Friday, December 20, 2013

GIFTS part 2


It was an A-ha moment that I still remember some 30 years later.  My oldest daughter was 13 years old when it hit me like a slap on the head; parents could do and say all the right things and still not have total control over their child’s destiny. I believe this is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, understanding and accepting the fact that we never have complete control; there are many elements in our children’s lives that are beyond our reach.  Failing to acknowledge this, and the excessive imposition of parental will and control can be just as harmful as neglecting parental responsibilities.  Wise parents know when to step back and show trust in their child, when to allow them to make healthy mistakes, and when to accept their decisions, never easy calls to make.

My parents trusted me, they set boundaries and made it clear what was expected of me, but at the same time gave me room to make my own decision, both good and bad.   They never discouraged me from pursuing some task or project or diminished my ideas.  I was never expected to take over the family farm; it was an unspoken given that I would go to college to prepare for a career of my own choice.  They did not push me into one direction or another.  My first choice was pharmacy, no doubt influenced by my years of working in our local pharmacy.  After one year in pharmacy school I decided my future was in medicine, and my parents accepted that, despite the hardships it would create for them.  I knew they were proud of me.  They had accomplished what so many of their generation tried to do, to see that their children had a better life than they did.

I can only imagine what they thought when I told them that I wanted to pursue art, not as a hobby, but as a career to be shared with medicine.  The only thing they asked me was, “are you sure this is what you want to do”.  When I said it was, any disappoint they may have felt was kept to themselves, and they offered me nothing but encouragement.  My parents never failed to respect my decisions.

Respecting and accepting choices of those we love and care about, especially when they are different, or in opposition to our own, is often difficult to do.  But doing so is a testament to our love.   It is a gift that is ours to give.

Forgiving others can be a difficult challenge, especially if we are deeply involved on a personal level.  The act of forgiveness is intrinsically linked to one’s capacity for trust, respect, and self-esteem.  It is a gift that we give to others as well as ourselves.  To deny forgiveness is to do irreparable damage to a relationship.  To extend it is a step in repairing that relationship as well as removing a festering emotional boils in our soul.  Forgiveness benefits everyone.


Thanks to this gift, I can look back on my childhood as idyllic.   Life for me on our farm was a fun adventure shared with friends and family.  Although an only child, I enjoyed the companionship of neighbors, friends, and endless cousins, and all the benefits of life on a farm in a small town.  Like so many farmers of my father’s generation there was never much money, but I never felt poor or deprived.  Years later I realized that my childhood was wonderful because my parents protected me from the hardships they were experiencing.  While life was good for me, they were dealing with the never-ending stress of making enough money to keep the farm operating and paying off the ever-present debts.  Like all farmers, my father worked long hours 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, and my mother from time to time worked in one of the many small clothing factories located in town.  She did this even as she cooked, made bread, pasteurized our milk and made butter, and did all the housework, plus feeding the endless stream of visitors every weekend.  Life for my parents was a struggle, with difficulties and disappointments that they faced without tainting my life with any anger or bitterness they might have felt.  They shielded me from the insecurities they routinely faced for so many years.

Like so many of the gifts they gave me, it was only later in my adult life that I came to appreciate this gift of a happy and secure childhood. 

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