I often find that there is a certain circularity to life. Yesterday I penned a diatribe about how my Mother still finds ways to drive me crazy, which is sort of circular in itself. I had a conversation with a friend who wonders if they will make a good parent because they did not have a great role model….which is similar to thoughts that I had had before I had a child, which harkens to my blog post. Plus, we read a book for book club….

I had book club yesterday. We had read “Waking Lions” by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translation Sondra Silverston). During discussion of the book (because we really do discuss the book in my book club) the person moderating the discussion wanted us to discuss a quote that she found interesting…

Like all fathers, he knew it was inevitable that he was destined to disappoint his son.

Isn’t it odd that this was a quote that I was asked to discuss not long after I wrote a blog about how my Mother still disappoints me?

So my question is: Is it inevitable that parents disappoint their children?

I’d like to think that no, it isn’t inevitable. But then I think about how many people are in therapy and how often it really does relate back to their childhood. The saying is that kids are resilient, but is that really the case? I think kids are less resilient because they just don’t have enough tools in the box to learn how to properly take things in, and act (or not act) upon them. Yet every day, adults make decisions that will effect their children. Which is fine, because sometimes you have to be the adult and do something that is best for the family as a whole, but they forget that the kids need to be counseled about the changes, the positives and the negatives. Kids are not rubber balls: they don’t just bounce back.

Is there really any other path than the one that leads to kids being disappointed in their parents?

Parents are human. Yet, when kids are born, their parent becomes their world: hero, nurse, monster slayer, teacher. When you are a kid, you think your parents can do no wrong. When you’re a teen, you think that parents can do no right. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between, but at that point, the kid has already been disappointed by at least one of their parents.

Where do we go from here?

I wonder if this is why so many parents aim to be “friends” with their child: if you’re a friend, you can’t disappoint your child, because a friend is a peer, not an authority figure. And if you’re not in a position of authority, how can you disappoint them?

Is this why parents indulge their children? Spoil them? Because they’re trying to evade disappointment?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that you can’t help but disappoint your kids. Part of being a parent it making touch decisions, and often those decisions are in direct opposition to what a kid has in mind. We disappoint our kids because we give them a bedtime. We disappoint them when we make them brush their teeth. And we disappoint them with major things: divorce, remarriage, moving, addiction. We disappoint them by dying….

My parents disappointed me in many ways, and still continue to disappoint me. They are never changing their behavior. I can only try to change my reaction to them. Some days that is easier than others.

And it all comes back to resilience. We need to have a resilient core in order to do anything…

54 thoughts on “Disappointment

  1. Parents are human too and we make mistakes and certainly my parents did….and I will as well. But we try our best under the circumstances. Parenting is also about what is best for the child. So, as a sensitive child, my Dad’s bully mentality to make me overcome fear didn’t work well, but it did for my brother. I think good parenting requires we take into consideration each child as an individual in order to parent in a way that teaches them according to their personality.

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      1. A huge parenting lesson for all but not everyone gets it. I certainly wasn’t parented that way..but I did try to parent my kids according to who they are and not in a ‘one size fits all’ way.

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  2. Oh, I like Cindy’s sentence a lot! Managing expectations though- rather it’s the parent or the child- is another thing. Just as you noted LA, parents want the best for their kids and that comes with expectations about their behavior, their actions, their choices. Kids expect the parent to remain as the super-hero they envisioned when they were young.
    Not sure that it’s possible to do away with those natural responses and still be human so yes, ownership of your own response to disappointment is a factor.
    I think we all have levels of resilience, some more than others. Or perhaps we simply choose to use our strength in different ways at different times… ?

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    1. Oh you’re giving me more food for thought!! It’s a little scary for me to think that no matter what we do, we will disappoint others, but I don’t think there’s any way around it. I’m still thinking about this….

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  3. Great post! There really is circularity to life. Like you said growing up parents are heroes for many of us. For me, as I got older a lot of those feelings turned to anger. Now as my kids get older I find myself relating to my parents more and some of those angry feelings are going away. Maybe it’s because I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I hope that my kids are understanding in regards to that as they grow older!

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  4. Generally speaking, I think we need to assume good intentions from our parents and our children. As a parent and a as child, I love and want the best for them. However, what I think is best and what they think is best don’t always align. You cannot control the actions of your parents or your children (I’m not talking about little ones) and how you handle that is part of how much disappointment you experience. But remember, they can’t control yours either, so you may be creating disappointment for others without realizing it.

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  5. As you said, when we’re young, our parents are our heroes and our entire world revolves around them. As we become adults, we begin to see their imperfections, and they often do disappoint us, since they’re just human, too. I think that to what extent we accept that fact will determine our remaining relationship with them (and color our memories of them once they’re gone). Can we forgive them for being human or not?

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  6. Interesting. Maybe it’s because I’m of an older generation or maybe it’s because I’ve been very lucky, but, no, I don’t believe that we’re destined to be a disappointment to our kids or our parents to us. I get that this may be the case in dysfunctional homes, bad marriages, etc., but why would this be a universal truism. Surely most kids recognize that their parents live them and want the best for them, and, importantly, vice versa. You don’t always need to agree, but as long as the live and support is unconditional how can that disappoint? I’m 73. My parents did not disappoint me at all, except for dying far too young. I’m pretty confident that our kids would say that we have not been a disappointment to them, and I’m very sure that their kids do not and will not consider their parents to have been a disappointment. I’m surprised that so many readers feel otherwise.

