Guilt - What if you DID NOT do the best you could? - FamilyEducation
Guilt - What if you DID NOT do the best you could?
04/23/2008 at 11:47 AM

Okay, I need honest and uncensored advice. 

Many people say "as long as you did the best you could, don't blame yourself"... Well, I have three sons ( 20 - 17 - 8) I am doing everything I know to make sure my 8 year old son  is happy and will become a strong and capable man.

 I was divorced when my two older boys were 8 and 4.  The dad took no responsibility for the boys and I was left to do things on my own physically and financially.  I got a full time job and worked to provide food shelter and clothing.  However, I DID NOT DO THE BEST I COULD. 

I was very resentful because I was left to raise them alone.  I also focused a lot on how unhappy, poor, lonely or tired I was; I felt sorry for myself.  Consequently, I was not as good a mother as I could have been.  My middle son presented so many challenges from the start and I was angry at him, his dad and God.  He got alot of spankings (paddle on the butt as many times as his age) and I often told the boys to play in their room with each other or play outside with friends. 

The question is this:  Do I forgive myself for that now?  I was selfish and wrong and my middle son is still VERY disruptive.  I find myself giving him more grace than anyone advises me to because I feel like it is my fault he is so bad.  Many people say "you did the best you could" but the truth is, I really didn't. 

I am a much better mommy to my 8 year old son.  I was 30 when he was born and I learned so much from the first two boys.  I am doing the best I can now with him and the other boys.  My 17 year old is hurting our family and disrespecting our home.  He is a BAD BAD BAD example for my 8 year old.  Do I deserve to forgive myself for not encouraging him as much as I should have?  He was nearly 11 when I really started to get my act together. 

I give him chance after chance after chance because I feel responsible for the way he turned out.   ANY ADVICE IS APPRECIATED!!

Hi there, I truly feel for you. I could only imagine how hard it must've been for you to go through a divorce, find a decent job, and raise 2 children. That in itself is very stressful (for you and your children). I don't know the nature of your middle son's issues, but I don't think you should blame yourself for these problems. It sounds like you did everything you could do under the circumstances. And you've learned from your mistakes. You need to focus on the present. I have 2 boys (4 & 3), and my husband works long hrs. There are times when they don't listen, no matter what I do, and I too lose it. My oldest son has a disability, and I felt so guilty that I did something during my pregnancy to cause him to have these problems. I beat myself up so much asking myself why and how this could happen. But then finally I realized I can't do that anymore, because it's not solving anything. That's when I decided to move forward and put my energy into doing all I can to help him. My family and I started going to counceling, which has been very helpful. Sometimes just talking to someone who can be objective about your situation, can help a great deal. Maybe you can consider therapy for yourself and your sons to help address the issues you are facing. Also, continue giving your children all the love and support you can. I wish you and your family all the best. Please keep us posted on how things go.

Thank you "concerned" ... It is definitely sound advice to "focus on the present" and do my best going forward ... I have decided to emancipate my 17 year old son ... Before I posted this, I had already been taking his paychecks (all but $40.00) for the last few months. I placed the money in a savings account waiting for him to turn 18 (one year away)... After his last violation (vandalism) I have decided he will have to move out. One thing I am going to do is aviod any guilt with this. I have decided to take two months and start to buy household items like dishes, pans towels etc. I will provide him with all the NECESSITIES for his apartment and pay his first months rent. Then I will hand over his savings and legally emancipate him. This way, I know I have done everything I can to get him off to a good start. If he wants to drink, use drugs or vandalize, he will be left to his own consequences. Does anyone see a reason I should not do this??

I don't see a problem with it. I would also think about offering this acknowledgment you shared with us to your son. There is something very powerful when a parent says "I made some bad decisions. I am so sorry that you are paying for it."

Thank you gail ... I have talked with my two older sons for years about the things I did wrong and why ... There has definitely been some healing in talking about it ... Too bad it could not reverse the damage

So now, be patient with yourself and with one another. I have made some profoundly bad decisions myself. Once a person takes responsible action, it takes time for things outside the person to change. Look forward, and wring what joy you can out of each day.

