Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wanting More

It is helpful if a parent has a sense of satisfaction with their life's circumstances and where they find themselves in it. They have the much-needed breadcrumb trail that they can traverse back through to help their children learn from their own experiences. Most importantly, they can speak with a strong sense of conviction because they have lived the life they are setting forth as an example.

When you are a parent and do not think of your life as good enough for your children to emulate, parenting as a job becomes much far more challenging. You find yourself treading the delicate line between establishing the boundaries for your kids and keeping them from becoming another you - something you fear will disappoint them eventually.

You go with your aspirations and unfulfilled dreams to create a road map for them to follow - you believe this will serve them best. A lot of what you expect is not borne out by your own experience - you merely imagine it is possible or can be done, a lot of the obstacles your child will encounter along the way are not ones you know about or can easily remove.

I am the second kind of parent and often struggle to give J perspective to learn from my mistakes without becoming emotionally distant from her. I want her to be objective about me as her friend, confidant and guide along the course of her life. While I do want her take on the values that have helped me in mine, I do not want her to walk those paths that I have regretted walking.

It is difficult for a child to parse the two, accept one and reject the other. You are holding their hand and they trust you implicitly - it is their inherent in their nature to do so. When you tell them to watch out for pitfalls but continue to hold your hand and stay the general course, you are confusing them. They want to know if they should trust in your or strike out on their own, they want to know if you have the answers or you don't, they want to know if they can respect you or not.

Children are perhaps ill-equipped to handle shades of gray so a nuanced response to any of those questions does more harm than good. I realize that I have a good lot to offer to J and want her to accept that without reservation. I equally realize from mistakes I have made over the years that I want her to break from me on many things and do them much differently than I have and finally reject some things completely. I want her to live a more perfect life than I have been able to create for myself.

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