Parents should admit their failings to adult children

Sometimes individual adults seek depth therapy. Though not in every case, it’s common for individual therapy to include an examination of childhood history. This means an honest inventory of what went right and what went wrong in relationship with Mother and Father. New appreciations emerge, as do deep, long-smoldering resentments.

It’s liberating for people to see their parents as they really are. Patients embrace a powerful pride in that part of the family legacy that is health, respect and honor. Patients set themselves free as they, perhaps for the first time, allow themselves to admit those actions of their mothers and fathers that were incompetent, thoughtless, cruel and, in thankfully rare cases, wicked.

On the way to freedom are often tears. Trembling outrage. Numbing incredulity. Like waking from a dream state. Like suddenly discovering one has been the butt of a practical joke for the past 20 years. Like casting off the spell of some enchantment. “I did not deserve to be (humiliated, neglected, abused, ignored, degraded, disrespected, exploited),” a patient will hiss through clenched teeth. “That was wrong!”

Often, then, the patient will get The Bright Idea. He/she will declare an intention to leave the session, go home and call the offending parent. With the newfound self-respect and righteous claim of anger, the patient now wants to call the parent to account. Confront the parent.

And whenever I hear The Bright Idea, I always have the same response:

“Great idea,” I say, my voice thick with affirmation and advocacy. “Why don’t we talk about that … for the next two or three … or 18 sessions.”

Why would I put them off? Why would I bridle at such an obviously righteous cause?

Because I don’t want my patient to get hurt, that’s why. And in the significant majority of cases when an adult asks, years later, for an audience of empathy and accountability from a mother or father, the patient just gets hurt again.

“It was wrong for you to humiliate me that day at the circus,” says the adult child.

“Circus? What circus?” says the parent. Or, “You still upset about that?” Or, “Get over it, sheesh.” Or, “Well, if I’ve done anything to upset you, then, sorry.” Or, “I did the best I could.” Or, “At least you knew I always loved you.”

Discount. Dodge. Dismiss. Defend. Explain. Justify. Obfuscate. Can’t remember. It is a rare, rare parent who can open his/her heart to an adult child and say: “I did that. The way I treated you was not OK. You deserved more. Deserved better. That was about me, not about you. I’m sorry, and I hope you can forgive me.”

Most parents can’t be accountable. Or won’t be. Which is why Jim is my hero.

Who’s Jim? He’s Cathy’s father. Who’s Cathy? I wrote about her last Sunday, a once deeply troubled, self-destructive teen who made it. A few weeks ago, she was graduated healthy and whole from a residential adolescent treatment program.

Her father spoke at her graduation. He was nervous. Not a polished public speaker, but it didn’t matter. Because he stood up in front of 100 people and set his daughter free. He accounted. He looked down from the podium to his daughter in the front row and said: “Cathy, when I got here they told me we don’t fix kids; we fix families. I didn’t understand at first, but now I do. I didn’t know how to talk. I didn’t know how to feel.”

And then he said it.

“I’m one of the biggest reasons you had to be here at all.”

The ceremony ended. Hugs and celebration all around. I saw the sweat on Jim’s head. He looked chalky. Parasympathetic reaction, I thought. That speech would have taken a lot out of anyone.

But I was wrong. Because Jim went back to his hotel room and had a massive heart attack. A few days later he was dead. Incredible. It’s like sci-fi. Cathy and her mom are reeling.

But he set her free. Before he left the planet, Jim set his daughter free. He owned his own patootie, as it were. Stood by his own life and his own choices. Which means that Cathy doesn’t have to spend another moment being responsible for her father’s life and choices.

She has to manage only her own life. Which, for most of us, is plenty to do.

Are you still breathing? Then you still have time to set your children free. Account. Unburden them. Tell the truth. Humble yourself.

You’ll be freer, too.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling and Wellness Center in Las Vegas. His columns appear on Tuesdays and Sundays. Questions for the Asking Human Matters column or comments can be e-mailed to skalas@review

Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like