too many mistakes. But I never treated them like shyt. Rated up and awesome. xox CC

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 

    7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    I always find your candid words refreshing and real. Thank you for this superb hub, and for being you. Up and awesome.

  • LaurieDawn profile image


    7 years ago

    Very well said Dear Lady. And your honesty is poignant and also a blessing. As parents we often forget to honor our mistakes and try to correct them in the future. And I find that is the best we can do. Realizing we can never go back, but we can always go forward.

    Blessings and hugs,



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