Mother’s Day, a time to appreciate what you've got: If you’re a parent, or think about being a parent, know one thing – parenting is not about freedom. It's about love; because the minute you deliver or adopt a child, your life changes forever. You are no longer the center of your existence - nor is your partner.
I know that you know this, but children demand attention, work and love; and often on their schedule.
Welcome to motherhood, with all it's demands and commitments. I hope you’re getting used to it, because it’s a good thing.
Life is full of limits: We are hungry, we eat and are satiated. We lust and are satisfied. We arise and later, need to sleep. We live and we die. A person at 5 years of age is not the same as she will be at 10 or 20; which is not like a person at 30, 40 and so forth. And with each age is a new birthday, a new set of days; with each day never to return.
You are given your body; and no matter how much you work out or alter it with plastic surgery, it’s still the only body you’ll ever get. It may have a good back or not; a tendency towards stomach trouble or not; it may be lightly pigmented, darkly pigmented or whatever providence has decided.
Understanding that this body is the only body you’ll have is accepting limits – and gaining wisdom.
The point is that limits are inherent in existence.
We choose, therefore we are: You can have multiple lovers; but only one first love and you can be married to only one person at a time. To commit to a lover – to a person – is to take on a limit.
Yet, our imagination rebels against limits. We hate it like death itself; and there is a good reason.
The word, DECIDE comes from the Latin root “to cut.” To make an INCISION is to cut in; to make a DECISION is to cut off. We all intuitively understand the loss involved in making a decision. You are limiting your options (i.e. other women or men) by choosing only one.
And, choosing is form of loss: By choosing to marry or have kids you kill off a sense of infinite possiblites. There is always that man that you did not marry. Or the child that you did not have. Meaning is found by embracing the spouse that you picked - and the kids that are given to you. And while you can divorce your husband, there is no going back with children.
Many people are unconsciously fearful of choosing. Some put off marriage or kids as the clock ticks. We fear the trap of limits – and don’t sense its possibilities.
In marriage, you have to deal with her strange moods, her tastes, her agendas and her family. Or, let’s pick on the guy. You choose to stay in there with him; with his vanity, worries, or needs. The perfection of marriage or a long term relationship is in the imperfection. Humor, good will, open listening all count; but accepting the limits of this other person may be the biggest blessing a committed relationship can provide.
And, are you so great?
Then there are children: You get the children you get; it's a strange kind of liberation. Not all of us are blessed with kids. That’s fine; there are many meaning generating engines out there in the world, like career, art, faith and politics, to choose a few.
But children have a special place in the matrix of meaning. This is because you get them and they are yours forever. Your son or daughter may be good or sour natured. Brilliant or learning disabled; handsome or not; psychologically intact or truly impaired. They are yours to raise, enjoy, worry about, brag about and hope great hopes.
Ultimately, your children are who they are; only the narcissistic parent wants them to truly be a chip off the old block. They can disappoint as much as they can give us pride.
And they require work; a lot of work.
- Waking up with your baby at all hours - for many months.
- And, who enjoys the relentless sound of a crying infant or toddler?
- Who takes pleasure in dealing with tantrums because he is tired?
- And then there is driving here and there for appointments, school and play dates
- Calling into work when they are sick and need you.
- The annoying morning rituals – endlessly repeated. “Let me sleep.”
- Meal upon meals upon meals…..
- Sibling issues… “Will you both just stop it!”
- Arguing with your husband (wife) that he or she’s too demanding - or too lenient.
- The homework assignments…and more assignments. (Since when where you in fourth grade?)
- More homework – grade in and grade out.
- Report cards & and Parent-Teacher Conferences.
- The worries… is he social enough, is she developing properly, does he have a learning problem?
- As they grow…Do I like his friends?
- Is she eating too little – too much?
- Worries about drinking and drugs….
- Can my kid really handle a car?
- Staying up late worrying.
- Will he or she get into the right college? And how will we pay for it all?
- ….Fill in the blank. These meaning beings called children provide much to deal with.
Raising a child is humbling and elevating: Children are the strangest investment. There's so much about raising a child that is simply out of your control; and yet, there's so much that you invest. If you are healthy, the love pours out, regardless of their strengths and limitations. It just does – and this experience changes us as parents. We grow too.
The limit of a particular child defines meaning like few other experiences in the world. They will grow up unique, study to be what they will be, struggle with their issues (which may include you) and navigate the world of dating and relationships, just like you did way back when.
Your life responds to their lives; and this limit defines - and refines you.
Each child gives you pause to adjust, navigate, learn, accept, rage at, love or enjoy every little step; every idiosyncratic need; and every challenge or pleasure that comes your way. They set the agenda whether we like it or not.
The gift of being a Mommy (or a Daddy): Raising children puts us – as parents - in touch with the blessings of life. We cannot control everything. Sometimes, our kids come out perfectly as planned; but look around because A LOT of luck was involved. Our children deserve –and often get - our best. But, there is more.
Having a child is particpating in the vitality of the world itself. You feel your contribution to the world and the world's contribution back to you. It's amazing. You are swimming in an ancient, and yet, very personal story. You relive your childhood through your son's eyes and sense the world through your daughters experience. You have an impact on the future - and all while changing a dirty diaper.
You learn about what love is really all about.
The reward: Life offers many paradoxes and this is one of them. The irony, of course, is that the limits and hard work of raising children mature you in ways that are hard to define. But, by accepting these limits on yourself, you end up with a life filled with meaning.
In the final anaylsis, raising a child with love elevates your life – and this, my friend is a joy without limit.
Happy Mother’s Day!