A friend of mine and I were discussing our parental responsibilities and compared notes about our efforts at parenthood.
My leaning was to acknowledge that there was always something I could have done better as a parent to give my children a better example, to teach them better, to be more consistent, more loving, more faithful, more prayerful, while not dwelling on my failures in these later years.
His leaning was to acknowledge that no matter how we performed as parents, we did the best we could, and it is the young adult children's responsibility to seek and make the right decisions in the life they now command. He had his own life experience to back up his position. When he was three, his abusive, alcoholic father gave his mother the choice between her three year old son, or her husband. Based on her own insecurities, she chose her husband and abandoned the child.
The child grew up, feeling abandoned, unwanted, defensive, alone, fearful of closeness, aloof from others. Entering adulthood, he made a decision to assume responsibility for his own life. He decided to not allow the past to be his excuse for the future. He knew he was an intelligent being aware of the right things to do, and decided to do them. He learned from this lifelong experience that he could have chosen to go either way...either to remain shackled as a victim of the past, or get on with life, taking responsibility for his own decisions and success.
In reality, both of these leanings are at work. We, as parents, could have done more, but the adult children are responsible for making their own good decisions now. It is a mistake to sabotage their future because of the sins, insecurities, or misfortunes of the past. Sure, our circumstances from our childhood and young adult years help mold what we have become: our fears and worries and likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows. But, with our own efforts, we can change our thinking and our circumstances.
But what if what we can do oursleves is not enough? What if the past is too strong?
One of my new favorite scriptures is "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23) After all we can do. After we do all we can do, and we can do no more ourselves, what are our options as parents or as young adults who have had a less than perfect childhood? If failure is not an option, the only other option is to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God. Allow his grace to transcend our fears about marriage, our fears about relationships, our fears about failing again. Trust in him to carry us over the rough spots and into his love - so we can learn how to love and trust again, after all we can do ourselves.