Parenting is a lot more than loving, teaching and socializing a child. It is also an integrated part of who we are as adults. The skills we brought to bear as we raised our children continue to be skills and awareness we need to maintain self-awareness throughout our lives.
We all need to continue to maintain a parenting overview of ourselves. Some might call this a conscience. Having helped our children learn the difference between right and wrong does not mean we do not need to remind ourselves about it from time to time. We continue to require a parent within.
This necessary element in the psychologically matured adult was described, in some detail, by Dr. Eric Berne in his work in the 1950’s in a field called Transactional Analysis and later broadly popularized in his book “Games People Play” (1964) but has application that extends beyond any one particular school of post-Freudian psychological thinking.
In purely non-psychological terms, the people who raised and guided us (if we were fortunate enough to have people who did a good job of it in our lives) will not be there forever. Even as they continue to live, they will not be in your desk drawer or pocket when you feel you want to ask them something. That which you gained from them, if you really gained and absorbed it, has become a part of yourself.
This integrated parent has become a part of who we are and, for better or for worse, is a necessary piece of what is helpful to understand about ourselves. It can always be used and is always useful, but it can be from one of two very different directions.
People fortunate enough to have had parents or parenting adults whose ways they strive to emulate might simply utilize this aspect of themselves by asking, “What would my parent have done here?” or “What would my parent say if I could ask them right now about this?” The memory of things our own parents said has become part of our own ‘˜inner voice.’
On the other hand, sometimes reality bites and many people strive to be as different from their own parents as they possibly can be ‘” often for some very good reasons. For this large group of adults, the obverse questions are triggered and may take the form of reminding ones self what our own parent would probably have done and then deliberately avoiding doing that ourselves.
For all of us, our parents tend to have become models for either ways we want to be or cautionary memories about ways we do not want to be. Either way, the memory and inner parent can be of daily help to us as both parents ourselves and as individual adults.
We become, as adults, parent to ourselves, for without this element in our core makeup, we may drift from uncertainty to uncertainty never being clear about our feelings about our own behaviors, thoughts, feelings, or interactions with others.
Moreover, when we’d like to ask someone whose advice we respect and they are not there, we need to be able to ask ourselves.