For some of us, this single word brings up emotions we’d otherwise not feel. Some of us may be experiencing difficulties with our parents right now. Or maybe we’re hanging on to hurtful experiences from the past that still taint the way we see and interact with them today.

But regardless of what the word parent means to us, we need to recognize and remember that without them, we would not be here.

I make a concerted effort to tell my mom on a regular basis how much I love her, especially now realizing what it is I must’ve put her through. From ages 13 to 17, I was Sassy McSassy. Hell on wheels equipped with my father’s German temper and teenage angst. I made sure my voice was heard. Sneaking out of the house at night, rolling my eyes at them, bringing home N’s and U’s on my report card for classroom conduct.

Oy. I’m appalled when I think back to how I used to act but quickly forgive myself knowing it was just a phase of self-discovery and individuation that is normal for any teenager to go through.

Having gone through all the evolutions of parental perceptions that is normal as we mature into adulthood, I now see things I perceived as negative in a whole new light.

For instance, I carried certain resentments with me for years after the inciting incidents. I begged my parents to let me take gymnastics but was repeatedly denied. I wanted to do a school activity and signed up for track but because it interfered with ballet rehearsals, I had to quit. I had to stop riding horses, an activity I loved and had a lot of potential at, but because Dad feared I’d get a big butt and ruin my ballerina figure, I had to quit.

May sound trite to some but in my little teenage brain, it was a big deal. I felt like I never got to do what I wanted to do.

But at a certain point I realized that the reason my parents prevented me from engaging in certain activities was because they had my best interests at heart. Not because they wanted to shun my desires. They saw my potential and talent as a dancer and made the decision to keep me from situations where I could hurt myself and possibly threaten my future prospects.

Their decisions on my behalf were birthed from love. And isn’t that a parent’s job? To recognize their child’s strengths and cultivate their innate talents?

But how often do we hang on to the hurts and disappointments of the past? It’s a crutch that’s easy to fall onto but at a certain point it becomes our responsibility to claim our future as our own.Β  And not be held back by any perceived misfortune of our younger years but to let all that go and become the person we want to be now.

I now recognize my mom for the angel that she is and always has been. Her ballerina career was just beginning to take off when she got pregnant with me. For someone whose career depended on maintaining the utmost perfection with her body, she took this “surprise” in stride. Welcoming me into this world with open arms. And as she continued along a career path that required so much of her, she always managed to give me the love and support I needed to grow. She is the definition of what it means to live a grace-filled, grace-driven life. Even amidst my rants and raves, she always approached me with love and quickly forgave me for my faults.

I now recognize how lucky I was to have my father. At one point, he was willing to give up his career for my own and move me to Paris to study with the Paris Opera Ballet, if I so desired. He took the time to personally introduce me to famous dancers such as Fernando Bujones and Darcy Bussell in an attempt to inspire me to the greatness of what I could be. And always stood by in the wings with a glimmer in his eye as I danced to the music they choreographed for me. And even though I ultimately decided not to become a professional ballerina, I am so grateful for the opportunities they blessed me with.

Reflecting on my childhood as compared to many other horrible stories of sexual abuse and poverty, I am ashamed to admit I ever had any negative thoughts considering my upbringing. But everything’s relative. What I went through was important to me at the time. But I later realized that using my past as an excuse for my perceived failures as an adult was just downright immature.

We always have to be careful what we deem as reality. Is what we’re perceiving the truth or just our perception of the situation? Can you love your parents for what they gave you instead of what you think they didn’t?

Parents have to sacrifice so much for their children. Something I can’t fathom since I haven’t had kids yet but seeing what my mommy friends go through, I am always in awe. I think it’s the ultimate love and something I hope to experience one day.

So how about you? Did you ever allow false thoughts about your parents to hold you back in any way? If so, were you finally able to reconcile those perceptions and love them for who they are? Do you feel not having a good relationship with your parents holds you back in life? For the parents out there, what do you feel the balance is with guiding your child but also allowing them to explore their own desires?