I am a daughter and a mother, so I can understand this from both sides. Parents run the gamut from nurturing providers to neglectful abusers, with most somewhere in between. We are all going to fail some of the time. The inherent, imbalanced, dependent relationship children have with their parents means parents will have more to apologize for than our minor children will.
Children have many material and emotional needs and it is the sacred duty of parents to meet those needs. We will fail sometimes. Sometimes we will feel burdened and overwhelmed by the responsibilities, the constant needs, and the emotional demands of our children. It is important to remember that meeting these needs, emotional or material, is obligatory, and that it does not create a debt.
Children do not owe their parents for food and shelter and basic provision. Children do not owe their parents love or contact for gifts or for a lack of neglect. If you’re an estranged parent and want to make things right, ask who this is for, and what you can offer your child, and whether you can accept your adult child making choices you don’t approve of. If you’re looking for absolution, find a priest. Forgiveness is another debt you are not owed for your age.
Some parents are downright abusive, or neglectful, or absent. No child of such a home owes their parents contact, forgiveness, or caretaking. If your parents treated you like dirt, or if pretending they’re already dead makes your life easier to bear, you are allowed to offer as little contact, forgiveness, or caretaking as you want, including none at all. If you treated your child like dirt, own it. And recognize you might have to sit with it alone.
For adult children: You can decide you want no contact, and enforce it with restraining orders if necessary. You can reach out despite your lack of duty, and say what you’d like from your parent to try for a new outcome. You can set firm boundaries about when, where, and for how long any given contact will be, and which behaviors will terminate those boundaries. You are allowed to have minimum standards for how you will be treated.