When friends make fun of me for my bad taste in music, I always blame it on my parents. After all, they only let me listen to Christian music growing up. Those jerks. How am I supposed to develop a taste for anything with more than three major chords—Pop, Country or Christian?
I’m joking, kind of. I don’t really have bad taste in music (depending on who you ask—I mean, it’s my taste, so you know my opinion on the matter) and I only blame my parents in a lighthearted way, but I have found it easy at times, whenever I stumble upon a less-than-flattering quality about myself, to think through my childhood experiences and consider how parenting may have played a role.
This isn’t just the easy way. It’s also the popular way.
Matt Gurney, columnist and Editor at the National Post (and a Millennial himself) says this: “Hate Millennials? Blame Boomers.”
In reference to how Millennials were raised by their boomer parents, mentors and teachers, he says: “We would have been much better off hearing a little less about how special we were or how super diversity is, and a little more about how much it costs to own a house and how interests rates work.”
Whether or not you think he has a point, my point is this: It can be really easy to push the blame off of ourselves and onto our parents.
The problem is, this pattern also makes me terrified to be a parent.
There is so much pressure around parenting these days. Maybe it’s always been like that, I don’t know. But as I watch friends my age jump on the baby-making train, I can’t help but feel my head spin a little at the number of books they read, classes they attend and just pure judgment they receive from those who don’t think they’re doing it right, or who don’t feel they’re doing enough to be a great parent.
One friend told me recently that, when he asked a question about parenting on Facebook, he received close to a hundred comments from concerned readers. That was more attention than he had ever received before on that platform.
Another friend—a writer and blogger—shared about the hate mail she received after sharing a story about her daughter on her blog.
There is so much pressure to be a perfect parent. Is it any wonder we’re scared to get started?
The best and most liberating article I’ve ever read about parenting is this one by Donald Miller, where he points out that parents who have great kids tend to be open and honest their faults. I’ll never forget reading this article and taking a deep breath. If admitting your faults is the essential part of being a good parent, then I could be a great parent. I could have great kids.
For me, being honest about my faults comes pretty easily. Ask me to point out my strengths and I’ll hem and haw, but ask me to point out my weaknesses—I’m on it.
It wasn’t just that this article boiled down the focus of great parenting—stripping away the noise of philosophies, strategies and programs—although that was helpful. It was that looking at parenting in the “admit your faults” way helped me shift the responsibility from 100 percent in the arms of the parents to a shared responsibility, which for Millennials especially, I think is important.
No matter what kind of idiosyncrasies we’ve picked up from our parents (and it’s probably not as bad as we think—it’s just Country music, after all) it’s not our parents’ fault. Sure, they played a role in how we got to where we are today. But we are the only ones who can choose where we go tomorrow.
When we shift the responsibility off of our parents and onto ourselves, there’s actually a great deal of relief in that.
You wouldn’t think this would be the case with responsibility. Usually we think less responsibility comes with more freedom. But as I move toward being a parent, I’m starting to see how the opposite is actually true. The more accountability we take for ourselves as adults, the more freedom we actually obtain, to create the life and become the person we’ve always wanted to be—apart from our parents.
Yes, parents have a huge responsibility. Yes, we should each consider that responsibility before taking on the role of parenting. Yes, when children are young, parents play a tremendous role in their growth and development.
But by the time we’re adults, we’re responsible for our own growth and development, regardless of what our parents said or did, didn’t say or didn’t do
Our role as parents, I believe, is the same as our role as Christians: to do the best we can with what we have and what we know; and, after that, to live our entire lives in a constant state of humility and repentance.
After that, literally anything is possible, thanks to the grace of Jesus.
That is a huge relief to me. And it might even make me want to be a parent someday (no announcements yet).
Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, thinker, dreamer, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living LIfe with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She travels often, but lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband, Darrell. You can follow her daily at her website or on Twitter.