To My Dear Children:
A friend got my attention yesterday when she said that parents forget that there are no guarantees of long life. Of course. Although, at a certain age we comprehend our own mortality, we can’t contemplate mortality for our children. And so we look only to the future.
We expect long and glorious lives for our babies and we think it is up to us to shape those lives. We don’t relish each moment from the time of their birth; we see them as works in progress rather than as a perfect beings. Everything we do is designed to mold them, shape them, propel them into a future that we envision for them. We let them know is a million ways what we see as acceptable and appropriate for them, that they are worthy of more, capable of all and expected to be everything.
We forget that a college degree in a profession is not a guarantee of a happy life; high marks in school are not necessarily an indicator of character and mental health; a direct road from here to there is not everyone’s chosen path. We become vested in their “success” instead of their joy and contentment in themselves and their lives.
Our children may choose to meander slowly and imperfectly through education and learn many of their lessons from life instead of from our experience. They may walk into walls repeatedly before they find the doorways. They may even make decisions and do life work that is strange and incomprehensible to us.
The mandates in the poetry of Khalil Gibran resonate with all of us in spirit (especially before we have children of our own), but they are hard to follow when we feel responsible that everything work out just right for our most precious charges. We forget that we should be treasuring every moment of our time with them. We neglect to let them know that we cherish them no matter what.
What if they really DON”T know how we feel? Maybe everything we do for our children seems tied by invisible strings to our approval of their outcomes. Perhaps they see their mistakes as imprinted indelibly on a scoreboard that adds and detracts from our love of them. As we monitor their lives they may feel that we are judging their worthiness as individuals.
It’s too late for me to change your childhood. I know that I tried too hard to make you see it my way. I too often saw you as a reflection on me and didn’t recognize what was shining from within you. I didn’t have some grand vision in mind for you but I had expectations. My fault was in not always waiting for your visions and dreams.
So I understand my friend’s point. As children you all received copious instructions, boundaries and discipline. You were surrounded by love and affection plus a healthy dose of parental pressure. At this late day I can only hope that memories of the love are more prevalent than those of pressure in your childhood.
And I hope you that as a parent you can still learn from me. See your children for who they are and acknowledge where they want to go.
Cherish every moment with them. Life is short.
June 6, 2010