“It’s never too late,” said Tom Robbins somewhere in the novel Still Life with Woodpecker, “to have a happy childhood.” Robert Stacy McCain, following up to a piece called “Marriage Matters,” notes that some people reject the very idea:
Since the phrase “dysfunctional family” become popular about 25 years ago, it has been used to condemn nearly all families. Basically, it gives young people an excuse for not becoming responsible adults: “I was raised in a dysfunctional family.” It leads to the belief that if your parents were less than ideal, or if your childhood was not perfect, you are a victim of society and entitled to whine and complain about your failures, for which you are not responsible. And this is bullshit. Your parents don’t have to be perfect to be good parents, and your childhood doesn’t have to be perfect to qualify as a happy childhood.
Parents, as a rule, are not perfect, and they’ll tell you so — eventually. Most of the ones I’ve met have basically felt that child-raising, at least at first, is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and having someone yell “Swim, dammit!” at you. Certainly that was my reaction.