I ran across a conversation amongst some parents on social media the other day, the subject being, “how they were dealing with the fact that their children didn’t turn out as they’d hoped”. It was perplexing, actually, and after reading the various insights, I had a moment for pause. So, I asked myself the same question. The thing is, I couldn’t really answer that question.
I WAS BLESSED WITH THREE BABIES.
One of them is with her Father in Heaven already, which of course is not what I’d “hoped” for her. Although I was only blessed with her physical presence for a handful of fleeting hours, there have been moments I’ve actually thanked God for getting her out of this sometimes wretched mortal world the rest of us are shackled to sooner rather than later. Let’s be honest folks – regardless of the hope, joy, beauty and laughter to be found in this temporary place we call home, “humanity” is not for the faint of heart, and it takes an immense amount of courage, faith, and even suffering to weather it.
So, yes, I’m thankful that she never had to endure the gauntlet of simply existing. I know where she is now. She is safe, loved, and treasured beyond comprehension by a Love even greater than mine, and for that I am ever grateful. I fully believe that when I myself get to the brighter side of all this grey, she’ll be there waiting for me right beside my husband, who too is eternally safe and free from the abundant suffering he knew here on Earth.
Then there are the two still with me. If I’ve learned anything in my journey thus far, it’s that as their mother, nothing is more important for their mental wealth and than my unconditional love and acceptance of them just as they are, and just as they aren’t.
Due in large part to the extreme dysfunction and toxicity of my childhood, wherein my parents (who were also raised in dysfunctional and toxic homes) perpetuated the “works and deeds” based system of parenting bequeathed to each of them cyclically, I spent the first 39 years of my life void of a reflection in the mirror. “Love, affection, praise, and reward” were earned, not freely given, and even the smallest perceived failure or disappointment in their eyes would often cost me everything.
I cannot tell you how many times they “washed their hands of me” over the years for screwing things up and falling short of their expectations. I was guilted and shamed for “not being good” too many times to count, which eventually cost me my sanity, and almost cost me my life. Meanwhile, here I am. I’ve made peace with my past, my present, and my future, and am fully connected back to that elusive younger me who was missing from the mirror all those years.
This is how I deal with the fact that my children aren’t turning out “as I’d hoped”: I DON’T, BECAUSE THEY ARE! Their mental health and happiness are all I ever hope for either of them. Their lives are their lives, and the only people they need to be accountable to when setting their personal achievement bars is THEMSELVES! No matter how high or low they set them, they will never be failures in my eyes. If they want to grow up and sell lemonade from a bus, so be it, as long as they’re selling the BEST damn lemonade they can possibly sell and they sleep peacefully at night after doing so.
My kids don’t owe me a single thing – not even love and respect. Do they love and respect me? Indeed, I think they do. Yet as oxymoronical as it seems, both love and respect are the consequence of free will and cannot be “commanded”. My babies are not “extensions of me” – they’re their own, autonomous beings. I want them to love and respect me because they want to love and respect me – not because I impose it. They are people, not machines. Their thoughts and feelings are their own. The best I can do is to keep freely giving what I “hope” to receive in return, regardless of their reciprocation.
There is nothing they can do or say that will keep me from being proud of them, and all I ever “ask” for is their very best in all they do, that they grow from their mistakes, learn from all of mine, and treat themselves and others kindly and with grace. Neither of them are perfect, and each has had some challenges courtesy of their own dysfunctional childhood and me, their dear old mom. It took me a minute to pull my head out of my own ass, get the help I needed to become WHOLE, and stop acting like the consummate victim. But I did, and they know it, and we are all in this thing together.
At the end of the day, my job as their mom will be a true success if they learn to see themselves in their mirrors as the impeccably flawed masterpieces they are – lemonade stands and all. My son is a KING in the making, and my daughter a warrior QUEEN just like me. All three of us are battle born SURVIVORS who’ve “gotten” to learn the hard way that nothing here matters without true and unconditional love and acceptance, which they will always have from their mom, and we ALL have from our God. I will always love them as they are – nothing more, nothing less …