Recently, I had a discussion with my friend Liz. Her brother Marc and his wife Tammy had adopted Tammy’s nephew after his mother died and his father wound up in prison. Tammy’s nephew, Paul, had been living with them for three years now, and had “come a long way”. Seems he’d been something of a bad seed in the beginning, but had straightened out and was pretty good now.
That was all fine and well, but then Liz complained about how awful Paul’s room always looked. Dirty and messy. She said, “He needs to be more grateful. Without my brother’s help, who knows where he would’ve wound up.”
I blew up.
Paul didn’t ask to be adopted. He didn’t want his mother to die. He didn’t help his father land in prison. He was 11 years old and lost both parents and his brother (his brother’s also in prison). Yes, it’s true that Marc and Tammy did a good thing by taking him in. But doing a good thing, even one that’s as substantial as to provide for someone for years, needs to be selfless… or at least obligation-free.
Our children don’t ask to be born. We choose to have them, and then heap gobs of crap and obligation and fear and issues on them from day one. Our children deserve better than most of them get, frankly. And then we sit around and blink and wonder why our teenagers rebel and hate us so much!
Kids aren’t possessions. They’re not pets or playthings. They’re not meant to be groomed in our image. They’re not meant to be trained or tormented. They’re not meant to spend their entire lives struggling to get out from under our thumbs. They’re not meant to follow in our footsteps or do what we never got to do when we were kids. They’re not meant to be taken for granted. They’re not meant to be punished, yelled at, bullied, or abused. They’re not meant to earn our love or prove themselves worthy to us.
They deserve unconditional love and support and freedom to be themselves. They’re meant to learn rapidly and grow like weeds. They’re meant to explore their world, to use their senses and push their edges and fall and get back up. They’re precious.
And eventually, they grow into parents. And the cycle starts over.
Your children are not obligated to repay you, but eventually, they will. You get to choose the method of payment, you get to influence that most vital of cycles.
What cycle do you want to encourage?