Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to raise my future kids differently than how I was raised. My parents were not mean or abusive, but I just knew things could be done better. In fact, when my first child was born, I remember that my main goal in raising her was to do almost everything opposite of what my parents had done.
Before I go on, let me state that my parents had and have a lot of good qualities. They gave me ballet and piano, they helped me with school work (my dad would often be up with me until past midnight cramming for a math test or finishing up school projects), they took us on trips, they hugged and kissed us. In spite of this, there were a few specific things that I knew I would definitely change: I would make sure we had dinner together every night, with few exceptions; I would put an emphasis on having Shabbat (Friday night) dinner every week (I am not religious but I love tradition); I would read to my kids; I would let them know daily how smart, funny, and amazing they are. I would instill independence from a young age, just to name a few. In addition to specific areas that could be named, there was a general sense of "I'll have to do this better and/or differently". Basically, I would raise my children to not become me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not all that bad. I can be very caring, very warm, I can be funny at times, I can even show moments of intelligence, but there is so much I would change. I can be lazy, nervous, shy, unmotivated, sloppy, unadventurous, lacking in self-confidence. Oh, and I procrastinate - a lot. My husband likes to point out that last one. Especially when our daughter answers back to a request to do something with "just a minute". He'll smile and say "I wonder where she gets that from.". My answer usually is: "If I wanted her to turn out like me, I would have had my parents raise her.".
Now, in all fairness, we are not just a product of our environment, but also of our nature. Wait, so I guess I can blame them for that, as well, since they made up my nature! Truthfully, I do not believe we should allow ourselves to be victims. We should not pass on the blame. I have met people with much more horrible parents and/or childhoods who turned out a million times better than me. My past is my past, and that is where it belongs. It does not matter at this point whose fault it is that I am who I am. At some point, we must take responsibility for who we are (and considering my age, I should have taken it years ago).
So while I am still a work in progress, I am trying to help my each of my children become the person I wish I was.