Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Broken Vases

I remember how I felt the first time I held my oldest daughter in my arms. I am going to be completely frank and say the words in my head were, "Oh my God, what have we done". An armadillo on a desert highway as a big rig convention was coming in to town could not have been more afraid. Back then I did not realize that somewhere in the folds of my brain I had latched on to an idea that I could ruin her. Over time, through doing a lot of work on myself, I have come to the idea not only that I cannot ruin my kids, but that no parent is responsible for how their kids turn out. The way I thought of to illustrate this point is the vase and the seedling.

When my oldest daughter was handed to me, the thought process in my head was comparable to being handed an expensive, irreplaceable vase. Vases have no potential, they have already become what they will be, they have no will of their own, a vase will not spontaneously jump of the table. The keeper of the vase is solely responsible for what happens to the vase, if the vase breaks it is all your fault.

Children are more like a brand new hybrid seedling the world has never seen. The keeper of the seedling is going to have to guess at first what the seedling needs. Does it like a lot of water,a little light, or a little water and a lot of light? The keeper of the seedling has no clue. Only by interacting with the seedling and then experimenting as the seedling grows can the keeper know what the seedling really likes and what the seedling really needs.

One thing we know about seedlings is that some can grow anywhere. Some can withstand absolute negligence, drought, wind, some can even live if uprooted and turned upside down. Some seedlings can survive anything.

This is not my way of saying that it does not matter if kids are neglected, abused, and mistreated. As full human beings in their own right, kids have a right to be treated with decency and respect. My point is that I no loner believe that parents can break their kids. Parents are part of the picture but they are not the whole and I believe that often parents take too much credit and too much blame surrounding how their kids "turn out". If we want to enjoy the parenting journey, it makes more sense to study our little seeds, give them what they need, and watch them grow.

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