Which one of us has not done something in the past which we now recognise was a very bad move. We all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them. There is no point in beating yourself up about it. Turn it around now and do it differently in the future. Please give yourself a little leeway and love. You are not a bad person.

Well, I feel pretty good about this post. My two sons (20 & 17) will share an apartment. I am currently in the planning stage to make this happen ... I solicited advice here hoping that soomeone would give me permission to fogive myself. Or maybe I wanted to be chastened. Either way, It's funny but,I actually feel better hearing this advice from strangers than people who know and love me??? The advice/opinions here are not biased because nobody knows me. Answers come in unlikely ways sometimes. I'm sure I will always wish I would have spent more time with the boys, but as you have said, "we all make mistakes" ... Thank you

I'm glad we cld be of help. I think, although it's a tough decision, you are doing the right thing. I'm wondering, though, if you can still get your son some help. Rehab, perhaps? Since he's still only 17, wldn't you be able to get him help even if he refuses treatment? I'm not really sure what the law is, but I think once the person turns 18, he/she can't be forced into treatment. He has to willingly agree to it. You know your son best, and you know the severity of his problem. I'm not trying to scare you, I just don't want to see this get worse before it gets better. Do you think this wld be an option for you?

I believe you when you say you truly did not do your very best - but YOU DID. Time changes so many things and perceptions of things that it's not even fair for you to do this to yourself. All that happened, happened. Maybe for a reason as some believe, maybe just because that's where you were and was your best AT THAT TIME. I could give numerous examples of things I could'a', should'a' done better ... but it's hindsight. Living happens so quickly when you are surviving that you decide or do on the spur of the moment and move on ... that IS the best you can do. Reliving history isn't going to change anything you did then. You talk through it with the adults you have now and the kids you have and you become a better, more honest family. That's where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. That's it. Give yourself permission to forgive yourself move in the positive direction you're trying to move in.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. How can you say I COULD have done better? That moment has passed and can't be changed!You did what you did with the best of intentions AT THE TIME! Reflection on past mistakes is a useless waste of energy. Concentrate now on how you can help your children in the future and most importantly, communicate,support and apologise to them if you feel it is appropriate. All to often parents say "I did the best I could" without giving the child the opportunity to tell their parents how their childhood affected them. It is only after giving them the power of freedom of speech and acknowledge their pain that we can be free of guilt. Don't look at the practical/financial help you can give them. Concentrate on the emotional side and they will come through whatever difficulties they have! Good Luck!

I have learned so much from my mistakes over the years. I am so proud of my youngest boy, he is learning to fly fish and so much more. I spend time with him and I encourage him and I'm a different mother than I was when I was young. One key piece of advice that has been offered here over and over is to talk about the things that went wrong when I was young. Talking about it has helped my 20 year old son to move past feeling sorry for himself about being ignored and pushed him to take responsibility for who he is NOW. He is doing so well. The sad news is that my middle son has not improved. He started to spend his paychecks and bring drugs into the house again. I made him go live with his father (remember his dad has been absent for years)... He has been arrested twice since June 1st and is now bringing discord to his dad's home. I don't blame myslelf as much any more. I still feel come guilt, but he is 17 and is making these choices for himself. I guess I can't TOTALLY forgive myself but at least I am making him take responsibility for his own choices now instead of making excuses for him.

Don't ever take on another's choices once they start doing their own thing. His choices will have to be his lessons and you gave what you had to give. It will be hard to watch as this son makes seriously dangerous choices, but you are done with the lessons you can give and now must stand back, flinch, and then be there if he chooses to be responsible and sincere about making good choices. Let go of the guilt. Once one is an adult, blaming parents is just an excuse that keeps one from accepting responsibility for oneself. Some take longer to realize this than others.

I have told my children I am sorry for the mistakes I have made and they always say it is OK, they knew I was doing what I thought was right at the time. They are both adults and we are great friends, which is the best compliment I could ever ask for.

I will have less to apologize for with my little boy than I did with the other grown boys, but I'm sure I am still messing up in some ways. I've learned from my past mistakes, but I'm also learning from my current mistakes. The time slips by so fast with kids and you can never go back and "undo" mistakes.