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"Well, What Were We Supposed To Do?"

Updated: Feb 6

An adult, let’s call him Teddy, recently said to me:

“I was having a conversation with my parent about the things I’ve been learning from The Last Symptom, and about things I needed as a child but didn’t get. And my parent said, ‘Well, what were we (the parents) supposed to do, given the circumstances?’”

Teddy says he has now been locked on this. “I can’t figure out how they could have fulfilled what I needed, and I’m beginning to wonder if they have a good point.”

Do you see how Teddy is being suckered by an expert con artist?

Do you see the sleight of hand and misdirection? I’m sharing this with you because I’m positive that Teddy is not the only one who has encountered, or is encountering, this situation.

Let me ask you this: Has there ever been a time in Teddy’s entire life when it has been Teddy’s responsibility, as his parents’ child, to figure out for his parents how they do their jobs as his parents better?

Is it ever a son or a daughter’s job to work out for his or her parents the details of how they can be, or could have been, good parents, and to then explain the details to them?

It has never been, and it will never be, Teddy’s responsibility to figure these things out for his mom and dad. Teddy doesn’t have to allow himself to be suckered into taking on responsibility belonging exclusively to his parents - responsibility they simply don't want anything to do with.

There is no situation at all - short of they are dead - that excuses parents from living up to their responsibilities. This is the only thing that Teddy has to remember.

If Teddy recognizes that this is the truth - that nothing exempts parents from living up to their inherent responsibilities as parents - then Teddy doesn't have to figure out the details of how his parents could have done better. All Teddy has to remind himself is this:

1. It was their responsibility to do it. And...

2. They didn’t do it.

It is Teddy’s parents, and only Teddy’s parents, who are responsible for figuring out the specifics of what they can do differently, or could have done differently, or should be doing differently now - and to then do it. As their child, it isn’t Teddy’s responsibility to do this for them.

It's also important to note that matters of responsibility are not influenced at all by what is convenient, or easy or hard, or anything else, for that matter. My responsibilities to my daughter don't lessen or disappear simply because I'm ignorant, or lack interest, or because my parents didn't teach me.

Can you imagine the captain of a nuclear submarine trying to use these sorts of excuses for why he allowed his submarine to strike a fishing boat and kill half of his crew?

"Well, you see, I just didn't know, nobody ever told me..."

It's his job to identify the things he doesn't know, and then to be sure he knows them.

These same parents, who failed in their responsibilities to begin with, are still living with the same unhealthy, immature attitudes of non-responsibility now, even thirty, forty, or fifty years later. It’s disgusting. Instead of doing an honest self-examination, and coming up with real answers (answers that probably do not fit into their self-centered way of thinking), they want to chuck the job over to Teddy!

"There you go, Teddy! You figure out these riddles for us."

Hopefully you cannot imagine doing this to your own sons or daughters. As parents of our own children, the burden for figuring out the details of how we are going to fully provide for their emotional, mental, and physical needs is ours. The responsibility for any failures in this regard are ours. Our immaturity, fake helplessness, and aversion to responsibility is not our children’s fault, and it is not their job to show us the way.

So if your parents ever pull out the “Well what were we supposed to do...?” vomit, you say this:

You were supposed to have figured out the details to that then, and you are still responsible for figuring that out now.

Leave it there at their feet, where it belongs. Do not carry their question away with you, bouncing it around in your head, trying to sort out the details for yourself. It is misdirection and con-artistry. There is no sense in using your own mental and emotional energies to work out answers to questions that are not, and have never been, yours to answer. No, leave them with those they properly do belong to.

Do not let your parents bridle you with what is only their responsibility. This is simply the continuance of them shirking their responsibilities off onto their own children, which is revolting, and something they have surely been doing your entire life.

You do not have to continue playing into it - to continue living with these burdens and sleepless nights, while they sleep soundly and with no sense of responsibility at all.


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Orange Slices are condensed, daily video insights (usually around 5-10 minutes in length) on the subject of emotional health that appear exclusively on The Last Symptom community on Locals.

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As I began reading this article, my mind was already making excuses for my parents. OMG - and I thought I was making progress. It provoked some very interesting introspection, along with some healthy analysis of why I needed the permission this article gave me to actually allow myself to blame my parents….and stop there. No excuses. Just out there.

It can help to understand why people treat us the way they do, and is a part of healthy moving forward and forgiveness, which shouldn’t be in any way compulsory, btw.

I was fortunate enough to have conversations with my rather autocratic father who mellowed considerably later in life. He expressed a degree of remorse that he hadn’…

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I read your post and it feels like you described my parents. I had some conversations with them about raising kids before they passed. Dad acknowledged the gentle way I raised my son and said, "I had my doubts when he was younger, but he turned out fine". Mom said, "Everyone spanked their kids back then. It was the way things were done".

I'm still not over what happened in my childhood. I'm 46 and processing this trauma. My parents have been dead for 10 years. I'm thankful for the conversations I had with them. Not everyone has the opportunity. Though it's not always safe, especially when dealing with a narcissist.

Becoming a parent made me reflect on my own…

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