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    1. When the woman in my book club mentioned this quote, my initial response was no. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is disappointment to every relationship because no relationship goes smoothly. Now, some disappointment is greater than others, nd how we react is different, but as Cindy said, if you have expectations there will be disappointment.

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      1. OK, but I still don’t agree. If you go looking for something you can say negative about every relationship, sure, that will set you up for disappointment. Good grief, how sad is that? If everyone adopts that approach to relationships the world is definitely not going to be a happier place. Everyone who decides that there is disappointment in every relationship is willing to accept that they’re part of the problem, right?!

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      2. I didn’t expect you to agree, just giving it a perspective. And of course it’s a two way street because one person has expectations, and the other may or may not fulfill them. I was disappointed in my husband the other day because he didn’t take my feelings into account when he made a decision. It’s not a life changing disappointment, and I can forgive him and get on with life, but it did hurt in the moment…and he was disappointed in me because I didn’t adapt quickly and seemlessly to the changes he made into our plans.

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  7. I think of my parents in relation to the age they grew up…the Depression…hustling dimes and quarters, losing great wealth, working hard, leaving the city and they did what they had to. I find my love is never lost and I am amazed at their resiliency and love. If only I knew why my brothers are still mad at my dad. Perhaps the fault lies in him.

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  8. Does it make you wonder why your mother is this way? Was she raised this way? That generation and generations before that didn’t analyze parenting the way we do today…things were different.

    It’s not an excuse, it’s just another perspective. I struggle with an issue that’s similar…but try to put myself into their shoes. I don’t know…

    And as far at disappointment is concerned, if my teenager wasn’t disappointed in me I am doing it wrong. 😛 (blah)

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    1. I could empathize better if she listened to me when I talk to her about it. When I say to her that when she does A it makes me feel B and her retort is that she’s right and I’m wrong, the conversation ends.

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  9. I was just saying to a friend today that no matter how hard you try to be a good parent and do all the right things for your kids, no matter how hard you try to protect them and provide for them and love them, we all make mistakes and end up screwing them up in some way. We have to give ourselves a bit of leeway as parents I think. We love the best we can and do the best we can but we’re never gonna get it all right.

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  10. I’m left with more questions than answers after reading this post & the comments.
    Is the (inevitable) disappointment with our parents as parents or as human beings?
    As children, where do our expectations come from – of our parents & of others?
    Is it purely the example we see around us? And if the examples around us are all as bad as one another, what then? The older we get and the wider the reach of our net, the greater the chance of obtaining other examples with which to judge.

    Is the problem actually expectation … rather than disappointment?

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    1. I think they go hand in hand…you need one to have the other. I disappointed my daughter last night with my reaction to something. She expected loving and I was practical without sensing what she needed at the moment was a virtual hug. I didn’t mean to disappoint her, yet I did. On a side note…you know I like when we have questions…because it means we’re learning, growing and realizing there are many sides to an issue

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  11. I think that we disappoint our kids when we mess up, which everyone does because they aren’t perfect, but those aren’t always lasting. It is the lasting disappointments that I think are at the core of this. Those happen most because we raise our kids to believe we are something we are not. Too many times adults refuse to allow their kids to see them as imperfect. We put on a “parent” face for them and that face may not even be who we really are, only how we want our kids to see us. It isn’t honest. Some of my biggest issues or moments growing up that left me the most disappointed were the moments when I realized that my parents were human, when I saw what they tried to hide. We also disappoint them when we refuse to see THEM as individuals with their own lives and choices and happiness and instead try to push what we want for them on them instead of helping them to achieve what is important to them. Basically, it is in being able to recognize the ways you can disappoint your kids that you are more likely to not. Then again, you can’t see and predict everything and we are still human.

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    1. You’re dead on with the biggest way we disappoint kids is by not seeing who they are, putting our expectations on who we want them to be….I have a irl friend who is doing that now, and she won’t even accept that she is not so right in this approach

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      1. I have done some much rearranging of my thinking on this after all we went through with OC. It is why I ended up with my 4 “rules” in life. It helps me to keep perspective on what is mine to choose and what really isn’t when it comes to all of the people in my life, not just my kids.

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  12. I think the word disappoint is not the word to use. A child would get disappointed if he didn’t get something he wanted, but I feel the decisions you make as a parent are just that decisions. I was angry at my mother, but not disappointed because I really didn’t expect much. Maybe some kids naturally keep their expectations low and others don’t.

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    1. Parents make decisions that there kids may or may not like…doesn’t mean the the kids aren’t disappointed…if something doesn’t go the way we want, we’re disappointed. Of course…there are varying degrees of disappointment

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  13. I agree with you and the quote. At some point our parents will disappoint us. That being said, I can’t think of much about my father that disappointed me. He is still my idol. My mother did one thing that disappointed me, she bad-mouthed my father occasionally. I’m sure I’ve disappointed my daughter, in fact, I think I did so just a couple of days ago over a real minor thing. Resilience is tough. That trait is learned and earned by experience, and if parents shield their kids too much, they will never develop it.

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    1. We have to teach kids from a young age that life sucks a lot if the time. Oddly, the day I wrote this post I disappointed by daughter too. We don’t intend to…it’s just how it plays out

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