My Promise to My Children

 

my promise 2

This is a quote that has been going around the internet for some time and I still see pop up on Facebook from time to time.  I hate it – a lot. I’m sure the author’s intention was to make a bold statement about their love for their children and I totally respect that.  But I really have a problem with it. Let’s look at this a little closer, shall we?

“For as long as I live I will always be your parent first and your friend second.”  No real problem here, but I think friend fits under the umbrella of parent. Friends are good.  Friends are people we trust, confide in, listen to, respect and enjoy spending time with.  I don’t think it needs to be differentiated from parent. I think a simple promise to be there for them would work just fine.

“I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare and hunt you down like a bloodhound when I have to, because I love.”  Whoa! There’s a lot going on in that sentence. Where do I begin? Let me start with the “hunt you down like a bloodhound” part (I’ll get back to the stalking and flipping out in a minute). I figure there are 2 reasons why you would hunt someone down with a bloodhound.  The first is that they are a dangerous criminal.  If this is the case, and your child is an actual dangerous criminal, please call the appropriate authorities and let them handle the situation.  The second reason to hunt someone down with a bloodhound is because they are lost or missing. Again, by all means, call in the appropriate authorities, but keep in mind that if you have been stalking, lecturing, driving your child insane and being their worst nightmare, they may not be legitimately lost or missing but actually hiding from you.  You might want to check the local court-house because they may be  filing a restraining order against you, as most people would do if they were being stalked and hunted.  Now wait, here comes the best part…”because I love you.” What!?  When would a parent ever want a child to accept this type of behavior from any other individual and then define it as love?  Never.  At best, it is dysfunctional and at worst, it is abusive.  This whole bit sounds more like a threat than a promise.

“When you understand that, I will know you have become a responsible adult.” Ummm…actually, I’m at a loss for words. Acceptance and understanding of hysteria as a healthy form of love is the criteria for responsible adulthood? Really? I’m not convinced the author of this quote is a responsible adult. Maybe a promise not to make ridiculous definitions of adulthood would be better. (Yeah, that got pretty snarky. I apologize.)

“You will never find anyone else in your life who loves, prays, cares and worries about you more than I do.” Okay, so that’s a fair and heartfelt sentiment.  As parents, most of us believe this about the love we have for our children.  But really, shouldn’t we desire that they have an abundance of people in their life that love and care about them as much as we do? Shouldn’t we desire great love in many forms for them? Of course, and most parents do.  It is also important to keep in mind, that if you are flipping out and driving your child insane, they will be eager to find love somewhere else. I think a simple promise of unconditional love and concern without the guise of fear and intimidation would be much better.

“If you don’t mutter under your breath, “I hate you” at least once in your life, I’m not doing my job properly.”  Well, it may not mean you are doing your job improperly, but I don’t think it necessarily means you are doing it properly.  Should this really be a parenting goal?  We can’t promise our kids that they won’t hate us at some point, but we should promise them that we won’t try to make them hate us.

It may be hard to tell from this piece, but I honestly try not to judge other people’s parenting styles.  We all know parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and even if it did, every child is different.  We’re all just figuring it out as we go along, using the tools we have and learning from our mistakes.  I think this quote bothers me so much is because I believe that the core responsibility we have to our children is to teach them love. To teach them what love is, how to share it and how to receive it. To teach them love in its purest form, love that is tender, nurturing and trusting. To teach them love without fear, condition or expectation.  There are definitely  days that I fail miserably,  but my promise to my children is to set an example of the love I want them to experience and share throughout their life.

 

Fra-gee-lay

thWhenever I hear the word fragile, I can’t help but think of A Christmas Story and the hilarious fra-gee-lay scene. But recently, I’ve been thinking about the word in a different context.

A few months ago, my 23 year old son slapped an unwanted a label on me.  FRAGILE. Wait. What?  Is this how he really sees me? And as many things go in a large family, it didn’t take long for the rest of the family to follow suit, and find and use every opportunity to playfully call me fragile. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not above using this to my advantage when I need something physical done that I don’t want to do. You know, “Can you please do this for me? I’m too fragile.” But I admit, this new label was taking up way too much space in my brain, and I just couldn’t shake it.  It bothered me…a lot.  But then, I remembered the Gloria Steinem quote, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”  I realized I needed to identify the source of my emotions and I asked myself what I always ask myself when someone says something that hurts my feelings or makes me angry… “Is it true?”

Okay, so maybe I always need my reading glasses. Maybe I can’t eat all the things I used to eat.  And while I’m not at the “I don’t want to fall and break a hip” stage of my life,  a 100+ pound person falling on me or knocking me over while the kids are roughhousing,  could potentially cause some damage, or at minimum, a lot of pain at this point in my life. But this doesn’t mean I’m fragile, does it?  This is just normal aging, right?  Please, tell me I’m right.  But I suppose, in the eyes of a strong, healthy 23 year old, I may appear “fragile”.  I beg to differ.

There is a scene in the movie Love Actually, where Emma Thompson’s character is sitting around the Christmas tree with her family. She realizes her husband has had an affair.  She politely excuses herself, goes to her room and begins to cry.  After a few minutes, she wipes her tears, shakes off her emotions, puts a smile on her face and returns to her family. No one suspects that her life has just been changed forever.

This scene brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. I think it portrays a moment that most of us have experienced. A moment that brings us to our knees, a moment that turns our life up-side-down, a moment that is so painful and unimaginable that we want to shut the door, turn out the lights, curl into a ball and cease to exist.  But that’s not what we do. We wipe our tears, shake off our emotions, put a smile on our face and return to our life and no one suspects that we have just been changed forever.

Life, and particularly parenting, is not for the fragile.  There is a strength we don’t know we possess until we are faced with such a moment. There is nothing fragile about the love a mother has for her child.  It is unconditional, enduring and often heart breaking. There is strength behind the quiet dedication, sacrifice and compromise  we give to our loved ones every day that often goes unseen and unappreciated. It takes strength to be silent when we want to speak, and strength to speak when we want to be silent. It is strength that allows us to let go when we want to hold on, and strength that allows us to hold on when we want to let go. It is a strength beyond physical measure.

I determined that my reaction to his label is not because there is truth behind it (okay, maybe a little), but because it makes me feel misunderstood. He has a perception of me that I do not have of myself.  So now I question if I have failed in showing my strength, if I have succeeded in hiding my struggles or if it is a combination of both. Maybe this is an area in my life that I need to strike a better balance.

On New Year’s Eve, my son told me that if I would squeeze a “Pop It” between my fingers, he would not call me fragile for a week.  After several minutes of negotiation, he agreed  not only to refrain from calling me fragile until St. Patrick’s Day, but that he would also refer to me as a badass once a week until then as well. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I am under no delusion that he will actually live up to this deal, but I will admit, I felt warm and fuzzy inside the first time he called me a badass.  I know he didn’t really believe it, but maybe…just maybe, if he says it enough times, he’ll start to see it.

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This is how I feel when he calls me fragile

This is how I feel when someone calls me fragile

This is how I feel when he calls me a bad-ass

This is how I feel when someone calls me a badass