Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Kids: People, Not Projects ...

I am writing this post as the sun comes up. I am often out of bed this early, but this morning it's because I haven't BEEN to bed yet. I was headed that way - very much looking forward to some deep slumber - at about 10:30pm, when my phone rang with an urgent situation requiring me to drive to Toronto and back. I won't get into the nature of that trip, except to say that I had 4-plus hours of solo-driving during which I thought a lot about my kids.

Here is what I thought ...

They are incredible people. Not just incredible kids who will one day become incredible people, but already -- coming into their early teens - truly incredible people in their own right.

And I realized how often I treat them like a project. Like balls of clay. Bundles of potential. As though everything now is "in order to someday". I'm not blaming myself, as this is a deeply conditioned attitude. Though we don't often consider it, that is our society's standard approach to dealing with our children.

"They don't know any better yet." 
"This is just a phase." 
"I can't wait until they look back on this and realize how foolish it was."

But what "this" is, whatever form "this" may take, IT IS THEIR LIFE. Right now. And it is as valid and real and important to them as anything is to me or to anyone else. I do them an enormous disservice trying to make them see things from my "wiser, more experienced perspective". To truly live, they need to be allowed to fully embrace THEIR perspective. At each and every stage of their lives.

Why is it so hard for me to back off and let them be themselves? I will put forth, of course, that I am only trying to save them pain and frustration (though a less flattering interpretation is that I am just as often trying to spare myself embarrassment and make myself look better through them). And helping them avoid serious harm is a valid and important role for a parent to play. But so many situations, far shy of life-threatening, are likely exactly the challenges they need in their own journies. We may hate their decisions, worry about the consequences, wish so much they had behaved differently. But they are not us. They can't live our lives and we can't live theirs.

So, that is what  thought a lot about tonight. And I am going to do my best to put that into play today and from now on. Knowing full well that I will fail miserably much of the time - it sometimes just seems soooooo much easier to fix things for them, save them some steps, and show them "the right way". But, as we eat breakfast together in about an hour, I am going to tell them how great they are, and how much I really do respect them, and ask them to remind me of these thoughts when I start being too "parenty".

Here are some thoughts from others, to remind me of this :) ... BTW, I stumbled on these while looking for a specific quotation that I really loved. Having not found it, you will have to take my word that someone (wiser than me) said something along the lines of ... "This younger generation is destroying our way of life as we know it. And we must help them, not stop them, as that is their job!"

Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. (Alfie Kohn)
That's maybe the most important thing each generation does, is to break a lot of rules and make up their own way of doing things. (Jackson Browne)

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation. (Pearl S. Buck)
Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers. (Lewis Mumford) 


  1. I am not a parent and I never will be but I have learned through my 11 years of teaching middle schoolers the best thing we can do for our children is just be kind, considerate, learn to say sorry when we are wrong, lead by example, hold them accountable for their actions...but do not make them relive their mistakes through endless lectures..just move on and most importantly tell them we love, like, enjoy who they are and who they are becoming....

  2. It must be the season for thought on our children. This past weekend I had a long conversation about my kids and how to better our relationships...especially coming into raging hormones. The recurring advice was to say nothing. That's right say nothing negative, or condescending or authoritative. Rather listen, suggest and just love them.

    Man is that ever tough when you just want to rush them into seeing your side of the equation. However after "saying nothing" all week, surprisingly (mostly to me) the two of them have actually sat down together and played boardgames, went for bike rides together and generally gotten along...without any "coaching" for me.

    Weird how that works. Thanks for the reminder!


  3. On Children
    by Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.