When our children are born – and even before – we like to imagine infinite doorways open before them. They can do or be or become anything they imagine. Yet even at that moment it isn’t true – we are fooling ourselves because these incredibly beautiful little people are pure emboriements of all of our love and hopes and dreams … so there just can’t be limits.
Yet there are – for millions of kids born worldwide they will be happy to see an open door labeled ‘survive my childhood’. And while parents want their kids to live in the ‘land of AND’ (where they can be US President AND CEO AND Nobel Prize winner AND … ), in reality we live in the reality of ‘OR’. For every path chosen, others get closed off.
For my kids, growing up in America as middle-class, white, male, and Christian … there were loads of doors open. They were both very healthy and developmentally normal, and as parents we were determined to give them every opportunity we possibly could.
Here is a great quote to remind us of our role as parents:
“Your children are not your children.
They are 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 make 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 also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Kahlil Gibran
And so from an early age we started to see things from them that would become forks in the road – we weren’t going to have gymnasts, for example. They loved music and reading and drama and one of them loved art and the other had a limitless imagination. Then it became clear that neither cared all that much about competitive sports (we swore my older son was only on the travel soccer team to hang with friends and eat oranges).
And so on.
As our kids have gotten older they have developed different aptitudes and interests, from performing in plays and musicals, getting selected for the National History Day state finals, writing music and playing DJ at the local mall during the holidays, serving on the area ‘youth court’ as attorney and judge, and on and on.
Yet for everything they chose TO do, there are things they choose NOT to do.
And as parents we do our best to support them, to maximize their chances and opportunities, to help in any way possible. Gone are the days where getting a certain degree or being in a certain major meant getting a high paying job – and as a result our focus has been on them finding and pursuing their passion.
Of course it isn’t all easy or glorious or glamorous … there are lows as well as highs, fights, struggles, tears, and more. Ultimately there is only so much we can do as parents.
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” — Mitch Albom
Both Lisa and I carry things from our own childhoods that we didn’t want to pass to our own boys – and sometimes the result of that is over-compensation. We have made mistakes, to be sure … but we have made them with love and the best interest of the boys at heart.
“I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
Because ultimately all we want is for them to be happy – happy in what they do as a job, happy in their hobbies, happy in their relationships with friends and family, and most importantly happy with themselves as people.
Parenting isn’t about having all the right answers, it doesn’t come with 100% guarantees … but it does give you the ability to watch those beautiful babies you couldn’t believe you made turn into young adults seemingyl right before your eyes. In the next couple of years our boys will graduate high school and move on from there … and it is both scary and exciting to watch as they prepare to spread their wings and soar.