“. . . it’s not the child’s responsibility to teach the parent who they are. It’s the parent’s responsibility to learn who the child is . . .”From “R2, Where Are You?” by Tig Notaro in All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown edited by Catherine Burns
Right after we returned from dropping our son at the train station for travel to his final university semester, I sat down to indulge in some morning reading time. That’s when I found the quote above.
Our son is about to finish his studies, but he’s not sure what he wants to do after. As parents, we want to pick him up like when he was a child and set him down in what we think is his safe, right place. But we can’t.
We have to watch and learn as he sorts out what works for him.
Our daughter graduated last June and is still searching for more solid ground under her feet too. As parents, we want to pick her up like when she was a child and set her down on what we think is her safe, right path. But we can’t.
We have to watch and learn as she sorts out what works for her.
After reading the quote I sipped my coffee, stared out the window and contemplated how often parents impose—or try to impose—inappropriate behaviours, activities, careers, clothing or partners on a child because they haven’t learned who their child is.
How often that imposition breaks the relationship.
Telling our kids what to do with their lives feels so much like the right thing to do because we have their best interests at heart, after all, and we want to save them the pain of mistakes.
Sharing the wisdom of our experience is a right thing, but it’s not the best right thing.
The better right thing—our responsibility—is learning who they are.
This short clip from 60 Minutes serves as a fitting follow-up to my Tuesday post about thinking.
Anderson Cooper wires up his brain to show visual evidence of the calming effects of meditation. When Cooper drops into meditation after thinking about a stressful event, his brain responds immediately. His brain leaves behind the red stress zone and enters a “blue mindfulness zone.”
For centuries, meditation practitioners have touted the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits of meditation, but naysayers dismissed the claims as a bunch of unscientific hooey. Scientific evidence gives such naysayers permission to trust in the unseen.
The next time stress-inducing thoughts pop into your head, remember Anderson Cooper’s brain, focus on your breath and find your own blue mindfulness zone.
Click on the link below to watch the video: 60 Minutes
I’m going to show you three blankets.
When my children were born—first my daughter, then my son—I made them each a blanket. Here is my daughter’s blanket now:
Do you think she used this blanket a lot? Do you think it’s been washed a few times? Yep.
My daughter loved her blankie. It went with her everywhere. She slept holding it and dragged it around when she walked. When she started to kindergarten, she tucked into the bottom of her backpack everyday. When she got older and started going on Brownie and Girl Guide camping trips, she didn’t want the other girls to make fun of her for wanting a blankie, so she tucked it into the bottom of her sleeping bag. She felt it as she slept, but her friends didn’t know it was there.
Eventually she stopped sleeping with it. It didn’t go to school anymore. It stayed at home during camping trips.
One day years later when I was leading children’s time at my church I decided to tell this story to the kids. I wanted to take my daughter’s blanket with me to show everyone. When I asked her where it was, she didn’t have to think for a second. “It’s right beside my bed,” she said. She didn’t use it every day anymore, but she knew exactly where it was.
Now I’m going to show you my son’s blanket:
Do you think he used his blanket much? Nope.
My son barely glanced at his blanket. He never slept with it. He rarely picked it up. It never went to school or on any camping trips.
I had made this blanket for my son, and I was a little hurt that he had no interest in it. I wanted him to love it. Why didn’t he need a blanket in the same way his sister did? Sometimes I even tried to push him to use it. When he couldn’t sleep, I’d tuck it in beside him, sure that it would help. He tossed it on the floor. If he fell and scraped a knee, I wrapped him up in it. He shrugged it off. Eventually I was the one who had to adapt. I had to accept that he was going to have his own kind of relationship with his blanket.
But you know what’s really interesting? When I asked him where it was, he didn’t have to think for a second. “It’s right beside my bed,” he said. He never needed it, but it was a gift of love from me, so he kept it close.
Now, let me show you a third blanket:
This one I made for my daughter when she was about 7 years old when it became clear that the original one was disintegrating. It’s a new and improved version of the first. I thought she would love it.
She would have nothing to do with it. She wanted the comfort of the original, thank you very much, even if it was battered and torn and no longer serve a real function.
I shared this story with the kids at church because I think my kids’ blankets give us an insight into how we need to accept different approaches to faith.
- Some people need to hold their faith close, sleep with it and touch it daily.
- Some people’s needs change over time. When they are younger, they need a strong faith relationship, but when they get older they let it go. Or, some people don’t want faith in their youth, but when they get older or suffer a crisis, they seek it more.
- Some people know right where it’s kept but don’t need it very often.
- If we make fun of other people’s needs, they’ll tuck them away, but it won’t change anything.
- We can’t make people let go of something until they are ready.
- Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s better.
- Just because something is old, doesn’t make it right for everyone.
- If something is given with love, people will value it even if they don’t need it every day
- We give our children a gift if they never have to think for a second to know where to find their faith.
- One thing is for sure, we can’t force other people to have the kind of relationship with faith that we want them to have. It’s very personal. Even if we hand-make it for them or hand it down generation to generation, people have to forge their own relationships with faith.
Ah, that Robert Frost was a wise one.
What is happening right now that you don’t like very much? If you can’t control or change it, acceptance is the only option.
Fall in with it and see what happens.
Earlier this spring as I stood at my sink washing dishes, I saw something that made me stop in the middle of a sudsy scrub of a potato pot: a creature in my back yard that looked suspiciously like a rat. Yikes.
After I watched it for a while wondering how much rat traps cost, I realized it looked like a rat but didn’t behave like a rat. It behaved exactly like the other squirrels frolicking around my yard.
It was a squirrel with no fur on its tail.
The next day a second squirrel with no fur on its tail appeared in my yard; this one was grey. What was going on? How could there be two squirrels of different colours with furless tails?
I still haven’t learned the answer to that question. What makes my heart glad, though, is that all the squirrels in my backyard, furred or furless, romp and play together happily. Even though two squirrels are visibly different from the others—I could even say physically handicapped—the other squirrels treat them no differently.
It reminded our family of “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss.
In this fabulous story, some Sneetches have stars on their bellies, but Plain-Belly Sneetches had “no stars upon thars.” In the beginning, the Star-Belly Sneetches won’t associate with their plainer counterparts. By the end of the story, after Sylvester McMonkey McBean sends them all on several trips through his Star-on or Star-off machine (only ten dollars each) the Sneetches no longer know “Whether this one was that one . . . or that one was this one / Or which one was what one . . . or what one was who.”
In other words, the Sneetches discovered that it’s what’s inside that counts, something my backyard squirrels seem to know instinctively. The play together whether or not there is “fur upon thurs.”
Would that it could be so with humanity.