Monday, March 10, 2008
Children as parents' guests
I share thoughts inspired by Henri J. M. Nouwen. In his March 7 entry in "Bread for the Journey - a Daybook of Wisdom and Faith" Nouwen writes -
The Great Gift of Parenthood
Children are their parents' guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while - fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years--and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about "our son" and "our daughter," their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have to come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decisions.
The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life.
And so they are - guests in our home. Some are ever welcomed, some require extra amenities to entice them to stay longer and some maybe bribes to leave as soon as possible!
They hang out quite relaxed in often, first class accommodations, enjoying room service, meals, transportation, dry cleaning,free internet service and even entertainment. Yep, it's a pretty good place to stay and some of our guests even realize that once they've left the "establishment":)!
Would that they were our own.....as although they are not actually chattel, we are often expected to take the heat for their troubles, their lack of success, their low self-esteem, their high self-esteem, their jobs, their succcess, their failures. And bad enough that we are often "expected" to take the heat, if we aren't, then we self impose all of those happenings as directly attributable to our failed efforts in doing the best job we know how to do as parents.
In our time as parents in this age, it is easy enough to suggest that the greatest gift we can give our children is our love for each other as parents. That is a wonderful ideal and I agree with it whole-heartedly. My "but" is that the pressures bourne by two, loving parents, trying to stay in touch with each other and with their children while balancing their own psyches, jobs, health, standard of living, etc. seems monumentally, perhaps, too high an ideal. Yet, without that love for each other, if we've chosen or find ourselves in a two-parenting role, I cannot think of a higher priority gift to give our children and each other. The bond of two persons securely in love, protecting that love, working at keeping that love may not be able to "fix" our kids' problems, but it will be there a precious gift to each other when the children do find their own ways, and as one of you sits on the bed and sobs about all the doubts you have as a parent, the greatest gift you will have given each other is the love that comforts you with a simple hug and a tissue!
Lest you believe that I'm a goody-two shoes with a life long one love, worshiped since early adulthood-I will divulge that my own spouse and I were not fortunate enough to "find" each other in our youth. We were lucky enough to do that after our own first marriages lapsed into the "failed category." We have four (two and two) wonderful adult children that were once the Brady Bunch, sans Alice, and without total peace in our household a good bit of the time. They were not ours to keep, they are not now our responsibility, we are not the reasons for their successes and their failures, for their triumphs and defeats. Although they did not see us together in their early childhood, I know that they've seen us together in an openly loving relationship for 25 years. I hope that relationship gives them courage to maintain their own loves, some to still be found, for a lifetime. It is a gift that we are privileged to share with our children - I hope it makes them stronger in their relationships - it is a gift to them and a huge gift we've been given - we work diligently at keeping that gift intact and growing. It is our gift to ourselves and it is a gift to our children.