Anaïs Nin on Parenting, Character, and Personal Responsibility

We receive a fatal imprint in childhood, at the time of our greatest plasticity, of our passive impressionism, of our helplessness before suggestion. In no period has the role of the parents loomed as immense, because we have recognized the determinism, but at the same time an exaggeration in the size of the Enormous Parent does not need to be permanent and irretrievable. The time has come when, having completed the scientific study of the importance of parents, we now must re-establish our power to revoke their imprint, to reverse our patterns, to kill our fatal downward tendencies. We do not remain smaller in suture than our parents. Nature had intended them to shrink progressively in our eyes to human proportions while we reach for our own maturity. Their fallibilities, their errors, their weaknesses were intended to develop our own capacity for parenthood. We were to discover their human weakness not to overwhelm or humiliate them, but to realize the difficulty of their task and awaken our own human protectiveness toward their failures or a respect for their partial achievement. But to place all responsibilities upon them is wrong too. If they gave us handicaps, they also gave us their courage, their obstinacy, their sacrifices, their moments of strength. We cannot forever await from them the sanction to mature, to impose on them our own truths, to resist or perhaps defeat them in our necessity to gain strength.

From Brain Pickings

2 thoughts on “Anaïs Nin on Parenting, Character, and Personal Responsibility

  1. What a great column! I think how they treated us is a starting point for us when we consider what we will do with our lives. I believe there are always positives for us in whatever situation(s) we find ourselves in during our life. It is always up to us to turn whatever we see before or around us to a positive and/or to our advantage. Margaret Eubank


  2. Only yesterday my (only) child (now in his mid-50s) and his amazing wife left my home after a visit. As we usually do when we get together (we try for at least once a year, as I live far away from their home), we do an in-person check-in regarding what we remember about childhood “issues” and anything needing clearing that might have come into consciousness (of course, we are free to address these matters electronically during the rest of the year too).
    This check-in served us especially well this year, and we (all 3 of us) were able to acknowledge how far we have all come — as parents and as children — in our personal maturing processes. Good timing for this column!!


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