We all know that being a parent does not come with a rule book, you learn on the job.
You actually never stop learning.
When your children are little it is you who sets the rules, who places bounderies hopefully in an environment of safety and love.
So what happens in the intervening years, to take some families to a place of resentment and estrangement?
I have thought about my own childhood and my relationship with my own parents.
I was born in the 50’s and it was of a generation who were born not that long after a world war.
We haven’t experienced what it was like living during those dark days of war, and I hope and pray we never do.
The long lasting damage both physically and mentally are only now being recognised.
I spent many hours talking to my Mum about her life during war time, she would say that you lived for the moment, you had no idea if you would be alive in the morning, or if your whole family would be wiped out in a second.
We can only imagine what it felt like when war was finally over after 7 long years, the relief must have been immense.
So it is hardly surprising that our parents were slowly going through an enormous change, one of freedom one of peace and of material things becoming more and more available, after rationing it must have been extraordinary.
It was the beginning of our world changing in so many ways.
When I think about my parents and our life together, before my father walked out on us, we were a typical middle class family. Dad had a successful business that had been founded by my great , great grandfather it was a business that was well known in the city.
I loved Mum and Dad and my brother and I to have a good life.
I respected my parents and in a way I feared them.
I don’t mean I was afraid of them, I mean that I knew what the boundaries and rules were and I feared overstepping those rules. I knew that there would be a consequence if I did. Not a violent consequence at all, just the look was enough!
Actually not only did I not often break the rules, it didn’t even occur to me.
I wasn’t a goody two shoes, it was just the way it was then.
As we reached the 60’s it felt as though all boundaries and all rules were gone, the age of true freedom in all senses of the word.
A time of kaftans people wearing flowers in their hair and a time of experimentation.
The world suddenly became a very small place, people travelled far and wide and families went where the jobs were more and more fragmentation.
We became materialistic, it mattered what trainers you had, what stereo you had and money was at the forefront of most things.
It appeared the more money people had the happier they were.
Moving on to the next decades and as a society our relationship with our children was also changing.
The experts in their field told us to ‘listen to the children’ and that children had to be allowed to push boundaries to develop, the rules began to change.
Whereas I thought of my parents as the boss, that was no longer the case.
It was OK for children to question their parents authority, to answer back and to express themselves.
We still constantly hear that children must have this ,must have that, we must do everything to provide our children with everything they want.
Easy come, easy go.
So what has this done to family relationships?
An example might be that we would visit our grandparents very regularly, did we want to?
Possibly not always, but we knew it was the right thing to do, now if a child is asked about visiting or phoning their grandparents the reply might well be, ” If I want to see them, I will, if I don’t I won’t.”
So it is no longer about the responsibility we have to our families it is more about only if “I want to.”
Of course as parents we make mistakes, all the time, not just as parents of young children but also when our children are adults themselves.
Why is it that we get rebuked by them if we do make a mistake?
We have spent 40-50 years trying to do our best, trying to enable our children to develop into caring, selfless adults.
What we didn’t expect was to find ourselves, in the middle of our own war within our own families.
A war that becomes so entrenched that we are no longer able to even communicate with one another, and the next generation witness adults hurting each other, tearing each other apart for what?
Is it point scoring, is it because those boundaries no longer exist, is it actually that we have lost respect for one another?