Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On success in parenting

Our homeschool co-op is set up so that the moms while the kids are in class. Usually there's a time for coffee and chatter, then a presentation of some sort (a guest speaker, discussion of a get-me-thinking article or book). After that we break out into smaller groups. I'm part of the book club, which is now reading David McCullough's Brave Companions.

The book club is a phenomenal group of women. We laugh a lot, we pray together, we interject real-life concerns in the conversation. Today, in the course of talking about Humboldt, Louis Aggasiz, and Harriet Beecher Stowe the talk turned to breadth vs. depth of education, and the nature (and nurture) of passion. We talked about bravery, and what it means in parenting and in life. We veered off into a discussion of how envying the life of someone whose life is different from our own can show us where our fears lie -- and guide us toward accepting the choices we've made.

And we also talked about success, and what that means when we think of our kids.
  • Is it that our children become curious, engaged, passionate human beings? 
  • Is it that they have perseverance and grit, and the ability to overcome obstacles? 
  • Is it that they produce something of value, or contribute something of worth to the world? 
  • That they grow up to be true to themselves, honest and trustworthy and reliable? 
  • That they care deeply about justice, and do things to promote it?
  • Is it that they adopt our beliefs about what is right and wrong, good or bad?
It's hard to land on the moon under the best of conditions; it's impossible to land successfully if you don't know where you're trying to go. I think I have a pretty clear picture of what I hope for my kids, but it's always helpful to re-think things. Other aspirations have a way of creeping into my heart and clouding what I communicate to my kids.

In the wake of the Arizona horror I'm reminded that kids are not clay, subject to our control. We influence them, but our children are indeed separate human beings. They ultimately determine what advice they swallow, what guidance they tolerate, what help they accept, what medicine (at age 22) they take and how often. My friend Ellen from the book club forwarded this post this evening, which resonated deeply for me.

I pray for the parents of Jared Loughner. How one crawls through the situation they're in, I don't know. How could you ever go back to work and face people? How could you get over the fact that your child did this horrible thing? How could you live with all the if only I'd... regrets you'd face for the rest of your life? And how would you love your child, the one given to you as an innocent baby, the one you worried about through his teen years, and find the strength to forgive him?

And yet... we parents do have influence. We do have hope. We each have a long list of things we can do to make our children more stable, more balanced, more intellectually and emotionally rich, more capable of feeling loved. We can't do everything, can't control everything. But we can do what we can do. And we darn well better get around to doing it.

1 comment:


    Another article on the topic from Susan Klebold, parent of one of the Columbine shooters. Very humbling for a person like me who thinks I'll see the red flags in time and get it all under control.