No, They Weren’t Doing Their Best

One of the most overused platitudes I hear in response to toxic parents is that they must have meant well, or they were only doing the best they could. This is a terrible thing to say to a survivor of child abuse. It’s false and damaging to the victim, because it implies a false projection that their toxic parent had good intentions.

Some people are not doing the best they can. Some, because of personality disorders, choose to harm and destroy their victims. Some people lack empathy, and have no intention of improving their behavior. They would prefer to make scapegoats out of others than take responsibility for their actions.

I am a mom, and I get why people say it. I too would like to believe that I am always trying to do my best. But here’s the thing. Sometimes, I’m not. Sometimes, I can do better. As someone recovering from complex childhood trauma, I can be distracted. I can be upset about things that aren’t in my present environment. I can be on edge, and a little bit of kid chaos is often what pushes me over, and makes me scream at them to stop. It sucks for me, and sometimes, it sucks even more for my kids.

However, there is one major distinction between me and my abusive parents. In spite of how I sometimes feel and react, I never intend to harm my kids. Although my reactions are often triggered by something they do, I never make my own overblown reaction their fault. Even if I explode in frustration, I don’t beat my kids up with words. I own my reactions, and when we are all calm, I apologize and talk it over with them. As part of owning my own shit, I make a daily effort to heal, grow, and do better.

My parents lack empathy. My parents intend to harm. My father is a malignant narcissist, among other things. He not only made his bad behavior my fault, he sought out opportunities to hurt me. My mother is a covert narcissist, among other things. She knew how to put on a good face to the public while she abused and neglected me behind closed doors. Both of them knew what they were doing. Neither of them had any intention of changing their behavior. Both of them continue to project their abuse as my fault. Both of them are furious at me for not going along with any of it. And of course, if you asked them, they would tell you that as parents, they did the best they could, and aren’t I a stinker for holding a grudge? And the thing is, if you weren’t watching closely, you’d probably believe them. They are experts at manipulating people, because they’ve been doing it for a long, long time.

Would you fall for it if you heard an estranged parent say it?

2 thoughts on “No, They Weren’t Doing Their Best

  1. I seriously relate to almost every single article you have written! I agree with everything you’ve said, it’s SO hard to hear them say or someone else say “they did the best they could”. I can’t stand hearing that come out of people’s mouth. As an experienced mother now, no, I know she did not do the best she could for any of her children!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gah! I LOVE that someone out there is SAYING these things. I won’t go so far as to say my parents didn’t try, but I do wish at least one of them had made ANY effort at all at self awareness. They are the reason I don’t (or didn’t want to) have children. I don’t have the self control that I would expect of myself to do right by kids. Because of them and what they drilled in to me, I have known for almost 30 years that I very much do NOT want to do to a child any of what was done to me. I can barely raise my dog without regularly being disappointed in myself. My resentment is why I believe they SHOULD have tried harder. One of them should have been vigilant about stress and reactions to stress – and should have divorced the other one. The other one should have been in therapy and learned to be even mildly honest and self aware enough to TRY to be a better person. Only one of them I know very deliberately tried to be fair and do the right thing by us – yet as with all narcissism from the outside that’s the parent everyone “hates” while the other is seen as the victim despite being more pathological. I admire that you have kids and try to be open with them. I can’t imagine either of my parents saying “I’m sorry and here’s why” and actually treating us like humans who deserve that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s