Do some people never realize they were not good parents?

Scenario: An 85 year old woman is in a nursing home. She has 4 adult children, 15 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.

It is a holiday but she is mostly alone.

She is angry that few of her children have come to see her.

Thing is she feels she was the most hard working, thoughtful, loving, and caring mother and grandmother there was. He children, well they beg to differ., They remember neglect, mild abuse, and overall a lack of love from her. Her grandchildren have few fond memories since her grown children wanted little to do with her once they were gone. Some have kept some contact out of a feeling of obligation.

Do you think many older persons in this situation might ever come to the realization of their ways and even better, work to reach out and to heal the wounds?

I acknowledge that my mother is trying (very trying) but I feel it is too little too late. From my perspective my mother just wants to feel good about herself, without actually changing anything.

Barring any outright abuse, I’d say most people do the best they can. After all, there is no definitive meaning of what a “good parent” is. Nobody sets out to be a shite parent. That being said, I’d be surprised if any parent doesn’t have some regrets / doubts about the job they’ve done. Also, I think it’s a shame that an adult can’t be arsed to visit their mother in a nursing home on a holiday.

My mother had very few good things to say about my grandmother. I don’t recall any accusations of abuse, at least not abuse as would be defined in 1940s Kansas but there were many unkind words and little or no emotional connection. I clearly remember her saying that she never felt that “Clara” ever loved her or my aunts and uncles. Later in my grand mother’s life, she really seemed to play favorites among her children and grand kids. My memory of her mother is that grand kids older than newborns yet too young to be put to work on the farm were just meaningless. From my current perspective, she really became very manipulative and loved to play the victim.

From the report of the offspring, as in most cases, the abusive parent, very early on chose to look away from what was uncomfortable to look at about themselves and their parenting practices. It starts with just one brick, but pretty soon there’s a giant wall between them and reality.

It’s a very human inclination I think. But one that we should all resist vehemently. You don’t have to like everything you see, but choosing to just look away comes with WAY more uncomfortable consequences in the long run, I believe.

The offspring very quickly and accurately recognize there is no point in trying to make them see. It threatens to knock the whole wall down! They can’t have that!

And I think you haven’t realized that not everybody has their family within easy reach of each other. Some people don’t even have them all in the same country.

I was my dad’s idea–the second child, that HE wanted as opposed to the first whom he never quite accepted. After Dad was out of the picture it was me, my resentful brother (we made up as adults), and Mom. Evidently she used up all her patience and love on my brother. I muddled through on my own, made a mess of things and cleaned up after myself. These days I’ve got no use for her and I’ve been very clear with her on that point. She’ll be a martyr on her deathbed, bemoaning the absence of her ever-ungrateful youngest (OK, she birthed me, and let me sleep under her roof and eat from her fridge–I might as well have been a cockroach). Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass as long as she doesn’t put my brother through the wringer on her way out. To the OP: There are certainly people who never get it, because they’re narcissists who see only the gloom wrought upon them by the universe, and never once consider they might deserve it.

I knew I should have added the “barring financial difficulties / extenuating circumstances” disclaimer. I’ve spent the last 25 years of my life pretty much separated from my family due to the lack of money to visit them. I wasn’t able to be at my beloved father’s bedside when he passed, but it wasn’t from lack of care.

You can’t change the mind of this kind of parent. Narcissists go through life creating their own reality in order to hold a fragile, shattered core together. They have to put survival-mode levels of energy into their narrative, pulling easily programmed people close and pushing uncontrollable people away. Of course they have to resist anything that might chip away at the self and reality they’ve created.

This is a very kind-hearted thought, and one I’d be inclined to agree with most of the time. However, I think it completely misses the mark on a nontrivial number of parents. There’s personality flaws and immaturity that can make someone a suboptimal parent. But when those flaws only become more defined with age, then cutting that venomous person out of your life is all you can do. Not everyone deserves the comfort of a nursing home, let along the consolation of those who’ve been on the receiving end of their bullshit their entire lives.

My father was a terrible person, a big part of his crapulence was his ability to deceive himself that he wasn’t a horrible person. The last time I saw him was six years ago at my mother’s funeral and he died this summer. I’m sure he thought that he was a good person and everyone else was horrible.

I think most abusive parents need more than abandonment to realize their shittiness. The traits that make them a shitty parent are the same ones that rob them of introspection and self-reflection.

It is much easier on the ego to conclude your kids are triflin’ so-and-so’s than it is to conclude you are a bad parent. Also, there are more narratives out there about ungrateful neglectful adult children who don’t want to visit Mama because “nursing homes are creepy” than there are about shitty parents who are undeserving of love and attention. And even the victims of known parental abuse are frequently encouraged to forgive and forget, for the sake of “family”. So you better believe an abandoned parent will have at least one person validating their opinion about how horrible their kids are, not to check in on them or anything. Who has the balls to ask an elderly person whether they did anything to deserve to be neglected by their family? No one, that’s who.

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My SO’s ex-husband is convinced that he is an excellent parent. That is proven false because both of their kids love me more than him and that started right away when we started dating. Their 4 year old son is coming to stay with me alone next weekend by his request and usually refuses to go to his dad’s house. I didn’t want that to happen but someone has to be a positive male influence on him.

I don’t think I am the best parent in the world but, if there was a parenting Olympics, I would get the Gold Medal and he would be disqualified even if it was just the two of us competing. He doesn’t directly abuse the kids, drink, cheat, do drugs or any of the usual suspects. He is just emotionally absent, inattentive, insensitive to their needs, probably on the spectrum and possibly gay but he will probably never realize that. Kids pick up on that and they responded to me oddly strongly right away.

I would answer “yes” to your question because one cannot realize something that one was never taught and never exposed to. We learn our parenting skills mostly from our own parents. Children that are raised by parents who yell at them and demean them and beat them tend to display those parenting characteristics themselves.

I’m not saying that this is unwaveringly true, but you used the word “some” in your question.

Yes, distance can be an issue. Hopefully though one can still write, call, or nowadays, do Facetime.

Some people truly never realize that they were not good parents. Many of the people who are that way, I expect they have a far lower chance of putting things right than the average 25-year alcoholic does.

Some people never come to terms with it. I get the feeling my mother has some idea but she will never admit it or apologize. In her case there is underlying mental illness as well so I can’t call foul on it.

Many bad people never realize that they are bad people.

My mother was a terrible parent and although there are signs that she deep down is aware of it, shallow up, she is in denial.

It’s a pretty rare person who can admit that their fundamental personality flaws permanently damaged all their children. My mother isn’t rare in that way.

My best friend’s Mom was abusive. Horribly abusive and cruel, culminating in her taking her husband’s side over her daughter’s claim of sexual abuse. She died a mean, nasty, horrible woman, sniping at the one child that did some and see her on her deathbed (my friend, who never gave up hope her Mom would return her love).

Once she died, the siblings all found out that the woman had willed her only “asset” - her Government Death Benefit - to the man she had leeched on to and they were on the hook for the cremation and service. So, in that case, no.