I Wish Our Parents Had Been Brave

This is 31 Conversations From the Front Porch Day 20 – I wish our parents had been brave…. you can discover the rest of the series here.

31 conversations from the front porch with jkmcguire

Day 20: I Wish Our Parents Had Been Brave

I don’t think that people in my parents’ generation are very good at telling the truth – in a vulnerable, no holding back kind of way – especially not the churched folk. They have learned to hide a lot of themselves. What they offered to their churched kids growing up was a whole long list of DON’Ts and not many explanations about how to live the YESs. I know many of them who have had to go back, process what they never learned, forgive themselves, and then work through seeking the forgiveness of their kids through hard conversations.

If there is one thing I wish my parents had been in my life – I wish that they had been more honest.

I wish that they had been brave enough to tell me where and when and how and why they stumbled. I wish they had been brave enough to share their shame – to be vulnerable and open about when they failed. I feel like I spent about a decade of my adult-married life worrying about all the wrong things, living ashamed and afraid, and focused on the stuff that did not matter.

I wish my parents had been more brave.

parenting lost time jkmcguire

I wish that my husband’s parents had been brave enough to talk to him about sex and their own regrets. I wish that they had been brave enough to discover God with him…to show him what God looked like in their own lives. I wish that they had learned to lean into him, accepting him as he was/is, instead of pushing, punishing, shaming, and fearing him into being what they needed him to be. I wish they had been the kind of parents he needed at the time.

It is a shame that we don’t often realize what our children really needed from us – until they are all grown up and have kids and a voice of their own. It seems like in there somewhere is a whole bunch of lost time.

I have heard it said that the two biggest topics that parents avoid discussing with their children are: God and sex. And I’m over here pleading, but these are the places our kids need to hear the truth. They need to know where we have been and what we regret and what we enjoy. They need to know how to see God… daily.

They need to hear how life breaks and bleeds. They need to hear how life is going to be hard.

I wish our parents had taught us more about living the YESs and less about avoiding the NOs.

living the yes avoiding the no parents jkmcguire

“The fact that I never learned all those skills as a child is not the fault of my parents; they never learned all those skills from their parents, either. My parents taught me literally everything they knew, but people cannot teach you what they do not know. People can not give you waht they themselves never had.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)

My mom often says that she was NOT a good mom (she has gotten very brave and honest in her middle age). And she is right in many ways. She was not available or present to us in the ways that we often needed. But in the goodness and mercy found in the womb of family – she is more than making up for some of those distant places – by being present in the lives of our children, being for our spouses and us.

Her honesty and vulnerability is redeeming the broken places in the heart of our family.

Forgiving Our Parents Anyways

I think as adults we get to a place where we have to forgive our parents not because they deserve it or earn it or because they have changed. We forgive them because we are no different. We forgive them because we are each one step away from being just as naive and uninformed.

  • We forgive them for being immature, for not having done the parenting thing before and making tons of mistakes.
  • We forgive them for faking it.
  • We forgive them for phoning it in.
  • We forgive them for undiagnosed mental, emotional, or spiritual disorders.
  • We forgive them for following the lead of teachers who were morons.
  • We forgive them for thinking they had a clue they knew what they were doing when clearly they did not.
  • We forgive them for not being brave enough to ask for help or for seeking help in unhealthy, broken places.
  • We forgive them for not being able to get out of their own headspace long enough to engage us in our own.
  • We forgive them for not being trustworthy when we desperately needed someone who we could trust.

As a firstborn married to a firstborn – we have learned to forgive our parents for trampling their feet into our adult lives, refusing to accept our need for separateness, for failing to recognize needed boundaries and space, because they never had adult kids before or married kids before, or grandkids.

We have had to learn to forgive them for those times when they were living as “know it alls, fear it alls, worry it alls, control it alls” instead of just enjoying life with us.

We forgive for all the ways they let us down either because they never learned it themselves or because they were being selfish egomaniacs.

And we begin to learn from what our parents were unable to do – by discovering teachers who do know, by witnessing how our parents have grown and changed and forgiven us much for the things we didn’t know, and then we try to do the best we can with these littles that we have been given.

No one said it was going to be easy.

But I am learning to forgive us all… anyways.

we forgive our parents

Exercises For Your Own Front Porch Conversations

“When I was growing up, I never learned how to have the kind of emotionally honest (and sometimes terribly frightening) conversations with myself and others that Brene [Brown} teaches us to engage in. The fact that I never learned all those skills as a child is not the fault of my parents; they never learned all those skills from their parents, either. My parents taught me literally everything they knew, but people cannot teach you what they do not know. People cannot give you what they themselves never had.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)


“…You’ve decided to stop making parenthood harder by pretending it’s not hard.” (Glennon Doyle Melton)

Thoughts: I had someone react pretty strongly to me once through an email – she was clearly needing to put in a few jabs at my parenting “know it allness” as she perceived it. But we didn’t even know each other. All we knew about one another is what a mutual peoples had to say between the two of us. I didn’t correct her. I didn’t reach across the screen and right her words or understanding. I took what she offered, set it before my life looking for any kind of truth, and then let it go.

Parenting is the hardest work you will ever do. Every single day I feel at least one moment of “I am going to screw this up, I am failing, they are going to need therapy” – It is soooo hard. But then for all the hardness there is also immense beauty and goodness and life. Even though the baby is crying and fussy she is reaching for me, her mom. Even when the boys make a destructive mess – this for boy moms is like defcon 4 on the levels of boy messes. It is not only messy, but something has been ruined in the process. There is preteen hormones brewing and personalities shining. We are rubbing each other raw every single day.

And I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am a good mother. I enjoy being a mom. But I am not an expert at this. I have never met a parenting expert. I have known a whole bunch of messy adult trying their best to not screw up their kids. I have met a few know it alls. I have met those who judge and look down on others, and who have nothing good to say about those parenting or the kids being parented. I have met a ton of parenting critics… and not many genuine parent encouragers.

But I have also met the heartbroken understanding that they never saw what they were doing that was harmful because emotionally they were not present, because they did not know how to get over their own hurt so they pushed that hurt right into their own kids’ lives. I have witnessed the brokenness and celebrated the redeeming places. Praying you have found that in your own life.


  • What are some things you have had to forgive your parents for?
  • What are some things you are still holding?
  • Are you in a place where you can talk it out with them?
  • As a parent with grown kids how can you begin the process of forgiving yourself for what you did not know, and then seeking their forgiveness for those places where you were harmful, cruel, immature, or naive?
  • What teachers – speakers, writers, friends, mentors – have inspired you to be a better person, a better parent? (I’ll be sharing my favorite teachers tomorrow)



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