By Colleen Lindstrom
About two years ago for my New Year’s Resolution, I decided to graciously accept compliments. I had a bad habit of saying, “No… that’s not true,” when someone paid me a compliment. I realized that when I turned down a compliment, I insulted the giver of the compliment. Two years ago, I vowed to say a simple, “Thank you,” when a compliment was issued to me. It was pretty awesome because the byproduct was that I started to feel humbly good about myself in areas that my self-esteem had been waning previously. So, while I got darn good at accepting the compliments for myself, there is still one compliment I can’t accept. When people compliment me on my kids – because those compliments have nothing to do with me.
Please don’t stop reading now thinking that I am not proud of my kids, or that I don’t believe that they deserve compliments. That could not be further from the truth (I happen to think that my kids are particularly amazing… just like you think of your children). The truth is, I cannot accept compliments that are about who they are as people, because I am not responsible for WHO THEY ARE. My children are individuals. Each of them came into this world with their own set of strengths and challenges, as they grow those strengths and challenges change and emerge. While I “created” them, I did not create their soul, I can guide them, but I cannot force them to be anyone but who they are… or rather, I don’t want to force them to be anyone but who they are.
As I see it, my job as a parent is to set boundaries, teach courtesy and ethics, model behavior, and above all, LOVE MY CHILDREN. Love them because of—and sometimes in spite of—who they are and the decisions that they make. There is great freedom in this view. I do not see my children as a reflection on me. If I did, I would have to take equal responsibility for the wonderful and the less savory pieces of their character. Let’s face it we all have a little from both ends of the spectrum.
This is not to say that I don’t think that children are products of their environment, I certainly think that can be the case. However, I believe that when children act out, it usually has more to do with the fact that someone else is imposing upon them who they should be rather than celebrating who they are. From the misfit Beauty Queen to the hardened criminal, there likely is someone in their lives imposing upon them the world’s expectations of who they should be, based on where they live, how much money they have, etc. etc. Here’s my expectation of my children (it’s really simple): that they will SHOW UP for life, and bring their whole selves to the game. If they do just that, I will be proud. Who that self is… well, I can’t wait to get to know them better, because I don’t quite know yet the complexity of these people that I created. And I can’t wait to find out what they’ve got!
By Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.