4/4/11

On Becoming My Parents

I know people who live in constant fear that they are becoming their parents. And while I have been blessed with good, loving parents, I sometimes have those moments when I am reminded of the power of DNA. The idiosyncrasies adopted from these two people became all the more apparent when I get married - when my husband asks why dirty dishes drive me crazy, why twangy country music makes me comfortable or why I never use salt. It's rarely frightening. Mostly funny. Always a little weird. 

It took me 21 years to realize that I'm not becoming the people who raised me. I've learned from them, but I won't absorb their personalities any more than a house absorbs the definitions of its building materials. 

This weekend I spent a few hours with a beautiful two-year-old girl who spoke with a "why" stutter. Every comment was followed by the question, sometimes even before the previous "why" had been satisfied. She was wonderfully inquisitive. I wanted to answer all her questions fully, not dismissing them as if she were a chore. And, as these things do, it got me thinking. 10 years from now when I'm (hopefully) a parent, what do I want my kids to learn from me?

First, I'd want them to know that I believe in something and Someone bigger - Someone who loves them unconditionally and is jealous for them. Someone who has generously allowed me to be their mama. I want to teach them that they need to find their own thing and run with it, that they are talented and lovely. I want them to see the world for the beauty that it holds, to look past the ugliness and realize that most people are good and all people are different. I want them to learn to live with compassion, with drive, with hunger for God, with an energy that is entirely their own. They should know that I want the best for them, even if what's best for them isn't what's fun for me. I want them to learn to dance and sing, to hug and kiss, to say goodnight and to never go to bed angry. They need to learn that home is always open to them. They should see the value of education and the power of a good book. I want them to fall in love and have families of their own. I want them to learn how to overcome pain and to see truth. I hope, with all of my heart, that they will learn these things from me. 

The worries of parenting seem to come in droves, keeping mamas and daddies awake in fear of their own failure as parents: Was he ready to ride his bike around town by himself? Did I remind her that I'm proud of her? Is his fever something that I should be concerned about? Will she make friends at her new school? 

I read mommy blogs. I have parent friends. I hear these things. 

But I think there are stronger messages of graver importance that are far too often overlooked. In all likelihood, Junior won't remember that you didn't buy his favorite soda or that you were fifteen minutes late picking him up from school. I think one of the most important lessons that you can teach your children is simply this:

Mommy and Daddy love each other. 

By teaching your kids that you love your spouse, you tell them that committed relationships are positive and possible. They learn how to resolve conflict and how to serve another person. They understand that love is difficult, but so, so worth it. 

While I am not becoming my parents and will not actually be a parent for some time, I realize that most of what I want to translate into my parenting has been learned from my mom and dad. I'm blessed, I suppose. It's a beautiful thing. 

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