Big Happy Family… at what Cost?
When we become parents we dream of fun, happy times together… sharing enriching conversation around wonderful meals, taking beach vacations together and playing in the ocean and sand, gathering often, or even just occasionally, for meaningful celebrations. We like to believe that if we do everything right – love and nurture our children – that such occurrences will flow easily, naturally and rightfully.
I have spent 30 years loving and nurturing my children, watching, reading and thinking about the Big Happy Family and have learned that it’s not at all what I thought it was.
I have learned that love means letting go. Letting go of everything I think about a thing, letting go of any dreams I have that involve another, letting go of any need I have for another’s love. These lessons in letting go have been monumental for me and I believe my children arrived in my life to teach me how important letting go is.
A baby’s birth is the first step in letting go – that first step in separation from me, mother. From that moment on, I am making a choice in the actions I take: will I act in such a way that causes my children to be dependent on me, require my guidance, owe me something like attention, love, praise, etc., or will I act in such a way that gives my child the responsibility and independence he seeks: thinking for himself, making his own decisions, experimenting with his emotions, relationships, eating habits, dress, sleep, etc.?
I believe children are born with a natural, evolutionary drive to be independent, strong and confident. A human organism cannot achieve this state unless she is immersed in it. Have you heard the expression “There is no way to peace, peace is the way?” This is analogous to what I am getting at: you cannot teach a person how to be independent, strong and confident. One must immerse oneself in self-directed actions over time that lead to this state of being.
Independence, strength and confidence are always, always, unique to the individual. As a mother, I have watched my children become their own people – people very different in many ways than I am. It was so tempting to me when they were young to try to require (or coerce, bribe or reward) that they enjoy the same things I did, from arts and crafts to food to kinds of reading material, leisure activities, gardening, people, developing world views… everything! Oh, the lessons I learned on letting go!
While letting go is so challenging, it has extraordinary benefits: first, I can watch the enormous growth and developing joy in my child (even when it is preceded by fits and starts of struggling, confusion and angst) as his independence and autonomy grows, and second, I have the ongoing opportunity (challenge) of looking at myself: my insecurities, black holes, dysfunctional or neurotic needs for love and attention… and what is required of me to achieve upgraded states of being alive…. and independent.
We are not here to do anything for anyone else. We are here to figure out who we are and thrive in doing so. In that process, we will very naturally align with the people who we wish to serve or who serve us, people with whom we feel joyful compatibilities. Our interests in all things will ebb and flow as we learn and change and evolve and upgrade (or downgrade). If our beloved family members are a part of that mix, great. If they are not, don’t take it personally! Revel in the strength of character that is required to love another so fully and completely that their joy is your joy, even when it does not involve you. Let go … and awaken to your own drive and ability to authentic self-expansion. The world is filled with new ideas, people and places just waiting to reveal themselves to you. Enjoy the moment for what it is, not what you wish it could be. Love is letting go. Life is good!