The Watering Hole Blog

MM Feedback: When Parents Fail


This is a very candid perspective on the “To be or not to be…a Mom?” decision, sent to us from a Mothering Matters reader.

A Perspective on Motherhood, or rather, Parenthood: The Child’s Perspective


As there is a slim chance (albeit slim, but still a chance) that a member of my family could eventually fall upon this article, I am going to assume a false identity.

Lets see here…I came from…a family. Well of course, who doesn’t come from one of those? So to better describe it, I came from a blended family. Oh…and a crazy family!

But wait, there is more.

It was a hateful, resentful, tumultuous, pretentious, and generally screwed up family. Then again, who has a “normal” family, anyhow? (Answer: Only those in denial!)

Oh, and we were “Christian” too! Of course, this meant we were all two-faced. Our best normal came out once per week, on Sundays, for a little over two hours. Sounds normal enough, I think.

If you grew up in a Christian family, you may know the “love of Jesus” came out when your father was in charge of getting the kids in the car, on Sunday morning. Dragging one by his ankle, another by her braided hair, and the third by a threat so dark it would snap a charging wildebeest into order, he would herd us in response to my mother’s demand.

I don’t think my father was a very mean person naturally, but my mother would work on him until his frustration would lash out on his children. It goes without saying: none of us kids go to church anymore, much to my mother’s dismay.

So what happens when parents fail? 

What happens when, despite the best of intentions, parents would have done better to just keep their darn legs crossed, and in their pants! And don’t pretend you don’t know someone who would fit this description.

So here is a perspective from the other side: I am the child who already felt the burden of raising my parents and my siblings before I had teeth.

It wasn’t all my father’s fault. He was a sensitive type, who became stressed easily. When Dad was stressed he could easily be manipulated. I often think of him as a man who gave himself out so often, to so many that he left nothing for himself, and in the end it destroyed him.

I remember being so young my feet swung freely beneath my chair as a doctor explained to me that the wonderful stories my father had filled my nights with were not the truth. He explained that my father didn’t mean to lie to me, of course, but he was confused,. He didn’t know what he was saying.

It was called “skitz-o-fren-ee-ah.”

I couldn’t pronounce it. How could I understand it?

It was the second time my family was faced with the idea of being split up. The first was when it was discovered that abuse had been going on for sometime.

It was one of my older siblings, who had convinced me that it was another game to play…one that made me more grown up.

When it was found out, I was given the choice to split my family up or keep my perpetrator in the home. When the community got wind of it all, rather than dealing with it we moved. This of course was a big stress-load on my father.

So when my father relapsed and was finally diagnosed, somehow, it was put to me to be the deciding factor.

“Should we leave him?” my mother asked. “We can!” It was her way of measuring my maturity, perhaps? Still it was a big burden for someone still in her single-digits.

Over all, I know my mother did her best to hold it all together. This entailed plenty of church-going, community activities, and keeping face.

Most of my siblings left home, one way or another, before their time. The label “Run Away” seems to fit here. If you ask, most of them will say they were forced out, by one parent or the other. But this all goes back to “he said, she said” and many details that, for this article, just don’t pertain.

Without fail, I would say that each of my siblings, indeed, failed.

I mean, it seems cruel to say, “You there! Yes you. You are a FAILURE!” But hell, when the shoe fits…

It was a larger-than-average family, and I dare say that most of us are thoroughly terrible people. Raised in the same house, by the same people, and with many of us sharing DNA in common, we all really suck as individuals. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out either.

I mean, if not for living in a country with nets for catching the welfare crowd, my father would be joined under a bridge by at least two of my siblings. The mad house would have at least three of us, and the last few would belong in a series of half-way houses or rehab facilities. In fact, I am pretty sure there are at least two of my family members in one of those places as I write this!

To be honest, I don’t know where most of my siblings are today. I don’t care to. “Dysfunctional” seems like a nice way of describing it.

So is this my parents’ fault?

A recent survey shows that all but one child of our family would certainly say so. Any question regarding the root of all things wrong, aimed at any adult who was once under the command of my deranged parental figures, would come as a resounding: “It is all my parents’ fault! They f*&@*d me up!”

Sorry for the language, it wasn’t mine.

My point is, why not me? How did I come out okay, when the vast majority of the children from the same house, without a doubt, failed? Does that make my parents the failures? Or the children? Who takes the blame? Was it a “system” failure?

I don’t blame my parents for anything. Yes. They screwed up. Nope. They were not perfect. And yeah, they probably shouldn’t have attempted procreation to begin with.

But unlike my siblings do, I don’t hold our parents responsible for my failures. I always believed that they did the very best they could, with the resources they were limited to. It is not like they woke up one day and thought, “Oh, hey hunny! I have a create idea! Lets give the kids all emotional complexes, from which they will never recover! Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

No. They tried. Perhaps they should have given us up. Perhaps they should have tried harder. Perhaps they didn’t know any better. Perhaps they just didn’t care…whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. They did what they did. I can’t blame them for my circumstances now (although that seems to be the common course of action these days).

If I hand over the blame for my failures, I also give away the ability to change them.

Will I have children? Oh heck! I am undecided. I assume it will happen, only because I don’t plan on preventing it forever, and I have a man who seems pretty keen on the idea. But what happens if I, too, fail? Will my children be able to see that, despite my “best” attempts, I just might f*&@*k them up?

Okay, my words, sorry. What kind of mother uses language like that? Guess I am not ready, yet!

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1 thought on “MM Feedback: When Parents Fail”

  1. This comment came in via e-mail from a Mothering Matters reader:

    It’s great that people are willing to offer their experiences/insights on less than stellar situations. I appreciated the points made by both Theresa Chevalier (in the Solo Parenting blog)and this anonymous writer.

    They both brought up stuff that I saw in my parents’ parenting and their conflictual marriage. (Yikes!)

    It reminded me why I waited so long to have kids.

    That fear of I did not want my kids to have a set of parents: a) in a bad marriage and b) with dysfunctional parenting!

    Not that I blame them, as I think they did the best they could.

    I think too many parents do not have a true understanding or a firm grasp of themselves (their own problems/demons/mental health issues, etc.) so that they cannot fully or adequately parent little children. Then those little children grow into troubled teens…not good.

    Babies and kids are a ton of work and if you are not stable/happy yourself — to me forecasts likely disaster.

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